Winches and Winching 2

Now we have selected a winch to suit our requirements it will need commissioning before fitting to our vehicle, commissioning may be a technical term, but it is easily done by most people.

Electric winches need waterproofing, contrary to popular belief these are not waterproofed unless specified, despite the fact they are located on the front of a vehicle and subjected to considerable dirt and water. Begin be slackening off the motor and pulling it back slightly, insert a sealing or gasket compound between the mating faces and tighten them again to seal the joint, do this with all winch joints, this leaves us with a waterproof winch.
Many people ask what sort of sealant should be used, I prefer blue Hermatite as this is a non hardening compound, and can cope with the heat and water a winch is subjected to, although any gasket compound which will stand the temperatures will suffice.

Remove the solenoid pack and mount it inside the vehicle if it is a removable type, if not simply remove the covers and apply sealing compound to the cover faces and any cable holes, this will waterproof the solenoid pack. If the solenoid is located inside the vehicle, ensure the cable connections at the winch motor are covered by suitable rubber boots filled with petroleum jelly, this prevents corrosion and waterproofs them at the same time. Waterproof solenoid packs are available as aftermarket items, these are worth considering if you do a lot of work in deep water or mud, they can be expensive so it is a case of what you choose to do.

The winch can now be fitted to the vehicle and wired to the auxiliary battery through a heavy duty isolator switch.

Hydraulic winches need fitting to the vehicle, along with their reservoir, pipework, hydraulic pump, and control valves, the reservoir needs filling to capacity and the lines need priming with hydraulic oil, do not engage the pump on power.
At the control valves: crack one or both of the hydraulic pipes and place a suitable receptacle under the joint/s, this will allow the fluid to run through the hydraulic pump to the control valves, tighten the joint and open the control valves. Move to the winch connections, crack these joints and allow fluid to run into the receptacle, this will prime the feed to the pump with hydraulic oil, remove the highest hydraulic fitting on the winch and pour oil into the winch’s hydraulic motor. The pressure line, control valves, and winch motor are primed with oil and protected from dry running, engage the hydraulic motor clutch and check the reservoir capacity, fill if necessary; start the engine and operate the winch. The hydraulic circuits will prime the return lines and expel any remaining air in the system, once the system is fully primed it is simply a matter of checking for oil leaks and refilling the system to capacity.


If your winch comes fitted with rope, remove around half of this before priming the system, ensure you keep a careful watch on how much rope you retrieve. Some models have a clutch fitted, disengage this winch clutch before priming the system.

Winch Ropes

Some winches come supplied with the winch ropes installed, others require you to buy the rope separately, you may have decided to swap your wire rope for a synthetic rope, or you may need to replace your rope because of wear or damage. Begin by reading and understanding the manufacturer’s instructions, this will explain how to get to the rope clamp assembly, this is what holds the end of the rope to the drum, follow these instructions and clamp the end of the rope to the drum.

Begin by getting a helper, particularly with hydraulic winches, where the controls are located inside the vehicle; and familiarise them with the winch operation, stretch the winch rope out to its full length and remove any twists or kinks in the rope. Stand about 15’ from the vehicle and get your helper to wind the rope in, carefully guide the rope onto the drum, always wear leather gloves, and never ever let ropes slide through your hands, always work hand over hand. Fish hooks may appear on new wire ropes, so always adopt this safe working practise, as the winch winds on the rope, closely examine the new rope as it is wound on, this will reveal any damage and the rope may be replaced under warranty. Ensure the rope is fairly tight, and it all fits onto the drum with the correct number of layers.

This type of winding is called “slack winding”, it is not suitable for winching in this state as if a load is applied to the upper layers, and it will pull the loaded cable through the slack layers below and cause a god awful mess. Many beginners fall foul of this simple error and generate these problems the first time they become stuck while off roading, the rope now needs “tight winding” to prevent this situation from occurring.

Tight winding can be done in one of two ways, the first is to remove all the rope from the drum, except the last five laps; always leave the last five laps on the winch drum as the rope clamps are not strong enough to hold the weight on their own. This is best done on a smooth surface with a slight downhill gradient, at the bottom of the hill, secure the removed winch cable to another vehicle similar in weight to your vehicle, slowly move the vehicle backwards until the winch rope is tight.
Start your vehicles engine and set to a fast tick over, and start the engine of the pulled vehicle, release the pulled vehicles brakes and begin pulling it up the gradient, it may be beneficial for the pulled vehicle to move from side to side slightly. As the rope is wound onto the drum, ensure it winds smoothly and evenly, and it builds up its layers correctly, do not let it bunch on one side, or become tangled.

The second way is to use your vehicle at the bottom of the slight incline and secure the winch rope to a solid object such as a tree with a strop, then winch the vehicle uphill to wind in the rope under tension. This method is not as good as you may not be able to see the winch as it winds in the rope.

You now have an installed winch which is commissioned, waterproof, and with a tight wound cable installed, you’re winch is now ready for winching.