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Redirected Winch Systems: How To Get Your Truck Unstuck

Whenever you head off-road there’s always a chance that things will go wrong. Maybe you’ve just gotten your custom truck and want to show off a little. So you head out to the trails, wanting to put it through its paces and things don’t go according to plan and your 4x4 ends up in a tricky position.

It could be something as simple as your truck sliding off to the side of the trail and threatening to tip over or getting stuck in some mud. Regardless of the situation, the results are the same – you end up in a bad situation and desperately need to do some winching to get out of it.

It’s a situation that we here at Dixie 4 Wheel Drive have encountered plenty of times. Since our auto shops in Utah, one in Moab and the other in St. George are close to off-roading trails, we get called out to winch vehicles many times. This happens often enough that we decided to start teaching people proper winching techniques just in case they found themselves in such situations.

During our complete winching course, we help people learn basic winching methods as well as show them the tools they need to do it safely. The common winching techniques include:

  • Single-line pull

  • Double-line pull

  • Triple-line pull

  • Straight pull on a narrow trail

  • Righting a tipped vehicle

  • Redirecting a pull or a line redirect

Redirect Winch Set-Up

Winch redirection is one of those skills that every off-roader needs to learn. You might never know when you’ll need to use it to get yourself out of trouble.

A redirected winch system is perfect for situations where using a straight pull is dangerous, awkward, or simply impossible. It’s the perfect winching technique to use when recovering a vehicle around a bend on a trail or when winching from a direction you can’t get a recovery vehicle into -such as sideways on a trail. It’s also useful in tight trails where you need to pull a stuck vehicle that is not directly in front of the winching vehicle.

When setting up a redirected winch system a suitable anchor e.g. a tree or stump, is employed as a redirect point using a tree strap, pulley, and pulley blocks (also called snatch blocks). The snatch blocks are used to redirect the winch line, making it possible to winch at an angle and change where the winch’s pulling power is directed. This technique also saves the winch line from getting frayed on obstacles that may be on the trail.

How a Redirected Pull Works

When figuring out how a redirected pull works, the major thing to keep in mind is that the snatch block only serves to change the direction of the winch system. It does not offer any mechanical advantage to the rigging so it doesn’t multiply the power of the winch.

An easy way to know if you are increasing the winch power when setting up a winch system is to count how many lines shorten when the winch is engaged. For instance, in a double-line pull, both the line from the winch to the pulley plus the line from the pulley back to the vehicle shorten as the winch pulls, thereby multiplying the winch power by two.

When it comes to a redirected pull, usually only one line shortens i.e the one running from the pulley to the vehicle that is being recovered. The distance between the pulley and the winching vehicle remains constant so the winch still operates at its normal rated power.

The Process

Now let’s see the steps taken when setting up a redirected winch system. Before setting this up, keep in mind that in any redirected pull, the force on the anchor increases and can go up to twice what the rest of the winching system experiences. The anchor in this case includes the tree strap, the tree itself as well as the shackle and pulley in the anchor assembly. It is important to remember this because when winching, you should always keep within the recovery equipment’s working load limit and use equipment that is rated for the vehicle and winch, otherwise you put yourself and everyone else in danger.

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Secure your truck.

Ensure you get everyone out of the truck that’s to be winched and make sure they are out of harm’s way. Once that is done, stabilize the vehicle as much as you can depending on its position to keep it from slipping.

  1. Identify your winch points.

When choosing your winch points, pay attention to the direction you want the stuck truck to move. Your anchor points should be on that side. Remember that the largest anchor provides the most secure winch point.

  1. Run out the winch line.

When running out the line, remember that the more winch line layers you have on your drum, the lower the pulling capacity of your winch. When rigging for a redirected winch, try to remove all except one or two layers of winch line from the drum.

  1. Rig up the anchor points and prepare the line.

When setting up anchor points around trees, always use a trunk protector. Once the lines have been set up, fit winch dampeners to each line then pull the winch line until it’s tensioned.

  1. Start winching.

To avoid overheating the winch motor or damaging your truck’s battery, winch for a few seconds then take a break. Repeat until the task is done, maintaining a slow steady pace.

  1. Secure the truck again once you’re done.

Once the truck is unstuck and situated where you want it, secure it before spooling the line back onto the winch.

If not done properly, winching can be dangerous. Ensure that you make the right preparation and that you use the proper winching equipment and accessories for your vehicle. Additionally, always wear heavy protective winching gloves and eye protection when handling the winch line and hooks.

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