How to Properly Use a Truck Winch: 5 Winch Safety Tips and Procedures

how to properly use a truck winch

A truck winch can be a great resource to have when working on large projects or towing big objects. It’s a tool that can make any job seem like a breeze. Because a truck winch can be so useful and seem so easy to use, sometimes people forget just how dangerous this tool can be.

Winches may be small, but they are equipped with enough power to lift and move thousands of pounds with ease. This tells you just how much damage they can cause if not used properly or if they are used irresponsibly.

There is a long list of winch truck or winch trailer fatalities caused by inappropriate usage, unsecured connections, and from standing too close to the machine while it is in use. If you have any kind of truck for which a winch would work, even a tow truck or pickup truck, be careful with the truck winch operation! In order to keep yourself and everyone who is with you safe, here is a list of 5 important winch safety tips and procedures that should be considered every time you head out.

How to Use a Truck Winch

If you are attempting to rescue a truck from a mud pit or move heavy equipment around a job site, your truck winch is going to save you a ton of time and energy. So, it’s important that you know how to use a truck winch and that you use it properly.

Step 1: Put on a pair of thick gloves. (Always keep your hands and fingers safe.)

Step 2: Pull the truck winch rope toward the vehicle or whatever object needs to be pulled, securing the line to that object with straps and hooks.

Step 3: Lock the clutch.

Step 4: Plug in the remote control for the truck winch, making sure that all cables and cords are not dangling where the cables could become entangled.

Step 5: Begin winching in slow and controlled pulls. (Always pull in a straight line and try to limit angles that could move the wire or create unnecessary tugging.)

car winch close up

5 Winch Safety Tips

There is nothing more important than the safety and welfare of yourself and the people working with you when you’re on a job, out in a field, or working in mud. Gearing up and heading out should never end in an injury due to a winch-related problem. To ensure you and your team return unscathed every time, here are 5 tips to think about when you’re using your truck winch.

1. Read the User Manual Completely

There is nothing more time consuming and tedious than reading a user manual. There’s so much text, and the majority of it communicates common sense information or things that you already know. However, there is also a lot of information that is very important for anyone who is using a winch. Knowing how the truck winch works as well as every step of how to do so correctly could be the difference between a successful tow and a broken arm!

Once you have completely read the user manual for the truck winch, and you understand how to set up your winch and use it correctly, you should practice using the winch over and over before you need it on the job. Practicing using it with nothing attached will help you get a good feel for the machine and help you understand the mechanics of it without putting yourself at risk.

2. Use the Proper Gear and Equipment Recommended for Each Job

  • Never use a broken winch. Always use the proper gear and safety equipment recommended for the winch and the job at hand. Never try to substitute broken parts or to “rig” a broken winch, just to get a job completed when you find yourself in a jam. Mixing the wrong parts or trying to “rig” the winch will cause it not to work as it was intended and can make the machine very dangerous to operate.
  • Wear leather gloves while winching. When you’re using the winch, always wear thick leather gloves. This will protect your hands from rope burn, cuts, and bruising from pulling on the rope or wire and will protect your fingers from being tangled or injured.
  • Don’t exceed the rated pulling capacity of the truck winch. When you purchase a winch, its label will note the pulling capacity. Each size winch will pull a different weight limit. Never try to pull more weight than what that winch is made for. Putting too much weight on the winch can cause the winch to break or the synthetic rope to snap.
  • Never use the winch rope while towing and securing cargo. Never use a winch in ways it is not intended. If you are using the winch while towing and also using it to secure cargo, it can pull and let go while traveling.

3. Take Safety Precautions Around the Work Area When the Winch is Being Used

  • Never use winches to move a person. Winches should never be used to lift or move a person at any time. They should never be used to hoist a person up. Never let anyone sit or stand on objects while they are being moved.
  • Never use a winch for a long period of time. Using the winch for a long time will drain your truck battery and can also burn the motor up.
  • Only anchor loads you know your truck winch can handle. Know how much your winch can lift-the winch capacity-without breaking or pulling back too hard on your truck. This can not only cause serious damage to the winch, but also to your vehicle.
  • Never stand in front of, or next to, the side of a winch while in use. Standing too close while winching is extremely dangerous, and if the line were to snap or a heavy object be let lose, this can lead to injury and even death.

4. Keep Parts Maintained and Cleaned

  • Check the electric winch cable before every use. Make sure the cable is not frayed or thinning in any spots. Also, make sure it is not tangled or knotted anywhere.
  • Check the cable for debris. Debris trapped in the cable or rope of an electric winch can cause a cable to deteriorate.
  • Check the attachments. Make sure you’re using the proper attachments and straps when pulling any object.
  • Keep your gears clean and properly functioning. Winch gears can start to strip out, making them not work properly or stop working altogether in the middle of a job.
  • Make sure to have enough rope. Always make sure you have at least 5 turns of synthetic rope left after you have fastened your electric winch to the object being pulled. If you don’t have this much rope, the fastener holding the rope to the spool cannot support the heavy load it is pulling.
  • Check over the installation of the truck winch. Make sure to check your winch installation once in a while and that the bolts are still tight, and that everything is in its proper place and in good shape.
  • Re-spool new winches. Winches always need to be re-spooled before first use while the line is under pressure. This creates a tight, strong spool that will not allow the cables to intertwine or allow cables to get stuck or break.

5. Take Your Time

  • Don’t rush. Never rush the process! It can seem a little slow while you’re waiting for the winching, but it is faster than any other option, and rushing the process can lead to accidents.
  • Wait to plug in the remote. Do not plug the remote cord in until you are hooked up and ready to use the electric winch. This will prevent the winch from starting to pull before it should.
  • Plan out your winch load. If possible know how much you plan on towing or moving ahead of time, so you are prepared with the right size electric winch and the proper attachments.

Accessories to Consider for Added Safety Measures

Winch Accessory and Recovery Kit. This Recovery kit contains:

  • Safety Blanket
  • 2-D Ring Shackle
  • Shackle Hitch Receiver 2”
  • Tow Strap Heavy Duty
  • Trailer Hitch Lock Pin
  • 6 Safety rubber gasket
  • 8-Ton Snatch Block
  • Tire Deflator & Folding Shovel

Purchasing this kit will keep you be prepared in case of an emergency. You will have all the tools on hand.

winch damper isolated on white background

Winch Damper. The winch truck damper is designed to absorb the amount of force that would come from a snapped electric winch cable. Place the winch damper over the cable you are using to tow in order to lower the risk of harm a broken cable line could cause.

To Sum Things Up

Using a truck winch or trailer winch can be dangerous if it’s not done with caution. Always wear proper protection and keep your hands and fingers covered. Keep everyone involved secure by maintaining a safe distance away from an operating winch and by never allowing anyone to “catch a ride” on one. Be aware of your surroundings, and get all the information and education on the operation of a winch before using it.

As long as you’re doing everything right, a winch is a very useful tool that everyone who owns a truck should look into owning. Performed properly, winches can get you out of a jam or aid in a difficult job with the push of a button.

James with daughter on the trails

About James...

Hi, I’m James. If I’m not working on this site, you can often find me outdoors roaming the trails. I’m an avid hiker, mountain biker, and overlander. I’m excited to share my passion for the outdoors with you.