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What Is a Car Winch?

M. McGee
M. McGee

A car winch is a device that contains a strong cable which is used to connect the car to other objects. There are two basic purposes for winches and two basic types. A car winch can pull the car out when it is stuck by connecting the winch to a large stationary object. On the other hand, the winch can connect to something smaller than the car so the smaller object can be pulled. All winches have the ability to let out and pull in cable, but some winches have motors to do the pulling while some rely on the power of the car.

Winches come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny hand-cranked winches on fishing poles to the huge winches on derrick cranes. Regardless of size, type and purpose, all winches are built in a similar fashion. At the heart of the winch is a rod that connects to a crank. The crank may be hand-operated, where a person turns the crank to turn the rod, or connected to a motor. One end of a cable connects to the rod and the rest of the cable winds around it.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

In the end, the winch is basically a very tight ball of cable connected to a crank. This cable varies based on its use. Smaller cable, such as fishing line or kite string, is light and either plastic or cloth. Larger cables, like those found on ships or within manufacturing equipment, are thick and typically made of metal. By keeping the cable in a ball, it is easy to store and doesn’t get tangled.

In most cases, a car winch is on the lighter end of heavy-duty winches. The line will often be a metal cord or a very strong synthetic. On the other hand, the cable is typically very thin, relying more on the strength of its material than its gauge. This makes the car winch stronger than most of its size, but not in the class of the larger industrial winches.

These winches are usually connected to the middle of either the back or front of the car. By keeping the car winch in the center of the car and along the axis of movement, it maximizes the pulling power of the vehicle. Since the idea behind a winch is pulling really hard, these devices are usually fastened with heavy bolts directly to the frame of the car. This will keep lighter materials, such a bumpers or grills, from deforming under the strain of the device.

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