By Midwest Traction on January 23, 2018
It’s fun to rip through the mud on your ATV, but what happens when you get stuck? What happens if you run into a large log, or you’re hunting (where ATVs are permitted), and you have large game to haul? This is where an ATV winch comes in handy. Essentially a powered pulley system for your ATV, a winch reduces the work required to move an object. Before you run out and fit your ATV with one, read our list of helpful hints so you’re prepared for the right purchase.
Know Your Weight
Winches have different pulling capacities. You’ll need to know what your ATV weighs so you don’t purchase a winch that won’t have too little or too much torque for your vehicle. Consider what you’ll use your winch for: chores on the farm, trail maintenance, hunting, just-in-case situations, etc. Winches are great for clearing logs and downed trees from paths, getting ATVs unstuck from thick mud, and more.
There are two ways to winch pull: single line and double line. With single line, you loop one end to a stationary object (to pull your ATV) or the thing you’re pulling (to move it). With a double line, you double your pulling capacity, but you’ll need to use a snatch block to prevent strain on the line and your ATV.
Your anchor point should be as far from the winch as possible to optimize pulling power. Hook the cable as low as possible, and if you’re using your vehicle as the anchor, put it in neutral, apply the handbrake, and block the wheels.
You should always pull on a straight line, but if this isn’t an option, this is where the snatch block comes in handy. Attach to a stationary object that will allow for 90* pull, maintaining a straight line from the winch to the block and another straight line from the block to the object being pulled.
You’ll want to know how much tension the line can take and what motor is required to maximize use, as the winch is typically powered by your ATV’s battery. Rope material is important: steel is durable but prone to snapping, which can damage your vehicle and inflict harm if you’re too close. Synthetic breaks less but doesn’t last as long. Know how to dynamically brake the winch.
The winch heats during use, so monitor closely. Overheating damages the entire system. Keep an eye if idling as the battery may drain faster than it charges.
You may need front or rear bumper modifications for the winch mounting plate. Some bumper and mounting plates come as a pair. The mounting plate should have instructions. Grab a wrench, ratchet, drill, screwdriver, file and voltage meter, along with any other recommended materials.
Remove hoses and wires from the work area when bolting the winch mount. While tightening, secure the bolts with adhesive to ensure lasting grip. Check your winch line for obstructions, and pull it out by disengaging the winch gear train, re-engaging it after the check. If you forget this step, your winch will not operate.
To wire: Use a contactor (aka relay box). The central point for wiring is best installed under the seat. Run and connect the wires from the battery to the contactor, and from the contactor to the winch. The control switch connects to the ATV ignition switch, and a voltage meter will determine where the hot lead is located for proper connection.
The winch alone is great, but there are a few little helpers you may want to invest in.
- Free-spooling clutch: Speedy cable release while reducing the use of power and heat dispersion. Powering out the rope is an option, but it drains the electrical system
- Fairleads: Guides the cable during spooling so that it’s tight and even. This minimizes rope damage as it is rewound
- Hook straps allow you to keep your fingers far from the fairlead as the rope is spooled
- Snatch block boosts pulling power, changes direction without damaging rope, and is used with double line technique
- Remote switch mounts to handlebars for easy on-off operation
- Winch cover to prevent dirt, dust, and water from accumulating and reducing performance
- Winch kit has accessories so you can customize the winch for each individual use, whether it’s towing another ATV or using a tree strap to pull yourself out of a sticky situation.
Never operate a winch without adequate protection. The two most important protection pieces? Heavy-duty work gloves and eye protection. Should a winch snap or develop barbs on the line, you’ll want to prevent unnecessary injury. Tension the rope per manufacturer instructions prior to use. This extends life and reduces premature wear by preventing the outer layers from pinching and deforming the inner layers.
Thoroughly read and understand the operating manual. Practice winching before you’re in a situation that requires it, so you’ll know what you need before you find yourself in that situation.
Looking for more information about winching? Warn has a great resource in their online PDF.