Remember that anything that is trying to do multiple jobs isn't as good as a single use item.
Remember that anything that is trying to do multiple jobs isn't as good as a single use item.
2013 goal - Less work and more play..!
Tracker Pack # 12
Does anyone have experience with the Harbor Freight winches? They are much cheaper than the name brands. I looked at some in the store a couple of weeks ago and the quality didn't seem too bad, but who knows unless they have practical experience.
The Harbor freight ones are not bad and they work, but they suffer from quality control issues. I know its hard to spend a lot of money on a tool that may see very little use or no use all year long. My suggestion is buy the best you can afford offering the most bang for the buck. Here is a link to the most recent winch "Shoot Out" so you can have an idea where harbor freight stands. The article is a little bias to one brand in particular that dominates the market here in the US and who is a sponsor of the magazine. Warn has released their new line of VR winches those are great value for the money. They are a real bargain and you can get stateside support on damaged or broken parts when needed.
Here is another winch test showcasing the mighty King One winch. They tested several asian made winches in this test along with Warn. The designer of the King One is the original designer of the legendary Superwinch X9. That model was used in "Camel Trophy." It was a 9k winch pulling massive loaded down expedition vehicles in some of the harshest 3rd world conditions.
I personally use the new TJM Stealth series winch just released last year. It was designed by TJM USA and it has been awesome. The TJM winch has every bell and whistle you could want. Real time wireless remote, water resistant, knurled drum, synthetic line, heavy duty locking hook, kill switch, operator light, etc.
I have burned up a few winches, and would recommend the newer Warns over anything I've used. I am comparing them to Ramseys (1980's, milemarker 1990's, and Superwinch 1990's).
Superwinch has a great reputation, but I find them to be painfully slow. Likewise with the Ramsey's. That being said, I've had trouble with Ramseys, but other than the pace, never had troule with Superwinch.Milemarker used to make a hydraulic one that ran off the vehicle's power steering pump. Avoid these like the plague. You are better off spending the same money on beer.
The Warns draw current faster, but they also get you out faster, so they don't seem to heat up as much, and the cycle time is lower. I don't know the math, but I have been much happier with them than the others. The Ramsey I bought gets hot fast, and the clutch engagement eventually froze up. It can be maintained and freed up, but its difficult. Warns that I have had just as long in the same conditions never had a problem.
Among the Warns, I strongly prefer the ones with the integrated solenoid covers. The older remotes seem much sturdier if you can find them. I have a couple that have been dragged behind the truck or jeep several times with no ill effects. The newer remotes seem flimsey.
I used to believe that you needed 2.5 times the vehicle weight for your winch, but have grown to think that's unrealistic for anything but deep mud. Deep mud can be enough of a problem that you can't pull it straight out without applying so much force that you break things. But most stucks don't really need a huge winch, but rather just a little help. (assuming that you realize when to take your foot off the gas and don't dig it in).
For example, two guys can push a jeep up a slight incline, but they could never lift it straight up, so horizontal movement takes much less thatn the weight of the vehicle if its rolling. But I can easily lift a pull-pal or other winch anchor, but if you bury it in the mud, two friends and I can't pull it out horizontally. So resistance on the winch cable will have more to do with what you are dragging it through than the weight of the vehicle. I have often rearranged snatch blocks to lift a front end or back end straight up to reduce the load when a horizontal pull would not work, or looked like it would damage the vehicle. I have seen (not mine) broken axles, steering, and suspension components from trying to pull through stuff when they should have done a little shovel work to prep the pull. Steering is particularly vulnerable.
All of the stuff mentioned here about snatch blocks and cable layer are true and are good information.
The cradle mount winches can be used to good effect, but have some tradeoffs for the flexibility.
- Installation is more complex, you need to run cable to both ends of the vehicle.
- you need room inside the vehicle, they quickly get in the way if left on the outside,
- It will often be a real chore to put them on, By the time you are stuck, the receiver is packed full of dirt/mud, there isn't room infront of the bumper for the winch, the quick connect is full of mud, and sometimes all of this is covered by a foot of water. (the winch will work under water, but this will be a long messy recovery)
- I too have doubts about them on a side-load, but that leads to the next point.
Accessories - The winch needs other things to be used effectively.
- shackles(3 or 4) - throw away the hook that comes with the cable and put on a bow shackle instead. There are also "safety hooks" that are very good, but you can get 4 good bow shackles for the same price.
- tree saver strap - this is not just to protect the tree, but to keep you from doing something stupid like hooking the shackle back to the cable. NEVER HOOK THE CABLE BACK TO ITSELF, IT WILL CUT THE CABLE AND TRY TO KILL YOU.
