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ProMark Offroad Blog

Most Common Winch Issues and Solutions

When operating and maintaining your winch, either on an independent machine or on your vehicle, there are a few different issues that commonly pop up. Things like kinks in the rope or winch chain, rusting in the winding mechanism, or even gear and motor failure are the most common issues to watch out for. Some of these issues can be prevented but others are related directly to the age of the machine, the make, the model, and more factors that cannot be predicted or prevented.
The easiest way to prevent any issue with your winch is of course proper care of your winch prior to use. This means regular cleaning, service, and maintenance to replace parts that may have worn out or that are getting a bit old. With something like a kink or knot in your winch rope or chain, this is often an on the spot repair. Often, when a winch is not properly rewound or when the rope has too much slack or tension, it can become tangled causing knots and kinks that make for a difficult re-spooling process and therefore, loss of leverage. The best way to prevent this is of course to make sure your rope maintains the proper tension while in use and while being re-spooled. Another cable issue that might pop up is of course breakage. This again can be related to the spooling technique or more simply to the age and level of use with the cable. Older cables that are made of nylon or fiber can become worn and frayed and even dry rotted which means that a rope or cord could easily snap while being used.
Another issue to watch out for is of course gear failure. This can occur when a gear is worn, old, or when it is not properly lubricated. Often when a gear slips or fails, there is some sort of tell tale signs that this failure is on its way. The best way to fix gear failures is of course to make sure you routinely check your gears to make sure they are catching and that they are not grinding upon one another. When a gear slips or grinds, it is often accompanied by a loud noise indicating that there is something wrong with the gear mechanisms.
The last issue, motor failure, is far less simple to diagnose and catch prior to a complete blow out. Again, the best way to prevent a motor blow out is to routinely check your motor and your winch to see that it is working properly. By running your winch every week you can spot check for issues that may pop up and you can even take the time to perform routine maintenance. If you are at any time unsure how to remedy a problem that pops up with your winch, it is always better to talk to a professional and get proper help to prevent further damage to your winch that may be irreversible.

Why it is Important to Have a Winch- Don’t Leave Your Buddy Behind

Nothing is more frustrating than heading out on a weekend off-roading adventure, for someone to end up stranded. Whether it’s you or your buddy that is hung up in mud or stuck in another sticky situation, you’ve got to be able to handle the issue yourself. Most of the fun places to off-road are very remote and getting help out to where you are can be difficult. Most commercial towing vehicles can’t get to these remote spots, and many people don’t have a buddy with heavy-duty equipment at the ready to perform a rescue. When you are off-roading, you may also not have an exact handle on your location, and a lot of GPS systems don’t work without a strong cell signal. You may also be far from cell towers, so you can’t call someone to come help you anyway. This is why it’s imperative that you have a good winch installed on your vehicle to help you out of a jam.
Having a good winch installed on your vehicle is imperative if you or your buddy gets in a tight spot and needs a hand getting loose. There are other benefits that come with having a winch handy when you are off the beaten path. Trees may fall and get in the way. Turning around and going home is definitely no fun, and you don’t want to damage your vehicle by trying to plow through an obstacle. Your winch can help you move these obstacles and move on with your adventure.
As with any piece of equipment that you add to your vehicle, proper planning is imperative. Don’t be influenced by price; a good winch is worth every penny that you’ll spend on the purchase and installation. Make sure you have the right size winch for your vehicle. A winch that can’t handle the full weight of your vehicle, plus any mud that is bogging it down isn’t worth much. You should also ensure that your winch is installed properly. And finally, familiarize yourself with the equipment before you head out, so you know how it works. This will help you avoid a bad situation that is only exacerbated by equipment damage or failure due to an operator that is unfamiliar with the equipment or improper installation.
If you are looking for a high-quality winch for your 4×4 vehicle, we have what you need. No matter the size, or application, ProMark Offroad has something to fit your needs. We’ve also got a wide variety of related accessories to help you have the most fun possible when you are out and about in your off-road vehicle. Check out our inventory online and order through our secure website. You can also give us a call, or use our online customer service feature to place an order or get assistance with your questions.

Wire Winch Rope Safety

Electric winch

Use the winch strap and leather gloves to spool out winch cable.

Handling wire winch rope is one of the hazards of using an electric winch. Although steel cable is rugged and durable in tough winching conditions, it can also be dangerous if handled carelessly. Here are a few tips on learning to handle wire winch rope safely.

