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4WD winch recoveries without an electric winch


  • for those who are not using their 4WD as a toy to challenge themselves off road, a winch is rarely used and only adds weight and needs constant maintenance, especially to keep the line clean
  • in such a case for the hopefully rare case when they are solo and need to winch themselves out, then it may be wise to carry a manual device such as the options listed below, or, know how to create a flip flop winch (not going to be of use if there are no logs around and no anchor points though!)
  • you will probably need to generate at least 1000kg tension for a 4WD recovery, less for a lighter vehicle
  • whichever option you go for, you will need a winch rope, winch pulley, tree trunk protector, perhaps a line shortening device (eg. X-lock), and consideration of an anchor if there are no suitable trees around
    • if on sand, you can bury a wheel as an anchor

Manual Pullers

  • these use ratchet levers to achieve mechanical advantages
  • most will get you to around 600-700kg tension and thus could be used with a dual line 2:1 rig (with winch pulley) to pull out a vehicle
    • it may be difficult to achieve the pulling power needed if you are standing on slippery wet, muddy or uneven ground!
  • many also have a limited distance of pull of under 3m (eg. options 1-3 below) and if using a dual line rig this equates to under 1m actual distance moved before you have to reset it and start again
  • they are very versatile though and can be used for many other uses such as hauling or lifting heavy objects and in tree management - removing stumps, etc
  • unless you use a redirection pulley, they will put you in the line of fire of a projectile if the line breaks!
  • most assume you can apply around 70kg force to each lever pull - they will make you work hard and build up a sweat!
  • the best option is probably option 6 - the unlimited line cable grip winches - more reliable, greater MA, less effort, long distance pulling

option 1. use a high lift jack as a manual winch

  • these are very versatile and are generally rated to 1.5t and can have a bow shackle attached to each end
  • 30kg force on handle gives 675kg tension
  • pros
    • most offroad 4WD owners will carry a high lift jack anyway
  • cons
    • slow going as after every 1m pull you need to transition by swapping standing and working chains
    • need extra accessories such as:
        • 26 link chain, 15 link chain and many other items
      • plus you need wrenches, etc to assemble it
      • PLUS NEEDS a LONG HEAVY TRAVEL CHAIN! - the length of which will be the ultimate limit of the distance being able to be pulled
        • eg. 8m of 3/8“ (9.5mm) load chain rated to 3800kg with holding hooks 14kg $AU65

option 2: steel cable pullers "come-a-longs"

  • these use a steel cable inside to achieve the pulling but are usually restricted to under 3m of cable
  • many also have the option of setting up with an internal pulley for additional 2:1 MA but then only 1.5m distance
  • NOT really good for 4WD recoveries - may get you out of a bog with a lot of hard work but won't get you up a slippery hill - use a cable grip winch instead with much higher MA and unlimited cable pulls
  • eg. 4.1kg for 12' 1ton single / 2 ton dual version 15:1 / 30:1 MA
  • a 5 ton (10,000lb or 4500kg) puller will work well for easily pulling a Subaru up a gentle hill
  • there are many cheap and often poorly designed types on the market which are prone to failure or injury!
    • eg. Ridgerock Tools NEIKO 02256A 5 ton (10,000lb or 4500kg) 10' (3m) 6kg puller
      • safety issue: the bolts or steel pins that hold the hook and pulley.
        • These bolts are held in place by thin U-Shaped Retainer Clips seated into a shallow grove around the tip of the bolt. If one of these retainer clips is accidentally bumped during use, it can dislodge and the bolt can come free suddenly releasing your load. Consider replacing with hardened steel bolts and lock nuts.
      • safety issue: “in the middle of tightening, one of the sides snapped and flew at me”
      • to reverse the lock cam you must push a spring over to the other side to release the tension on it. It’s not possible with work gloves on.
      • Releasing the ratchet(s) to extend the cable is really awkward with one person unless you already have the cable end connected to something immovable.
      • parts of the laminated gears may slip/delaminate making it unusable because the cogs/release are no longer in sync
    • eg. American Power Pull - 4 Ton Extra Heavy Duty Cable Puller (15002)
      • 12.5kg; 18' cable; 49cm long; but only 22:1 MA; takes 4 hands to setup. broke 1st time for one user;

option 3: strap pullers

  • these use a webbing strap inside to achieve the pulling but are usually restricted to under 3m of strap
  • many also have the option of setting up with an internal pulley for additional 2:1 MA but then only 1.5m distance
  • eg. 3.8kg for 5' 8” lift 20:1 MA version

option 4: 3t ratchet hand puller with 10m synthetic rope

  • Wyeth make a 3 Ton Ratchet Puller with 35' of 5/16“ (8mm) Amsteel Blue synthetic rope
    • Internal double line pulling capacity is 6,000 pounds (2700kg) dead lift and 12,000 drag/pull (5400kg). Single rope capacity is 3,000 lbs (1360kg) dead lift and 6,000 drag/pull (2700kg)
    • $AU800 and weighs 11kg
    • heavy and expensive - you are probably better off with an electric winch - at least you will be less likely to be in line of fire if line breaks

