If you have a winch bumper on your off-road truck, knowing how to safely use the winch is essential.
Used correctly and following recommended winching techniques, you can use that winch without anyone getting hurt or your truck getting damaged.
Does your winching technique include tree safety?
Most people recognize trees as being a convenient sturdy anchor point for dependable winching; however, did you know that even the sturdiest of trees can be easily damaged by winching if you’re not careful?
Follow these tips so you can protect yourself and the trees when you pull your truck out of trouble with your winch bumper.
Winching Can Cause Permanent Tree Damage
A solid, sturdy anchor point is an essential requirement for safely using your truck’s winch bumper.
Thick trees usually make great anchor points because they are so sturdy, with their deep roots creating stability.
As perfect as a big tree might be for you to get your truck out of the mud or off the rocks, you could end up causing damage that threatens the tree or shortens its life.
One way you could damage that anchor-point tree is by choosing one that’s either too small or already compromised with a weak root system.
In either case, you could end up breaking the tree or pulling it down in your effort to winch your truck out.
This could permanently damage the tree as well as create an unsafe situation that results in someone getting hurt or your truck getting damaged.
The other way that many people end up causing unintentional damage to healthy trees is by cutting them with the winch cable.
Winching thousands of pounds, a thin metal winch cable can cut through the bark of the tree and create a permanent scar.
Bark injuries can affect the growth of the tree and in worst cases even result in the slow death of the tree if severe enough.
Protect the Trees When You Winch
Approach using the winch on your winch bumper correctly by first choosing the right tree.
Look for a tree that’s healthy, solid, and thick enough that you won’t end up pulling it over with your winch.
A tree that is 6” or greater in diameter can be used for winching most off-road trucks.
Protect the tree to prevent potentially permanent damage to the bark; avoid wrapping the winch cable around the tree and use a tree saver strap or belt and a D-ring shackle instead.
Tree saver straps are like snatch straps made in shorter lengths, usually about 6 feet in length and 3 to 4 inches of width.
Used with a heavy D-ring shackle through the looped ends, the strap dissipates the pressure from the winch through a wider band that will not cut through the bark.
Winch Safely With A Tree Saver Strap
Once you have found a healthy, tall, secure tree to anchor your winch, correctly set up safe winching for yourself and the tree:
- Extend the Winch Cable - Unroll your winch cable so it extends from the truck to the tree.
- Use the Tree Saver Strap - Put the tree saver strap around the tree at the same height of your winch on your winch bumper so everything is level.
- Add the D-Ring Shackle - Loop the D-ring shackle through the two ends of the tree saver strap and close it tightly.
- Attach the Winch Cable - After the shackle is closed, clasp the clip on the winch cable to it.
- Slowly Take Up the Slack - Roll in the slack in your winch cable until there is a slight tension on the cable.
- Weigh Down the Winch Cable - Lay a heavy tarp or blanket over the middle of the winch cable to weigh it down and reduce the chance of snapback in case something breaks.
- Start Winching - Turn on the winch and let it start slowly moving your truck. Pay attention to the tree and make sure it’s staying sturdy as the load increases on the cable. Once your truck is free, you can unclip the cable and roll it the rest of the way in and then remove the tree saver strap. The tree should be undamaged.
Protecting Trees Is All A Part of Safe Winching
Like everything involved in off-roading, safety is paramount.
Whether you’re climbing hills and fording water or trying to use your winch bumper to get yourself out of trouble, how you winch is critical for your safety and the safety of the environment.
Always remember to take the time to protect any tree you use as an anchor to prevent damaging it.
That little effort you make will ensure that same tree will be there the next time you or someone else needs it for safe winching!