Hand Protection

First off, protect your hands. Stray wires from the cable can tear up your skin if you’re not careful. Wear thick leather gloves any time you handle winch cable, and do not let the rope run through your hands. Grab hold of the winch saver strap to spool out cable, and use the hand-over-hand method to guide the cable back onto the spool.

Dampen the Cable

Although the chances of your winch cable breaking are low, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Dampen the winch cable by draping a heavy mover’s blanket or similar object over the rope. Place it about midway between the winch and the anchor point. Even a tree branch, heavy winter coat, or a length of chain draped over the winch cable will work in a pinch.

If the cable happens to break during the winching process, the extra weight will slow down the backlash effect. Just like a rubber band, your wire rope can snap back if broken. Besides dampening the cable, make sure bystanders are standing well out of the cable’s path. The winch operator should also be careful to stand out of the cable’s path as well. If you are operating the winch from inside your vehicle, consider raising the hood for an extra measure of protection in case the winch rope fails.

Winch Cable Replacement

Check your winch rope often for signs of damage. If your cable shows signs of deterioration beyond the usual wear and tear, replace the cable before using your winch again. For safer cable, consider switching to synthetic winch rope.

Prevent Winch Rope Failure

Winch rope

Winch rope must be underwound on the drum.

Winch rope failure is most often caused by operator error. There’s a lot to know about how to safely operate a winch and take care of your winch rope. One small oversight can lead to winch failure or rope failure.

Causes of Winch Rope Failure

One of the most common causes of rope failure is friction. Overloading the rope is possible but less likely. You can usually tell the reason for the rope breaking by examining the cut ends. If most of the rope fibers are cleanly cut, the culprit is friction—for example, rubbing on a sharp rock or the edge of the winch plate. If the rope fibers are stretched out in long, thinning frays, the culprit is overloading. Sometimes you’ll see a combination of both, in which case a majority of the strands are cut by friction and the rest are frayed by the resulting overload.

Winch Rope Spooling

To prevent damage to your winch rope, make sure the rope is spooled onto the drum in the underwound direction. When the rope comes off the winch drum, it should be coming from underneath the drum, not on top of it. If the rope comes over the top of the winch drum, it will go through the fairlead at an angle, which leads to friction and possibly cutting. If the rope comes out from underneath the drum, it will go through the fairlead straight on, which eliminates friction and cutting.

Angle Pulls

Sharp angle pulls are another possible hazard for your winch rope. Straight pulls prevent the rope from rubbing on the sharp edges of a winch plate or bumper, but if an angle pull is your only way out, make sure the rope is not rubbing against anything. Same thing with sharp rocks. Don’t let the rope fray on a rock or other sharp object while you are winching. Use a rope sleeve to protect the rope.

Do I Need a Winch Cover?

Winch cover

A winch cover keeps rain, dirt, and grime out of your winch.

Constant exposure to the elements can break down your winch line prematurely and allow abrasive grime, sand, and dirt into your winch’s gears and other moving parts. To make your winch and cable last as long as possible, use a winch cover when you are not using the winch.

For Synthetic Rope

If you run synthetic line on your winch, a cover can slow down the fading. Even with UV inhibitors, exposure to the sun will eventually fade the color on your rope. Synthetic line is designed to withstand harsh exposure to the elements, since it was originally developed for marine use, but it will last longer (and look better) if you keep it covered.

For Steel Cable

If you run steel cable, a winch cover keeps out abrasive substances and protects against rain, UV rays, and other elements. Mud, dirt, road grime, salt, sand, and ice can get into your winch gears and other winch parts and act like sandpaper, keeping your winch from running smoothly and possibly causing damage.

Even with a winch cover, it’s still important to use and maintain your winch properly if you want to get the most life out of it. There’s no substitute for taking good care of your winch with regular maintenance and cleaning.

How to Replace a Winch Cable

ATV winch

Replace the cable on your winch with the same diameter and length.

When replacing the cable on your ATV or recovery winch, use the cable width and length recommended by the manufacturer. Never replace cable with heavier or lighter rope. If the cable is too thick, you won’t be able to fit as much cable on the spool. If it’s too thin, it won’t have enough strength for the load rating on the winch.

If preferred, you can switch to synthetic rope for safer winching, plus no frayed wire or kinked cable.

