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How to attach a wire rope to a winch drum

Updated February 21, 2017

A winch allows you to hoist or pull an object easily. Whether you are using a small hand-turned winch attached to a bumper or a large engine-powered winch on a fishing trawler, the same methods apply to how to attach a wire rope to a winch drum.

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  1. Put on a pair of heavy-duty work gloves. Do not skip this step. Not only is it easy to cut yourself on a braided wire rope, but your gloves may be all that save your hand from being crushed in the winch should something go wrong. Gloves will give you the needed split-second notice that your hand is about to be caught in the drum because the drum and wire will catch the glove first and tug it.

  2. Locate the release lever on your winch drum. It will be on one of the side plates, probably by the side insert slot into which the wire rope is inserted. Open the release lever. This will open the wire clamp jaws on the drum by the side insert slot.

  3. Pass the end of your wire rope over the top of the drum toward the rear of the winch. If you are winding wire to a bumper-mounted winch, pass the wire over the top of the winch spool toward the back of the truck. Press the end of the wire rope into the side insert slot and between the clamp jaws. Pull the release lever closed so the wire clamp jaws close and lock on the end of the wire.

  4. Wind the wire onto the winch. Draw the wire over the top of the winch, toward the back and around the spool. Control the wire by loosely holding the wire with your hand and guiding it onto the spool. You want the wire to wrap from the side insert slot to the opposite side of the spool without overlapping. When you reach the other side of the spool, lay the loop for the next layer over the last and begin to wrap the wire (again without overlapping the wire in this layer) until it reaches the side with the insert slot again. Keep wrapping the wire in layers from side to side of the spool, making sure that there is no overlap except on the very last loop where you change layers.

  5. Tip

    Always wind at least 20 feet more wire rope on your winch than you anticipate needing. This will allow you to handle any surprises in the field.


    Observe all the recommended safety precautions issued for your make and model of winch. Powered winches wind rope at high speed and can cause serious injury.

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Things You'll Need

  • Heavy-duty work gloves
  • Wire rope

About the Author

Cassandra Tribe has worked in the construction field for over 17 years and has experience in a variety of mechanical, scientific, automotive and mathematical forms. She has been writing and editing for over 10 years. Her areas of interest include culture and society, automotive, computers, business, the Internet, science and structural engineering and implementation.

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