Winching Techniques & How They Work – 2021 Guide

Isaac
| Last Updated: April 8, 2021

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If you drive or are considering an off-road-friendly vehicle or a heavy-duty truck with a winch, the benefits of such an accessory are endless.

With the ability to pull a vehicle out of the ditch, your own vehicle out of a ditch, and other practical applications, nothing beats its handiness.

However, certain situations require specific types of winching. And with these four winching techniques, you’ll always know the best method to get the job done quickly and safely.

Photo credit: itstactical.com

Winching Techniques: 4 Most Common Types

Although winching has some advanced techniques for high-angle pulls or pulling a rollover vehicle back on its wheels, the following techniques should suffice in most scenarios. Find out what each type of pull is ideal for and how to execute it correctly.

Topic Type

Best For

Single Line Pull

Any pull where it is possible, and/or if snatchblocks aren’t available

Double Line Pull

Ideal for effectively doubling the power of the winch while reducing strain on the battery

Directional Pull

Pulling an object or vehicle out when a straight line pull is dangerous or impossible

Double Directional Pull

When the angles and orientation of the vehicles do not allow for any other method

Single Line Pull

A single-line pull is the most basic of winching techniques. As the name implies, it’s a single cable attached to whatever you’re trying to pull.

Single line pulls involve attaching your towing winch cable to an object in a straight line. While this doesn’t necessarily maximize the power of your winch, it’s the simplest to execute and works for most general purposes, such as pulling a vehicle out of the mud. In most cases, you won’t need any additional equipment outside of a few dampers for safety and a sturdy winch towing cord with a hook (typically included with your winch).

Advantages

  • No additional equipment necessary

  • Simplest winching technique to execute for novices

  • Only requires a single anchor or mounting point

Disadvantages

  • Doesn’t harness maximum power like other types of winching techniques

  • May not work in certain scenarios

  • Exerts extra strain on the winch compared to other winching techniques

Photo credit: onallcylinders.com

Best For

The single-line pull is the quintessential place to start if you’re new to the art of winching. While it has its drawbacks in terms of usage, the single line pull is effective in many situations, including removing a stuck vehicle.

Double Line Pull

If you want to get far more power out of your winch, only a double line pull will do. Using a snatch block, this type of winching technique requires you to thread the line through the block (which acts as a pulley).

Advantages

  • Doubles the power of the winch

  • Uses less battery power

  • Works well to pull your own vehicle out of a ditch

Disadvantages

  • Requires extra equipment, i.e. a snatch block

  • Can be difficult for novice individuals to execute

Best For

The double line pull is an excellent option to remove a hopelessly stuck vehicle. Also, it’s a great option to pull your vehicle out of mud, snow, or any other obstacle that you should come across.

Photo credit: whichcar.com.au

Directional Pull

Also known as a redirectional pull, a directional pull uses an anchor point between the winch and the object being pulled at an angle other than 180 degrees. This is useful when a straight pull could be dangerous or impossible due to terrain or other obstacles.

Advantages

  • Allows you to pull objects at various angles

  • Provides a suitable solution when pulling an object in a straight line isn’t possible

Disadvantages

  • Puts extra force on the anchor, which may pose a safety threat

  • Requires attention to detail due to the safety threat

  • Doesn’t double the power of the winch like a double line pull

Best For

When you have a vehicle that’s bogged down, whether it’s your own or another person’s, a directional pull is perhaps the only suitable method to pull the vehicle out. 

Photo credit: offroaders.com

Double Directional Pull

Similar to a directional pull, a double directional pull utilizes the same technique but requires two anchor points instead of the single one needed by a directional pull.

Advantages

  • If you need an additional angle to pull out a vehicle

  • Ideal for tight areas where a single line or double line pull won’t work

Disadvantages

  • Requires two snatch blocks to execute correctly

  • Large area between the two anchor points, the winch, and the object being pulled poses a major safety threat

  • Doesn’t double the power of the winch like a double line pull

Best For

The double directional pull is the best winching method if you need weight distributed more evenly across anchors. And like a directional pull, it’s ideal for pulling an object when a straight pull with either a single pull or double pull isn’t an option.

