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We all think we know how to use a winch. Most ATV owners do take the time to learn their machine, but some seem to think that even a small child could operate a winch. But if you ever get your ATV stuck (and chances are good that you will) there are a few things you should never do when using your winch.
1. Never handle the steel wire winch cable with your bare hands
Always wear thick gloves when winching. And don’t allow the winch cable to slide through your hands, even when you have gloves on. The steel wire can fray and those small steel shreds can push right through the gloves and into your flesh.
2. Never hold onto the hook on the end of your winch cable
Many companies will have a winch hook strap so you can keep your hands clear of the hook. You might find it tempting to hold the hook as the cable gets wound onto the drum of the winch, but doing this could easily get your fingers pinched in the roller fairlead.
3. Never tow with the winch cable
This is hard on the winch drum and bushings. The drum is mounted onto a gear drive and sudden jerks from the tow vehicle can damage the gearing in the winch, and even break the drum itself. This is a costly repair, and a hassle that can easily be avoided.
4. Never wrap a cable around a tree
If you do find yourself hung up on the trail and the surrounding trees are your only tow points, be sure to never wrap the winch cable around the tree. Always pack a strap at least three inches wide and use this to wrap around the tree instead. Hook the winch to the strap and begin to pull yourself out. This saves the tree from unnecessary damage.
5. Never winch in long bursts
Winching for brief periods keeps you from overheating the winch and electronics. Remember, short pulls about a minute or less will save your winch for future use. Keep the ATV running as well. The winch pulls loads of power and can kill the battery very fast, which will leave you out of the hole but still stuck in the woods.