<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> ROCKCRAWLER.com - Lightweight Portable Winching


By David Potter

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One of the last items needed to help accomplish the “lightweight” portion of this system is a synthetic winch line and aluminum fairlead. I chose Off Road Only's X-Line Combo pack from LMT 4x4 Outfitters in Colorado Springs. It consists of 100 feet of 3/8 inch X-Line synthetic rope, an X-Line aluminum fairlead and an X-Line Protector sleeve. The weight difference between the standard steel 3/8 inch x 100 ft cable and the X-Line synthetic line is huge. It saved about 20 lbs off the total weight of the system. That 20 lb difference could make or break you when trying to relocate or add the winch system on your vehicle.

Lightweight Portable WinchingMost people with any knowledge of winching will agree that synthetic winch line is much safer and easier to work with than steel cable. It doesn't fray, kink, conduct heat or cold or create enough kinetic energy to cut you in half when it breaks. That's why the major rockcrawling competitions now require it. We got our X-Line Combo Pack from LMT 4x4 Outfitters and it is well worth the money.

Off-Road Only recently (end of 2003) revised it's X-Line synthetic rope from a 12 strand braid to a 24 strand braid to make it more durable. I picked up the older 12 strand version and it's been great so the new 24 strand version should be even better.

X-Line can handle up to 450F degrees before it loses half of its strength. So just to make sure the X-Line synthetic winch rope doesn't melt to or get weakened by the heat of the Mile Marker E12000 winch drum, I picked up a XV Fire Sleeve from XtremeVehicles Inc. The sleeve is made of high temperature resistant Fiberglass braiding and is rated for over 700 degrees F. It's installed just like a rock protector/wrap onto the synthetic rope. It slides over the metal tab end and covers the synthetic rope for the first wrap on the winch drum. By doing so, it provides an excellent thermal barrier while still allowing the metal tab at the end of the rope to be attached to the drum.

Also included with the XV Fire Sleeve are two pieces of 3M high temperature aluminum tape. It's the same stuff used for radiation shielding on rockets. Use the aluminum tape to wrap each end of the XV Fire Sleeve from unbraiding AFTER it is installed on your synthetic winch line. The XV Fire Sleeve is relatively cheap insurance to protect your high-dollar synthetic rope from melting to the drum or being weakened by the long-term effects of heat from the winch drum brake.

XtremeVehicles Inc sells twenty feet the XV Fire Sleeve for only $20. Twenty feet will provide about sixteen feet of coverage over 3/8 inch diameter synthetic rope due to the expansion of its diameter to conform to the rope. It will provide more coverage for for a 5/8 inch diameter rope.

Lightweight Portable Winching
Starting the XV Fire Sleeve run
Lightweight Portable Winching
XV Fire Sleeve taped in place and ready to go

Now that I had gathered all the components for this system, it was time to assemble and install them to see the results.

Everything goes together just as a normal winch would, except you have to remove the ground and positive cables attached to the Mile Marker solenoid and attach the 5 ft portion of the BatteryMart plug-to-plug cables. This requires opening the cover to the solenoids, removing the red power cable from the solenoid and installing the red power plug-to-plug cable, then reinstalling the cover.

Lightweight Portable Winching
Inside the Mile Marker solenoid
Lightweight Portable Winching
When ready to use, simply connect the cables

Then I attached the Draw-Tite front receiver to The Mad Cow. I replaced the grade 5 fasteners it came with, with grade 8 (see why in my previous article titled “Making the Grade”). I had to do a little grinding on the front receiver to make it fit, but otherwise it is exactly what I was looking for.

I attached the Mile Marker E12000 winch to the Draw-Tite portable winch receiver and slid it into the Draw-Tite front receiver mount. It fits nicely and looks even better, and gives my current bumper a kind of pre-runner look.

Lightweight Portable Winching
Winch attached to the receiver.
Lightweight Portable Winching
The whole setup installed on the Jeep and ready for use.

