Winch rollers are small devices used to aid in the retrieval of winch cable when winching an object. The winch cable is often forced to rub against the sharp edge of a trailer, trolley or winch mount when it is pulled very taut. By installing a series of winch rollers on any sharp edge that the cable could come into contact with, not only is the cable spared from chaffing and fraying due to rubbing against the sharp edge, but the winch is also spared the added strain of dragging the cable against the edges. The winch rollers allow the cable to ride on the moving surface of the rollers instead of the solid edge of the obstruction.
Much in the same manner an idler pulley or a sprocket gives friction-free support to a belt or chain, winch rollers provide a smoother and friction-free method of winding the winch cable back onto the spool. When a winch is mounted onto a bumper of a vehicle, the proper name for the winch rollers placed nearest to the winch are fairleads. The fairleads allow the winch cable to pull smoothly in and out of the winch spool, while also providing support for the cable and holding it up and clear of the vehicle's bumper.
When a winch is mounted to the front of a trailer, the cable is often forced to dig into the edge of the trailer as the object being winched draws near the back of the trailer. Winch rollers can be installed on the center of the trailer chassis, near the back edge of the trailer, as well as on the upper edge of the beaver tail, if so equipped. This will provide a smooth path for the cable to ride on and eliminate a great deal of the friction caused by the rubbing cable. The winch will often be able to pull in much greater amounts of weight when the cable is not digging into the trailer chassis.
Some vehicle recovery agencies use a series of winch rollers mounted onto long rods that can be pushed into the ground when a cable is forced to run over a cliff or steep embankment. The winch rollers allow the recovery winch cable to ride on the rollers instead of digging into the ground while the vehicle is being winched up and out of the depression. Without the winch rollers, the cable would dig in and down into the earth, thereby preventing the vehicle from being pulled over the top of the embankment.