Warn Basic Winching Techniques

So, you have your new Warn winch from Clemson 4 Wheel Center and you’re ready to get out on the Jeep trails: climb a few boulders, splash a little mud, traverse the occasional stream. Basically, you’re ready to explore the backcountry and otherwise have a great time.Well, if you’re smart enough to go prepared with the best, you’re probably smart enough to know that to keep having a great time, you need to fully understand your Warn winch and the basic winching operation.

Thats exactly what this guide intends to do: provide you with a basic understanding of your Warn winch and teach you the basics of proper winching techniques. But before we get started, we must emphasize that the information in this guide is general in nature. Because no two situations are alike, it would be nearly impossible to review them all. We can, however, provide you with the general principles and techniques.

Then it is up to you to take the time to analyze the situation and apply the proper technique. Along with a little common sense, the guidelines laid out on this page can help you keep off-roading fun. Just remember to think through each situation before you act and TREAD LIGHTLY

To start, you should familiarize yourself with your Warn winch and each of its components: Practice using your winch before using it on the trail.

  • (1.) Motor Typically the winch motor is powered by the vehicle’s battery. The motor provides power to the gear mechanism, which turns the winch drum and winds the wire rope.
  • (2.)Winch Drum The winch drum is the cylinder onto which the wire rope feeds. The drum is driven by the motor and drive train. Its direction can be changed using the remote control
  • (3.)Wire Rope The wire rope’s diameter and length are determined by the winch’s load capacity and design. Wrapped around the winch drum and fed through the fairlead, the wire rope is looped at the end to accept the hook’s clevis pin.
  • (4.)Fairlead When using the winch at an angle, the fairlead (or wire lead) acts to guide the wire rope onto the spooling drum. It minimizes damage to the wire rope while it goes through the winch mount or bumper.
  • (5.)Gear Train The reduction gear converts the winch motor power into a large pulling force. The gear train design makes it possible for the winch to be lighter and more compact
  • (6.)Braking System The brake is automatically applied to the winch drum when the winch motor is stopped and there is load on the wire rope. The brake prevents the winch from paying out line, which in turn holds the vehicle in place.
  • (7.)Clutch The clutch allows the operator to manually disengage the spooling drum from the gear train, enabling the drum to rotate freely (known as “freespooling”). Engaging the clutch “locks” the winch drum back onto the gear train.
  • (8.)Control Box Using electrical power from the vehicle’s battery, the control box solenoids switch power to the motor, enabling the operator to change the direction of the winch drum rotation
  • (9.)Remote Control The remote control plugs into the winch control box, allowing the operator to control the winch direction, as well as stand well clear of the wire rope while operating the winch.

How your Warn Winch Works

Warn Winch Mechanics - Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with your Warn winch and its components, we can begin reviewing how it works. The major advantage of a Warn electric-powered winch is that it can provide reliable service for intermittent utility and recreational use even while the vehicle’s engine is stalled — assuming, of course, that sufficient battery current is available. Your Warn winch can operate at high current loads, and, for this reason, the control box uses a high current control system to safely handle the current flow

It is important to understand that the longer the pull, the more heat that is created, just like a hot plate. Prolonged winching without cooling the Warn winch motor will damage the motor. Also, if the engine is idling during winching, the battery may drain faster than it is charging. So pay close attention to your voltage gauge to make sure you aren’t draining your battery too low to start your vehicle

Warn Winching Control

Control Of Your Winch - Your Warn Winch is controlled by the hand held remote control to allow the operator to stand clear while controlling the winching process. The remote control provides control of the forward or reverse rotation of the spooling drum.

How Warn Winches React to Load - Warn winches are rated by pulling capacity. The maximum pulling capacity occurs on the first layer of wire rope on the drum. As the layers increase, the pulling power decreases. It’s the mathematics of winching. Exceeding the winch capacity could cause the winch to fail or the wire rope to break. Thinking through how you intend to use your Warn winch now, could save you a big headache later.

