Welcome to the world of winches! An essential helping hand in the DIY world, a winch is a lifting or hauling device able to hold hefty weights to get the job done faster. Coming in all different shapes and sizes to suit whatever your needs are, different winches come in a range of specifications for a range of purposes, from at-home DIY, car towing and industrial work.
In this handy guide, we’ll break down all the need-to-know information to help you find your perfect winch. From the basics to the details – you’ll find the answers to all your burning questions here.
What are Winches?
In the simplest turns, winches are devices used for lifting or hauling. They’ve been used since ancient Greek times in one way or another as one of the most historic and enduring mechanisms in the developing world and now in modern DIY. Using a rope winding around a drum, they’re devices that make moving heavy items a breeze to make DIY or vehicle recovery simpler.
What are Winches Used For?
Winches are used for a range of things! From at-home or industrial where equipment or tools may need moving from space to place or lifting up to a different floor, you’ll regularly see them on scaffolding or building sites. They’re also used in vehicle recovery to haul a stuck or broken-down vehicle out of a tricky spot.
Able to lift weights, far heavier than a person could ever manage, they’re used to make jobs easier, quicker and simpler by carrying the burden for you.
How do Winches Work?
Winches work by using a rope winding around a central drum with a motor. The object or thing that needs lifting or moving is attached to the rope at one end, then the motor runs to wind the rope around the drum – either horizontally or vertically depending on if you’re lifting or pulling something along.
The motor neatly and slowly wraps the rope back around the drum, with the motor’s power able to handle a far heavier load, so the item is pulled along with ease.
Types of Winches
Coming in all different shapes and sizes, there are a range of different types of winches to suit a range of purposes and needs. Not everyone needs a fully industry, superpowered winch, so the scale of the set up can totally depend on the job at hand without ever compromising on safety or quality.
Some of the key differences in types of winches come down to the material of the rope from synthetic rope to heavy-duty steel, the weight they can handle and the motor type.
Parts of a Winch
Next up, let's break down all the parts and components of a winch. These are the bits that come together to make the winch work, with some being changeable or customisable to suit your needs. Each doing their own job to keep running smooth and safe, let’s take a look…
Just what it says on the tin, the control panel lets you control your winch. Usually on a separate remote, that’s either wired into or wireless from the winch, the controls let you turn the winch on or off to put power in or out of the winch. Some hoist winches also have controls that let you choose directions as well as moving up or down.
Solenoid or Contactor
Without them, you’d have to jumpstart your winch every time, with no smooth or easy start-up, and they would run forever with no way to stop.
They are comprised of a coil of wire, the housing and a moveable plunger. As the wire is wound round, the electric current can flow through and the magnetic field caused pulls the plunger in. Once this has been pulled in, the electric current needed to start up the winch can flow through, with the solenoid being the final piece of the puzzle in completing the circuit.
Essentially the same thing, solenoids and contactors do the same thing within the unit, but are used to handle different power levels. Contactors can handle heavier current loads so are used in heavier-duty winches, while solenoids work best at lower amp levels.
The component that makes it all run, the electric motor is basically what it says on the tin. Running on electricity rather than fuels, the motor powers the winch to get the job done.
Coming in different voltages and horse powers, you can choose the power level you need depending on the job at hand. Bigger, industrial jobs might require a bigger motor, but in our extensive winch range, you’ll find something to suit your solution.
The winch drum houses the rope or wire that pulls your object in. As the motor winds it in, the rope is neatly wrapped up in the drum as it spirals around a central spool.
Depending on the size of the winch, the drum size differentiates to account for longer or thicker wires and ropes. Our range includes the full spectrum from large sized winch drums to a range of shortened drums. Warrior offer up their popular Samurai winches in a short drum style, ideal for getting the job done when space is limited.
All aboard! If the motor is the thing that makes the generator move, the gear train looks after the pulling power. Stopping the winch from going a million miles an hour and damaging you or the load it’s carrying, the gear train reduced the rotational speed between the motor and drum to control the pull of the winch.
On our listings, you’ll notice that a gear ratio is mentioned. In general, the larger the gear the ratio, the slower the drum rotational speed for a calm and controlled pull. And while drum speed totally depends on the line speed of the rope, the gear train keeps it all under control.
