We’ve all been there: stuck in the woods on some middle-of-nowhere trail with your back end at the bottom of a deep, snowy embankment. There’s not a soul within 20 miles and you didn’t want to buy a winch for your machine. You just don’t get yourself into these situations… usually.
So now you have two options. You can either sit and freeze to death in the unheated cab of your UTV, or you can start walking and hope you at least have your big toes left by the time you find some help.
How about you take option three? You can still get yourself out of this bind—and keep your toes, too! You just need to make your own winch using some basic tools. (Let’s just hope your winch-averting habits don’t extend to your toolbox, too.)
Here are some tried-and-true DIY methods for getting your off-road vehicle unstuck if you don’t have a winch on hand.
The term “Redneck Winch” covers a lot of different winching techniques. The one we’re talking about today is nice and simple. It only requires rope, which is super convenient, but it has some major limitations.
1. Get your rope. That’s easy enough!
2. Loop one end of the rope through whichever wheel is facing the direction you want to go. If you’re nose first in the ditch, you’ll attach it to your rear wheel. If you’re butt first, you’ll attach it to your front wheel. Note that the wheel you attach it to must receive power, so if you have two-wheel drive, you’ll need to go with one of the wheels that receives power—even if it’s at the bottom of the ditch.
3. Make sure your rope has enough room to get around your brake calipers. Otherwise, you’ll tear something up.
4. Anchor your rope. You’ll need to find something that’s perfectly in line with the wheel you’ve tied it to. That’s because your winch works by spooling the rope around your tire. You’ll only be able to get that rope to spool if it’s pretty much straight on. No fairlead here!
5. If you want to, and if you have enough rope, you can repeat this process on the opposite wheel. It’ll make the “winch” twice as likely to work and double your pulling power.
6. Next, give your machine some gas. Go as slow and steady as you can. If your anchor point is perfectly straight on, the rope should spool up easily and you’ll begin to winch yourself out! If you’re not perfectly straight on, the rope will probably slip off the tire and slacken at some point. Don’t worry if this happens—just check to make sure it’s not wrapping around your axle, or else you might end up tearing apart your boot.
7. If your rope slips, line it up again. Try to wedge it between some big lugs if you’ve got them. But remember, if the angle to your anchor point is bad enough, you’ll only get through a couple tire rotations before it slips again.
And that’s it! Hopefully the Redneck Winch method is enough to get you out. This technique works best when you’re just barely stuck, or when you need to move across flat ground until you can find traction on a better surface.
If the Redneck Winch doesn’t get the job done, you can try out this much more effective (yet slower, more difficult, and more dangerous…) home-grown winch. It’s called the Flip-Flop Winch. This one requires more than just a rope, but not too much more.
1. Start with a rope—preferably one that’s rated to 3500 pounds or more. You’ll also need two poles. I’m guessing you didn’t bring those with you, so you’ll have to track some down. Look for living hardwood that’s no smaller than 5 inches in diameter and at least 6 feet long.
2. Tie your vehicle off to an anchor point. Unlike the Redneck Winch, this method doesn’t require that you get your anchor point perfectly straight. But remember that winching in a straight line is always easiest, so it doesn’t hurt. Make sure you use some good knots that can stand up to a lot of force.
3. Now comes the complicated part. Lay your poles on the rope midway between the vehicle and the anchor point. They should make an off-center cross, crossing each other about one foot from the ends. One pole should be parallel with the rope and the other should be perpendicular. The pole that’s parallel should be the stronger of the two poles, and it should be on top. For explanation purposes, the pole on top is your lever pole. The pole on bottom is your drum pole.
4. From your anchor point, run the rope over the drum pole at the short end. Then go back under the drum pole and over the lever pole at the short end. Finally, go under the drum pole and onto your vehicle. Clear as mud? Here’s a visual to help:
5. The final step is to winch it! To do this, just flip the lever arm to the other side of the contraction, then flop the drum arm. Then repeat. You’ll want to cinch the rope up a little bit after your first couple flips and flops, but after that, you’re golden.
This method gets tougher (and more dangerous) with each flip and flop. That’s because the poles tend to push back as the tension builds. Also, they could snap at any time and whack you. But hey—at least you’re not spending the night in a ditch!
If you’re OK with a few scrapes and bruises, a black eye, possibly a broken arm, and a bunch of wasted time, this is the DIY winching method for you.
There’s one other thing you could do that’s much quicker, easier, and safer. You could just buy a winch right now, before you get stuck. We’ve got some Black Ops Winches that are up for the task.
Here’s how to use one:
1. Anchor your rope.
2. Press the button on your winch remote.
3. End of story.