In addition, you’ll also want to make sure that your winch’s mounting system and your vehicle’s frame can accommodate the rated load of your winch.

So analyze your situation. Use your judgement to calculate how much weight you intend to pull. Calculate the gross weight and multiply by 1.5 and then do not exceed the rating of your winch or wire rope

Must have Warn Winch Accessories

Alone, your Warn winch is not much more than a simple tool. But when used with certain accessories and enhancements, your Warn winch can become a versatile and productive tool. In this section, we’ll review several of these items. Some are vital to the safe operation of your winch, while others offer added versatility and convenience.

Warn 88900 - Medium Duty Winching Accessory Kit

Gloves - Wire rope, through use, will develop “barbs” which can slice skin. It is extremely important to wear protective gloves while operating the winch or handling the wire rope. Avoid loose fitting clothes or anything that could become entangled in the wire rope and other moving parts.

Hook Strap - Use to hold the hook and keep fingers away from the fairlead as the wire rope is being spooled in. Warn Winches develop tremendous pulling forces and can easily remove fingers and limbs that are placed in pinch points. Put the hook into the loop and hold the strap between the thumb and forefingers.

Snatch Block - Used properly, the multi-purpose snatch block allows you to: (1) increase your winch’s pulling power; and (2) change your pulling direction without damaging the wire rope. Proper use of the snatch block is covered in “Before You Pull”

Clevis/D-Shackles - The D-Shackle is a safe means for connecting the looped ends of cables, straps and snatch blocks. The shackle’s pin is threaded to allow easy removal.

Choker Chain - Can be used to hook- up to another vehicle or sharp objects for an anchor point. Chains, however, will damage or kill trees

Tow Hooks - Secured properly to your vehicle’s frame, tow hooks provide an attachment point for wire hooks, straps, and chains

Before using your Warn Winch

Practice using your Warn winch before you get stuck. A real situation with your Jeep in a ditch is no time to be learning how to use your winch. Make sure new wire rope is stretched before it is first used.

The life of a Warn wire rope is directly related to the use and care it receives. During its first use, a new wire rope must be spooled onto its drum under a load of at least 1000 lbs. (454 kgs). Use the following instructions to properly stretch the wire rope onto the winch drum.


Warn Wire Rope

Stretching the Wire Rope

  • 1. Choose a FLAT AND LEVEL location that is large enough to run out the entire length of wire rope.
  • 2. Turn the clutch lever on the Warn winch to the “Free Spool” position. Spool out the wire rope to the last 5 wraps on the drum. Once the wire rope is spooled out, turn the clutch lever on the winch to the “Engaged” position.
  • 3. Attach the hook end of the rope to a suitable anchor point and back the vehicle away from the anchor point until there is very little slack in the wire rope. Before getting out of the vehicle, set the parking brake, place the vehicle in gear or park and turn the vehicle off.
  • 4. Connect the remote control to the Warn winch. Standing approximately 8 ft away from the winch, power in the winch until all of the slack is wound onto the winch drum. Disconnect the remote control from the winch. Hold tension on the wire rope with one hand; carefully push the wire rope to the side of the drum the wire rope is attached to so there are no gaps between each coil on the drum. Be sure to check that the wire rope is winding off of the bottom of the drum, not the top, or the automatic load holding brake will not function properly. (If the wire rope is winding off the top you have powered the winch “out” instead of “in” on the remote control).
  • 5. The following steps should be done using two people for proper safety. If you attempt to tension your wire rope alone be sure to always engage the parking brake, place the transmission in gear and turn the vehicle off every time you exit the vehicle to inspect the winch wire rope. Never exit the vehicle with a load on the winch wire rope.
  • 6. Use care to evenly wrap each layer to prevent damage to the rope.
  • 7. Pass the remote control through the driver’s window for the driver of the vehicle to operate. Instruct your assistant to stand to the side of the vehicle and away from the winch wire rope. Your assistant should signal you if the wire rope is winding correctly by watching it move across the fairlead as the wire rope is powered in. Start the vehicle and place the transmission in neutral. Release the parking brake while applying moderate brake pedal pressure. Press power in on the remote control switch. After winching in for approximately 6 ft, stop winching. Slowly let up off of the brake pedal and then apply the parking brake. This will ensure that there is no load on the winch rope. Then place the transmission in park or gear and turn the vehicle off. Exit the vehicle and inspect the winch to make sure that the wire rope is being evenly wound onto the winch drum and not sinking into the lower layer. If the wire rope is sinking, power the wire rope out and repeat this step from the beginning with more brake pedal pressure.
  • 8. When you are convinced the wire rope is winding onto the winch drum properly, repeat step 6 until the vehicle is within 6 ft of the winch anchor. Once within 6 ft, slowly let up off of the brake pedal and then apply the parking brake. This will ensure that there is no load on the winch wire rope. Then place the transmission in park or in gear and turn the vehicle off. Exit the vehicle. Disconnect the hook from the anchor. While holding onto the supplied hook strap, hold tension on the winch rope and slowly power in the winch by “pulsing” the power in on the remote control until the hook is within 3 ft of the fairlead. Stop winching in and attach the hook to a suitable anchor point on the vehicle. DO NOT POWER THE HOOK INTO THE FAIRLEAD. This could cause damage to the fairlead. Once the hook is suitably attached to the vehicle, power in the remaining slack in the winch rope by “pulsing” the power in on the remote until there is minimal slack in the winch wire rope

