So you went for a bit of overlanding or off-roading and now you are bogged down in some sand or mud? Nobody wants to be in this position – apart from the bruises to your ego, it can damage your vehicle. If you are prepared, you will most likely have you your trusty winch to get you out of this mess. However, this piece of equipment is extremely complex and dangerous to use. As such, herewith some top tips to make your winching experience safe and effective.
When you find yourself stuck, the most important thing to do before any recovery is to secure your vehicle. This means that you have to be able to exit the vehicle without it rolling away or tipping over. So put on your handbrake, keep your vehicle in gear and, if possible, put a chock behind the wheel. Most importantly get your passengers out and to a safe distance away from the recovery.
As soon as your vehicle is safe and secure get out and remember to remain calm. Don’t rush anything and take a moment to assess the situation. The first thing you need to find is a safe and solid anchor point (as the name suggest, an this is a secure and sturdy point which will act as an anchor). A tree trunk or a large boulder are good examples. When choosing an anchor, ask yourself the following: Can this thing take nearly eight ton of force?
So obviously don’t use a small brush or a stone as an anchor. The best example for an anchor is actually a lead vehicle or a steel anchor you can bury in the ground. When you use something that’s part of nature be sure to try and not harm it. A good piece of kit to help with this is a tree trunk protector, it prevents damaging the tree. It is also important to look for points where you can find traction since it will help during recovery. Look for turf with less sand, water or mud – dry and flat is what you need. You will only need winch to a point where you obtain said traction. Once achieve, stop the recovery and drive away.
When you have identified your anchor point and the patch of traction you want to winch to, make sure your winch is secure. This means that you need to make sure that, should it fail, it will not swing around and hit someone. It is important to note that when a winch cable does snap it can be extremely violent and can lead to severe or even fatal injuries. To stop this from happening you can put an air damper on the cable (these are available from most 4×4 equipment shops). They essentially act like a parachute which forces the cable to the ground if it does fail. You don’t have to buy one because you can use a tow rope, your snatch rope and even your jacket as an air damper. You can also open your bonnet as an extra piece of protection and when winching you as the driver should always remain in the vehicle.
A few additional tips: wear protective gloves; before going on a trip make sure that your cable isn’t damaged in anyway and when you spool your winch back up after use make sure that you do it in an equal pattern distributed from left to right.