How To Safely Winch Out Your Off-Road Truck

Nothing and no one is perfect - which is why offroaders know that a winch bumper can be a real lifesaver when things go awry while off-roading. Naturally, the goal is to never end up stuck to the point where a winch becomes necessary; but as most seasoned off-roaders know, sooner or later that winch will be worth its weight in gold. There’s more to a safe recovery than just having a bumper winch, as that winch is worthless unless you know how to safely use it!

What You Need For Safe and Successful Winch Recovery

Before attempting to winch any truck, always start out with some basic yet very important equipment. A pair of leather gloves for hands-on work with the vehicle is essential, since winch cables and ropes can seriously mess up your hands. Always carry a few large D-shackles for connecting the pull line to anchor points. You’ll also need a tree strap or rope to secure around the anchor point, since you don’t ever want to use the pull line for that.

A tree strap also prevents damage to the tree and the cable. A snatch block is useful in a number of different situations as well. Most importantly, don’t ever use a recovery strap for winching. Recovery straps are designed to stretch a little and typically can’t withstand the pressure of winching without breaking.

Choose the Right Anchor Points

Plain and simple - safe winching depends on choosing the right anchor points. If the anchors cannot withstand the force that the winch is putting on them, the winching operation will fail, more damage could occur, and people could become seriously hurt as well.

The best options to anchor to are natural, solidly secured objects like large trees, large boulders - basically anything that is bigger and heavier than the truck itself or can't be moved once the winch starts pulling. A larger, heavier truck can also be a winching point in some circumstances. Word to the wise here - don’t ever use the trailer hitch on another truck as an anchor point, since these are not a permanent part of the vehicle.

Winching points should be straight in line with the truck if possible to make sure the cable wraps correctly on the winch. If there’s no choice but to winch at an angle, use a snatch block to guide the cable as it rolls up on the winch.

Rigging and Running the Winch

Once anchor points are prepared, you’ll need to rig your winch so it can effectively pull your truck out. There are three ways you can do that:

  • Single-line Winch - The cable runs from the winch to the anchor point, attached with a D-shackle.
  • Double-line Winch - This uses a snatch block attached to the anchor point; the pull cable goes around the snatch block and doubles back to hook onto a secure point on the truck.
  • Triple-line Winch - A double-line winch, but with a second snatch block fastened to the truck. The pull line passes through the anchor point snatch block, then the snatch block on the vehicle, and then hooks with a d-shackle to a second anchor point.

After choosing one or more secure anchor points and rigging the winch as desired, it’s time to activate the winch. Engage the clutch and attach the remote cord and stand back. Then, activate the winch so it slowly begins to tighten the pull line, then pull the stranded truck out. If there are any signs of trouble or the anchor points appear to be failing, stop immediately. If everything is going well, just let the winch do its work until the truck has been recovered.

Winching may seem easy - and it can be - but it has to be done correctly or it can be extremely dangerous. By preparing with the right equipment and making good choices on strong anchor points, any off-roader should be able to safely winch their vehicle. Equally helpful is outfitting your prized offroading truck with an aftermaker winch bumper. It’s always a good idea to practice winching at home to gain helpful hands-on experience. Hopefully you won’t ever need to use your winch out on the trail; but if you get stuck, you’ll know exactly what to do!

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