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How to Use a Hand Winch

Herb Kirchhoff

Small, portable hand winches can be conveniently positioned to help you move or lift heavy objects. Hand winches are operated by a ratcheting crank or ratcheting lever that winds the cable onto the cable spool as the winch pulls a load. The ratchet prevents kickbacks when the winch is under load.


Keep the anchor, the winch and the load in as straight a line as possible. You will lose pulling power if you pull a load at an angle.


Do not exceed the maximum weight capacity indicated for your hand winch by the manufacturer. Serious injury could result.

Used correctly, hand winches provide a mechanical advantage, enabling you to move loads ranging from a few hundred pounds to several tons.

  1. Wrap an anchor strap or steel chain around a strong immobile anchoring object, such as a steel post or a tree. Hook the portable hand winch to the chain or strap. Unlock the winch’s cable spool ratchet; pull out the winch cable, and attach the cable’s hook to the object you want to move. Keep the cable as low as possible on the object. Relock the cable spool ratchet.

  2. Inspect the winch attachments at the load end and the anchor end before you start working the winch. Make certain the attachments are secure and won’t come apart when you put the winch under strain.

  3. Turn the crank handle or push and pull the winch lever to tighten the cable. Continue working the crank or lever to pull the object you want to move. Stop working the winch when the object has been moved into the desired position.

  4. Release the tension on the winch cable. Unhook the winch and rewind the winch cable. Remove the chain or strap from your anchor post or tree.