I tend to gauge 4×4 equipment in a cost-versus-reward ratio.
For example: The cost of a recovery winch is high relative to how often you’ll use it, but in the event of you desperately needing one, the price is irrelevant.
This is true for many accessories: Bull-bar, long-range tank, suspension, Light Truck tyres, a diff-lock… it’s a long list.
However, there are one or two accessories on the market where the costs are crazy low, despite the benefits being incalculably high. Namely: a winch damper! Otherwise known as a ‘winch blanket’.
So what does a winch damper do, and, how do you use it properly?
Let’s delve into it…
WHAT DOES A WINCH DAMPER DO?
In short, the purpose of a winch damper is simple: In the event of your winch cable (or snatch strap) breaking under load, the winch damper is designed to weigh the cable down so that it hits the ground and reduces its speed and kinetic energy, while directing any potential impact forces away from the vehicle.
Without a winch damper you run the risk of the broken cable or strap causing significant damage to the recovered vehicle, or worse yet, resulting in a life-threatening injury.
DO WINCH DAMPERS WORK?
But do winch dampers really work, or are they just gimmicky items that take up space in your recovery bag?
Well, the answer to that question depends on three things:
- The quality of the winch damper
- Where you position it on the cable
- How many winch dampers you use
It would be easy to assume that any item could be flopped over a winch cable to dampen its forces, but it’s not uncommon for a low-quality winch damper to tear apart in a recovery situation. This is particularly true for broken snatch straps which release incredible amounts of energy once they fail.
That said, it’s quite likely that most winch dampers (even the good ones) will rip in the event of a broken cable or strap, but what you don’t want is for the bag to be easily flung off the cable when that happens. The damper needs to stay on the cable long enough to drag it to the ground.
On that note, the effectiveness of a winch damper radically improves the moment it’s filled with sand or dirt. Which is why the bag you purchase should include a pocket(s) of some sort
SAFETY TIP: Never fill the pocket with rocks, as this could turn the bag itself into a dangerous projectile.
HOW TO USE A WINCH DAMPER
The obvious question is: Where do you place the bag over the cable, at the front, rear, or in the middle of the cable’s length?
There’s some debate around which position works best, but it’s widely accepted that the best place to position your winch damper is somewhere between the middle- and the far-end of the cable. This is because most cables typically fail close to the “hook up” point. Or at least: within the last third of the cable’s length.
Ideally, the more dampers you use, the better the result. So from that perspective, the more the merrier.
However, what matters most is that you don’t rush the recovery process, and that you take the time to assess the situation. At the end of the day, getting home safely is your number one priority.
More winch-damper tips from SecureTech
- Never overfill the bag as the stitching may fail during a “normal” recovery.
- Failure to fill the bag with enough sand or dirt may significantly reduce its effectiveness. That said, winch dampers with small pocket sizes are generally ineffective.
- We recommend that a winch damper be used on either end of the recovery system. We generally spec one damper (@ 5m) from each vehicle, and an additional damper along each 5m interval if the rope/cable/strap is long enough.
- We prefer using our winch dampers in conjunction with safety lanyards.
- SecureTech winch blankets can also be used with kinetic ropes, webbings, winch extension strap, pull straps, winch cables, and plasma ropes.