Tips on How to Use an ATV Winch

A winch on an ATV is one of those things you don’t need until you really need one. It’s not a matter of getting stuck, its a matter of when you’re getting stuck.

warn winch

One of the most common question I would get from new customers was on how to use there winch on there ATV.

What You Need

To be honest, you need more than just a winch to really use your winch effectively. There has been times where I have screwed up and hurt myself, even almost lost and eye, due to not having the proper equipment for my winch.

1. Gloves – The first thing you need is some good gloves. Riding gloves are not the best, you need some thick cowhide gloves. Most Winches use a metal cable that develops burrs over time which will cut every time, I have the scars to prove it. You can get a synthetic rope for winches like this type here (ad), which I highly recommend.

2. Tree Truck Protector – When you’re stuck you need to attach to something and that something is usually a tree. Wrapping around a bare cable around a tree can actually do a lot of damage to the tree. Even worse it can cause a tree to fail to hold you up to get you out. A Tree Trunk Protector can distribute the load better and be making winching you out easier.

3. Snatch Block (ad) – A good Snatch Block and increase your pulling power when done correctly. It can also allow you to pull your machine straight out even when they’re nothing in front of you.

4. D-Ring – A D-Ring is very simple. It allows you to connect your winch, Tree Trunk Protector, or even a chain together.  It’s best not to cheap out on the D-Ring because this thing takes the most stress. Also called D-Shackles.

5. Line Damper (ad) – This thing could save your life if you use it. This keeps the line from coming back at you and forces the winch to the ground if it does break. I go into more detail of why you need one in the tips below.

How To Use A Winch

atv winch release
  1. Place the Winch In Free Spool by releasing the gear on the right side of the winch.
  2. Always grab the winch by the Fabric piece that is attached to the hook of the winch. Never hold the metal part of the winch.
  3. Always try and pull from the center. Pulling from the sides will cause the winch to bind up on one side. If need to use a Snatch Block.
  4. Engage the Clutch.
  5. Put a little bit of tension on the cable.
  6. Place a Line damper on the slight tension cable for safety.
  7. Make sure the engine is on to supply power to winch and battery.
  8. Pull the winch in to slowly start to move forward to get you out.
  9. Make sure the Winch cable is going incorrectly and not binding up to one side.
  10. Once the machine is out and able to move on its own power then the ATV is out and clear.
  11. Place the ATV in park and give the winch some slack.
  12. Remove all Winch Accessories and return everything back to where it was.

Learn From Me – Some Tips

I’m not the smartest man in the world, I’ll admit that. One day I was pulling something out with my Can-AM Outlander that was probably too heavy for the winch to handle. I gave it one good pull and I broke the cable loose and all I remember is a cable flying at my face. Luckily It just grazed me and I was fine.

What I did wrong was that I didn’t have a rag or towel in the center of the ability to stop the cable from flying back to me. These are usually called Throwing Towel or Line Damper because you throw a towel over the cable. If you don’t have a towel a heavy jacket will do. You need something that is like a fabric that is heavy. The towel will force the cable down and help to stop it short from attacking you.

You also want to use the winch in short burst.  A winch has a high torque motor which gets hot fast. If you constantly use the winch without giving it breaks you can wear it out and break it. You can also drain your battery quickly too when using the winch all the time. It’s best to keep the engine running so that the ATV can supply power to the battery since the winch is taking power from the battery.