PTO Winch Fans Speak Out
We received several interesting emails regarding the “November 1966: PTO Winches Rule” Trail’s End piece that appeared in the October ’12 issue of Four Wheeler. The piece highlighted old advertisements for King, Ramsey, and Rhino power take-off winches.
Ed, from Irvine, California, asked some questions that may interest some of our younger readers who are pre-dated by PTO winches. He wrote, “Since I am 30 years old, can you explain to me how the heck a King or Rhino PTO winch was supposed to work? I don’t see any controls on the outside of the winch. I’m guessing there is no brake. Was there a lever in the cab somewhere that disengaged the drivetrain of the vehicle and then activated the take-off in the transfer case? How did you control the speed at which the thing spooled (guessing the gears inside the winch are obviously pretty darn low)? Did you have to just put your foot on the gas and gun the engine to spool the thing in? I would suppose that if the PTO is not engaged, then the drum is sort of free to spin and you could spool the cable out.”
Now we’re familiar with PTO winches to a degree, but the older PTO winches were slightly ahead of our time, so we contacted Four Wheeler contributor and ace 4x4 historian Jim Allen and he was kind enough to provide a few answers about the basic operation of these PTO winches. We’ll paraphrase what Allen told us.
Using the Koenig transfer case-driven PTO winch as an example, the winch was controlled from inside the rig via the transmission and by engine rpm. The transfer case was put in neutral and the PTO was engaged. First gear at idle offered a slow spool-in of the winch cable, while increasing engine rpm made the winch spool faster. If you wanted to spool the winch in even faster you could select a higher transmission gear and increase the engine rpm. Placing the transmission in neutral halted the winch. If you wanted to put power to the vehicle’s wheels during the pull you’d engage the transfer case (this could be a tricky maneuver because then you have power going to the winch and the wheels simultaneously, controlled by the same source). Some of the worm gear winches had a clutch release so you could draw cable out by hand, but those without a clutch release required you to place the transmission in Reverse and power out the cable. The Koenig had a brake lever located on the winch. Obviously these winches required two people to operate, as one had to monitor what was going on with the winch cable and activate the brake if needed, while the driver of the vehicle operated the PTO, transmission, engine rpm, and T-case.
Clearly, PTO winches are a bit more labor intensive than a non-PTO winch, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have fans. Matt Bumgardner from Page, Arizona, wrote, “I have a Koenig King winch Model 1 with a shifter model 51 for a Jeep M38A1 with the four-cylinder engine. I have attached photos of the nameplates. I am working on installing it on my ’53 M38A1 and intend to use it.” Bumgardner says the winch was installed on the $300 Jeep when he purchased it. Photo A shows one of the nameplates.
Jesse Thomason of Laredo, Texas, wrote and told us about the PTO winch he had on his ’68 half-cab Ford Bronco. Thomason said, “It looks exactly like the one pictured on a Bronco in your article.” He also noted that, “With the transmission in Third gear it would spool up fast. It worked very well, but it wasn’t as simple to use as an electric.” He also included info on his Cummins-powered ’91 Dodge pickup (photo B) that has been fitted with a PTO winch. He found the winch on Craigslist. After purchasing the unit he got it home and after doing some research found out that it’s a Ramsey 10,000-pound unit. “With five forward speeds and Reverse hooked up to turbodiesel torque, it’s pretty awesome,” he says.
And then there’s Chuck Massie of Annandale, Virginia. This off-road veteran owns several PTO winches and a slew of cool 4x4s of all makes and vintages (including a ’66 Chevy bread truck converted to a motorhome and modified with a big-block V-8 and a set of Ouverson-locked 2½-ton Rockwell axles). He wrote, “There is no reason to compare. PTO is where it’s at.” And one of the places it’s at for him is behind the cab of his custom-built, ’65 Chevy-bodied 4x4, where there’s a monster Tulsa 20,000-pound PTO winch (photo C). He put it there, over the rear axle, for a number of reasons including weight distribution.
So there you have it. Based on these fascinating stories from readers, it’s apparent that the PTO winch is still reeling in fans.