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Tips For Using an ATV Winch

January 31, 2014

So you’re looking to buy a winch for your ATV. How do you know which one to get and then how do you know how to use it?

Here are recommendations from Warn Industries, which makes winches.

If you’ve got a sport quad or a smaller ATV (under 300cc), a 2,000-pound-to–2,500-pound winch is a good winch to get. If you’ve got a larger ATV (300cc or greater in size), then you’ll want to step up in capacity to a 3,000 pound-to–3,500-pound winch.

You’ll have a choice between wire and synthetic rope. Wire rope is better for utility tasks and for winching in abrasive situations that might be hard on synthetic. However, synthetic is lightweight, easy to handle and is great for use in mud.

Keep in mind that safety is always a primary consideration when using an ATV. The ATV is not a toy, and winching should be handled in a serious and disciplined manner. And while owning an ATV winch is one thing, knowing how to use it is another. To effectively use this tool, knowing the right techniques is critical.

Follow these tips to get the most out of your ATV winch:

Read your winch manual. Winches come with manuals, and this is your most important resource. If you come across conflicting advice from friends, on the internet or elsewhere, always adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Likewise, if you have questions about the operation of your ATV winch, contact the manufacturer.

Stretch the wire rope before you use it. Follow the instructions in your ATV winch manual for stretching your wire rope, which is a critical part of initially preparing the winch for use. Evaluate your battery power. An ATV winch puts a heavy drain on your battery. If your ATV’s battery is old, consider replacing it or upgrading it, if possible.

Practice first. ATV winch operation encompasses several steps, and you should feel comfortable with every one of them. You’ll benefit from practicing when your head is clear, before you end up in a recovery situation. When your ATV gets stuck, the stress of the situation will impact your concentration. That’s really no time to be learning something new.

Carry a spare remote. Keep a spare remote in case the original one fails at the wrong time.

Pay attention to the clutch. Accidents can happen if you aren’t careful with the clutch on your ATV winch. When you disengage the clutch, double check that it’s fully disengaged. Be just as thorough when you engage the clutch. Don’t engage the clutch while the winch is operating and don’t disengage the clutch while the rope is taut.

Don’t overextend the wire rope. Be precise when you spool out the wire rope before attaching it to your anchor point. A rope that is too slack may not spool back onto the wire drum evenly.

Also, you need to leave one layer, or about five wraps, of the rope wrapped around the drum. If you extend the rope too far, it could pull away from the drum.

Turn the tires. If you can, turn the ATV’s front tires to face the direction you are pulling. This lessens resistance. Disconnect the remote when you aren’t using it to prevent any unwanted surprises.

Watch the winch rope as it spools. Make sure the winch rope spools onto the drum cleanly. It shouldn’t pile up on one side of the drum or wrap unevenly. You may need to start and stop the winch motor frequently to ensure even spooling.

Learn how to use a snatch block. You won’t always have an acceptable anchor point directly in front of your stuck ATV. In these situations, a snatch block (essentially a pulley) is invaluable, as it lets you change your winching direction. A snatch block also increases the pulling power of your winch by two, but decreases its speed.

Warn offers a free, downloadable guide that offers a host of information, tips, and techniques to help you get the most out of your winch. 

Available at in the Product Literature > Powersports section, it’s a must-read for both beginners and winching veterans who are looking for a quick refresher on winch operation. 

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