28 Creative ATV Winch Uses

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ATV winches could be used for more than just getting you out of the mud. Here is a list of creative ways to use our favorite ATV accessory.

An Important Safety Disclaimer

Many of the tips in this post involve using the winch in ways not recommended by the manufacturers.

For instance, vehicle winches are not meant for overhead lifting or suspending a load, only horizontal pulling. That is not to say that the winch will not be capable of lifting. But it lacks the safety features a hoist has that makes it much better suited for overhead lifting.

Please understand that winches can be dangerous if misused. Apply any of the stuff you read here solely at your own risk! I do not recommend or vouch for any of the ideas that contradict manufacturer recommendations.

Always make careful preparations and only use proper winching equipment. It’s not worth taking any chances if you don’t feel comfortable with the task at hand.

1. Keep Control of the ATV on Steep Descents or Climbs

With enough speed, there is almost no limit to how steep an ATV can actually climb. But with increasing slope comes an increased risk of slipping or rolling over.

Using your winch as an anchor, you can remain in control of the bike in places where you otherwise could not ride without a significant risk of tipping.

Forestry machines use the same technique for harvesting wood in areas that are otherwise hard to reach. But their winches are a lot stronger. You must remember there are limitations to how much your ATV winch can cope.

You need to attach the winch to a solid object on top of the hill you want to go either up or down. The root of a big healthy tree will likely be your best option in most cases. Remember to help all ATV riders maintain a good reputation; always use a tree saver.

Depending on whether your winch is located in the front or the back of your bike, you may need to go in reverse as you make your climb or descent. The winch must always be facing straight up the hill, and the bike should not be leaning to either side.

Maintain even tension on the winch line as you attack the hill in a slow and controlled manner.

It’s a good idea to practice this tip on hills that are not so steep. This way, you are well prepared for the more tricky situations that may come later.

2. Build a Bridge

Bridge building is fun. If you are fortunate enough to own some land, it could be a cool little weekend project to do with friends or family.

There may even be times when you have to build one to make it safely to the other side of a small creek.

You can make a relatively sturdy bridge simply by using some beefy logs. Tie them together to prevent them from separating when you drive over the bridge.

But dragging the logs across the creek can be quite exhausting, if not impossible when done by hand. Using the ATV winch, you will have no problems dragging the logs from where you cut them and across the gap.

3. Operate a Snowplow

When installing a snowplow on an ATV, it’s common to use the winch to raise and lower the plow blade. You simply attach the winch cable to the plow frame.

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This particular model features a hydraulic tilting system but still uses the winch to raise and lower the plow.

While it is possible to lift the plow blade manually, it will soon become tiresome.

But if you already have a winch on your bike, you are lucky. This gives you a smooth, fully automatic plow operation without added cost.

It’s a great way of getting the most out of the gear you may already have.

4. Retrieve Big Game

When it comes to retrieving big game, life before and after ATVs is like night and day. After a successful but exhausting day of hunting, it’s always super nice not having to pull the prey by hand.

If you hunt on flat grounds, you can usually ride the ATV all the way to where the animal fell. But when hunting in woods full of little creeks, cliffs, and other challenging terrains, access is not always easy.

And for some reason, the animal always tends to find the least accessible spots to rest. This is where the ATV winch really comes in handy.

The winch line is usually about 45 feet and can easily manage most big game types. Often, a couple of good pulls with the winch are all it takes to get the prey to a much better position for further transport.

5. Hoist a Deer

Whenever butchering big game, it’s always ideal for hanging the animal. If you are far from home, you may need to do this job out in the woods.

Out there, your options for hanging are usually limited to a branch on a big tree, or you can build an A-frame construction. But to get the animal up there by hand can be quite challenging.

If you have your ATV with you, Chances are you also have a snatch block in your recovery kit. This handy little tool is not only useful in rescue operations. It also works great for hoisting a deer.

  • Run the winch line through the pulley, and secure the pulley up in the tree or A-frame.
  • Connect the winch hook to your gambrel hook.
  • Then use the winch to lift the animal.

6. Skin a Deer

In the next tip, we stay on the subject of hunting. This may sound a bit brutal for those that are not into hunting or processing dead animals. But this way of skinning is actually not that uncommon.

First, the butcher will start removing the skin at one end of the animal. Usually at its head.

The animal is then hung by its front legs on a gambrel hook connected to a winch mounted to the ceiling. Then they attach the free part of the skin to a hook bolted to the floor.

When the butcher operates the winch, the skin gets pulled off the animal mechanically. This method saves a lot of time compared to doing it with a knife, the traditional way.

You can achieve the same with your ATV winch. Hang the animal neck-up from a big tree or another solid anchoring point. Use a gambrel hook for the best result.

If you do this in your garage, make sure your roof construction is strong enough!

  • After skinning part of the animal with a knife, attach a rope to the loose end of the skin. A nice trick is to fold the skin over a fist-sized rock and tie the rope around it. This will make a solid anchoring point on the animal.
  • Then attach the winch to the other end of the rope and start pulling. As long as the animal is properly fastened, it’s ok to pull a bit down and sideways.
  • Go slow, and continue until the skin is off. You may need to assist with the knife on some of the tricky parts.

7. Exact Tree Felling (When You Do Not Want It to Hit the House)

Taking down a tree that’s close to a building can be quite a nerve-wracking experience. Even professionals do not take these kinds of jobs lightly.

