Which Way Does A Winch Spool?

I recently bought a new winch for my all-terrain vehicle, and I asked the sales consultant some questions about their various winches. There is one question he didn’t have an answer to, which way does a winch spool? I decided to do additional research on the topic and share the information in this article.

The way in that winches spool will be slightly different from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some winches spool from left to right and others from right to left. The spooling direction of an electric winch will always start on the side of the drum where the retainer bolt hole is located.

Expert winch operators in the 4×4 circles suggest that a person always follows the information from the winch manufacturer because the way that a winch will spool will depend on the way the winch was made. Electrical winches have a retainer bolt that shows the side from which spooling must start. Hand winches spool differently, so keep reading to find out more.

Which Way Does A Winch Spool?

The facts we discovered while researching revealed some interesting information about how a winch is spooled. It turns out that the method of spooling is different from an electrically powered winch to a manual-powered winch. This section will look into these two types of winches to see which way they spool.

When a winch is spooled, the first winding on the winch drum or shaft is critical because if it is done incorrectly, the winch can lose traction leading to ineffective winching. Winching is done in a horizontal position, and the rated capacity only applies to pulling a load. It means that a winch is also spooled horizontally from side to side.

Which Way Does An Electrical Winch Spool?

Spooling of an electrical winch is done while the cable is under tension, and this is done so that the winch can have traction when it needs to pull effectively. Although the manufacturers put different models of electrical or battery-operated winches out on the market, most of these winches spool from the location of the retainer bolt to the opposite side of the winch drum.

The retainer bolt is a critical safety item when an electrical winch is spooled, as this retainer bolt keeps the cable in position so that a tight winding can take place on the drum of the winch. Here is a guide on which way the electrical winch will spool.

  • The first step in ensuring that the winch is spooled correctly is to pull the cable out completely. To do this, the clutch mechanism on the winch will have to be disengaged.
  • When the cable is pulled out all the way, you will have to look at the cable to ensure that the retainer bolt is in the correct position and that the protective sleeve is around the part of the cable located close to the winch.
  • The protective sleeve will help to prevent damage to the cable when the cable is being spooled back onto the winch drum.
  • The next thing that needs to take place is to secure the end with the hook attachment to a secure point that will make spooling possible.
  • In this case, the winch is located on a 4×4 vehicle, so ensure the vehicle is placed in neutral for the spooling process. You might need a friend to help to make spooling the winch easier.
  • One person will use the controls on the winch while the other will turn the steering wheel of the 4×4 vehicle.
  • Slowly start spooling the cable back on the winch and ensure that the cable spools tightly onto the drum. Wear gloves and tension the cable to guide it into position next to the spooled section.
  • The operator can also ask the driver to turn the steering wheel in the correct spooling direction. The first windings of cable on the drum are the most critical, and this is where the way that the winch spool is important.
  • If the entire drum is covered, you will notice that the protective sleeve section of the cable is now spooled on the winch. When the drum’s end is reached, the winch will be spooled on the top of the first row of cable.
  • The driver can now turn the 4×4 in the other direction so that the winch spools to the other side. The driver needs to repeat this process until the entire winch is spooled with the cable and the vehicle reaches the hook side of the cable.

Which Way Does A Manual Winch Spool

A manual hoist does not have a retainer bolt; the winch will use a rope or strap instead. The strap type is common on a trailer, and how the winch spool starts with the center pin.

The strap is attached to the center pin on the top part of the winch area, and as the winch handle is moved to pull the load in, the strap goes over the spool and then winds around the circular spool to bring the load in. The way this manual winch is spooled is vertical.

A winch with a rope is a common sight on a boat, and they will use the winch to raise the anchor. In this case, the way that the winch is spooled will be to first tie the rope to the winch shaft with a series of overhand knots. These knots will be closely packed on the shaft next to each other.

This type of manual winch spooling is horizontal and will look similar to what you saw on the electrical winch once the shaft is fully covered on the bottom lay. Remember to tension the rope just as you would for an electrical winch.


If we have to consider all the facts in the article, we can conclude that the way that a winch spool will depend on the manufacturer. The retainer bolt is the point where you will start, and the winch is spooled from the one side of the drum to the other.

In cases where there is no retaining bolt, the rope will be spooled after it is retained by a series of knots on the winch shaft. Tensioning the cable or rope is crucial when the winch is spooled. I enjoyed writing about this topic and hope that this piece answered your question about which way a winch will spool.


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