The key to a successful winch recovery is to take your time. Once you realise that forward momentum is no longer, it’s time to switch the engine off, engage park or first gear for a manual – and chock the wheels.
Now it’s time to find a solid anchor. A well rooted tree is the usual choice, although it could be a very large boulder, or another vehicle if you are with someone. If you choose a tree, make sure you use a weight rated strop (tree trunk protector) to prevent ringbarking the tree. Every piece of your winch recovery kit must be weight rated to suit your vehicle.
Hook up the controller for your winch and give the button a quick press to ensure it is working. Even better; do this at home before you head out seeking adventure.
Flick your winch to free spool, and run the cable or rope up to your anchor point. Make sure you leave one full layer of rope on the drum. Hook the rope up to your tree trunk protector, and make sure there are no twists in the strap. If the hook doesn’t fit, it’s fine to use a rated shackle here.
On the way back to the vehicle, toss a winch damper blanket over the winch line. This will help arrest the rope or cable should it snap. Oh! Don’t forget to flick the winch off free spool as well.
Before you begin winching, start the engine again as winches draw a lot of power. If you have a spotter, they should get as far away from the recovery as practical. And bystanders should be completely off the scene. Your spotter should have a handheld radio, so follow their instructions and only winch when they say it’s safe to do so.
The matter of whether to apply engine power to assist the winch depends on your situation. In sand or mud you most likely would apply some throttle and drive out. On a steep hill climb, you want to avoid applying power for the risk of grabbing and losing traction rapidly – which stresses the winch.
Any time the winch operation needs to be adjusted, apply the vehicle brakes, release the tension on the winch line; and stay in the vehicle while somebody makes adjustments.
Want to see it all in action? Check out our how to video: