How to Use a Winch on Your ORV
These safety warnings and instructions apply if your vehicle came equipped with a winch or if you choose to add an accessory winch to your vehicle.
Warning: Improper winch use can result in severe injury or death. Always follow all winch instructions and warnings in the manual. Your winch may have a cable made of either wire rope or specially designed synthetic rope. The term "winch cable" will be used for either unless noted otherwise.
Winch Safety Precautions
1. Read all sections of your manual.
2. Never use alcohol or drugs before or while operating the winch.
3. Never allow children under 16 years of age to operate the winch.
4. Always wear eye protection and heavy gloves when operating the winch.
5. Always keep body, hair, clothing and jewelry clear of the winch cable, fairlead and hook when operating the winch.
6. Never attempt to "jerk" a load attached to the winch with a moving vehicle (see the Shock Loading section below).
7. Always keep the area around the vehicle, winch, winch cable, and load clear of people (especially children) and distractions while operating the winch.
8. Always turn the vehicle ignition power OFF when it and the winch are not being used.
9. Always be sure that at least five (5) full turns of winch cable are always wrapped around the winch drum. The friction provided by this wrapped cable allows the drum to pull on the winch cable and move the load.
10. Always apply your vehicle's park brake and/or park mechanism to hold the vehicle in place during winching. Use wheel chocks if needed.
11. Always align the vehicle and winch with the load directly in front of the vehicle as much as possible. Avoid winching with the winch cable at an angle to the winching vehicle's centerline whenever possible.
12. If winching at an angle is unavoidable, follow these precautions:
- Look at the winch drum occasionally. Never let the winch cable "stack" or accumulate at one end of the winch drum. Too much winch cable at one end of the winch drum can damage the winch and the winch cable.
- If stacking occurs, stop winching. Feed and rewind the cable evenly before continuing winch operation.
13. Never winch up or down at sharp angles. This can destabilize the winching vehicle and possibly cause it to move without warning.
14. Never attempt to winch loads that weigh more than the winch's rated capacity.
15. The winch motor may become hot during winch use. If you winch for more than 45 seconds, or if the winch stalls during operation, stop winching and permit the winch to cool down for 10 minutes before using it again.
16. Never touch, push, pull or straddle the winch cable while winching a load.
17. Never let the winch cable run through your hands, even if wearing heavy gloves.
18. Never release the clutch on the winch when the winch cable is under load.
19. Never use the winch for lifting or transporting people.
20. Never use the winch to hoist or suspend a vertical load.
21. Never immerse or submerse your winch in water. Your dealer can provide service on your winch if this occurs.
22. Always inspect your winch and winch cable before each use.
23. Never winch the hook fully into the winch. This can cause damage to winch components.
24. Unplug the remote control from the vehicle when the winch is not in use to prevent inadvertent activation and use by unauthorized persons.
25. Never grease or oil the winch cable. This will cause the winch cable to collect debris that will shorten the life of the cable.
Read the Winch Safety Precautions above before using your winch. Tip: Consider practicing the operation and use of your winch before you actually need to use it in the field.
Warning: Improper winch use can result in severe injury or death. Always follow all winch instructions and warnings in the manual. Each winching situation is unique.
- Take your time to think through the winching you are about to do.
- Proceed slowly and deliberately.
- Never hurry or rush during winching.
- Always pay attention to your surroundings.
- You may need to change your winching strategy if it is not working.
- Always remember that your winch is very powerful.
- There are simply some situations that you and your winch will not be able to deal with. Do not be afraid to ask others to help when this happens.
1. Always inspect the vehicle, winch, winch cable and winch controls for any signs of damage or parts in need of repair or replacement before each use. Pay attention to the first 3 feet (1 meter) of winch cable if the winch is being used (or has been used) for lifting an accessory plow assembly. Promptly replace any worn or damaged cable.
2. Never operate a winch or a vehicle in need of repair or service.
3. Always apply your vehicle's park brake and/or park mechanism to hold the vehicle in place during winching. Use wheel chocks if needed.
4. Always use the hook strap when handling the hook. Warning: Never put your fingers into the hook. This could lead to severe injury.
- Attach the hook itself onto the load or use a tow strap or chain to secure the load to the winch cable.
- Never hook the winch cable back onto itself. This will damage the winch cable and may result in winch cable failure. Warning: Replace the winch cable at the first sign of damage to prevent severe injury or death in the event of failure.
- If possible, keep the winch cable aligned with the centerline of the winching vehicle. This will help the spooling of the winch cable and reduce the load on the fairlead.
- If freeing a stuck vehicle by attaching to a tree, use an item such as a tow strap to avoid damaging the tree during winch operation. Sharp cables and chains can damage or even kill trees. Please remember to Tread Lightly®. Visit TreadLightly.org for more information.
- Before operating the winch, be sure that the safety latch on the winch cable hook is fully seated when the load is attached.
- Never operate your winch with a damaged hook or latch. Always replace damaged parts before using the winch.
5. Never remove the hook strap from the hook.
6. Release the winch clutch and pull out the winch cable.
7. Pulling out as much cable as possible maximizes the winch's pulling capacity. Always be sure that at least five (5) full turns of winch cable are wrapped around the winch drum at all times. The friction provided by this wrapped cable allows the drum to pull on the winch cable and move the load.
8. Read and adhere to the following information for winch damping to ensure safe winch use.
- In order to absorb energy that could be released by a winch cable failure, always place a "damper" on the winch cable. A damper can be a heavy jacket, tarp, or other soft, dense object. A damper can absorb much of the energy released if a winch cable breaks when winching. Even a tree limb can help as a damper if no other items are available to you.
- Lay the damper on top of the mid-point of the winch cable length that is spooled out.
- On a long pull, it may be necessary to stop winching so that the damper can be repositioned to the new mid-point of the winch cable. Always release the tension on the winch cable before repositioning the damper.
- Avoid being directly in line with the winch cable whenever possible. Also, never permit others to stand near or in line with the winch cable during winch operation.
9. Never hook the winch cable back onto itself. This will damage the winch cable and may result in winch cable failure.
10. Never use straps, chains or other rigging items that are damaged or worn.
11. The ONLY time a winch-equipped vehicle should be moving when using the winch is when that vehicle itself is stuck. The winch equipped vehicle should NEVER be in motion to "shock" load the winch cable to move a second stuck vehicle. See the Shock Loading section below. For your safety, always follow these guidelines when winching a vehicle-free:
- Release the winch clutch and spool out the necessary length of winch cable.
- Align the winch cable as close as possible to the winching vehicle's centerline.
- Attach the winch cable hook to the anchor point or the stuck vehicle's frame following instructions in this manual.
- Re-engage the clutch on the winch.
- Slowly winch in the slack in the winch cable.
- Select the proper vehicle gear to propel the stuck vehicle in the direction of winching.
- Shift to the lowest gear available on the stuck vehicle.
- Slowly and carefully apply vehicle throttle and winch together to free the vehicle.
- Stop winching as soon as the stuck vehicle is able to propel itself without the help of the winch.
- Detach the winch cable hook.
- Rewind the winch cable evenly back onto the winch drum following the instructions in this article.
12. Never attempt to winch another stuck vehicle by attaching the winch cable to a suspension component, brush guard, bumper, or cargo rack. Vehicle damage may result. Instead, attach the winch to a strong portion of the vehicle frame or hitch.
13. Extensive winching will run down the battery on the winching vehicle. Let the winching vehicle's engine run while operating the winch to prevent the battery from running low if winching for long periods.
14. The winch motor may become hot during winch use. If you winch for more than 45 seconds, or if the winch stalls during operation, stop winching and permit the winch to cool down for 10 minutes before using it again.
15. After winching is complete, especially if winching at an angle, it may be necessary to re-distribute the winch cable across the winch drum. You will need an assistant to perform this task.
- Release the clutch on the winch.
- Feed out the winch cable that is unevenly bunched up in one area.
- Re-engage the winch clutch.
- Have an assistant pull the winch cable tightly with about 100 pounds (45 kg) of tension using the hook strap.
- Slowly winch the cable in while your assistant moves the end of the winch cable back and forth horizontally to evenly distribute the winch cable on the drum.
