Practice Safe Winching

OffRoadTrailTools Wheel ChockRounding the bend, I spied a group gathered around a 4x4 vehicle on its side halfway down a steep trail section.  Thankfully, there were no injuries.  But, there was a problem with recovery efforts.  While the group did have a vehicle with a winch, the cable had come off the spool and was useless.  I positioned my jeep on a trail section above the truck and prepared my winch for action.  And, this was an opportunity to test the new addition to my recovery gear tool set. 

The day before, while checking the various vendor displays at Tierra del Sol Desert Safari, I found a handy gadget offered by -- a folding wheel chock; just the ticket for blocking the wheel while winching or lifting a vehicle.  Safety is a must for off-road fun.

The trail surface was dry silt common in the mud hills of Ocotillo Wells SVRA with a slight slope.  The vehicle to be winched was about 60 feet below in a narrow notch and pointed downhill.  Keeping the winching vehicle stationary is always a challenge.  The folding wheel chock provided an added block to keep my jeep from moving while pulling on the heavier vehicle in the notch below. 

Similar blocking can be achieved with rocks in front of the tires.  There were no rocks of sufficient size on the mud hill.  The folding wheel chock provided the necessary blocking and due to its construction, stowed neatly in a handy out-of-the-way spot in my jeep.

OffRoadTrailTools Wheel ChockWith the wheel chock in place, winch line connected to the tow strap around the truck, I began reeling in the winch line.  Slowly, the truck began to rise and soon in was once again sitting upright on all four tires.  During the winching and while waiting for the driver to set his emergency brake before releasing tension on the winch line, I watched the wheel chock for any sign of movement.  While it did settle into the powdery silt, movement was less than a half an inch.  And, the steep slope against the tire tread provided plenty of wheel blocking which prevented movement.

The construction of the wheel chock provides raised ridges to prevent slippage on ground and on the tire tread.  While the ridges provide a good anchor on any surface, if used on gravel, the loose gravel should be cleared to provide a smooth natural surface.  If extra holding resistance is needed, the base does have three holes that can accommodate tent pegs to keep the base stationary.

The folding wheel chock is not just for winching applications.  When lifting a vehicle with a hi-lift jack, blocking wheels is recommended.  The folding wheel chock from provides a useful, convenient, easy to store addition to your recovery gear tool set.


Truck on its side Preparing to connect winch cable
Operating the winch Truck on all four tires

Photos by J. Dilley

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