Get unstuck with ease


By the staff of Dirt Wheels

This article isn’t for the seasoned veteran of winching and getting unstuck. It’s aimed at the rider or driver who is getting into our sport and wanting to know safe and effective ways to use your winch.

Getting stuck isn’t a part of anyone’s plan, but it happens, and there are great tools that you should keep on your rig when you go out into mud, on rocks or along gnarly trails. Warn offers a light-duty winch kit that comes with a 1/2-inch steel-4500 shackle, two tree-trunk protectors/rope straps, a carry bag, winching gloves and a snatch block, which is a pulley capable of handling 9000 pounds.


If you love to ride in forests like we do, then you may come across a sticky situation where you need to utilize a tree to winch yourself out. If that is the case, you must know that if you loop one end of your tree trunk protector through the other around a tree, when it gets tight, it can kill the tree. This is also well-known with the winch line alone. You never want to hook your winch hook around a tree back to the winch line. This can damage your winch lead and hurt the tree. Hopefully, you can tell the difference between a living tree and a dead one. If you connect to a dead tree, it could break and cause injury and make problems for your recovery.

Lay down both tree-trunk straps next to each other. Mentally label each strap A and B.
Start from one side. Take one end of strap A and run it through the end of strap B’s loop.
Go to the opposite side of the straps. Now take the end of strap B and run it through the remaining loop of strap A. You will end up with a locking knot.


A tree canopy get nutrients from the roots through a system beneath the bark. If you squeeze the tree too tight, its feeding circulation may never recover and will die. While we love riding trails, we also want to tread as lightly as possible.

If you pull the straps tight, they will lock together, giving you one large strap to wrap around a tree. However, when you put tension on it, the knot can get too tight and be very difficult to undo later.
If you take an item like a jacket or shirt (in this case the winch accessory kit carry bag) and put it between the straps, they will still lock together but make it far easier to separate them when you are done winching.
At this point you can wrap the extended strap around the tree, but make sure both ends are not twisted before connecting your steel shackle. The base of the tree is the strongest point, but you also don’t want the straps to slide up or down while winching.

It’s a common practice to either utilize your shackle to hook on both loops of the strap, or connect two straps together to get around a bigger trunk.



We all know a guy that tends to get stuck the most, and it’s not usually in a convenient place. Say your buddy gets stuck facing a way that he can’t utilize his own winch to get out of it. This means you must come to the rescue. You connect to his machine and, instead of pulling him out, your rig starts sliding towards his. We have a solution for you—connect your machine to a nearby tree so you stay stationary and can use the full pulling power of your winch.

Run the strap that’s connected to a tree under your machine. Then find the closest point to the winch that you can safely connect the hook to.
This is what your setup should look like. Now you can run your line to your buddy’s rig or through a snatch block if he is at a strange angle. You never want your winch line to touch the ground while in use!

Start by rigging up a tree-trunk protector strap around a tree, then connect a shackle and another strap to the end of it. Instead of simply attaching the strap to the back of your rig, it’s best to run it to the closest point possible on the front of your ride. Warn has found out that frames stretch if you hook a line to the back of it and winch with the front. You do not want that to happen to your ride!


Attaching a hook to a clevis seems like it is pretty straightforward. This is true; however, there is always an easier way to do things. We took tips from the guys at Warn on how to help things run smoothly. We learned that it’s good practice to connect your winch hook upside down with the clasp/open end facing upward. This puts the tension on the hook and not the tip of the hook.

When you put tension on the line, the hook will straighten out and be far less likely to catch the clasp and break it if the clasp is facing upwards.
When installing the pin of the shackle, tighten it down, then back the pin out a quarter-turn. That will help you remove the pin later without utilizing a tool to break it loose again. Also, always hook straps in the bow of the steel shackle.

We then questioned the best way to connect a steel shackle. If the shackle is going to straighten out and lay flat, the direction of the shackle pin won’t matter; however, if the shackle will be vertical in operation, it’s best to insert the pin from the top side.

This is the incorrect way to have the shackle resting. If the pin starts backing out, it will fall to the ground and cause the hook to spring back towards you if under tension.
Once you have rigged up your line, make sure to put a weighted item like the carry bag with a few rocks in it on the line. That way, if the line snaps, it lessens the ability to spring back at you and cause bodily harm or damage to your machine.

Steel and even synthetic winch lines can be very dangerous if they break during use. It is good practice to place an item like a heavy jacket or a weighted carry case on the line. This lessens the ability of it flying backwards at the winch operator. Purchasing a remote with your winch can also keep you further out of harm’s way.



A snatch block is very useful. When you introduce a pulley into the winch-line setup, you have to utilize more line, but you get more pulling power (up to double!) out of it. A snatch block is a pulley that you can spread open and run the line around without having to disconnect a winch cable.

The snatch block splits open so you can run your winch lead through it. You will then utilize a shackle to keep the snatch block’s ends closed.
We utilized a winch with a blue line to help illustrate this operation. Warn winches do not come with a blue line. Spread the block open, run the line around the pulley and slide the sides back together.

One example employing a snatch block is when you need to run the line from a tree back to your machine to pull it out. Once you have rigged up your tree strap, you can introduce the snatch block and loop the winch lead back to your machine.



There are more ways to rig up winch lines, but these are a few worthy tips to know. Another good practice is to let your winch rest every 60 seconds or less of pulling time. It gets hot and needs time to cool and let the engine recharge the battery. It is also important that you always leave 4–5 spools of line on the winch hub before pulling; otherwise, the lead could disconnect from the winch hub and you now have a broken winch.

Now you can attach the block to your tree-protector strap with the aid of the steel shackle.
Run the hook end of the winch lead to your machine and connect it to your winch’s mount, a tow hook or a strong bumper.

Having the proper equipment on hand at all times while off-roading is a great idea. It is also important to know how to properly use your equipment when the going gets tough. For safety, have helpers and friends stay out of the danger zone. This is a circle equivalent to the length of the cable being used. Hopefully, these tips get you back out on the trail with ease! Go to to check out their winch accessory kits.


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