Demystifying the Winch
The winch is a necessary recovering tool for off-roading enthusiasts. Off-road drivers understand the need of installing a winch on their vehicles. Oftentimes, possession of a good winch may stand between driving and walking home.
Nevertheless, owning a winch comes at a price. General safety precautions should be taken by anyone handling them. Some of these precautions include:
- Proper training should be taken so as to clearly understand the working of the winch and how to safely operate it.
- A no-go zone should be established during the recovery process, in case the winch rope snaps and whiplashes.
- When handling steel winch ropes, gloves should be used as the winch can develop sharp burrs as it wears that may cause injury.
- The winch should be tested on a regular basis to ensure its ongoing reliability and safety.
- After every use of a winch rope, it should be neatly rewound onto the winch drum.
Types of Winches
Winches can broadly be categorized into electric mechanical winches.
Electric winches offer a range of choices. The market is flooded with products offering great performance margins, making it pretty hard to make a choice. Despite all this, the powering and mode of operation of all these winches are the same. Electric winches are powered by the vehicle’s battery, and they are made up of a drum and cable. This is to a disadvantage as the duty cycle of the winch is limited to the charge of the battery. It is therefore advised to keep the engine running when using this winch to protect your battery from draining.
Mechanical winches can further be split into five smaller groups depending on the units they have.
- Drum and Cable Winches
These winches are either run through hydraulic power or mechanical drive. Hydraulic-powered winches may receive their power from the power steering pump of the vehicle, or from the gearbox PTO unit.
Mechanical drive winches receive their power from either the engine crankshaft, or from the gearbox PTO unit.
- Capstan and Rope
Winches from this category receive their power from the mechanical drive from the vehicle’s engine crankshaft.
- Wheel Hub and Strap
This category of mechanical winches get their power from direct drive from road wheels.
- Rack and Chain
These mechanical winches are powered solely by hand.
- Creeper and Cable
These mechanical winches are also powered by hand.
There has been debate in the automotive industry about which is the best winch rope in the market. Reviews all over the internet make it close to impossible for a potential buyer to make a decision of which winch rope to buy. The winch ropes under scrutiny are synthetic winch ropes, and steel winch ropes. Despite the disadvantages the steel winch ropes may have, some experts still insist it is the best choice over synthetic winch rope.
Synthetic winch ropes are majorly made from Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) synthetic fiber which makes them exhibit far much better characteristics to their steel cable counterparts. This technology makes sure the cables are stronger than steel and can therefore handle a higher tension force, are lightweight, easy to handle and safer. However, if not handled properly, synthetic winch ropes may form knots and wear out faster reducing their reliability.
Steel winch ropes have been the better option for years until the inception of synthetic ones. Their popularity has drastically dropped due to the fact that they are not as easy to handle. This is attributed to their heavy weight and the sharp burrs that form over time as they wear that may cause hand injury unless handled using gloves. They may also form kinks that compromise the strength of the cable, plus steel cables are far much weaker than synthetic ones.
Winches are as strong as the accessories they come with. A strong winch rope paired with weak winch accessories reduces the reliability of the entire winch at the end of the day. So before you decide on which winch is right for you, find out the quality of all the accessories that make up the winch in question.
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