Maximizing Winch Pull

Maximum Winch Pull

Double or triple effective winch pulling power; snatch blocks and winch straps lifesavers in the field


by Bruce W. Smith

(first published: Dec 2011)

Being alone and your vehicle stuck up to the axles at some remote job site leaves a very hopeless feeling in the pit of your stomach.

That feeling deepens when your heavy-duty winch is a bit shy on enough pulling power to get your rig moving.

But if you know how to use a couple winch accessories, things will be just fine.

Dig out the winch accessory kit (You do have one, right?). Grab the tree-saver strap, shackle, snatch-block and length of chain.

Spool out the winch cable until it’s down to the last layer on the drum.

Now find a good anchor point way out in front of the vehicle.  Open the snatch-block pulley and run the cable around the pulley. Close the snatch block and use your “tree-saver strap” and shackle (clevis) to secure it around the anchor point.

Now bring the winch cable back to your vehicle and attach the cable’s hook it to a tow hook on the frame or winch bumper. Try the winch again.

Snatch block setups to improve the mechanical advantage of a pickup winch.

By bringing the winch cable back to the vehicle with the winch, you’ve just effectively doubled the winch’s pulling power.

This also works if the winching vehicle is also the anchor point, i.e., you are winching another vehicle out of a big stuck.

Note: Attaching the hook-end of the winch cable to any other vehicle or anchor DOES NOT increase pulling power—it just changes the direction of the pull.


Basic Winch Safety

  • Wear leather gloves at all times when handling cable
  • Keep hands well away from the fairlead and cable drum when winching
  • Double-check that the hook, shackles and clevis are fastened securely before applying power.
  • Keep bystanders at least 50 feet away from the winching procedures
  • Always attach a heavy bag using a shackle over the cable at the midway point to act as a damper should the cable come loose under load
  • Never stand beside a winch during operation or allow bystanders in the danger zone
  • Ensure the anchor points on the vehicle being pulled are strong and will not be damaged during the winching procedure.
  • Never attach a winch cable to a tow ball or around a bumper
  • Never begin winching with less than three full cable wraps around the drum
  • Winch in short bursts with to keep winch motor from over heating
  • Always Inspect cable prior to winching to ensure there are no frays or kinks
  • Never stand in front of or walk behind a vehicle being winched