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October 2008 Techline

Willie Worthy | Writer
Posted October 1, 2008

Q. I see very few winches powered by hydraulics. The question I have is, why couldn't you tap off of the power-steering pump to run a hydraulic winch? There are also beltdriven pumps with clutches. It just seems like a better (endless supply) source of power. Granted, with your vehicle on its side with the engine dead, it won't cut it, but if the battery is dead when you get squared around, what's the difference? Is there enough gph/psi in a stock power-steering pump to power the same-hp hydraulic motor as an electric motor for a winch? I realize that you would have to increase your oil reservoir but the rest is very similar.

Dan Kuck
Billings, MT

A. A lot of tow trucks use hydraulic-powered winches. They are driven off a separate PTO pump, and the control valve arrangement usually allows them to control the line speed. Most heavy equipment such as log skidders use hydraulic winches.

Some 30 years ago, a Jeep shop owner by the name of Jim Hicks mounted a power take-off winch in his Jeep and instead of snaking a driveshaft up to the winch used a hydraulic motor he obtained via military surplus and mounted it directly to the winch's gearbox. Yep, ran it off the power-steering pump. He ran hoses up to it and had a manual inline valve to control the fluid flow to either the power-steering box or the winch motor. The bad thing about it was that if he was doing a self-extraction, he lost his power steering and he had to always have ready access to the control valve.

Some years after that, MileMarker (www.mile came out with its version of the hydraulic winch, which also uses the power-steering pump along with an electrical solenoid valve to control the flow direction. Now all that is needed is a small electrical switch, like an electric winch uses, to control movement of the winch drum. I believe a small amount of fluid still goes to the power-steering box so you retain some steering ability.

They seem to work pretty good-good enough that the military is using some of them on Hummers. They have a two-speed drive motor, with a high speed for respooling the cable and a much lower speed for pulling a load. The biggest drawback of the winch is that the cable speed is quite slow when pulling. It's really easy to over-drive the winch cable when doing self-extraction. You also have to have the motor running for the winch to work. However, if you're doing any serious pulling with an electric winch, you also need the motor running to keep the battery charged.

Q. I have an '84 S-10 Blazer that's been converted to a Dana 44 solid front axle with 35-inch tires. I want to run hydraulic-assist steering. I need to know if I would have to get an aftermarket steering box if one is available for my Blazer, or could I just tap into the factory one? If so, where would I tap into it at?


A. A lot of this depends on just what steering box your Blazer is using. I don't have a clue what steering box the '84 S-10 uses, and my guess is that it was swapped out for a fullsize passenger-car steering box commonly know as a Saginaw 800-series (which is also the same series that Jeep used for lots of years). If this is so, then you have a couple of choices. You can, if so mechanically inclined, drill and tap the 800-series box for the proper fittings.

I highly recommend that the steering box be completely disassembled to make this modification as it only takes the smallest pieces of metal to destroy either the steering box or the pump. If you don't want to attempt this yourself, then you might want to take a look at PSC Motorsports (, West Texas Off Road (, or Howe Performance (, as these companies sell the boxes already drilled and tapped, along with the proper-length ram and mounting brackets and hoses.

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