When it comes to extreme off-roading, it pays to have a winch installed on your vehicle. But with so many to choose from, which one is right for you? We give you a guide to the options
Focus on… Winch Solutions
As Europe’s only licensed importer of Champion winches, Winch Solutions is an important supplier of winch equipment to UK off-road enthusiasts. The company has a range of distributors around the country (details are available on its website), meaning you can get your hands on its products wherever you are located.
Champion winches are available as electric and hydraulic variants, and they have pull ratings of between 2000lb and 30,000lb. It’s an extensive range, in other words, which ensures there should be something to keep every customer happy.
Prices vary depending on specification, but a basic electric winch can be purchased for as little at £226.
Focus on… Devon 4×4
If David Bowyer is a hero among 4×4 fanatics, his Devon-based counterpart Simon Buck is also something of a pin-up. Simon’s company, Devon 4×4, is one of the country’s premier off-road specialists – meaning that winches are very much its thing.
Devon 4×4 stocks a range of products from a variety of manufacturers. Favourites include Warn, Gigglepin, T-Max and Milemarker. The line-up offers something for every budget, as well as catering for all applications. Whether you’re just starting out and want a modest winch as a backstop or you’re embarking on a marathon overland adventure, the team at Devon 4×4 will be able to advise on the right product for you.
Focus on… Goodwinch
Every industry has its legends, and David Bowyer is definitely one of them among the off-road fraternity. His company, Goodwinch, has been selling winches more or less since Adam was a kid; or since Adam learned to drive off-road, at any rate.
Goodwinch offers a range of winches, including hydraulic and electric examples. It is the main European distributor for Kingone Goldfish-TDS winches, which are fully waterproof and available in a range of specifications.
Goodwinch is also an agent for Superwinch – meaning that it stocks some of the finest hydraulic winches available in the UK.
In addition to winches, Bowyer’s company sells winch accessories such as remote controls, hawses and winch cables. Contact Goodwinch for details of prices.
Focus on… Frogs Island 4×4
Frogs Island is based in Abingdon in Oxfordshire. Its winch range includes the latest Talon Series from Superwinch.
Talon winches are heavy-duty items intended for extreme use. They are available with a rating of either 14,000lb or 18,000lb and come fitted with either synthetic rope or steel winch cable. The former is lighter, and some people regard it as slightly safer to use. The latter is stronger and better suited to working at high temperatures.
With two-stage planetary gears and the fastest line speeds in their class, Superwinch’s latest products represent some of the highest-specification winches that money can buy. Prices are available on request.
If you’ve developed a taste for off-road driving, sooner or later you will become stuck. That’s not a problem in itself – if you’re a sensible off-roader, you’ll have headed out in a group and there’ll be someone to give you a tow.
There are occasions, however, when it’s simply impossible for another vehicle to get a line on the end of your truck. And, although they might be loathe to admit it, very few enthusiasts have resisted the urge to head out into the wilds on the occasional solo expedition. Sometimes, it’s just too tempting.
So it makes sense to ensure you have a means of getting yourself out of trouble. A Hi-Lift Jack can be a useful accessory in this regard, because it enables you to adjust the position of the vehicle and possibly raise it away from danger.
Even better is a winch. This provides a means of self-recovery that is unparalleled and should solve a sticky problem even when other methods have failed. All you need is a solid base on which to attach your line (a tree, rock or portable ground anchor will do the trick) and you’re back on the road with nothing but a red face to show for your trouble.
POWER IN YOUR HANDS
In the olden days, seasoned 4×4 enthusiasts will tell you, winches were much simpler. Many off-road fanatics made do with a manual winch, which relied on their muscle power to pull a vehicle out of a tight spot.
Nowadays, there are two main options when it comes to powering your winch. The first is electric, which takes power from your 4×4’s battery to rotate the drum. And the second is hydraulic, which relies on mechanical pressure to keep running.
Electric winches are often very powerful, meaning they have impressively fast pull speeds. People usually choose to install an auxiliary battery in their vehicle in order to ensure there is sufficient juice to run one. Even so, batteries are only capable of delivering energy over a limited period of time – and electric winches have to be rested in order to prevent over-heating.
Hydraulic winches are slower than their electric counterparts. But, because they do not use electrical energy to keep turning, they can be used indefinitely.
Ultimately, therefore, the choice between electric and hydraulic is very much a personal one. Some choose the former because they like the burst of power and speed it is capable of delivering. Others choose the latter, because they want to winch over prolonged periods, without worrying about the component running
out of steam.
It’s worth bearing in mind that, in addition to your 4×4’s weight, a winch will have to contend with the force of whatever is causing it to be stuck. So it’s worth ensuring the winch you choose is more than up to the task of tugging your vehicle. By the time a few feet of mud is lodged around the wheels, the towing job gets a whole lot harder.
It stands to reason that the larger a winch’s pulling capacity, the more it will weigh. That’s why serious off-road competitors try and balance the demands of a heavy-duty winch with the need to keep weight to a minimum. This can mean spending a bit more on a winch whose manufacturer has combined pulling strength with lightness. Or it can mean skimping in other areas of a vehicle’s specification – using less underbody protection, for example, or stripping the interior.
Unless you intend to start entering extreme challenge competitions – in which case, you’ll rapidly find that a single winch is insufficient for your needs – it’s probably safe to say that you needn’t worry too much about your vehicle’s overall mass.
Finally, you’ll probably find that you need to invest in a winch mount to attach it to the front of your vehicle. Most aftermarket 4×4 accessories suppliers can provide you with the necessary items. And if you want to go for the whole hog, why not fit a winch bumper in place of your 4×4’s standard item? It will bring a whole lot more strength, and make sure that your off-roader well and truly looks the part into the bargain.