Winch Maintenance

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An important part of any serious off-road recovery equipment arsenal is a winch. Some are hydraulic however the vast majority are electric. Reputable winches are expensive and truth be told, the majority of people that have them fitted to their 4wd’s seldom use them. When you find yourself properly stuck though, a winch can mean the difference between hours of digging and getting to the campsite before dark. Director of Ironman 4x4 Africa, Mic van Zyl explains the importance and fitment of a winch for your overlanding vehicle:

Due to the fact that winches, as a general rule, are not used very often, they are susceptible to failure when you suddenly need to winch yourself out of a sticky situation. Here are some things to do and look out for to ensure that your winch is always ready to go when you need it. Proper installation, especially electrical installation is key. A winch is essentially a sizable electric motor driving a gearbox that in turn drives a drum hauling a cable or synthetic rope.

The electric motor is controlled by a solenoid contained in a control box. Winches draw heavy current during operation and should be installed with the appropriate thickness of cable. These cables should also not be longer than is required. All electrical connections must be well secured. Furthermore, these cables should be installed in such a manner that they do not get damaged or rub through the electrical cable insulation during normal operation of the vehicle.

Older winches use barrel type solenoids and newer winches use more reliable solid state solenoid assemblies. The older type barrel solenoids can get moisture inside them which often leads to corrosion of the internal contact points rendering them inoperative. A stuck solenoids means no winching. It is a good idea to disengage the gearbox clutch on the winch and run the motor for a while on a regular basis. Once a month should do.

We always advise our fitment centres to fit a high amp rated cut-off switch, similar to what is used on racing cars, to totally isolate the current supply to the winch when not in use. This will prevent any accidental activation of the winch. A winch that is accidentally activated due to short circuit will cause damage to your bull bar.

Deep water crossings could submerge the front of your 4wd and your winch. Your winch may have drainage holes in the motor and gearbox or you may have a model that is sealed with or without a breather pipe assembly. There is always a chance that some moisture could get inside the motor or gearbox assembly. In any event, it is advisable to run your winch for a while as soon after your water crossing as is convenient, perhaps at camp that evening. Unspool and re-spool the cable/rope at least once using the winch motor. The heat generated by the motor and gearbox will assist in evaporating and expelling any moisture that may remain inside the winch after your water episode. This is also a good idea for winches that are mounted exposed on the front of a 4wd and not enclosed inside a bull bar.