Photo credit: 1daywithoutus.org

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Technique for Winching

When choosing the proper technique for winching, you have numerous factors to consider. But by making an in-depth analysis of the technique to use, you can maximize the efficiency of the pull, reduce wear and tear on the winch, and execute the pull safely.

Your Skill and Knowledge Level

If you’re a relative newcomer to winching, chances are that a single pull is your greatest ally. Not only do double line, directional, double directional pulls require more rigging and expertise, but they’re also dangerous if you aren’t confident in your abilities. Therefore, you should never try to execute a particular winching technique if it’s outside of your knowledge. Instead, opt for the simplest technique.

Where the Other Vehicle or Object Is

The location of what you’re pulling or the other vehicle is a huge factor in what type of winching technique you use. For example, if you have a straight line between the recovery point and the winch, you can use a single line pull or a double line pull with relative ease.

Conversely, a vehicle or object that’s at an angle from the winch will require a directional or double directional pull. Trying to use a directional pull instead of a straight line pull and vice-versa will only lead to both vehicles becoming stuck, your winch giving out, or a host of other dangerous situations.

Winch Capacity or Maximum Winch Load

The maximum winch load or winch capacity plays another vital role in the selection of a winching technique. In general, your maximum winch capacity should be roughly 30% more than your gross vehicle weight (GVW). So if your vehicle has a GVW of 5,000 pounds, the winch should have a capacity of at least 6,500 pounds. (You can use this to guide you if you’re planning on buying a winch as an aftermarket accessory).

If you know the maximum winch load, you can decide on whether to do a single line pull or one of the other pulls listed above. Remember that a double line pulls effectively doubles this capacity, making it an ideal choice to winch vehicles that are far bigger than your own. However, a single-line pull is still an effective method if it doesn’t near or goes over your winch capacity.

Snatch Block Considerations

If you don’t have a snatch block, the choice is simple: you can only do a single line pull. If you do have a snatch block, you can execute both a double line pull and a directional pull. And only in the case of two snatch blocks can you do a double directional pull.

Photo credit: lastcart.co

Winching Your Way to the Top With the Proper Technique

A winch is one of the most useful vehicle accessories for those who off-road frequently, live in rural areas, or require heavy-duty pulling for farming or a construction site. But before you jeopardize the safety of the people around you or the integrity of the winch itself, make sure you’re using the right winching technique. Not only will safety reign supreme, but you’ll also get the exact results you were hoping for.

People Also Ask

Winching is not one of the easier techniques to master for truck and off-road vehicle owners. The reason for injuries or fatalities when winching is primarily due to rushing the setup or not having the knowledge to execute a particular pull. As a result, you may have a few concerns. Here are some of the questions people also ask about winching techniques.

What is a Snatch Block?

A snatch block is a type of pulley housed within a metal casing. Its primary use is to redirect a rope or cord during a pull when a single line pull isn’t effective. Therefore, a snatch block is a necessity for double line pull, directional pull, and double directional pull winching techniques.

Photo credit: 4wdsupacentre.com.au

Why Do I Need to Wear Gloves When Winching?

Gloves are a necessity when winching to keep your hands from harm due to frayed steel cables or from getting pinched in the winch drum. However, not just any gloves will do. Make sure you have a pair of tight-fitting leather gloves, as these offer the most protection against common injuries associated with winching.

What If There Isn’t a Tree or Rock to Winch To?

If you can’t find a suitable tree or a rock to winch to, you might feel as though you’re out of options. But you still have a few solutions to your problem. One is the deadman’s anchor. In emergencies and last-ditch efforts, this may work, although it’s not guaranteed. To execute the deadman’s anchor, simply attach your hook and strap to an object buried in the ground, most commonly a spare tire.

However, if you often off-road in places without trees or rocks, you may want to select a winching anchor. A winching anchor is a tool that digs into the ground and provides leverage, which will hopefully pull you out of a ditch or mud when no other suitable objects will work as an anchor.

Isaac

I used to work in construction and landscaping, so I've seen my fair share of ratchet straps, winches, and similar rigging gear. I started Winch Central because I've seen some nasty accidents due to crappy rigging or poor practice. I wanted to be able to recommend good equipment that's SAFE and also provide resources for how its used. I handle the research side of things here as well as product selection for gear reviews.