Listen carefully: winches areListen carefully: winches are the single most important utility when taking on off-road terrain.
Many would list equipment like tires, lift kits, lockers, and other truck parts as their first priority, and while these parts certainly have their importance, the difference between a safe and a disastrous off-road expedition is whether or not your vehicle is equipped with a winch.
While seemingly obvious parts to have, many are quick to overlook winches because they aren't flashy or sexy parts, like lift kits or tires. What they don't realize is what good are performance-boosting components when you're stuck in a rough terrain recovery situation without a winch?
On a side note, 4x4 parts like tires, lift kits, and lockers can sometimes even be worse, as they inspire a fearlessness that might compel you to take unnecessary risks on off-road trails, thereby increasing the odds of a recovery situation.
But before your dive headfirst into getting that king-sized, ultra-tough Warn winch you stumbled upon online, take a minute to check out our quick rundown of winches and accessories.
Hold up a second, cowboy! Before heading down to the local depot and walking out with that hydraulic, military-grade monster Mile Marker winch, you might want to pay attention for a moment.
A first-timer looking for winches will be presented with a plethora of types, including hydraulic, electric, ATV, utility, and more. But let's forgo lengthy explanations for each type and just say that for off-roading, you want to stick with electric winches.
If you plan on doing a lot of winching, such as with farm, ranch, or commercial use, a hydraulic winch may be a consideration, but otherwise, an electric winch should do just fine for off-road recovery purposes.
Now deciding which electric winch is the next question to address. Truth be told, there are numerous factors to consider when purchasin, so I'll get the obvious stuff out of the way. I'll leave the rest up to you; after all, part of being an off-road enthusiast entails taking a hands-on approach to off-road gear!
A Quick Lesson in Physics
The winch you ultimately choose should have a weight capacity that is one and a half times the gross weight of your vehicle.
To calculate this, simply multiply the weight of your vehicle by 1.5, and the resultant number is the minimum capacity of your winch. For instance, if your particular vehicle weighs 5000 lbs, then the weight capacity of your winch should be at least 7,500 lbs.
A Few Useful Accessories
While a winch will do its job on its own, there are a few accessories that come highly recommended, as they help maximize winching efficiency, power, and safety.
- Winch Mount
Whether you have that 12,000 lb beast-of-a Mile Marker winch, or maybe even just a low capacity ATV Warn version, in all cases, the strength and effectiveness of your winch is only as strong as the foundation it lies upon.
Factors to Consider:
Universal mounts allow you to mount winches to virtually any flat surface
Bumper mounts offer both off-road protection and winch accommodation
Look for mounts with easy drum access for cleaner rope re-spooling
Be wary of winch and mount weight. Too much can cause a loss in performance
- Synthetic Rope
While some have already come to realize the effectiveness of synthetic winch rope, they are still one of those somewhat unknown, yet still important winch parts. While pricier than standard wire rope, synthetic winch ropes are definitely worth investing in.
Factors to Consider:
Stronger than equivalent diameter wire rope
Substantially lighter than wire rope
Synthetic winch rope is easier to splice and tie knots into
Rope can be damaged by excessive heat - a common issue during winching
- Pulley Block
For an easy way to add Jeeps parts that instantly boost pulling power and winching efficiency, a Winch Pulley Block allows you to execute a double-line straight pull which doubles the power of your winch through the magic of physics.
Factors to Consider:
An inexpensive way to increase the effectiveness of winches
Easy to use and set up with formidable results
Available from a number of major name brands
This is all just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to winching, but hopefully this provides you with a stepping stone into more technical aspects of winching as you prepare for your off-road expeditions.