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Chirag S.

4WD Winches: Which Type is the Best?

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I was just going through one of the website indicating difference types of Winches for 4x4. You expert advice seeking;

1. Whether winches are advisable in 4X4 including desert driving?

2. what will be the best option to go for and garage / service provider (if available)

3. It is optional and not worthful in desert drive!! 

Thanks in advise in advance!! Good Day!! 

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(Pl see details found on website for your ready reference)

 

A winch is a mechanical device made of rope, chain, or wire cable wound around a rotating spool called a winch drum. The 4WD winch is used for hauling, lifting, and adds more tension in a rope to help move the vehicle. They are powered by a motor using your vehicle’s battery or a power steering pump, which allows the winch to spin the rope in rapid motion.

A 4WD winch is technically a recovery device that will help you extract your vehicle in case you  become bogged or stranded. This device is necessary especially if you plan to use your 4WD for outback travel, where muddy pits and rough roads are expected.

 
Components 4WD Winches
 

Important Components of Power Winches

Power winches are the most popular means of vehicle recovery. They are powered by either the engine, power steering system, or battery. Here are the most important components of power winches that allow them to function properly:

  • Motor

The motor is typically hydraulic or electric. It is the most important component of a 4WD winch that makes it function. The motor is the reason why these winches are called “power” winches. Without a motor, the winch needs to be operated manually (i.e. by hand).

  • Solenoid

A solenoid is either integrated or remote. Integrated solenoids, also known as contractors, are installed at the top of the winch. A remote solenoid is not installed on the winch. They control the direction of the winch drum rotation.

  • Wire Rope or Cable

The cable or wire rope, which is between 40 feet to 100 feet long, is neatly wound around the winch drum.

 
resize.jpg
 
  • Winch Drum

The winch drum is where the the cable or wire rope is spooled. This spins in a circular motion to wind the rope in or out.

  • Internal Brake

The internal brake is used to keep the load stable when you stop the winch, preventing the load slipping back. This is usually located within the winch drum.

  • Gear Train

The gear train is responsible for converting the power from the winch motor into pulling power.

  • Free Spool Clutch

A free spool clutch is used to engage or disengage the winch drum from the gear train. The engaged free spool clutch position needs power to spool the cable. The disengaged position, on the other hand, allows you to wind out the cable manually at a faster speed.

 
Power Take Off Winch
 

3 Main Types of Power Winches

There are three main types of power 4WD winches available in the market today:

1. Power Take Off Winch

The Power Take Off (PTO) winch was the first power winch available on the market. The PTO winch is connected directly to the transfer case via a drive shaft – this drive shaft runs the gearbox of the winch. The PTO winch is powered by the engine, which means it requires the engine to be running to make it work. It is an extremely powerful winch because its power source is the engine itself. However, it is no longer very popular today.

Pros of PTO Winches:

  • Very powerful winches that are really useful especially for mud bogs.
  • Always have full power and you can rely on them all day long.
  • They have multiple speeds available because they drive through the gearbox.

Cons of PTO Winches:

  • You cannot use it if your engine is dead.
  • If the winch is mounted at the front, it only pulls forward.
  • More expensive compared to other types of winches.

 

2. Hydraulic Winch

The fully-enclosed hydraulic winch derives its power from the vehicle’s power steering system. The hydraulic motor, which is fitted to the winch, is powered by hydraulic pressure.

Pros of Hydraulic Winches:

  • Very powerful as the power supply is also derived from the engine through the power steering pump.
  • Secondary battery is not needed.
  • Motor cannot be affected by water immersion.

Cons of Hydraulic Winches:

  • Cannot run without engine.
  • Available in two speeds.
  • Only pulls forward if the winch is front-mounted.
  • If the steering is altered during winching, the winch stops running.

 

3. Electric Winch

Th 12V-powered electric winch is the most widely used 4WD winch today. The electric winch derives its power from the vehicle’s battery first and then from the alternator. This type of winch doesn’t need the engine to work for a short period of time. However, it’s best to bring an extra battery during a long trip as the battery is the source of its power.