You do not need to remove the winch from the vehicle (unless the winch is mounted in a way that restricts access to the drum) or take the winch apart to replace the cable.

How to Replace Wire Winch Cable

  1. Spool out the entire length of the old cable.
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  3. Remove the winch cable where it is attached to the drum. Release the tension on the cable and push on the end of the cable where it feeds through the small hole in the drum. If the rope is kinked over and pulled tight into the drum, simply push the cable out of the hole until you can straighten out the kinked cable. Then pull the end of the cable through the hole to remove it from the drum. If the cable will not come out by pushing, try using a pin punch (or something similar) and a hammer to drive the metal button or keeper out of the hole. If your cable is attached to the drum with a bolt, you’ll need to remove the bolt to take off the cable.
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  5. Attach the new cable to the drum. For wire rope, slip the end of the cable through the hole in the drum and tighten the set screw to hold the cable in place. For recovery winches, apply Loctite (or similar product) to the cable clamp thread to prevent loosening of the screw. Tighten the clamp screw (but be careful not to overtighten).
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    If you are replacing your wire cable with synthetic rope, push the end of the rope into the hole in the drum. Pull the rope through the hole, wrap it around the underside of the drum and over the top, tuck the rope underneath itself where it exits the drum, and then depress the end of the rope back into the hole in the drum. You may need to use a screwdriver to force the end of the rope into the hole.

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  7. Respool the cable in the underwound direction so that the winch spools in and out correctly. Respool under a load of at least 500 pounds so that the outer layers will not draw down into the inner layers.
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ATV Winch Cleaning and Maintenance Guide, Part 3

This is the third and final part in this series on ATV winch cleaning. See ATV Winch Cleaning and Maintenance Guide Part 1 and Part 2 for steps 1 through 22 on how to clean your ATV winch.

Thanks to Todd Sandberg for the following information and photos on cleaning and maintaining your ATV winch.

Winch Cleaning Instructions (Steps 23-32)

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Step 23

Once the motor is cleaned up, place the motor end cap on your table; then carefully put the motor into position on the end cap. Ensure that the armatures are aligned properly and that all 4 springs are in their respective areas and not bound up.

Position the motor on the end cap

Position the motor on the end cap.

Step 24

Once you have the motor and motor end cap mated together, carefully slip the housing over the motor, making sure that the motor never loses contact with the motor end cap.

Slip the housing over the motor.

Slip the housing over the motor.

Step 25

Reinstall motor housing bolts into motor housing; then mate that assembly to the gear housing, making sure that the motor end cap never loses contact with the motor and motor housing. If this happens, redo steps 23 and 24, as you risk having the armatures out of place and damaging your winch. Once everything is back together properly, tighten down the motor housing bolts to secure the motor housing assembly to the gear housing assembly. If you wish to add another level of water protection, you can run a small bead of silicone on the gear housing so that once the motor housing is mated up, it forms a good weather seal. That is optional, but it won’t hurt anything, so it’s worth your time in my opinion.

Mate the motor housing to the gear housing.

Mate the motor housing to the gear housing.

Step 26

I like to run a bead of silicone around the motor housing and motor end cap joint for good measure as well.

Seal with silicone.

Seal with silicone.

Step 27

Locate the gears that were removed in step 16. Clean them and inspect them for damage.

Clean and inspect gears.

Clean and inspect gears.

Step 28

Repack them with grease just like you did in step 11; then reinstall them into the motor housing.

Repack gears with grease.

Repack gears with grease.

Step 29

Locate the lower bolts that were removed in step 14. Also, locate the metal plates from step 15. Reinstall the metal plates using the bolts you just located.

Reinstall the metal plates.

Reinstall the metal plates.

Step 30

Locate the top two hex bolts and connecting rods from step 14 and reinstall them into the gear.

Reinstall connecting rods.

Reinstall connecting rods.

Step 31

Clean the drum sides. Personally, I like to apply some grease on there as well so as to prevent some rusting and such. If you have a waterproof winch, make sure you account for the seals (what’s in my hand in the picture) and that they are installed in the correct position.

Clean the drum sides.

Clean the drum sides.

Step 32

Finally, locate the hex bolts that were removed in step 2, line up the connecting rods to the handle housing, and reconnect them using the hex bolts. Please note that during this cleaning, I changed out the handle so the pictures appear to be different, but it is indeed the same winch.

