Test your 4WD winch regularly

Life has a funny way of highlighting things that we should have done, but haven’t. We’ve had a winch on our Isuzu Dmax for more than 5 years now, and I’ve only used it a handful of times. Whilst I know its good practice to regularly use it, I haven’t, and life came back to remind me of exactly this the other day.

Isuzu Dmax winch
You should be testing your winch out regularly

Getting on 8PM, I was sitting in our Hybrid Camper Trailer writing a new post when I see someone walk past awfully close to my kitchen, and wonder what is going on. Not long after there’s a knock at my parents door, where a bloke asks for assistance with a bogged vehicle on the beach. 

I’m always keen for a recovery, and my Dad and I wander over to see what had happened. Some locals had driven a Mitsubishi Magna Wagon down the beach access at Granite Rocks, and gotten it completely bogged a few metres before the beach got hard. We helped rescue someone else recently at the beach access to Goolwa in a similar situation, and 2WD vehicles are always a pain to recover.

I decided Maxtrax would never work, as it was sitting on the chassis, and after looking for a tow point (there was none), I suggested the best thing to do would be to remove the tow ball, and pull off the hitch, which was bolted on with two M16 bolts. Not ideal, but when there are limited options you make a decision.

We walked back to camp, grabbed a big shifter, and the Isuzu Dmax, and drove down. After removing the tow ball, we unspooled the winch and attached it with a recovery dampener right at the tow bar, in case things went sideways.

I grabbed the winch isolator key and remote, popped the bonnet and turned it all on. Pressing the in button on the remote, the red light came on and nothing happened. Lovely. This is not the first time its happened; the solenoids seem to get sticky and require a bit of work before they’ll come good. I messed around for a while, and eventually gave up, and locked the winch and tried to pull the Magna backwards up the hill.

It became obvious pretty quickly that the stuck car wasn’t going to go anywhere in a hurry, with my 4 wheels slipping and hopping around. I gave up pretty quickly, keen to keep the CV’s in one piece.

After popping the bonnet again, I kept playing with the winch isolator and remote, and soon heard a clicking noise, which was progress. No winch action, but I knew it was getting there. Not long after, it started clicking in either direction, and then finally roared into life.

Runva winch isolator
I suspect the winch isolator is not contacting properly

We managed to winch the Magna up the hill to harder ground without too much of an issue, where they could drive out.

Once again, a reminder to regularly use your winch, or it won’t work when you actually need it to. On top of this, you should be servicing it on a regular basis as well. This is a simple strip down and re-grease, and it is there when you need it. After all, its a hugely heavy paper weight if it doesn’t actually work when you need it to!

Now, I have no photos of this, as I prefer not to make the owners feel bad about their stuff up when we are involved in a recovery, and I was busy trying to get things to work.

Have you had times where your winch didn’t work?

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  1. Hey Peter,

    You’re disciplined! I’ll have to start doing that; can’t afford for the winch to not be there when I need it!

    All the best

  2. Peter Allan says:

    Good advice. I check my Runva 11xp winch monthly. I make a note in my phone diary and it reminds me to test it. So l just spool it out to make sure the gears are working then use the remote to spool it back in. Better safe then sorry.

  3. Hey Grant,

    Sounds fairly typical of some installers! It’s certainly worth checking the winches work when you don’t need them, so they work when you do!

    All the best

  4. Grant Buchan says:

    When I had a new winch fitted to my Hilux I asked the professional installer to also install an Anderson plug outlet near the towbar. I had fitted another small winch to my boat trailer to aid in retrieval. The 1st time that I tried to winch the boat onto its trailer and no go. I didn’t have time to muck around as I launch off the beach and there was a bit of wave action. I unhitched the trailer, turned the ute around, chocked the boat trailer and used the new winch to retrieve the boat.

    All good but what caused the problem with my boat trailer winch? After a good deal of fault finding I realised that I had 12V at the new outlet but something was limiting the current. More connection checking revealed that the “professional” installer had bolted the negative lead directly to the chassis without removing the paint. Easy fix but such a basic error could have caused a bigger problem without the 2nd winch. I too now regularly check the operation of both winches.