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Land Rover Winches and Winching Techniques

Winches and winching have always been synonymous with Land Rovers with the original power take off winches and some of the earliest Series 1 vehicles having drum driven Capstan winches fitted. The advancement of electronics and battery power introduced the electric winch which become the most common among off road 4x4 enthusiasts. However there are many different types of winches other than the electric winch and it is possible to do Land Rover recovery without a winch. This page does not take sides between specific makes of winches, instead it will explain the operation and highlight the pros and cons of different types of winches. Vehicle recovery work harbours many potential dangers, take care, keep your eyes and ears open and think about what you are doing and take adequate safety precautions.

It is important to note that the specifications of winches are made up roughly as follows :

  • The power supply to the winch is full specified voltage ON THE WINCH INPUT TERMINALS

  • The hydraulic supply is at full pressure and flow at the hydraulic motor inlet port

  • Winches that wind cable or rope up onto a drum exhibit full load pull in the centre of the drum on THE FIRST LAYER OF CABLE - You can loose up to 50% pull when on the last layer.

Electric Winches

Mechanical Winches
Drum & Cable

Drum & Cable

Capstan & Rope Wheel Hub & Strap Rack & Chain Creeper & Cable
Power From Battery Hydraulic power from power steering pump Hydraulic power from gearbox PTO unit Mechanical drive from engine crankshaft Mechanical drive from gearbox PTO  Mechanical drive from engine crankshaft Direct drive from road wheels Hand Power Hand Power
Ramsay,
Warn,
Superwinch
MileMarker Original
Land Rover,
Warn
Fairey One-Way Winch
Fairey Mechanical Drum Fairey/Superwinch Capstain Original Land Rover,
Hubbytrax
High-Lift Jack &
JumboJack,
Jackall
Tur-For

 

Electric - Drum & Cable

Principal of Operation
These are definitely the most common type winch available. The winch comprises a high torque electric motor, coupled to a gearbox, and the gearbox drives a rotating drum.
These winches are very reliable if maintained properly, water ingress and faulty or dirty electrical connections will leave you stranded. 
Electric winches come in a wide range of shapes and power ratings. 

Pros and Cons
It is important to know that you use the winch mainly on battery reserve power and not on alternator power, this means that you can winch for as long as your batteries can supply, and a bit more as the alternator assists to a certain extent. Generally your winch draws from 300 up to 1000 Amps and the alternator is only rated at around 80 amps. 
Electric and hand powered winches are the only types that will get you out of the mud if your engine is dead - care must be taken not to winch your batteries flat to get out of the mud and then not be strong enough to start the engine.
Electric winches get very hot if used continuously, this excessive heating will damage the motor, and the current draw may damage the batteries if allowed to run down flat too often.
The high power consumption and low duty cycle are the electric winches only disadvantages.

Mechanical - Drum & Cable - Hydraulic power from power steering pump

Principal of Operation
The power steering system of the vehicle consists of a high pressure hydraulic (oil) pump, connected to the steering box. The steering box has a biasing valve and a hydraulic motor in. When the biasing valve senses a pressure differential (When you turn the wheels), the high pressure from the pump drives the hydraulic motor, which turns the steering mechanism and ultimately, the wheels.
In the winch application, this high pressure oil from the pump is tee'd off from the main power steering line and fed via a 2 way valve to a hydraulic motor inside the winch casing (Where the electric motor would be), When either valve is opened, the motor is driven and the winch operates.

Pros and Cons
The advantages of this type of winch are that the winch draws practically no electrical power thus excluding the need for a powerful alternator and multiple battery system.
Power is obtained directly from the engine in a more efficient way, enabling the winch to run at full load constantly all day without fear of damage to any component - power steering fluid temperature must be monitored if the winch is used heavily for long periods.
The winch is exceedingly strong and is rated at around 11500Lbs ( divide by 2.2 to get Kilograms = 5227Kg)

The disadvantages are that the engine must be running when winching, and the power steering system must be checked for compatibility before fitting - see the Mile Marker Story below.

History - The Mile Marker Story
The power steering powered hydraulic winches came onto the market with a big bang with high performance and equally high expectations. 
Sadly for the man in the street, the release of these winches onto the South African market was badly researched.

The problems started when the winches where not able to perform as specified - this quickly spread and gave the winches a bad name.

