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ProMark Offroad Blog

Offroad Recovery: Anchoring the Winch

Winching out

Winching out with a Jeep recovery winch

When your vehicle gets stuck and you need to winch out, the first step is choosing an anchor point. Since where you get stuck is beyond your control (except for daredevils who deliberately try to get stuck), every situation is different. You might have the perfect anchor point in front of you, or you might be stuck in a sand pit with no trees or rocks in sight. Depending on what’s around you and who is riding with you, your anchor point might be a rock, a stump, a ground anchor, or another vehicle.

Natural Anchor

Natural anchors—rocks, trees, stumps, etc.—are one of the best choices for an anchor point. Since it doesn’t involve another vehicle, there’s less risk of damaging your friend’s rig or ATV if something goes wrong. Make sure the rock, tree, or stump is large enough to withstand the force of the recovery winch. Hook the cable as low as possible, at the thickest part of the natural anchor. Be responsible to the environment by using a tree strap instead of a chain to hook around a live tree. Also, never hook the cable around an object and back onto itself. This will weaken or damage the cable.

Anchoring to a Vehicle

When there are no natural anchors within reach, a second vehicle becomes your anchor point. If possible, position the recovery vehicle directly in line with the stuck vehicle for a straight line pull. Put the recovery vehicle in neutral, apply the hand brake, and block up the wheels to prevent the vehicle from sliding. Hook up the recovery winch, and you’re ready to go.

Deadman Anchor

As a last resort, use a ground anchor (also called a deadman anchor). You can either buy a ready-made ground anchor (such as the Pull-Pal) or bury an object such as a log, a spare tire, or stakes or axles tied together. Since a deadman anchor involves digging into the ground and since it takes more effort than your other options, it’s not your first choice. But when it’s the only way out, you do what you have to do.

Dig the hole or drive the stakes in at an angle away from the stuck vehicle. If you’re burying an object, dig a hole deep enough to completely submerge the object below ground level. Tie a chain to the object. Dig a narrow trench for the chain, and hook the winch cable to the chain.

Winch Recovery Rigging

Winch Recovery Kit

Winch Recovery Kit

Knowing how to rig up for a pull is important for the protection of yourself, those around you, and your vehicle and equipment. Even if the pull is relatively light, don’t compromise your safety by rushing the recovery process or rigging up improperly. Here is a basic outline of the steps involved in rigging up your winch for recovery.

  1. Wear gloves. Before handling wire cable, dig out a pair of thick leather gloves from your winch recovery kit. They could save your hands from a few burrs, cuts, and slices.
  2. Move the clutch to the free spool position. This lets you spool out as much cable as you need for the recovery, without using up your battery power. Make sure the clutch is fully disengaged before free spooling.
  3. Grab the hook strap. If the hook strap is not attached, free the winch hook and attach the hook before free spooling. Holding on to the strap prevents your fingers from getting caught in the winch hook or fairlead opening and protects your hands from the wire rope.
  4. Spool out the cable. Make sure you spool out enough wire to power the pull. The more cable you unwind, the more power you will get from your winch. Leave at least 4-5 wraps on the drum to keep the cable from coming off the drum.
  5. Rig up to the anchor point. Use a tree strap or choker chain (depending on what your anchor point is) to secure the cable to the anchor point. Do NOT wrap the cable around the object and hook it back onto itself. Use a D-shackle to attach the cable to the two ends of the tree strap or choker chain.
  6. Engage the clutch. Rotate the clutch lever to the engage position to power in the cable.
  7. Attach the remote control, if needed. If you are using a corded remote, plug the remote into the winch. Keep the cord from getting tangled up in the cable or winch.
  8. Power in the slack. Put some tension on the rope by pulsing the remote and powering in slowly until all the slack is out of the rope. Once the rope is under tension, never step over it.
  9. Double check your anchor. Check all of your connections and equipment to make sure they are secure before starting the pull.
  10. Lay a weight over the rope. Use a moving blanket, back pack, tree limb, or other heavy object to keep the wire rope from snapping in case it breaks.

Once the area is clear of bystanders, you are ready to start winching!

Winching Techniques: Use a Pulley Block to Double Pulling Power

Pulley block

Using a pulley block can give you almost double the pulling power.

Pulling power decreases as the number of layers on the winch drum increases. The more winch power you need, the more line you need to spool out.

So what if your anchor point is too close to the recovery vehicle? Or what if you have almost all of the cable spooled out, but you’re still not getting enough power to make the recovery?

A snatch block (also called a pulley block) can almost double your winch power. And since it doubles the amount of winch line that you need to spool out, you can choose a closer winch anchor without losing pulling power.

To rig up a double line pull, spool out a few feet of winch line and attach the winch hook to a tow hook or recovery point on the front of your vehicle. Open the snatch block and run the cable through the block. Walk the snatch block and cable out to your anchor point, and secure the snatch block to the anchor point using a clevis and tree strap or chain. Follow proper winching techniques to complete the recovery.

What’s the downside to rigging up a double line pull? A slower recovery. But even a slow recovery is better than leaving your truck in the mud or waiting for someone to come and rescue you.