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Extracting a stuck vehicle using a winch and what gear you should be in

Reader question:

“Hi Robert. First, just want to say that I really enjoy your videos and the thoroughness of your explanations on all things recovery. I have learned quite a bit from you – thank you.

Second, I want to ask a question and get your professional opinion on a specific scenario which is extracting a stuck vehicle using a winch on your own vehicle and what gear you should be in while recovering.

Vehicle B is stuck in the mud and Vehicle A is using its front mounted winch and attempting to extract/recover Vehicle B from the mud. Question: While winching Vehicle B in, should Vehicle A be in Park with the brakes depressed or should Vehicle A be in Neutral or Drive gear while depressing the brakes?

I cant seem to find a straight answer online on this specific situation. I did see something stating that you should be in neutral with the brakes depressed to take the pressure off the parking pawl but couldnt find much else and wondering if you agree with this? I also checked some of your videos and didn’t see this specific scenario but apologize if you have already covered this before (happy to take the link!). Also, I realize that a snatch rope would be a better approach to mud but used for intents and purposes of example for this scenario 🙂

Thanks much in advance and greetings from Arizona!”


Definitely brakes applied – much more effective than a parkbrake. You also definitely don’t want to put the transmission in Park and only rely on that. There is no point putting the vehicle in Drive as you aren’t intending to move forwards or back, all you’re doing is wasting fuel. So, select Park, and then apply the park brake – as you said you need to ensure the parking pawl isn’t stressed. Neutral also works.

The brakes will be powerful enough to lock the wheels such that the car is dragged without the wheels turning. If that happens, then dig a small hole for the front wheels which greatly increases the anchor effectiveness of the winching car, or, use a double-line pull and run the return rope back to an anchor point which is not the car so you halve the force pulling the winching car forwards.

Relevant videos below.

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