How To Winch Out An ATV
If you’re an avid ATV enthusiast, chances are you’ve gotten stuck in the mud a time or two. Even if you haven’t, there will come a time when you get hung up in the mud, which is why you should always check your winch before heading out. If you’re reading this now because you are currently stuck, don’t panic! Before winching your ATV out, assess the situation. Can you safely extract the vehicle? Does the ATV still run? Ensure that you’re able to start it without issue; otherwise winching will not be the best method since the ATV’s battery powers the winch system. If the ATV does run and you know you’re able to use the winch, here’s what you need to do for a successful extraction.
Choose an Anchor Point: Pull on a pair of durable gloves as you get the process going. You’ll need to first find something to act as the anchor to winch the ATV out from the mud. This can be a sturdy tree, a metal pole, a stump, large rock, or anything else in the area that is immovable. If need be, you can also use a vehicle as an anchor. Depending on your environment, you might have to get creative. Once you’ve found a reliable anchor, engage the winch and pull the steel cable to your anchor point. Get it using a U-shape attached via a chain, a D-shackle, a tree strap, or other strap you have on-hand. If you choose a tree, don’t use the cable around it, as the steel will damage it. Make sure you wrap the cable around the lowest point of the anchor so that the connection is secure. Now, turn the winch on if electric to tighten up the slack. Do the same if it’s a manual winch. Whichever direction the anchor point is in, turn the ATV’s wheels that way to decrease resistance.
Begin Winching: Before starting, make sure you and others are clear of the cable. The last thing you want is for clothing or hair to be caught up in the moving cables! Stand to the side of the winch before turning it on. If you don’t think the ATV is in danger of tipping over, you can help it along by gently tapping the gas for additional momentum. Whatever you do, don’t turn the ATV off! Use the winch in short bursts so as to not kill the ATV battery or the winch system. What good is a dislodged ATV with a dead battery? It will make the extraction process harder and likely end your trail day altogether. Overheating the winch can even cause serious damage to where it breaks. These bursts should run about a minute or so, then pausing to allow the winch system to cool down.
Be sure to watch the spooling cable as the ATV slowly moves out of the mud, ensuring it rolls back onto the winch evenly. You may have to spool the cable back out and reel it in again for evenness. The issue with too much cable on one side is that it can damage your winch if it gets stuck in the winch housing. This is where the gloves come in. If you touch the moving steel cable with bare hands, tiny steel fragments can break off and get embedded in your skin – ouch! Many have learned the hard way, so don’t let this be you.
Another pro tip: if you don’t have a Throwing Towel or Line Damper, invest in one for your next outing. These are placed over the cable, weighing it down a bit in case of a line snap. Without a towel over the cable, a snap could quickly come back and hit you. In the meantime, a heavy jacket or towel will suffice.
Finishing Up: Once the ATV is dislodged from the mud, put it in park. You can spool the rest of the cable back onto the winch by hand. Unhook the cable and straps from your anchor point, making sure everything is put away neatly. Clear any loose debris from the tires and undercarriage, as rocks, sticks, leaves, and other objects could still be present. If all sounds and looks good, ride on!
After your ride and back home, be sure to give your ATV a thorough wash to keep the metal free of corrosion damage. This will also eliminate the risk of unseen debris becoming an issue on your next ride. If the extraction didn’t go as smoothly as you would have liked, equip your bags with the straps, Line Damper, and other items you may need when your ATV needs to be winched out again.