"My winch lacks pulling
power." It's the most common winch failure I hear
about. Typically, the winch in question will be a worm gear-style
winch. It will work okay without any load, but when you try to winch
a car onto the deck of a flatbed, the winch will come to a stop.
Although many different conditions can cause this problem, lack of gear
oil inside the winch is the most common cause. It's also the most
Last year, I learned from one of
my customers how much money you can throw away by disregarding basic
troubleshooting items like oil in the winch. When the winch would no
longer pull any load, he became convinced that there was some
"blockage" inside the hydraulic hoses and had them replaced for
The problem remained.
"Well, I guess it must be the winch motor." Then $350, and
the problem remained. He was about to embark on a fanciful theory
about marbles traveling around inside the hydraulic system when it
occurred to me to ask if anyone had checked the oil level in the
winch. Seventy-five cents worth of gear oil later, the winch worked
fine again. In science, the simplest theory that fits the facts of a
problem is the one that should be selected.
Other conditions can cause loss
of winch power. A partially burned-out hydraulic pump, for example,
or an improperly installed winch motor can be the culprit. You will
be "money ahead," though, to check the level of winch oil before
moving on to other parts because it's simpler, less expensive, and more
Add the manufacturer's
recommended gear oil through the hole in the top of the winch housing
until oil comes out the level check hole in the side of the winch housing
Fourteenth century English
philosopher William of Occam identified the important troubleshooting idea
here: the simplest explanation of a problem is the one you ought to
go with. This idea, which is known as "Occam's Razor,"
does not tell us that the simplest explanation is always correct, but that
you ought to try it first before you try more fanciful explanations.