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How to reverse winch

Can you winch yourself backwards using your front-mounted winch?

The only people who say electric bullbar-mounted winches aren’t all that useful are those that haven’t owned one, or just restrict their driving to dirt roads and the like.

For the rest of us, the electric winch is fantastic; can pull you out of almost anything, saving a lot of digging and making undriveable tracks, driveable. Well, winchable. And you can use it for fixing things too as it’s a powerful pull-force for making things straight that have been bent, or things bent that should be straight. Costs have never been lower, and winching has become safer with the advent of synthetic rope.

Now if you talk to the aficionados of the hand winches such as the Tirfors, they will be quick to tell you that the electric winch has a major disadvantage and that’s it can only pull forwards. They’re right, which is why some people –  usually competition trucks or larger vehicles – fit a second winch at the back to pull backwards.

But what if there was a way to winch backwards…using your front-mounted winch? Turns out it’s possible, not just in theory, but in practice. You’ll need a long winch extension rope, around 40m is good, and at least three pulleys. In the olden days of wire winch rope and heavy snatch blocks that would have been a problem, but today we have cheap, light and small snatch rings with inexpensive synthetic rope extensions so gear cost and bulk is less of a problem. Four snatch rings can weigh less than a single snatch block, and the efficiency loss is minimal compared to a snatch block with a bearing.

So how do you rig it, and is the setup really a replacement for a rear-mounted winch?  The rigging answer is complicated, but the answer to the second question is simple – “no”. Think of reverse-winching a handy technique in your mental recovery toolbag for the rare situations you need it, and can right it – not as something you’d rely on time and time again. A bit like any recovery gear item or technique – there’s a time and place for it, and when that time arrives at the place, you’ll be glad you’re ready even if that’s only once a decade. 

So if you want to learn how to rig reverse winching, see it in action for real, and understand the forces then watch this video:

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