Do I Need a Winch?
Hydraulic or Electric?
Updated April 19, 2016
The first question to answer is, do I need a winch? I'd venture to guess that over 50% of the winches sold on Hummer H1's have never been used. I'll bet the majority of owners don't even know if they work. One of the first rules of 4 wheeling is don't go out alone. If you're going out to play you should have at least one other H1 with you and carry extraction equipment including a heavy duty pull strap. If you're really stuck like sunk in the mud it can easily take 2 or 3 H1's to pull you out. Ask me how I know. A winch most likely won't help. Most of the time when you 're pulling someone out it's far better to use a tow strap instead of a winch. There's no substiture for the raw pulling power of a Hummer.
In order to use a winch you need a good anchor to hook the cable to that's strong enough to take the weight of a Hummer and within reach of the cable. Most of the time you just don't have a good anchor. If you get caught in the middle of a sand dune or on a beach you can forget it. I've been up at 12,000 feet in Colorado with nothing to hook to except an old rotted tree stump. Above timber line you're only hope is a rock. Further reducing your odds is once you find a good anchor half the time it's behind you.. With the typical front mounted winch this becomes a problem.
OK, so why do I have a winch? I do go out wheeling alone sometimes and the winch has gotten me out of a few jams over the years. I was out in Colorado last summer trail riding and exploring old mine sites. It started to lightly rain so I decided to take a shortcut back to where I was going to camp. After driving down the trail for 20 minutes I came to a rock fall that hadn't been on the trail two years ago. I decided rather then turn back to drive over the rocks. I ended up getting high centered. Luckily, I was able to hook my winch to a big boulder about 50 feet in front and pull myself out.
I had a factory Warn winch on my 1995 wagon. When I traded to my 96 I moved the winch over. When I bought my 98 it was supposed to have the factory Warn winch but the truck I wanted came in without it. For the first time in years I had a decision to make. Either get the factory Warn again or get a MileMarker hydraulic which the military uses.
The biggest consideration for me was the factory Warn winch sticking out so far in front of the truck. Whenever I was out wheeling the winch was always getting in the way. Out in Moab I was always scraping the front of the winch on steep approach angle climbs.
The Warn winches for the Hummer are specially made for the Hummer. They are not the stock Warn parts.They are a Warn Industrial winch. The latest model number is 68435. The drum is about 1.5 inches narrower on the Hummer unit so it will fit in between the frame rails. Warn makes a 16,500 winch but unfortunately it is too wide to fit in between the frame rails on the Hummer and it has a different mounting bolt pattern.
The picture on the left shows my truck with the Mile Marker. The Milemarker mounts in a recess and doesn't stick out at all like the Warn in the picture on the right.
One of the trucks couldn't get up a rock face because the winch kept running into the rock. We put a bunch of rocks under the front tires to lessen the approach angle and I pulled him up. Another time in Colorado I was exiting a stream and got the winch caught on the bank as I was coming up and out.
The Warn winch is very heavy. Hummers supplied with the Warn come with heavier front springs.
The Warns had a lot of problems over heating and burning the switch contacts. These problems have been corrected in later models.
With a hydraulic winch the engine has to be running in order for the winch to work because it needs hydraulic pressure supplied by the power steering pump. This means that the truck can't be upside down or at a crazy angle which can happen if you flip the truck over. Obviously this is a very rare occurance in a Hummer.
A hydraulic winch will pull continuously and not overheat. In every case where I have needed a winch the advantage of the hydraulic's 'full time' duty cycle was enormous. I was wheeling in the Black Hills SD in the late spring. I was last in line going up a muddy wet curved trail. I had to pull myself about 50 yards up hill around a turn. It took about 20 minutes total in 4 pulls because I had to change the anchor point. The Warn electric winch I used to have would have heated up requiring cool down time. The duty cycle for the warn electric winche is ONE MINUTE ON and NINE MINUTES OFF. The electric winches can get too hot to touch. The hydraulic winch just pulls and pulls.
An electric winch will pull you out if the engine isn't running as long as your batteries are charged. If you do flip your truck you just might have a chance with an electric winch. On a hard pull an electric winch can draw your batteries down within a minute. You need a very strong battery to start a diesel. Chances are you will have to be towed out or jump started anyway.
The picture shows how we hitched the winch cable to the tree strap up the hill.
The Milemarker winch is pretty much a self recovery winch. The Milemarker uses the power steering pump for hydraulic power. It has to share the pump pressure with the steering and the brakes. For safety reasons the winch is setup so the steering and the brakes get priority over the winch.
If you have your foot on the brake while winching the winch doesn't get power. In a situation where you are pulling someone else out and have to anchor yourself by applying the brake the hydraulic winch will do you little good. I learned about this when I was trying to winch myself out while stuck in Windrock (Oakridge TN). I was trying to assist the pull using BTM (brake throttle modulation) while winching out. I wasn't going anywhere until it dawned on me to let go of the brake and let the winch pull me up and out.
One quick way around this problem is to use the emengency brake. This will work for light pulls because the emengency brake only locks the rear wheels. There is a product called a Micro Lock. These are designed only for use as a parking brake. They are solonoid valves that are placed in the brake line. You apply the brake and set the valve. This traps the pressure and locks the brake. This way you won't have to keep your foot on the brake allowing hydraulic power to go to the winch.
These are not emengency brakes because there is no redundancy with the existing system. This means if your hydraulic brake system fails these will not work. You can use these brakes (one for front, one for rear since we have a dual reservoir & master cylinder) for parking and for winching.
The red truck down the hill was caught between 2 trees. The driver was a novice and broke a front half shaft. We had to pull him out around a corner. This is a good example using an electric winch because a tow strap wasn't practical pulling around a corner.
We set up a snatch block to a tree strap and did an around the corner pull. Notice the yellow strap hanging on the winch cable. This is there to damp the cable in case it breaks.
One of my readers wrote:
I've owned both winches and used them quite a bit. The Warn failed me and the Mile Marker never had problems. As for speed, yes the Electric is much faster when you are just trying spool in or out with no load. The electric is also faster when it comes to a small load on the winch. However, the Mile Marker on low goes that speed no matter what. The electric bog's down when it's under very heavy loads. The Mile Marker never "bogged" down. It was a slow and steady pull. I had instances where my Warn would slow down to a pace where you think it was not even spooling then you would have to sit and wait for the winch to cool down. The hydraulic I had would never get hot and there were instances where I used the thing for a couple hours straight pulling trees up an embankment.
I never had any problems with power steering pumps or the steering box on my truck after I had installed the Mile Marker and I run heavy Bogger tires. The only thing I recommend is using a different cable then the one Mile Marker ships with their winches. The stock Warn Hummer cable is much higher quality and alot stronger because it has a center strand.
Here's one for the book that I honestly hadn't thought of when I chose a winch.There have been instances where vandals unwound the cable and hooked it to the trailer hitch. The winch control contacts were shorted which drew the cable in crushing the top of the vehicle. That can't happen with a hydraulic winch because the truck must be running