The problem is that the winches where designed for the American market, no different to our local market except for the vehicles. The American vehicles had very large heavy duty power steering pumps which produced double the oil flow and a higher pressure than the pumps used on locally available vehicles.
As a result, the winches where not receiving their full design pressure and could therefore not perform to specification.

The way to fix the problem is to fit a heavy duty high volume power steering pump to the vehicle. 

Mechanical - Drum & Cable - Hydraulic power from gearbox PTO unit

Principal of operation
The transfer box is placed in neutral, and 3rd gear is engaged, the hydraulic pump is selected for operation by a gear lever in the cab which engages the pump with PTO gear on the end of the gearbox main shaft. The pump supplies pressurized oil to the valve body which is also mounted with a control lever in the cab. The lever has a 3 positions - idle, cable in and cable out. The vehicle can either winch itself out as above or with the transfer box in low range and any gear selected, it can operate both the winch and drive the wheels. 

Pros and Cons
It is a very reliable, strong winch where the cable speed can be varied from very fast down to painfully slow because the engine speed can be varied and the gear in the gearbox can be selected and finally, the valve block lever can be operated only partially - This gives extreme control of the entire system - especially for hoisting operations.
The winch uses a worm and roller drive mechanism which is a fail safe system compared to the planetary drives of other winches, enabling it to be used for hoisting operations.

The system only fits Series vehicles, fittings can be made for newer vehicles but besides that the 25L oil tank does tend to take up a lot of space. The system is also very heavy and bulky - it will appeal to hardened purists and those that like agricultural type fittings.

History
This rather rare winch is a combination of two original Land Rover components - As fitted to vehicles from the 1960's onwards.
The first part is a Dowty 3000 Psi hydraulic pump which is fitted to the PTO (Power Take Off) port of the gearbox. This is fed by a 25 litre oil tank fitted to the chassis of the vehicle behind the rear left wheel.
This unit is used to drive anything from a fire water pump or a jackhammer to the jaws of life and a winch. The winch is driven by a virtually identical Dowty motor unit on a huge brass worm drive mechanism.
The drum & cable winch which was originally fitted to the front of Series Land Rovers, and to the middle, underneath of SANDF Series 2A and 2B Forward Controls. 

Mechanical - Drum & Cable - Mechanical drive from engine crankshaft

Principal of operation
The actual winch unit is similar to the hydraulic unit above except it is driven from a coupling to the engines crank shaft. 

Pros and Cons
The winch is operated by the engine directly, so it gets quite complicated and hazardous.
Since the unit is driven from the engines crankshaft, it only has the capacity to winch in, winching out is by means of a freewheel. This limitation can cause the winch to lockup in some situations.

History
As a result of the winch limitations it was not that popular and it was soon replaced by the next version...

Mechanical - Drum & Cable - Mechanical Drive from gearbox PTO

Principal of operation
This winch takes it's drive from the PTO on the gearbox main shaft via a dog clutch. The drive is fed to the front mounted winch by a thin prop shaft. The actual winch unit is identical to the one mentioned above.

Pros and Cons
Since the drive for this winch comes from the PTO port on the gearbox, Both the speed and direction of the winch can be controlled, making it almost as versatile as the hydraulic unit. 

Mechanical - Capstan & Rope - Mechanical drive from engine crankshaft

Principal of operation
The capstan winch operation is the same as those used in sea going vessels. It consists of a tapered bollard fixed to a brass wheel, the wheel is driven by a worm roller connected via a dog clutch to the engines crank shaft.
When engaged the bollard rotates very slowly in one direction. Then, a thick, 20mm Marlow Braid or braided Polypropylene, rope is rapped around the bollard 3 times. When the loose end of the rope is pulled it causes the rope to tighten on the bollard. The shape and surface of the bollard makes the rope ride upwards towards the thinner end thus tightening the rope automatically. The load can be winched in at a variable speed, or, if the loose side of the rope is released, the load can be relaxed very controllably.

