Do I really need… part 5 – Winch
The winch has been the backbone of many 4WD recovery systems for decades! This is because they work well to get you out of pretty much anywhere that you’re stuck, and can be added to most vehicles without too many modifications. Over the past decade winches have undergone a lot of changes from the type of rope used to quality and price.
The first thing to say is that these days there is no reason at all to buy a winch with steel cable. Some people might want to disagree with that, but I have not heard one convincing argument yet for steel cable. For reference I used to work with steel cable making wire rope slings all day every day for a couple of years, so I know what it’s great for, and what the pitfalls are. Firstly, strength: steel is not stronger then synthetic cables. Their braking strain is around the same or the synthetic rope is higher. Second, have you ever tried to re-spool a wire rope that’s been left wrapped around a winch drum for even 6 months? Steel cable has a memory and doesn’t like to be moved around too much – especially at the low diameter that a normal winch spool has! Third: why would you want steel cable when it’s anywhere from 20 to 50kg extra weight for no benefit whatsoever? Synthetic cable has taken over the industry for these reasons, and more. It’s hard to find a winch these days that uses wire cable, purely because the demand has dropped off so much that it’s just not worth it any more.
If you have a winch, you’ll be better off getting yourself out of a lot of sticky situations when there’s no one else around, or it’s not safe to have other vehicles around for recovery. Winches are a good slow and steady recovery method that lets you have a great deal of control over every aspect of the recovery process.
The biggest reason for having a winch is if you’re doing a lot of solo driving in areas that don’t see much traffic. While they are great to have, most people that have winches will only use them once or twice. They are a good insurance policy for when nothing else works, but they are normally overkill for the majority of situations.
If you do have a winch, please remember – safety first! Never use un-rated shackles, pulleys or anything else. Don’t ever have anyone standing in an area that near the winch rope. Always use at least one, but preferably two if possible , winch dampers just in case something does go horribly wrong.