Pros of Electric Winches:

  • Lightweight and easy to use.
  • Widely available in the 4WD market.
  • Can be used even if the engine is dead, as long as the vehicle’s battery is powered.

Cons of Electric Winches:

  • May not be very powerful and efficient.
  • Uses a lot of energy from the battery so a secondary battery is recommended.
  • Single speed of operation only.
  • The electric motor can be affected when immersed in water.
  • Only pulls forward when mounted in the front.

 

The Manual Winch: Hand Winch

The hand winch is a manual type of winch which doesn’t need an engine or a battery to run. It derives its power from the driver or anyone who will operate the winch. All it needs for the hand winch to work is time and energy from the operator.

Pros of Hand Winches:

  • It doesn’t need engine or battery to operate.
  • It can be used to pull the vehicle forward, from the rear, or from either left or right side of the vehicle.

Cons of Hand Winches:

  • It takes time to operate.
  • It is manual so it needs a lot of effort from the person operating it
 
Winch-in-action
 

4WD Winches: Which is the Best Option?

The “best” 4WD winch really depends on the situation you are in. Power take off and hydraulic winchesare great if your situation requires a lot of power. However, for situations when the engine can run, the electric winches are the most suitable to use. It’s important to remember that electric winches only work with dry cell batteries.

All three types of power winches only pull forward when front-mounted. They are great for towing or pulling another vehicle. However, if the vehicle with a winch is stuck and it cannot be recovered through a forward pull, then the hand winch would be most helpful. Hand winches are a great option if you need to pull from the rear, left, or right.

https://sandgateautoelectrics.com.au/4wd-winches-type-best/

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A winch is the second best recovery gear after the Shovel.

It's very good to have, but it's not mandatory if you are driving with people who already have the winch. As in the whole group if you have 1 or 2 cars with winch it's very safe and optimal to venture. As in some sticky spots, a winch can save a lot of time, and in other dangerous pulls, a winch can do on slo-mo so that you can dig and clear after every few cms move to prevent the flip.

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52 minutes ago, Gaurav said:

A winch is the second best recovery gear after the Shovel.

It's very good to have, but it's not mandatory if you are driving with people who already have the winch. As in the whole group if you have 1 or 2 cars with winch it's very safe and optimal to venture. As in some sticky spots, a winch can save a lot of time, and in other dangerous pulls, a winch can do on slo-mo so that you can dig and clear after every few cms move to prevent the flip.

Thanks for your valuable inputs. I have one more point, in case of driving in group in sand, traction mat / kinetic rope may useful and they are cheaper than a winch cost. Then, how winch is more effective than other low cost recovery tools, in case of driving alone/ driving in group.

For your valuable guidance.

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Traction mat - all types - are pretty much useless in the sand. They work in less than 5% perfect scenario. 95% I see them failing. I bought them too and never used it.

Tow rope work always and its best thing to have but if you are stuck in a sideways position which is very prone to flip, I will prefer winch than a tow rope, so that I can recover slowly and clear the sand pile up on the lower side of the vehicle, which causes the flip. This way after every few inches we have a chance to clear the sand wall in front of lower tires, with rope it's just one jerk and you might come out or you will flip.

With patience in hand and at a certain angle you can also use tow rope and do softer tug, maybe 4-5 soft pull and clear sand after every tug to not to build up that sand wall in lower tires.

A few weeks back we had that situation with @Shamil and @edouard asked me the same question.

A winch is also very helpful when you are stuck in some difficult spot where tow rope recovery isn't possible due to no space, like in a sand pocket or in the soft sand area, where the tugging vehicle will also get stuck due to extremely soft sand, all around. Seen this in last Bidayer drive, with Aqeel pathfinder in a soft spot and I was digging myself in with tow rope when I tried to recover him, so used the winch.

