How To Winch Backwards

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Off-roading is a pastime that brings a lot of joy to folks who love the outdoors, but what if you get stuck nose-first in a swamp hole? Can you winch backwards?

A front-mounted winch can be used in reverse, but you must be careful when doing so.

  • Put on leather gloves.
  • Find three anchor points: one in front of your vehicle and two behind.
  • Use a tow D-ring shackle, and snatch block to run the line to anchor points.
  • Run the line to the back of the vehicle using a snatch block
  • Connect the tow line to the last anchor point.
  • Engage the winch slowly so that the movement won’t do damage to your winch, vehicle, or yourself.

Anyone who has spent time off-roading, then you know what a hassle it can be to get stuck. While most of the time, the best way to remove your vehicle from the mud is to hitch a line to someone else’s bigger truck and have them pull away. Unfortunately, there are times when access to another jeep or truck is unavailable, and you have to figure it out yourself. What happens when you can’t winch forwards? What if you must winch backwards because the front axle is knee-deep in mud and muck? Well, backward winching can be done, but if you do it incorrectly, you will cause damage to your winch, vehicle, or even yourself.

Table of Contents


What to Consider When Winching Backwards?

While winching backward is possible, it is not recommended. If you are forced to hook up a front winch to tow in reverse, some serious equipment will be needed.

First, You Will Need the Right Equipment

You will need to have some equipment stored in the back of your vehicle if you want to be able to winch your vehicle backward out of the mud.

Leather Work Gloves

You first need leather gloves, as a steel cable can ruin your hands if it slips and cuts your palms. In addition, winch cables are often covered in grime, mud, and nasty parasites that do not do your body any good.

Snatch Blocks and D-Rings

A snatch block is a pulley with a ring that can be attached quickly and easily. A snatch block is designed to boost your winch’s ability to pull. Running the line through the pulley can offer more flexibility in winching.

A D Ring hooks attach to the anchor points (usually on the rear or front bumper). They are designed to attach tow straps for towing a vehicle to safety.

Anchor Points

To reverse winch, you need to anchor the line to at least three anchor points. One in the front and two in the rear. Trees make good anchor points if they are large enough to handle the weight of your stuck Jeep or ATV.

It is always best to hook your winch line to a tree saver made of nylon webbing to not damage the tree or have your line bite into the bark. You want to ensure that you hook to the tree's base as much as possible because winching too high can make your winch less effective. (The base of the tree is the most substantial part).

Clear Sight Line from Jeep/ATV to all Anchor Points.

Running the winch line underneath your vehicle is never a good idea. While it can be done, it can also damage the components on the underside of your vehicle or burn out your winch.

How To Winch Backwards

Follow these guidelines to be able to winch backwards. Again this technique is to be used if you are stuck on your own with no help to come and get you unstuck.

Put On Leather Gloves

A good pair of leather gloves will come in handy when stringing a winch line from tree to tree. If you slip in the mud and the cable slices through your hands, you will thank me for reminding you to put them on.

Choose Three Anchor Points

You will need to anchor the tow line to a couple of trees, one in the front and the other two behind the rear of the truck. (Trees make great anchor points, just saying).

Run Your Winch Line to First Anchor Point

Use a tree saver and a snatch block from your winch to the first anchor point. If you have a tow strap/tree saver, this is best so that the winch cable doesn’t bite into the tree's wood and become bound up.

Run the Line to the Next Anchor Point

Running the line through snatch blocks, connect the line to the second anchor point behind the vehicle's rear. Do not run the line under your vehicle because once the winch starts cranking, you don’t want the cable to mess up your undercarriage.

Run the Line back to the Vehicle.

Attach a snatch block to the back of your vehicle, and run the cable through it.

Run the Line to the Final Anchor Point

Use a tow strap to hook up to the final anchor point.

Do a Doublecheck

It is always wise to double-check the connections and see if the cable at the rear of your vehicle shows a sort of “z” pattern. The cable from the front is connected to an anchor point, then runs to the vehicle, and then back to the third anchor point. Since this z pattern has two anchor points in the rear and only one in the front, the vehicle moves backward once the winch is engaged.

Do  Safety Check

The cable will be under a lot of stress and tension, so you need to ensure that no one is near the cable once the winch begins to engage. Any onlookers, pedestrians, or peanut gallery members should stand well away from the cables. The last thing you want is for your beloved to get smacked by a broken cable.

In addition, never straddle a winch cable (imagine what might happen if you slipped while the steel cable is winching and it tore a gash in your leg or private area).

Never grab the winch cable with your bare hands. Don’t handle a winch cable at all while it is moving.

Operate the Winch Slowly

The operative word here is easy, does it. The last thing you want is to hurt your vehicle or burn out your winch motor. Careful systematic towing is better than a herky-jerky motion with the winch and cable. (Believe me, your rear bumper will thank you).

What Kind of Scenario Would Require a Reverse Winch?

This kind of thing happens more than you might realize. In essence, assuming that your vehicle’s front axles are mired in mud but you can still reach your winch might be a scenario in which you would use this technique. If you have ever done any four-wheeling through the swamp or a rain-soaked gully, you know that even the best four-wheel drive is no match for mother nature.