One of my many peculiarities is that I love the sound of an electric winch. For me, it rates right up there with the rumble of a big-block engine or Hendrix’s Voodoo Child.
Maybe it’s because out here on the farm, electric winches are an important member of our arsenal of tools. We use ’em all the time. In addition to the ones mounted on our trucks, we use small ones in the shop to hoist stuff, and we use larger ones to drag equipment onto trailers. To me, the whine of a winch is the sound of work gettin’ done, just like the sound of an air tool or a welder.
My first winch was a Superwinch S9000, and she was built like a brick house. I vividly remember the sound it made the first time I toggled the “cable in” switch to stretch the new wire cable. It sounded similar to the low growl of a muscled 220-pound mastiff, and it was awesome. Over the years I used that winch, not only to drag my Wrangler out of crap I’d gotten myself into, but also around the farm. I loved that winch.
Every project vehicle I’ve built since then has had a winch. Or two. Project Trailhugger, our ’08 Hummer H3 Alpha, had a Warn XD9000 up front. My ’92 Ford F-150 “Fiery Redhead” had a Warn 9.5ti up front and a Warn XD9000 in the rear. Dual winches are admittedly an extravagance, but this arrangement was outstanding and it opened up a new world of recovery and work options. Currently, I’m driving our ’05 Dodge Power Wagon, which came from the factory equipped with a monster 12,000-pound Warn winch. We’ve used this winch quite a bit, including to recover snowbound cars like the one shown in the accompanying cell phone camera photo. My latest winch-related project is to figure out how to mount a Ramsey REP 8.5 E to the front of my Lincoln Navigator.
I’ll never forget the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy. This 1981 film is definitely worth watching if you’re a 4x4/winch fan. It’s a funny story that takes place in the Kalahari Desert, and it features a fair amount of humor involving a Land Rover equipped with an electric winch. It’s rare for a mainstream film to include winching, and even rarer to integrate winch humor, so for that alone it’s worth watching. At one point in the movie, the driver is distracted while winching the rig out of a river and returns to find the Rover hanging from a tree. Maybe I’m easily amused, but that cracks me up every time.
I’ve been writing about four-wheel drive for 22 years now, which means that by default I’ve been on a few trail rides. Like many of you, I’ve become familiar with the specific sounds of the electric winch and what they mean. Without even seeing the situation, I can almost picture in my mind how bad the stuck is by listening to the pitch of the winch whine. If it alternates between a high- and low-pitched whine, that means the vehicle is getting occasional traction and moving forward. Low-pitch whine means big stuck. Low-pitched whine followed by a clunk means the vehicle is back on its wheels. You know what I’m talking about.
I’ve been amazed by the incredible distance the sound of a winch will echo down a rock-walled Utah canyon. Conversely, I’ve been surprised at how well the twisty, densely foliated Tank Trap at Top Truck Challenge absorbs the whine of a winch, and you can’t hear it until you’re very close. Over the years I’ve heard winches echo off the trees surrounding Helicopter Pad in the Tennessee Upper Tellico ORV area after drivelines have shattered. I’ve listened to winches spool cable while half-submerged in coffee-colored water at the Safari Triathlon in Florida. And I’ve listened to our winch labor as it tried to pull our heavily-laden Hummer H2 through bumper-deep snow far in the Idaho forest during our nine-state H2our de Force thrashfest.
I’ve seen “No Whining” stickers, but I think whining is okay—if it’s from a winch. If there was a ringtone of a winch, I’d have it. That would be awesome.