- Doing this reduces the chances of the winch cable "wedging" itself between lower layers of winch cable.
Most winches are equipped with two settings: Neutral (Freespool) and Engaged, but some are also equipped with high and low settings. Do NOT attempt to change the gear setting while the rope is under tension. Failure to relieve rope tension prior to changing gears may result in winch failure, resulting in serious personal injury or death.
Winch Cable Care
For your safety, always replace winch parts (including the cable) with genuine replacement parts for you. Synthetic winch cables are 50 feet long. Warning: Use of worn or damaged cable could lead to sudden failure and severe injury.
1. Always inspect your winch before each use. Inspect for worn or loose parts including mounting hardware. Never use the winch if any part needs repair or replacement.
2. Always inspect your winch cable before each use. Inspect for worn or kinked winch cable. A kinked winch cable made of wire rope is shown below. Even after being "straightened out" this cable has already been permanently and severely damaged. Promptly discontinue use of a winch cable in this condition. A kinked winch cable made of wire rope that has been "straightened out" is shown below. Even though it may look usable, the cable has been permanently and severely damaged. It can no longer transmit the load that it could prior to kinking. Promptly discontinue use of a winch cable in this condition.
A winch cable made of synthetic rope should be inspected for signs of fraying. Replace the cable if fraying is observed (shown below). Promptly discontinue use of a winch cable in this condition.
Warning: Your winch cable is strong, but it is NOT designed for dynamic ("shock") loading. Shock loading may tension a winch cable beyond its strength and cause the cable to break. The end of a broken winch cable under such high loading can cause severe injury or death to you and other bystanders. Winch cables are designed to NOT absorb energy. This is true of both wire-rope and synthetic-rope winch cables.
1. Never attempt to "jerk" a load with the winch. For example, never take up slack in the winch cable by moving the winching vehicle to move an object. This is a dangerous practice. It generates high winch cable loads that may exceed the strength of the cable. Even a slowly moving vehicle can create large shock loads in a winch cable. Warning: Severe injury or death can result from a broken winch cable.
2. Never quickly turn the winch ON and OFF repeatedly ("jogging"). This puts extra load on the winch, winch cable, and generates excessive heat from the motor. This is a form of shock loading.
3. Never tow a vehicle or other object with your winch. Towing an object with a winch produces shock loading of the cable even when towing at slow speeds. Towing from a winch also positions the towing force high on the vehicle. This can cause instability of the vehicle and possibly lead to an accident.
4. Never use recovery straps with your winch. Recovery straps are designed to stretch and can store energy. This stored energy in the recovery strap is released if a winch cable fails to make the event even more hazardous. Similarly, never use elastic "bungie" cords for winching.
5. Never use the winch to tie down a vehicle to a trailer or other transportation vehicle. This type of use also causes shock loading that can cause damage to the winch, winch cable, or vehicles used.
Your winch cable is designed and tested to withstand the loads produced by the winch motor when operated from a stationary vehicle. Always remember that the winch and winch cable are NOT designed for shock loading. Winch Maintenance and Safety
Warning: Improper or lack of winch maintenance and service could lead to severe injury or death. Always follow all winch instructions and warnings in this manual.
1. Always inspect your winch before each use. Inspect for worn or kinked winch cable. Also inspect for worn or loose parts including mounting hardware.
2. Permit your winch motor to cool down prior to servicing your winch.
3. Never work on your winch without first disconnecting the battery connections to prevent accidental activation of the winch.
4. For your safety, always replace winch parts (including the cable) with genuine replacement parts for your winch types.
5. Some winch models use wire rope as the winch cable. Other winches use a specially designed synthetic rope as the winch cable.
6. Never replace a synthetic-rope winch cable with a consumer-grade polymer rope such as can be purchased in a hardware store. Although they may look similar, they are NOT alike. A polymer rope not designed for winch use will stretch and store excessive energy when winching. Warning: Failure of a stretched rope under winching conditions will release all the stored energy. This will increase the chances of severe injury or death.
Note: The provided information is a general guideline. For instructions specific to your vehicle and winch, consult your Owner’s Manual and Accessory Winch Instructions. Polaris owners can access Owner’s Manuals by logging in to their RideReady account.
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