Using the Winch: The key to safe winch operation is selecting a stout anchor point. Choose wisely, as winching can generate extreme mechanical forces; if the anchor breaks free--well, to put it in the vernacular, all hell will break loose. Trees, large boulders, and other vehicles make good anchors. If you choose a tree, make sure that it’s alive (dead ones topple easily) and that the roots are deep (under towing stress, shallow roots may cause the tree to uproot). Trust me here; I learned both the hard way.
The two most common setups are the single-line pull and the double-line pull.
To rig for a single-line pull, remove the nylon tree strap protector from the winch accessory package. Position it flat and low against the anchor. Next, run the clevis through both loops of the protector and secure with the pin. Put the clutch in freespool, then pull out the wire rope from the drum. Insert the hook at the end of the wire rope into the clevis. (Never wrap the rope around an anchor and then hook it back onto itself. Doing so creates kinks that can cause the rope to break under a load. Wrapping the wire rope around a tree will also damage the tree.) Lay a blanket or tarp over the wire rope about halfway between the winch and the anchor. This helps direct the rope to the ground if it breaks under load.
Slowly take up the slack, then conduct a final inspection of the rigging before powering up to full load. Have your partner climb into the truck so he can steer the vehicle and apply throttle when needed. With a long remote cord, you can also operate the winch from the cab if necessary.
The double-line pull uses a snatch block (also known as a pulley block) to run the wire rope out to an anchor and then double it back to the vehicle, where the hook is attached to the frame--not the bumper, winch, or any part of the suspension. This rig gives you a two-to-one mechanical advantage over single-line pulling, and is useful when the vehicle is really mired. Keep in mind that the anchor will bear the brunt of this double load, so pick a stout one. Also, doubling the power cuts the winch speed in half.
Down to Business: The reason I had been so cavalier about getting stuck was that I had taken one big precaution. I had added a Superwinch S9000 to the F250. With a rated line pull of 9,000 pounds, I figured it could handle anything Suman’s woods could throw at it. And because I installed the winch on a Superwinch portable winch platform, the unit slipped into the front receiver nearly as easily as if I were sliding in a Class III drawbar.
But I must admit: This black mud was evil-looking stuff. Fortunately, the truck was positioned directly in front of some nearby trees, so I was assured an easy single-line pull, the simplest and most common winch setup.
Once the winch was properly rigged, I handed the remote control to Suman and hopped into the cab. The instant I felt the front tires lurch forward, I applied some throttle and the truck popped free.
Then I walked back to the gaping hole behind the truck. I could see Suman shaking his head; the imprint of the F250’s leaf springs were clearly visible in the mud. So was something else--a large, sunken tree trunk. No wonder the truck had been unable to free itself; the mud-clogged rear tires couldn’t climb over the slippery trunk. Even if the front tires had been able to gain purchase, the tree trunk effectively blocked any forward motion.
Take that as positive proof that the unexpected can sink you when you drive offroad. But if you prepare for trouble by bringing along a healthy dose of common sense and the proper equipment, you’ll make the going a lot smoother.