Reconnect the connecting rods.

Reconnect the connecting rods.

Related Posts:

ATV Winch Cleaning and Maintenance Guide, Part 2

See ATV Winch Cleaning and Maintenance Guide, Part 1 for steps 1 through 10 on how to clean your ATV winch.

Thanks to Todd Sandberg for the following information and photos on cleaning and maintaining your ATV winch.

Winch Cleaning Instructions (Steps 11-22)

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Step 11

After cleaning and inspection of gears, repack all gears with grease. One thing to note is that the more you put in there, the more resistance the winch will have in freespool mode, especially for those in colder winter climates, as the grease will get a bit tighter in the cold.

Repack the gears with grease.

Repack the gears with grease.

Step 12

Reassemble gear assembly; then reinstall the complete assembly into the housing.

Reassemble gears.

Reassemble gears.

Step 13

Reinstall the two rectangular nuts in the housing. Once they are put into position, locate the two metal plates that were removed in step 6, put them into position and secure using the two hex bolts which were removed in step 5. Set this completed assembly aside for later use. Sorry, no pics. I forgot to take them for this step.

Step 14

Locate the motor housing and remove the top two hex bolts and the two connecting rods. Lubricate the two hex bolts with spray lubricant and set those aside with the connecting rods for later use. At this time, also remove the two bottom hex bolts which retain the two metal plates to the housing. Take note of the orientation of the metal plates. After bolts are removed, apply some spray lubricant on the threads; then set aside for later use.

Remove the two top hex bolts and connecting rods.

Remove the two top hex bolts and connecting rods.

Step 15

Remove the two metal plates, clean, and set aside.

Remove and clean the two metal plates.

Remove and clean the two metal plates.

Step 16

Remove gears from housing and set aside. Take note of the two rectangular nuts that are located in the housing (in the picture below, they are located in the bottom right corner).

Remove gears from housing.

Remove gears from housing.

Step 17

Clean housing gears and look for any damage, such as chipped teeth.

Clean housing gears.

Clean housing gears.

Step 18

Remove the two motor housing bolts, apply some spray lubricant, and set them aside for later use. Take note that these are NOT the terminal posts for the battery cables.

Remove the two motor housing bolts.

Remove the two motor housing bolts.

Step 19

Remove motor end cap, taking note of the armatures and also the springs underneath the armatures…do not lose those springs! If your winch is a waterproof model, take note of the rubber O-ring on the end of the cap. Clean the inside of the cap as well as the terminals and set aside for later use.

Clean the end cap and terminals.

Clean the end cap and terminals.

Step 20

Remove motor housing from gear housing.

Remove motor housing from gear housing.

Remove motor housing from gear housing.

Step 21

Remove motor from motor housing.

Remove motor from motor housing.

Remove motor from motor housing.

Step 22

Take note of the condition of the motor end which (when fully assembled) is in constant contact with the armatures. It should be a shiny and untarnished surface. In the picture below, it is dirty. If yours is dirty, clean up that contact area by using a wire brush, fine file, or fine sandpaper.

Examine the motor end.

Examine the motor end.

Read more…

Continued in Part 3 of the ATV Winch Cleaning and Maintenance Guide (Steps 23-32)

ATV Winch Cleaning and Maintenance Guide, Part 1

Ready to tackle cleaning your ATV winch? These detailed, step-by-step instructions will help you take apart the winch, clean and re-grease it, and put it back together again.

Cleaning your ATV winch is not required for maintenance, but it’s a great way to make your winch last longer and run newer. Just like any other mechanical device, the gears and other parts get worn down with use. A little TLC will go a long ways in making your winch last for years of use. The more you use or abuse your winch, the more often it will need to be cleaned. Most guys who clean their winches do it on an annual basis.

Thanks to Todd Sandberg for submitting the following article and photos on cleaning an ATV winch!

Winch Cleaning Instructions (Steps 1-10)

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Step 1

Start by getting together some brake/parts cleaner, some shop rags, lithium grease (or marine grease will do too), an Allen/hex wrench, 10mm wrench or socket, spray lubricant (WD40, JB80, or something similar) and a couple standard head screwdrivers and (optional) RTV silicone (I prefer the black silicone, but I was out so I used blue in this writeup). Ignore the hammer you see in later pictures. I just used that to very gently tap a part which is not discussed in these instructions. A cup of coffee can help too! If you’d like to keep your hands cleaner, then you can wear a pair of latex gloves (or something similar if you’re allergic to latex).