- snatch block - As mentioned above, this can be used to double the pull, but also can be used to cut the load in half on an anchor vehicle, or change the direction of the pull. Here is where side loads come into play. Always try to line the pull up with the winch. Otherwise the cable will all build up on one end of the drum. This will damage the cable, clog the drum, and quickly reduce your pulling power.(you need extra shackles and maybe an extra tree strap to anchor the snatch block when using it to change direction)
- tow strap - not just for towing another vehicle, also useful for anchoring the winching vehicle when you are trying to pull someone else out. Don't leave them wrapped around your bumper, it looks cool and keeps the mud out of the vehicle, but UV rays will break down the material and ruin the strap. Hose them off after use, let them air-dry, and then store them properly.
- gloves - necessary when handling cable. You will always want to neatly wind the cable back onto the drum. If you don't the cable will pinch the wraps underneath and damage the cable = dangerous. When rewinding the cable, be careful to keep the gloved hand (only need glove on hand holding the cable), as far away from the winch as possible. You have to let the cable run through that gloved hand to get it to wind correctly. Sometimes the cable can snag the glove and pull your hand towards the winch. The winch will "coast" for several inches to a foot after you release the control button, make sure you hand is far enough away that it can't get pulled into the winch. Another trick, is to take the glove off and just hold the glove in your hand, wrapped around the cable, with the cable running through it, that way its easier to let go if something snags.
Safety Equipment - Start with training, as with firearms the most important safety equipment is the stuff between your ears. Winches can be enormounsly flexible, capable tools, but they can also kill you. Learn how to use them, its more complicated than it looks. Many people also recommend a blanket, jacket, or other soft weight over the cable when its under load to slow it down if it snaps. Steel cable on winches can snap back and hurt you, but it is muuuuuch safer than a snap-back from a stretchy tow strap. The more a material stretches, the more energy it will store up and release when it snaps. For this reason, go out right now and burn all of your K-mart tow straps that come with metal hooks on the ends. Those things are much more dangerous than steel cable. Cable will hurt you if you are standing close, but it doesn't stretch much, so it doesn't move as far when it returns to its original length. But broken tow straps will come and find you. There used to be a great you-tube video of a tow hook that went through a windsheild and headrest from a broken strap. The quality tow straps come with loops sewn in the ends and are rated upwards of 20K lbs. Check all of the equipment before use, frayed cable or straps will break, sometimes in a dangerous situation.
I have bought cheap winches and found them to be no bargain. The newer Warns are very solid. I don't know anything about their VR line except that it seems to offer the same capacity as their regular line for a lot less money. Sounds a little too good to be true.
I have way too many trucks and jeeps, and between my brother and I we still have winches from the 50's (koenig PTO winch), the 60's (Warn 6000 upright), the 70's (Warn 8274), the 80's (Ramsey REP8000, RE12,000), the 90's (Warn 8000i, Warn 9000i), the 2000's (Warn 12,000), and 2012 (Warn Powerplant (9000)).
I have read a lot of negative things on the internet about the Warn Powerplant. I like mine. The installation is harder, and you have to make sure the air intake stays above water because you can't disengage the compressor, but it pulls great and when you use it correctly, it has a great compressor. Early models had a thermal cut-off that caused problems, but that has been fixed in the years since. I recently operated mine under water. I didn't clamp the intake hose properly and it sucked in water . The water caused the compressor to break a rod and turn the piston sideways while I was winching out, but the winch never faltered, and still pulled me through a mud bank and out of the creek. The top of the winch was probably a foot under water. The piston and rod assembly cost me $30 or so. The hose clamp that I should have used orignally was about 50 cents.
I would disagree with one comment above about the winch being the last option. An electric winch is very easy to precisely control if you know what you are doing. Much easier than communicating with another vehicle trying to pull you out, and there are much lower dynamic loads being placed on cables and vehicle components with a winch than there are with another vehicle that tries to get a running start and "snatch" you out. So I personally think that a winch is often the safest option. Especially if you are out with people who haven't worked together recovering vehicles. The key is a well prepped and planned pull. Compare it to fire prep. You should spend a lot more time getting ready for the pull than doing it. If you get in a hurry then things can go sideways, but I still think they move slower and have less catastrophic results with a winch than with a second vehicle.
Expedition Portal is a good web site for discussing this kind of thing. They are affiliated with a magazine that also runs very good articles on winch test and recovery.
Get some training, avoid cheap winches, and happy winching.
Last edited by Code Red; 01-24-2013 at 01:53 AM.
or you could do what Mors does
I have a smittybuilt xrc8 winch on my Wrangler and have had it and used it a lot for the past 3 years and it never let me down. I have done some very long pulls and it always works. The synthetic line (rope) is supposedly safer due to less stored energy so less recoil if it breaks and it is a lot lighter. I think they make a 10,000 lbs winch and its a bit cheaper than others on the market. Worth a look
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