option 5: an unlimited line rope puller

    • 10:1 leverage giving 3/4 ton (680kg) pulling power - you will build up a sweat with a 2:1 dual line rig as you probably still need about 50-60kg force
    • puller device alone is 3.2kg
    • 50' (15m) of 12mm poly rope with hook is further 2kg;
    • 5.2kg and gives 10:1 MA
    • $US184
    • theoretically, this could work well with a 30m rope 6:1 pulley system combined with a dual line winch pulley which would reduce the effort a lot but take a lot longer

option 6: unlimited steel cable gripper winches

Devices that turn your wheels into winches


    • 4.5m long rope ladder
    • also comes as a “bundle” which includes additional connector straps and a 15-meter braided rope, “Pro pack” adds a couple of soft shackles - users should really get the Pro Twin Pack but even then it won't be the correct tool for every recovery
    • Pros
      • relatively light and affordable
      • avoids need for manual pulling
      • should be able to be fitted to nearly any vehicle
      • also works fine as a tow line
    • Cons
      • may be difficult to attach to the wheel
        • may not work as well on Subarus:
          • if you are really bogged in a Forester the low approach angle combined with the long front overhang means that in practice it is really difficult to attach the bogout
          • There is very limited clearance between the wheel rim and the disc brakes and attendant pipes and the shroud of the brake housing. It is extremely easy for the bogout to snag these items as well as parts of the suspension
      • can't steer - as they attach to your front tyres, you will NOT be able to turn your wheel direction and steer and this can limit options
      • need to find an anchor the right distance away and IN-LINE
        • the rope ladder has to be laid out exactly along the line of your wheels and you more than likely need extra rope to reach a convenient tree or anchor point directly along your line of retrieval (LOR)
        • you may need two anchors - see a review
        • often you need an anchor point to pull you back onto the road - and finding such an anchor other than another vehicle may be impossible
      • risk of serious damage to your vehicle’s driveline components
        • biggest issue is making sure that it winds evenly around the tire, and doesn’t slip and then careful observation by a 2ND PERSON for slippage - if it moves toward the inside of the wheel, it can cause serious damage to your vehicle’s driveline components

bush winch device

    • a wheel which rapidly and easily attaches to the outside of your wheel via a click and twist action (need to have wheel permanently fitted with special wheel nuts) to act as a winch
    • if using a rear wheel then you may need the rope guide option to attach to the front wheel which allows steering
    • $AU495 for the kit and much heavier (16kg for a pair +60m 5mm 3000kg rated rope) than BogOut but may work better on Subarus if you can get one that fits
    • anchor points can be up to 30 degrees off the LOR
    • can buy optional ground anchor (14kg $AU380 or 19kg for twin anchor pack?) for when there are no trees
    • Pros
      • works really well if you are able to attach it to two of your wheels
      • works very well for pulling in reverse much more efficiently than an electric winch on your vehicle
      • great for sand situations
      • avoids need for manual pulling
    • Cons
      • bush winch needs to be matched to your vehicles wheels - see
        • website does not seem to allow fitting for Subaru Outbacks older than 2014
      • can only be attached to YOUR vehicle and even then only when they have been fitted with the special wheel nuts
        • if another vehicle has the same wheel hub as you then you could swap nuts but then you may as well just tow them out
      • may be very difficult to attach when wheel is stuck in deep mud or a deep rut
      • relatively heavy and expensive
      • potential risk of stripping your wheel nuts if excessive forces needed such as deep mud

bushcraft manual winch

emergency flip-flop winch using two logs and your rope

  • this uses long poles as levers to winch a load (eg. bogged car, a fallen tree over the road, etc)
  • you need:
    • a strong non-elastic tow rope
    • two small ropes such as paracord to keep the lever pole from springing up from the main rope
    • an anchor point (eg. base of a large tree)
    • 2 strong poles 3-4” diameter x 2-3m length (perhaps need a chainsaw or other saw and use the least strong pole as the drum pole)
    • plenty of space to flop
    • 2 strong stakes driven into the ground to keep the drum pole perpendicular (will need a sledge hammer or similar)
  • wrap your rope around the anchor point twice then tie with a constrictor knot or tensioning knot such as a tautline hitch with extra securing knot
  • lay out the sticks one longitudinal (“lever pole”) and the other pole crossways (“drum pole”) near the end of the lever pole
  • bind the poles together midway between anchor point and vehicle as it will shorten on BOTH ends
    • pass the rope over the drum pole near its end, then push a bight UNDER the drum pole then pass the end of lever pole through the bight and OVER the drum pole then tighten by pulling towards your load
  • tie the rope to your load
  • flipping the lever pole will wind the rope onto the drum pole, then flop the drum pole over to continue the process of alternating flipping and flopping, ensuring your rope does not crossover itself each flip flop
  • if load is very heavy, place a strong stake at the end of the drum pole to ensure it stays perpendicular on flopping (place a stake on the other side too)
  • before flipping ensure the lever pole is on the correct side of the rope so it winds onto the drum pole correctly
  • as there is a lot of tension on the rope, you will need to have a two movable loop ropes (eg. Plusick oops) on your rope to slip over the end of the lever pole to stop it from lifting upwards when you flop the drum pole
  • stay away from the pole junction as this is where the rope will spring back to if it snaps
  • to UNWIND, just reverse the process
  • this is much less tiring than the Spanish windlass winch which requires a vertical drum pole and constant tension on the lever pole which can also get difficult to move due to friction of the drum pole
australia/4wd_winch_manual.txt · Last modified: 2023/01/24 09:02 by gary1

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