We all have to start somewhere, right? If you're starting to venture off-road with your new Wrangler JK, don't venture far without a winch. Make learning the winching basics a top priority, and practice it before you get yourself into a real compromised situation. While there are many winch options out there, we prefer the Warn brand for it's strength, reliability and durability. Warn offers several models from base to high-end. But if you can swing it, we recommend the Warn Zeon model hands down. Click here to find out why.
Prepare For The Unexpected
Consider upgrading your winch hook and investing in a recovery kit to make sure you get safe, reliable performance out of your winch time after time. By outfitting yourself with the proper recovery tools and accessories, and applying correct basic winching practices, you can safely and confidently navigate obstacles, and forego a lengthy frustrating recovery when you finally do get stuck.
While most winch systems come with a conventional hook, we recommend upgrading to a ProLink by Factor 55. This closed system keeps the winch line from slipping out of the hook. The ProLink fastens to the end of your winch line, then a D-Ring mates the ProLink to the tow strap. The ProLink is available in a variety of colors to best match your build. Factor 55 features a full line of winch accessories. You can check them all out HERE.
5 WINCHING BASICS FOR OFF-ROAD RECOVERY
1. Winching Basics: Locate Your Tow Points
With many aftermarket bumpers, there are multiple winch points. The Jeep pictured below is outfitted with a full Maximus-3 build package. There are D-Ring mounts below the winch hook (shown in red), and tow hooks by the bumper hoop (also in red). On most Wrangler JK's, there are two tow hooks in the front bumper, and one in the rear. These points are great for pulling out a stuck JK with your winch. Do not attach a winch line to the OEM roll bar or any external sheet metal. Factory tow points located on the bumper and frame are the best places to hook up a winch.
2. Winching Basics: Attach To The Anchor Point
If you need to winch yourself out, you'll need to find something solid, like a tree or another vehicle to attach to. This is when a tow strap or tree strap comes in handy. For example, a stock vehicle may not have a tow hook, or your winch line may cut into the tree and damage it when you winch off of it. A wide, reinforced recovery strap is a much safer and more responsible option than using your winch line. Remember to forever tread lightly on land and water. Make every effort to protect the trees and land along your path and around your recovery area. View the TREAD principles for responsible four-wheeling.
The ARB Recovery Kit, featured below is a useful accessory to have on hand. It includes D-Rings, recovery straps and a snatch block. A snatch block is used to change the direction of your winch cable when the anchor point is offset. And it gives you extra pulling power. Click here to learn how to use a snatch block.
On Using A Land Anchor
If there are no solid points to attach your winch to, your alternative is to use a land anchor, like the AEV Pull Pal shown below, for example. These anchors can be planted in clay, sand, soil or snow. In this case, you would plant the land anchor firmly into the ground and directly attach the winch hook and cable to the anchor handle. If you plan to get into serious off-roading or you're going to be wheelin' in the desert, you'll definitely want to invest in a top-quality winch anchor and learn how to use it properly before you go.
3. Winching Basics: On Tightening The Winch Line
Once you've attached the winch to the winch anchor point or land anchor, turn on the vehicle. Using your winch remote, press the spool button to gently tighten the winch line. Don't over tighten.
4. Use Gloves, Dampener And Caution
Use extreme caution when winching out your vehicle or a friend's. When pulling out your line, or spooling your winch in, keep your line as straight as possible and beware pinch points. Wear gloves and keep a safe distance while winding. Your fingers and hands can be crushed if pulled into the winch.
Make sure all bystanders are clear before you begin a recovery operation. Stand clear of the winch line! It's under an enormous amount of tension. And cables are known to snap. This can prove deadly if you're standing in the wrong spot. Also, consider using something like a jacket or towel to place over the winch line. If the line does snap, this will help dampen some of the force, keeping bystanders a bit safer.
5. Place Vehicle In Neutral: Spool, Monitor, Straighten
Place the vehicle in neutral and press the spool button on your winch remote. As the vehicle begins to move forward, monitor the towel or dampener, keeping it in the middle of the line. Stop or steer the vehicle, if you need to, to make sure your line is spooling straight and even. Once your vehicle is fully recovered, you're ready to unhook and stow your tools. Then, give your friends a high-five!
Be Safe Out There!
Remember, the key to every off-road trip is safety first. If safety isn't top of mind, serious injury to people and vehicles can and will occur. It's just the nature of our dangerously fun and favorite past time, ' four wheelin.' Play it safe and don't go off-road alone. Learn and practice the winching basics before you need to put them into serious action.