What Is a Wheel Winch?

Lori Kilchermann

A wheel winch is a device that can be mounted to the wheel of a vehicle to help pull the vehicle out of a stuck condition. Manufactured from steel, the typical wheel winch is a drum spooled with steel cable that attaches to a wheel's lug nuts. Once attached to the vehicle's wheel studs, the cable is pulled off the spool to a distance that allows the cable to be attached to a solid object, such as a tree or another vehicle. Once attached to the solid object, the vehicle is started and placed in gear, and the cable is wound onto the drum of the wheel winch as the tire spins. This effectively pulls the vehicle out of whatever type of obstacle it was previously stuck in.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

A wheel winch is a compact device that can be carried in a vehicle to assist in a stuck situation. The process of installing a wheel winch is somewhat slow and involved; however, it is much faster than walking to find help in most situations. The first step in attaching the winch to the vehicle is to remove the wheel nuts from the wheel. This should be done one nut at a time to avoid any lost wheel nuts or the wheel from coming loose from the vehicle.

The vehicle does not need to be jacked up to remove the wheel nuts and should not be raised to install the wheel winch. Once the wheel nuts are removed, the wheel nut extension, that is commonly supplied with the wheel winch, is installed onto the wheel stud. Once all of the extensions are installed onto the studs, the winch is fastened to the wheel. The cable is pulled off of the wheel winch spool and attached to a solid object, preferably a tree or another vehicle. The object should be of sufficient strength to not pull loose when pressure is applied from the winch.

Once the winch cable is attached to the tree or other object, the stuck vehicle is started and placed in gear. As the vehicle is accelerated, the wheel begins to spin, winding the winch cable back onto the wheel winch's spool. As the cable is wound onto the spool, the vehicle is pulled out of the bog and brought back to solid ground. The wheel winch is then removed from the wheel and the original wheel nuts are replaced onto the wheel studs. The winch can then be placed back into the vehicle to wait until it is once again called upon to free a stuck vehicle.

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