How to Put Winch in Free Spool – (Do This Before Putting)

Winches are amazing gadgets to have when you are fond of going out on off-road trips. They are your constant partner and help you to get out of situations of emergency, whenever your off-road vehicle gets stuck for instance in mud or soft sand. It reduces your dependency on external help and makes you self-sufficient to get yourself out of such situations.

If you find yourself passionate about off-roading and are serious about getting your skills improved as an off-roader, then you surely need to learn about winching, and the way it can be used to pull your vehicle. Although people have been using winches for different purposes since a long time now, but they are still not as common as you would expect them to be considering their practicality. Having the know-how and the skills of using a winch in different situations can offer value in many tough situations. This can specially be the case when you often have to drive in less than ideal road conditions.

One of the key features that come in a winch is its ability to free spool. Now the question is that what is free spooling and how can you use free spool winch. To find this out, stay tuned! 

What is the Free Spool feature?

As apparent from its name, the free spool feature is just that it ‘frees’ the ‘spool’. To explain the definition, it actually disconnects the drum which contains the rope from the gearbox. This phenomena is similar to holding on to the clutch of a manual car which disconnects the gear train from the driveshaft, or simply putting your car in neutral.

Free spooling helps in pulling out your winch hook and rope with ease, so that you can connect a load which is to be pulled. It also comes useful when you need to recover your vehicle by anchoring the hook to a point. The other option to take the winch rope out is by powering it using the motor of the winch. This however can take much longer and in the long run, it results in wearing out the bushes of your winch motor at a faster rate.

Therefore, using the free spool feature to pull the cable out of the drum manually saves you a lot of power, time and reserves your motor for the job it does the best, which is pulling. It can also sometimes feel satisfying to carry out the manual free spooling compared to cable release by the motor.

Guide to using Free Spool

On most of the winches that are there in the market, the free spool mechanism is operated typically by a lever or knob that is pulled or turned along a specific direction. Until you set the lever or knob back to its original position, the winch will remain in the powerless free spool mode, for you to pull the cable out. Free spooling is hence also termed as the disengaging of gearbox

However, there are also some safety considerations you should look out for when you are operating in the free spool mode. You should make sure that there is no load on the winch before putting it in free spool mode, otherwise this can make the situation dangerous and vulnerable to accidents. Therefore the cable should be under zero load before you reach out for the free spool knob or lever.

After you are done using the free spool feature, and then you turn the lever or knob back to its original position to engage the gearbox, the gearbox still may not be engaged. It may probably require another action to do so. It may take a couple of second for the motor to run and sometimes may require a slight pull on the winch rope as well, so that the mechanism aligns itself and latches back to its position.

The free spool mechanism may also consist of some type of pin that engages with the pocket of a gear, or it could also have a gear that needs to be pulled sideways so that it gets released from a mating pocket. Practicing on your particular winch will eventually teach you how to you can properly use the free spool feature, so that in case of need or emergency, you can implement it well.

Possible issues when Free Spooling a Winch

Although free spooling is the easiest way of unspooling a winch cable, in which the operator can keep hold of the cable with merely two fingers, there still might be some issues. If the rope holds on tightly due to a small force, there is surely a malfunction, which in most of the cases arises due to too much resistance. This can be removed using a lubricant oil.

Not using the free spool for a long time may also lead to difficulties in disconnecting the drum from the gearbox. Therefore it is recommended to use the feature and disengage the clutch after specific time intervals to ensure proper working. Sometimes dirt finds its way and gets stuck in the free spool knob, which can be removed by disassembling, cleaning and lubricating the part. After all, proper maintenance is the key to ensure long life of your winch and complete functionality of all its features.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How many wraps should you leave on a winch?

To be on the safer end, it is always recommended to leave at least 5 cable wraps on the winch drum.

  1. Can you install a winch upside down?

 Technically, it doesn’t matter whether your winch is upright or upside down, however you should be sure that the attached winch cable or strap does not hang down to avoid hazards.

3. Can I use roller fairlead with synthetic rope?

Synthetic ropes may cause chafing and abrasion, thus steel rollers on a conventional roller fairlead is not compatible.

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