Before You Pull

Whether you’re recovering another vehicle or pulling a stump from the ground with your Warn Winch, knowing the proper winching techniques can help keep you and others around you safe. And perhaps the most important part of the winching process, regardless of the situation, is what you do before you pull.

In this section, we’ll show you the basic fundamentals for effective winching. However, it is up to you to analyze the situation and make the decisions necessary for the proper use of your winch. Apply your knowledge of your winch and the basic fundamentals you’ve practiced and adjust your techniques to your unique situation. Some keys to remember when using your Warn winch

  • 1. Always take your time to assess your situation and plan your pull carefully.
  • 2. Always take your time when using a winch.
  • 3. Use the right equipment for your situation.
  • 4. Always wear leather gloves and do not allow the wire rope to slide through your hands.
  • 5. You and only you should handle the wire rope and operate the remote control switch.
  • 6. Think safety at all times.

Rigging for the Pull

The following steps describe how to recover your vehicle with rigging a single line pull from your Warn Winch. Double or multiple line rigging techniques follow the same basic steps, but use a Warn snatch block to assist the process

Warn Winch Rigging Snatch Block
  • 2: DISENGAGE CLUTCH. To allow free spooling of the Warn winch drum, rotate the clutch lever on the winch to Disengage. Freespooling conserves battery power.
  • 3: FREE THE WINCH HOOK AND ATTACH HOOK STRAP. Free the Warn winch hook from its anchor point. Attach hook strap to the hook (if not attached).
  • 4: PULL WIRE TO ANCHOR POINT. Pull out enough wire rope to reach your anchor point. Be sure to keep a certain amount of tension in the wire. It can become twisted and overwrap when slackened, leading to wire rope damage. To prevent loosing the end, hold the winch hook in the hook strap while you work
  • 5: SECURE TO THE ANCHOR POINT. Once you’ve established your anchor point, secure the tree trunk protector or choker chain around the object.
  • 6: ATTACH THE CLEVIS/D-SHACKLE AND HOOK STRAP. Attach the shackle to the two ends of the strap or chain and through the hook loop, being careful not to over tighten (tighten and back- off 1/2 turn).
  • 7: LOCK THE CLUTCH. Lock the Warn winch drum by rotating the clutch lever on the winch to Engage
  • 8: CONNECT THE REMOTE CONTROL. Be careful not to let the Warn remote control cord dangle in front of the winch. If you choose to control the winch from inside your vehicle, always pass the remote through a window to avoid pinching the cord in the door
  • 9: PUT WIRE ROPE UNDER TENSION. Using the Warn winch switch, slowly wind the wire rope until no slack remains. Once the wire rope is under tension, stand well clear, and never step over it.
  • 10: CHECK YOUR ANCHOR. Make sure all connections are secured and free of debris before continuing with the winching procedure