Lastly, I removed the 3/8 inch diameter standard heavy steel cable from the Mile Marker winch and put it in my winch bag as a backup to the synthetic rope in case it gets damaged or cut. I had to remove the roller fairlead and replace it with the X-Line aluminum fairlead from LMT 4x4 Outfitters before installing the synthetic rope. The Mile Marker roller fairlead fasteners are too large in diameter (1/2”) for the X-Line aluminum fairlead so I had to hit the road to the hardware store for some 7/16” x 1” grade 8 fasteners. After installing the XV Fire Sleeve over the correct end of the synthetic rope, I wound up the X-Line onto the winch. It looks sweet!

Lightweight Portable Winching
Lightweight Portable Winching

The advantages of this winch system is it only weighs about 100 lbs TOTAL so it can be moved from front to rear to pull yourself out of something you got yourself into over your head (didn't bother to check the depth of the mud bog maybe?) or it can be moved from vehicle to vehicle with relative ease. It can be taken off and left at home while your using your vehicle as a daily driver, as well, thus protecting it from strangers with bad intentions in local parking lots or the weather and road grime and chemicals like we have here in Colorado (Mag-Chloride is nasty stuff).

It can be mounted on your buddy's rig, as well, if needed. In some cases, it can be installed on a non-winch-ready vehicle that is out of reach of other vehicles due to a roll or other mishap like sliding off a road or trail. No vehicle requires special wiring like with previous portable systems. All they need is a good battery and a receiver hitch (front or rear) which qualifies a large number of trucks and SUVs built today. Even the battery of another nearby running vehicle could be used to winch your non-running vehicle (i.e. ingested a little water into the engine during a crossing) to safety. Try that with a hard-mounted winch or any other portable setup!

Lightweight Portable Winching
Lightweight Portable Winching

For those of us with multiple vehicles, be it either 2x4, 4x4 or 6x6, a single lightweight heavy-duty portable winch system that can be used on any of them at any time is a huge advantage over all other options today. You don't have to spend more on winches and wiring for each vehicle than what you spent on any one of your vehicles to begin with. It would have cost me three times as much to outfit all four of my current 4x4's with a winch but with this system, it cost me only around $1200 and my setup can be used on any of my vehicles at any time or someone else's vehicle, if necessary. With the money I “saved” (rationale used by my wife), I can pick up something cool for The Mad Cow like a supercharger or finish off my last Nissan Patrol restoration project.

For safety sake, note that the Draw-Tite portable winch plate restricts you to not exceed a pull angle of 45 degrees horizontally or 15 degrees vertically when winching 9000 lbs. With that said, this system is probably not for the extreme wheeler. For us semi-hardcore and moderate wheelers, it's a perfect match.

Again, you do need to follow the manufacturer's recommendations and limits at all times. Other than the capacity restriction, which shortens the overall usable cable length by about 15 feet, it's a great lightweight, heavy-duty, portable winch system designed for the ‘wheeler with multiple off-road vehicles - regardless of whether you have more money than sense.



Mile Marker, Inc.
1450 SW 13th Ct.
Pompano Beach, FL 33069
Phone: (954) 782-0604
Web: www.milemarker.com

Draw-Tite, Inc.
40500 Van Born Rd.
Canton, MI 48188
Phone: (734) 722-7800
Web: www.draw-tite.com

Off Road Only
21056 Flag Trail
Prior Lake, MN 55372
Phone: (952) 226-4317
Web: www.offroadonly.com

LMT 4x4 Outfitters, Inc.
3635 Point of the Rocks Dr
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
Phone: (719) 339-3306

Web: www.lmt4x4outfitters.com  

3775 S. Kalamath St.
Englewood, CO 80110
Phone: (303) 971-2647
Web: www.xtremevehicles.com



David Potter

Based near Denver, Colorado, David Potter is a technical writer here at Rockcrawler.com and is also the proud owner of the Project TJ "Mad Cow." David is a genuine rocket engineer for Lockheed Martin and also owns XtremeVehicles.

Contact David at dpotter@rockcrawler.com


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