Pros and Cons
The winch, like all mechanical winches, is very strong and ultra reliable. With only the force exerted by one person on the loose end of the rope, a force significantly greater than many an electric winch can be exerted. The winch can operate at full load forever...the operator is the one who will get tired !
Since the rope is rolled on and then off the bollard, the pulling force is always constant and does not decrease as the recovered object comes closer to the winch as in all drum winches. 
Your rope length can be as short or as long as you like, there are no limitations.
Being engine driven it cannot be operated if the engine has failed, it does however, have a crank handle attachment and can be operated by hand.
The winch takes a bit of getting used to, but once mastered, it is great to use.
They are very scarce and take up some bumper space on Defender vehicles - on series vehicles they fit in very neatly.

History
They are available for both Series and Defender vehicles - in the UK. They are also available in South Africa, somewhere on the second hand market - expect to pay dearly.

 

Mechanical - Wheel Hub & Strap - Direct drive from road wheels

Principal of operation
A device resembling a brake drum in size and shape is bolted to the rear wheels of a vehicle. A strap is wrapped around the winch hub once, and taken to an anchor point via a pulley, where it is attached to the strap from the other wheel.
The vehicle is slowly driven in the direction of the anchor point, as the wheels spin the strap winds up on the winch hubs, effectively creating a drum winch on each wheel. It is important to use a pulley on the anchor point so that any inequality in the length of the straps can be taken up by the spinning wheel - if this is not done the strap may fall off of a wheel if it re-gains traction. 
Strapping or rope is best to use on the hubs, never use steel cable.
It is not wise to fit these hub winches to the front wheels as the front axle has all the steering components on, these can get seriously stressed during recovery operations, any damage, visible or not, can have serious implications.  

Pros and Cons
The hubs - when fitted - increase the width of the vehicle and can get damaged by rocks and ledges. If fitted when travelling fast can cause wheel balancing problems, but if they are fitted for emergency use the terrain traversed will dictate a much slower speed. 
Unless strap guide eyes are fitted to the vehicle, recovery can only take place directly inline with the vehicle forwards or backwards, as any sideways operations will entangle the strap in the tyre on one side and cause it to fall off the hub on the other.
They are extremely powerful, as strong as your rope in fact. They can be used on multiple vehicles and are cost effective. 

History
Hub winches have been around for years. They were fitted as optional extras to Series ones in the 50's, military series 2's and have been around since then. Just recently an alloy version called "HubbyTrax" has been released.

Quarry023.jpg (107630 bytes) Quarry025.jpg (67842 bytes) Quarry028.jpg (94565 bytes)
The kind of strap to be used A typical layout

 

A nice Sand Anchor

 

     
Quarry030.jpg (103771 bytes) Quarry031.jpg (92900 bytes) Quarry033.jpg (72362 bytes)
Ready to reverse Anchor digs in nicely The rope winds up from the bottom 

Movie clip using a single wheel hub winch
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJOeEaba__c&mode=related&search=
 

Mechanical - Rack & Block - Hand powered

The mechanical rack and chain is just a fancy word for a humble old high lift jack.

Principal of Operation
This procedure only works with a chain, no rope or strapping must be used.
The chain is attached to the stricken vehicle and to the jaw on the high lift jack shuttle - leave about half a meter free at this end. 
The high lift jack rack is chained to a rigid anchor point.
When the handle is operated, the stricken vehicle will be moved towards the anchor point.
When the full length of the rack is used up, take the half meter of loose chain you left loose and bolt it to the anchor chain, then remove the connection on the jaw (The link to the anchor point will keep the vehicle stationary) and move the jaw back down the rack. Now refit the chain to the shuttle jaw and repeat the operation.

Pros and Cons
Very slow, tedious and exhausting.
This is a lot of hard work but as long as you are alive and vaguely fit, you can retrieve your vehicle from anywhere in any conditions without the use of engine, battery or other means.

Mechanical - Creeper & Cable - Hand operated

This winch is otherwise known as the Tur-For winch.

Principal of Operation 
The winch uses a double claw mechanism with a steel cable - the cable is attached to the load and the mechanism via a cable to the anchor point. A handle is operated by hand which makes the mechanism pull the cable inwards, the system is basically a refined version of the high lift jack procedure.

Pros and Cons
They are not easy to come by and are bulky especially the steel cable, which is a bit of a pain to handle.
The unit is very robust and powerful, giving you the piece of mind that you nee when being alone in the sticks for a long time - you will always be able to recover your vehicle, possessions and occupants regardless. 
You can also use all manual type winches to remove engines and bits if needed. 

 

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