Winch cleaning setup

These are the items you need to clean your winch.

Step 2

Start by removing the top two head bolts on the handle side of the winch.

Remove top two head bolts.

Remove top two head bolts.

Step 3

Separate the two halves and set the motor half aside for later use. The motor half has the two posts on the casing for the battery cables.

Separate the two halves.

Separate the two halves.

Step 4

Remove center spindle, noting that the end with the spring goes into the motor side of the winch.

Remove center spindle.

Remove center spindle.

Step 5

Remove the two bottom hex bolts which retain the two metal plates to the housing. Take note of the orientation of the metal plates. After bolts are removed, apply some spray lubricant on the threads; then set aside for later use.

Remove two bottom bolts.

Remove two bottom bolts.

Step 6

Remove the two metal plates, clean, and set aside.

Remove metal plates.

Remove metal plates.

Step 7

Remove gears from housing and set aside. Take note of the two rectangular nuts that are located in the housing (in the picture below, they are located in the bottom right corner).

Remove gears from housing.

Remove gears from housing.

Step 8

Remove center triangular shaped cam and clean cam. Clean housing gears and look for any damage, such as chipped teeth.

Remove and clean cam and gears.

Remove and clean cam and gears.

Step 9

Apply grease to the cam and reinstall cam into housing.

Apply grease and reinstall cam.

Apply grease and reinstall cam.

Step 10

Locate the gear assembly which was removed in step 7 and take gear assembly apart, taking note of the orientation of the 3 gears. Clean the gears thoroughly and inspect for any damage.

Take apart gear assembly and clean.

Take apart gear assembly and clean.

Read more…

Continued in Part 2 of the ATV Winch Cleaning and Maintenance Guide (Steps 11-22)

Winch Fairleads for Steel and Synthetic Rope

Roller Winch Fairlead for Steel Cable

Roller Winch Fairlead for Steel Cable

The winch fairlead you choose for your wire or synthetic rope is important when it comes to protecting your rope from damage. The following guidelines will help you choose the right winch fairlead for your setup.

Fairlead Choices for Wire Rope

Wire rope should always be paired with a steel fairlead, preferably rollers. Steel cable will eat up an aluminum hawse. If you decide to use a hawse with steel cable, it must be a steel hawse, not aluminum. Some customers choose a hawse for the extra clearance, but rollers will treat your wire rope better.

Just like other equipment, roller fairleads wear out over time and need to be replaced. Keep an eye on the condition of the fairlead and replace as needed.

Fairlead Choices for Synthetic Rope

If you switch from wire rope to synthetic, get a new winch fairlead, preferably an aluminum hawse. Special roller fairleads are available for use with synthetic line as well. A steel hawse should not be used with synthetic rope. If the protective coating wears off, rust will form, and the rough texture of the rust will wear down the rope.

If you switch from wire rope to synthetic, you may also need to purchase a new snatch block. If the groove is roughed up by the wire rope, do not use it with your new synthetic rope, or you could damage the rope.

Aluminum Hawse Fairlead

Aluminum Hawse Fairlead

Why Use an Aluminum Hawse?

Many of our customers have used new roller fairleads for their synthetic rope with no problems. However, roller fairleads are more susceptible to damage (such as weathering and rust), and if damaged, they can easily damage the rope. To protect your investment in your synthetic rope, we recommend using an aluminum fairlead. Buying a new fairlead is cheaper than buying new synthetic rope when your old fairlead chews up the rope.

You’ve probably heard the argument that synthetic rope can get pinched between the rollers. Possible? Yes, but only in extreme cases. In severe angle pulls, the line can get caught on the edge of the roller support up in the corner, causing the line to part under load, but this rarely happens. And if you redirect the line for a straighter pull (which we strongly recommend), it should never be an issue.

An argument that holds more weight is that damage to a steel roller can easily shred your synthetic rope. An aluminum hawse, on the other hand, can be sanded down smooth again if damaged. Other arguments for an aluminum hawse over steel rollers is that synthetic rope is smooth enough that sometimes it doesn’t even move the rollers; aluminum is lighter than steel; and a hawse does not stick out as far as a roller fairlead, allowing a better approach angle.