The clutch locks the motor shaft to the brake assembly preventing the wire from unspooling the second the motor stops. The wire can’t go anywhere or unravel. The clutch is a simple but vital component.
Usually found on lifting hoists and often called a rope roller guide – the cable feeder ensures the wire is distributed evenly across the drum. As the wire is wound in, the cable feeder makes sure it’s wound back neatly and evenly to ensure a lifting hoist stays balanced.
Same as your TV remote or wireless car key, the remote allows you to safely control your winch from a distance. Keeping the lifting or hauling site clear and safe, both wired and wireless remote help you work safer.
Letting you control the power in and out, different models come with different remotes with some letting you work it remotely at an extended distance.
Winch Cable / Rope
A winch cable (sometime referred to as winch string) is simply the rope you attach your object to. Coming in either steel rope of high-strength synthetic rope; there's no compromising on strength regardless of your choice of material.
The cable is what you attach your objects to and what is pulled in and wrapped around the drum to make the object move with effortless ease.
Most winches require a cool-down period after a certain length of use. Ensuring they don’t overheat or break, the braking system allows safe pauses. Holding the object at whatever point it was at, or keeping it suspended in the case of a lifting hoist, the brake system means your hard work won’t be undone every time you need to stop.
Similar to the cable feeder, the winch fairlead is all about keeping the wire neat and protected. Helping it last longer and stay as high quality at it was made, the fairlead helps guide the cable on and off the winch safely.
For steel cables, a roller fairlead is recommended to prevent any damage to either the cable or the winch when it’s in use, ensuring the cable moves into the winch neatly and easily.
For synthetic winch cables, a hawse fairlead is the best to prevent any damage when in use again, looking after both the synthetic rope and the winch itself.
Different gears perform different purposes. Similar to a car where different gears are needed for different situations and speeds, the same applies here! Below we’ll break down the different gears systems used in a winch and explain their purpose in a bit more detail…
Planetary gear systems generally reduce speed for a more controlled approach. In these systems, the gear lubrication tends to be lithium grease and stays within the teeth of the gears for slow dispersion, ideal for a calm and controlled winch pull.
Worm gear systems provide excellent load-reversing protection for safe usage and breaks. Unlike the other systems, they’re designed with far fewer moving parts so tend to be hydraulic oil lubricated and work best at slower speeds.
Spur gear systems, while similar to a planetary system, disperse the lubrication from the gears at higher speeds. Generally used for industrial-level equipment, they’re cylindrical in shape and cope better under higher power levels and daily usage.
A winch mount is the thing the winch is attached to for sturdiness and security. An essential part of safe usage the type of mount can differ greatly depending on your needs and situations. If you need to easily transport your winch, our range includes portable winches that include their own in-built mount to easily move and set up elsewhere.
If your winch is going to be used for vehicle rescue, some winch mounts allow you to attach them to vehicles for easy and effortless rescue or diving from place to place. Or for lifting hoists, you might want a scaffold hoist ideal for mounting and getting to work on a construction site. The choice is yours!
As well as all the different power ratings, wire types and mounts available as choices for your perfect winch, there is also a whole host of winch accessories you can get to make working easier! These include…
- Shackles – Used for a variety of rigging duties, shackles are a must-have for hooking up the winch line, attaching a new recovery strap, setting up a mount or connecting a tree trunk protector.
- Snatch blocks – Snatch blocks are used to upping or changing the pulling power of your winch. A heavy-duty pulley inside a metal case, a snatch block can increase the pulling or lifting capacity of a winch or hoist. They can also change the direction of a winch’s cable by off-setting the anchor point, allowing you to pull in a three-point motion.
- Straps – Straps are another essential for safe usage. To ensure proper usage of the winch hook, good quality straps are a must-have for keeping fingers safely away from the fair lead while being able to hold the hook in place.
- Tree straps – Tree straps are a smart design allowing you to use a solid, sturdy object such as a tree to rig up your winch line. As they don’t stretch, you can wrap a tree strap around a strong tree for a sturdy winch set-up.
- Winch Sail / Damper – A damper is more of a just-in-case safety addition. Helping to prevent rope recoil in case of a failure, to stop the rope speeding back into the drum, a damper is a weighted back that would simply cause it to fall straight to the floor rather than snapping back.