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The basics of winches for off-road vehicles

Anyone who pushes their vehicle to the limit will find themselves in a sticky situation at one time or another. These precarious scenarios may have some drivers scrambling for help, but having the right tools and equipment can make the entire obstacle a bit more manageable. 

One of the tools that drivers should have is a winch. Winching is a relatively common practice within the world of off-roading, and those who are new to the sport or need a refresher should brush up on some of the basics of winches and their benefits. 

What is a winch? 
A winch is a device that is situated on the front bumper of an off-road vehicle. It occasionally may be placed in the rear to tow boats, ATVs or other objects. Instead of acting as a tow hook, however, it features a motorized unit that uses a spool of wire or rope and typically draws power from the battery of the vehicle. When the power to the winch is connected, the spool turns, allowing an object to be pulled in or out. 

Off-roading uses
The most prevalent use of a winch in off-road driving is for recovery purposes. If you get stuck while mudding or dune bashing, you'll want to have the proper equipment to help you out of the jam, and a winch is one of the easiest ways to do that. You can use it to connect to another vehicle or something else that is solid, and once the switch is activated, the spinning spool of wire or rope will pull the vehicle out of trouble. 

Things to know
The first thing you have to know about installing a winch on your off-road vehicle is the weight of the car, plus any truck mods or equipment attached. Winches do have weight limits, and you should be adding in some leeway to allow for the unexpected surprises that may make an automobile heavier, such as the sand or mud dragging it down. Look for a winch that is 1.5 times the weight of your car. 

Line length is another feature to consider. Although a long wire may be the best to get you out of a variety of situations, it is important to keep in mind that these devices work best when fully extended. Because the length of your cable is the length you will always have to deal with, this factor could prevent or promote tangles, obstacles and other annoyances. 

Kits and accessories 
Choosing the right winch will depend on the type of vehicle you have, as well as the type of driving and towing you plan on doing. No matter what you purchase, you will likely have the opportunity to consider buying several different accessories to go with the winch. Extra ropes, power cables, covers and mounts may all have to purchased. While winch kits can provide you with many of the tools you'll need for installation, repeated use might result in having to invest in one of these replacement parts. 

You should also be wearing gloves when working with a winch and its cable. Steel wires or rope can easily burn hands that are pulling on it, and gloves will help protect you from these avoidable injuries. Additionally, when you are pulling the cable from the winch to the other object, consider placing some sort of weight in the middle. A jacket or heavy blanket will do - you are simply aiming to add some kind of resistance in case you lose your grip and the wire snaps back.