The good news is there are a number of great winches out there. Here are some of the newest models that take winching to a new level:
The Ramsey Patriot 15000 has enough pulling power to easily nurse the biggest Chevy, Ford, and Dodge 4x4s out of trouble. This big winch (120 pounds) utilizes a three-stage planetary-gear system and 5.5hp motor to generate its pulling power-rated at 9,000 pounds on the top layer and a whopping 15,000 on the bottom wrap. Ramsey has a wide array of other winches, too, like the low-profile REP 8.5e with 8,500-pound pulling power, for smaller pickups and SUVs, and the Badger 2500 ATV winch. Add a Ramsey Wireless Remote Controller for even greater flexibility and safety using remote control instead of a winch control cable. Contact: Ramsey, 918/438-2760, www.ramsey.com.
The Warn 9.5xp is the fastest of any Warn winch under load, yet it weighs just 87 pounds. Its 9,500-pound bottom-layer line pull comes from a heavy-duty 6hp motor connected to a three-stage planetary gearset. It also incorporates a continuous duty control box that allows for long, hard pulls. But it isn't Warn's biggest-that honor is bestowed on the new 16.5ti Thermometric, which boasts 10,800 pounds pull on the top wrap and 16,500 on the bottom. Just make sure you have a strong frame. The Warn M6000 is another good winch to check out, especially if you have a smaller SUV or Jeep. This light-duty winch pulls 4,600 pounds on the top layer. This model also uses heavy-duty seals to keep water at bay between the winch drum and motor. Don't like cable? Opt for Warn Synthetic Winch Rope, which is rated up to 9,500 pounds. Contact: Warn, 800/543-9276, www.warn.com.
Mile Marker makes both electric and hydraulic winches. The big dog on the electric side is the SE12000, a very low-profile workhorse winch. Another good choice for hunters is the 75-50085C-a tough two-speed hydraulic winch suited to be mounted on U.S. Army Hummers, so it will do well on hunting rigs. The beauty of hydraulics is there's no draw on the electrical system (it runs off the power-steering pump) and it doesn't overheat on long pulls. This model has both high and low speeds, it can power both in and out, and has a pull rating of 9,000 pounds in low gear. Contact: Mile Marker, 800/426-8646, www.milemarker.com.
The Superwinch ATV3000 is an excellent choice for today's heavier 4x4 ATVs because of its excellent weight-to-power ratio. The equally new EP 6.0, which has 6,000 pounds of pulling power, would work well on light- to medium-duty model Jeeps, compact pickups and SUVs. For those with larger needs, the new Superwinch S9000 would be a good candidate. It weighs just over 80 pounds, yet the 4.2hp motor and three-stage planetary-gear system pulls 9,000. Need really heavy-duty? The Husky 10 is the choice of the vaunted Camel Trophy trucks when they romp through the jungles. Contact: Superwinch, 860/928-7787, www.superwinch.com.
* Wear leather gloves at all times when handling cable.
* Keep hands well away from the fairlead and cable drum.
* Double-check that the hook, shackles and clevis are fastened securely before applying power.
* Keep spectators at least 50 feet away and to the side of the winching procedures.
* Always place a winch weight over the cable midway point to act as a damper should the cable come loose under load.
* Never stand beside the winch when it's operating because it places you in front of a vehicle and in direct line of the cable.
* Be sure the winching points on the vehicle being winched are strong and will not be damaged during the winching procedure.
* Never attach a winch cable to a tow ball.
* Never start winching with more than three cable wraps on the drum. Fewer winds could let the cable pull loose from the drum.
* Do long pulls with short winching bursts to keep motor cool
* Always inspect winch cable prior to winching to ensure there are no frays or kinks.
* Never stand or walk behind a vehicle being winched uphill.
Any vehicle that is going to encounter ruts, rocks, sand, mud and snow in driving situations that place the occupants outside of the safe bounds of gravel and paved roads, should have the following items on-board in addition to the winch. Many of these items are typically included in the winch manufacturer's accessory kit, but if they aren't, make sure you have them.
* 48-inch Hi-Lift Jack with off-road base
* Snatch strap (2 inches x 30 feet, 20,000-pound capacity)
* 6-foot tree truck protector
* Pair of clevis hooks or "D" shackles
* Front and rear tow hooks on vehicle
* Spade or short-handled shovel
* Snatch block of proper size for winch cable
* 6 feet of high-tensile chain with small hooks at each end
* Leather gloves
* Jacket or blanket to wrap around winch cable