Choosing a winching anchor point

Warn Winching Rigging Technique

A secure anchor is critical to winching operations. An anchor must be strong enough to hold while winching. Natural anchors include trees, stumps, and rocks. Hook the cable as low as possible. If no natural anchors are available, when recovering another vehicle, your vehicle becomes the anchor point. In this case, be sure to put the transmission in neutral, apply the hand brake and block its wheels to prevent your vehicle from moving.

Ideally, you’ll want an anchor point that will enable you to pull straight in the direction the vehicle will move. This allows the wire rope to wind tightly and evenly onto the spooling drum. An anchor point as far away as possible will provide the winch with its greatest pulling power

Pulling with your WARN Winch

As you probably have already noticed, there are many things to do and consider before you actually begin pulling. Think through what you’re doing and you can keep yourself and those around you out of harm’s way.

Operating your Warn winch properly is so important, in fact, you should practice these techniques before having to face the distractions and stresses of a real winching situation

  • 11: CHECK WIRE ROPE. The wire rope should be neatly wound around the spooling drum. Improper winding can cause damage to the wire rope
  • 12 : LAY SOMETHING OVER THE WIRE ROPE , if you decide it is necessary, midway between the winch and the anchor point to absorb energy should the wire rope snap loose. Tree limbs, heavy jackets, chain, back pack and the like may be used for this purpose
  • 13: MAKE YOUR INTENTIONS CLEAR. Be sure that everyone in the immediate vicinity surrounding the winching operation is completely aware of your intentions before you pull. Declare where the spectators should not stand — never behind or in front of the vehicle and never near the wire rope or snatch block. Your situation may have other “no people” zones.
  • 14 : BEGIN WINCHING. With the winching vehicle’s engine on and light tension already on the wire rope, begin winching slowly and steadily. Be sure that the wire rope is winding evenly and tightly around the spooling drum. For additional assistance, the winched vehicle can be slowly driven while being pulled by the winch.
  • 15 : FOR VEHICLE RECOVERY , continue pulling until the vehicle is on stable ground. If you are able to drive the vehicle, the winching operation is complete

Warn Winch Maintenance

Inspect the wire rope on your Warn Winch before and after each winching operation. If the wire rope has become kinked or frayed, the wire rope needs to be replaced. Be sure to also inspect the winch hook and hook pin for signs of wear or damage. Replace if necessary.

Keep your Warn winch, wire rope, and switch control free from contaminants. Use a clean rag or towel to remove any dirt and debris. If necessary, unwind the Warn winch completely (leaving a minimum of 5 wraps on spooling drum), wipe clean, and rewind properly before storage. Using a light oil on the wire rope and winch hook can keep rust and corrosion from forming.

Operating your Warn winch for a long period of time places an extra burden on your vehicle’s battery. Be sure to check and maintain your battery and battery cables according to manufacturer guidelines. Also inspect switch control and all electrical connections to be certain they are clean and tight fitting.

Inspect your Warn Winch remote control for damage, if so equipped. Be sure to cap the remote socket to prevent dirt and debris from entering the connections. Store remote control in a protected, clean, dry area. Replacement Warn Remotes as well as Warn Wireless Remote systems can be found in our Warn Accessories. No lubrication is required for the life of the winch

Warn Winching Guide

The basic guide to proper winching techniques cannot cover all the possible situations in which you may need to use a winch. In the final analysis, the decisions you make will determine the final outcome. So think through each situation and each step of use. Always be mindful of your own safety and the safety of others. Pay attention and you’ll have fun knowing you own one the highest quality and best performing recovery winches in the world . Courtesy of Warn Industries.