The Essentials of Winching Your 4×4

The other day we talked about recovery forces when winching, correctly rated straps, shackles and recovery points.

Today let’s look at the essentials of winching.

First up, know how to use your specific winch. 

Second up, to keep the perspective, winching can be dangerous, especially if using a metal cable winch.

Winch ropes store less energy than metal ones, but can still spring back.

Metal ones, if something breaks, can really spring back. 

In the picture below, the shackle went back through the windscreen and killed the driver:

Here, the recovery point broke- hook through the windscreen:

Depending on frequency and load of use – occasional 4×4 recovery vs professional recovery, a synthetic winch rope instead of a metal rope would be safer, but the trade-off is in longevity.

Our view would be a synthetic rope for most people. 

The Essentials of Winching – Tools, Equipment and Appliances Required!


There are some essentials to allow you to winch your vehicle successfully.

As the difficulty of the recovery increases, so does the need for more kit.

A grounded Jimny in a rut on a dry flat lane should be a pretty straight forward pull.

A fully loaded Defender stuck up to its axles on a hill with no easy or well-placed trees, needs some fancier stuff.


Shackles (metal or rope, correctly rated)

Tree protector (strap to go around the tree to connect to, rather than wrap the rope around the tree)

If there are no trees about, a land anchor:

Ok, you could dig a big hole and bury your spare wheel to pull from, but that’s a lot of work and you’ll wreck the lane.

Good in a pinch though.

If you can afford to carry extra rope and shackles to extend the length of your winch line, that’s easier and better, not to mention one of the best essentials of winching as well!

Stuck on the edge of a soggy field, with no trees nearby and maybe only a bit of hedge is quite a feasible situation to find oneself in.

Going with another truck always beats digging and land anchors.

A nice and able to be weighted winch dampener/blanket

Snatch blocks

Ok, time to Winch!

Choosing an Anchor Point

A secure anchor is critical to winching operations. An anchor must be strong enough to hold while winching. Natural anchors include trees, stumps, and rocks.

Hook the cable as low as possible. If no natural anchors are available, when recovering another vehicle, your vehicle becomes the anchor point. In this case, be sure to put the transmission in neutral, apply the hand brake and block its wheels to prevent your vehicle from moving.

Ideally, you’ll want an anchor point that will enable you to pull straight in the direction the vehicle will move.

This allows the winch rope to wind tightly and evenly onto the spooling drum.

An anchor point as far away as possible will provide the winch with its greatest pulling power.

Always leave at least 5 rotations of rope on the drum.

Rigging Techniques

Various winching situations will require the application of other winching techniques. These could range from too little distance to achieve maximum pull using straight line rigging, simply increasing pulling power, or maintaining a straight-line pulling situation.

You will have to assess what technique is correct for your situation.

“Think safety” at all times.

How to Change the Pulling Direction

All winching operations should have a straight line from the winch to the object being pulled.

This minimizes the rope collecting on one side of the drum affecting pulling efficiency and damaging rope.

A snatch block, secured to a point directly in front of the vehicle, will enable you to change your pulling direction while still allowing the wire rope to be at 90º to wind properly onto the spooling drum

Increasing Pulling Power

In some cases, you may find yourself needing more pulling power.

The use of snatch blocks increases mechanical advantage and that increases your pulling power:

Double line

Because pulling power decreases with the number of layers of wire rope on the winch drum, you can use a snatch block to double line out more wire rope. Or triple line 

With 3 snatch blocks, you can even arrange them so you can winch yourself backwards.

If you are lucky with trees!

Remember, a heavy truck, well stuck, bit of a hill could be a 15T pull and that’s a huge amount of energy being stored in the ropes and shackles, especially if a wire rope.

It’s a big load of whiplash if something breaks.


There is a lot here.

Experience and practice is the best way to get comfortable with it, but don’t let comfort allow you to take short cuts or not assess the situation properly.

“I thought it would be an easy recovery” can sadly be “famous last words”.

And you are in charge of your recovery, don’t let people rush you into bad actions!

Getting out safely with no damage to people, truck or environment is the goal.

Contact Avalanche Adventure for a Thrilling 4×4 Driving and Quad Biking Experience!

If you fancy off-roading on our quad biking tracks near Cambridgeshire, then book your slot with us right away!

Our activity centre is now open to small groups of people where they can come and enjoy various activities like clay pigeon shooting, off-road driving, camping and much more!

As we have shifted to a pre-booking system, there are only a limited number of slots available. 

Give us a call today to book a fun day out with us!