In short, you can do pretty much everything to anything without winch if you have little patience and common sense to adhere to safety issues rather than relying on ego or muscle power.

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Now that we’re on the topic, what’s the pros and cons of synthetic v wire ropes on winches? We have a couple of cars at work with warn winches and synthetic ropes but in the real world I only ever see wire ropes. 

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3 hours ago, Gaurav said:

Traction mat - all types - are pretty much useless in the sand. They work in less than 5% perfect scenario. 95% I see them failing. I bought them too and never used it.

Tow rope work always and its best thing to have but if you are stuck in a sideways position which is very prone to flip, I will prefer winch than a tow rope, so that I can recover slowly and clear the sand pile up on the lower side of the vehicle, which causes the flip. This way after every few inches we have a chance to clear the sand wall in front of lower tires, with rope it's just one jerk and you might come out or you will flip.

With patience in hand and at a certain angle you can also use tow rope and do softer tug, maybe 4-5 soft pull and clear sand after every tug to not to build up that sand wall in lower tires.

A few weeks back we had that situation with @Shamil and @edouard asked me the same question.

A winch is also very helpful when you are stuck in some difficult spot where tow rope recovery isn't possible due to no space, like in a sand pocket or in the soft sand area, where the tugging vehicle will also get stuck due to extremely soft sand, all around. Seen this in last Bidayer drive, with Aqeel pathfinder in a soft spot and I was digging myself in with tow rope when I tried to recover him, so used the winch.

In short, you can do pretty much everything to anything without winch if you have little patience and common sense to adhere to safety issues rather than relying on ego or muscle power.

Thanks for your expert advise and sharing your experience for better clarity & understanding

1 hour ago, Barry said:

Now that we’re on the topic, what’s the pros and cons of synthetic v wire ropes on winches? We have a couple of cars at work with warn winches and synthetic ropes but in the real world I only ever see wire ropes. 

Thanks for sharing your views. Question is, what is best /advisable Winch option to drive in sand....

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1 hour ago, Barry said:

Now that we’re on the topic, what’s the pros and cons of synthetic v wire ropes on winches? We have a couple of cars at work with warn winches and synthetic ropes but in the real world I only ever see wire ropes. 

Its because wires are used since a hundred years around and synthetic rope has recently developed to withstand such load.

I went with wire, as it was the one on stock option, for synthetic I need to buy additional rope and keep this wire with me too. So I said, let's break this first and next time I buy a synthetic one

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31 minutes ago, Gaurav said:

Its because wires are used since a hundred years around and synthetic rope has recently developed to withstand such load.

I went with wire, as it was the one on stock option, for synthetic I need to buy additional rope and keep this wire with me too. So I said, let's break this first and next time I buy a synthetic one

So basically, people don’t use synthetic ropes because they don’t know enough about it?

Just asking questions here, I have no bias towards either, only speaking from experience. I know a bit about wire ropes from working on cranes. They fray, you get bits of wire stuck in your hand and have to get tetanus shots, you can’t use rope oil in the desert or everything will be full of sand. From what I’ve seen what isn’t much, surely synthetic would be better? Same load capacity, less problems 

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3 minutes ago, Barry said:

They fray, you get bits of wire stuck in your hand and have to get tetanus shots, you can’t use rope oil in the desert or everything will be full of sand. From what I’ve seen what isn’t much, surely synthetic would be better? Same load capacity, less problems 

Totally agree, as I used wire winch earlier in my Patrol and knew the fraying issue and now almost after a year of use in few places my winch wire is also fraying and im using gloves to be safe.

I surely "THINK" synthetic ropes are better and safer due to the fraying issue, but can't comment unless I use.

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I have used synthetic rope on my African expeditions, and apart from the fraying issues with steel wire, I'd much rather use a synthetic rope in difficult situations because it is lighter and easier to use than a heavy steel cable.

It is also safer, because compared to a steel cable, it has much less backlash when it breaks, which is perhaps its greatest advantage over steel ropes.

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