A tree leaning slightly against the building adds extra complexity to the job. The ATV winch can help you steer the tree-felling in your desired direction.

It’s worth noting that this tip is absolutely not for those that bought their first chainsaw and is about to cut down their first tree. You should be an experienced tree-feller before you consider attempting a job like this.

But if you are a somewhat experienced tree-cutter, this trick may be a nice addition to your toolbox.

The principle is quite simple. This way, you can use the winch to pull the tree in the desired direction while you do the cut.

Again, do not try this if you are inexperienced in taking down trees. There is a lot that can go wrong, and the consequences can be fatal.

Here are some tips that should improve your odds a little:

  • Never attempt this on a tree that’s either too big or one that’s leaning too much in the wrong direction. I cannot tell you where this line goes because there is no definite answer. This has to be assessed from job to job and usually requires some experience.
  • Remember that the winching power of an ATV winch is limited, and so is the ATV’s weight. If you are not confident in your decision, consult a professional!
  • Remember, the winch’s pulling power is not enough to force a big tree that wants to go the other way. It is only meant as an assist to remain in full control of the tree felling direction. To some degree, it also acts as a safety line, “just in case.”
  • Park the ATV at a safe distance from the tree you are cutting. About 10 feet more than the tree length should be fine.
  • Attach the bike to a solid object like another tree, so it stays in place, even if something unexpected happens.
  • Attach the winch rope to the tree as high as you can reach.
  • Put just a little tension on the cable to take away any slack.
  • Take care of making a precise notch cut.
  • Preferably, you should have a helper for the final cut. The helper should not start winching until the cut is finished, with just the hinge left.
  • As soon as the cutter steps away from the tree, the helper can start winching.
  • Tiiiimbeeeeer!

8. Raise the Bed of an ATV Trailer

Many ATV trailers come with beds that are hinged to the rear for easier unloading. But in most cases, you have to pay extra to get a proper lifting mechanism.

You may get one of those flimsy hand-crank style winches that are both slow and dangerous to operate. Those are worth upgrading.

By swapping to an electric ATV winch, you get to unload the gravel or whatever you are hauling with the push of a button.

This affordable upgrade increases the effectiveness of the operation tenfold. It makes for a great cost/benefit ratio.

9. Pull a Dent on a Vehicle or Straighten Bendt Farming Implement

The low speed and high power you get from an ATV winch are great for any job where a controlled straight pull is required.

This tip may not be for the more delicate bodywork jobs where the result needs to be perfect. But it should work just fine to straighten a bent fender on an already beat-up off-road truck.

It’s also good for straightening some mashed farming equipment.

You want to have adequate pulling power available and the control to stop the pull at just the right spot. An ATV winch may be just the tool you need.

Drill a hole or spot, weld a hook as an anchoring point, and you should be good to go. Don’t forget to film it and post it on youtube!

10. Retrieve a Flooded Boat

If your boat gets flooded by heavy rainfall or if it sinks by the dock during a storm, you may use your ATV winch to retrieve it.

Just take your time to let the water out gradually. This will lessen the risk of damaging the boat or overheating the winch.

11. Drag Your Boat Onshore

It’s not only flooded boats that can be dragged onshore using an ATV winch. These kinds of winches are actually used for this exact purpose when fitted inside a boathouse.

With the ATV winch, you have a mobile solution to drag your boat on shore anywhere you want.

12. Raise a Flagpole or Structural Members at a Construction Site

Flagpoles are often hinged at the bottom so they can be laid down in a controlled manner. This makes initial installation and, later, the occasional maintenance a lot easier.

But the job of raising or lowering the pole can be quite heavy.

Use an A-frame or position your ATV on higher ground so that it pulls the pole upwards.

The same principle applies to raising structural members in small construction projects. Just remember that ATV winches are not really meant for overhead lifting.

13. Pull Fence Posts

Fence posts that have been sitting for some time can be a nightmare to remove. You’ll often need some sort of heavy machinery or to do some smart thinking to succeed.

The ATV winch can pull not only horizontally. It pulls with just the same strength upwards. The key is positioning.

Drive your ATV all the way up against the stubborn post you can’t get out. You only have the distance from the winch down to the ground available, but this is often enough.

Attach a chain as tight as you can around the as close to the ground as possible. This increases grip and saves your winch cable.

You may need to re-position the cable and do a couple of pulls. But in a matter of minutes, the stubborn post should be out of the ground.

14. Tensioning Fence Line

There’s a good chance that your ATV is already a part of your fencing rig. With the winch already there, you might as well make the most out of it and use it for tension.

It can be used to stretch any kind of fence line or fencing as much as you need to. Add a wireless remote, and it’s like having one extra helper there with you.

15. Collect Firewood

ATV winches make a great tool for collecting firewood. They allow you to move quite heavy logs up steep hills and over wet grounds that the ATV itself cannot reach.

As soon as the logs are winched to more driveable grounds, they can be hooked up to the ATV or loaded into a trailer for further transport.

If you already own an ATV trailer with a hand-cranked crane, consider upgrading to an electric ATV winch with a remote. This gives you a really flexible system that makes loading the firewood onto the trailer a lot easier.

ATV winches tend to drain the battery faster than the ATV charging system can keep up with. If you have problems with your ATV battery draining, either from winching or other reasons, this article will be of good help.

To increase battery life when you’re out collecting firewood, it’s a good idea to fit an extra battery. Use a big car battery that you fit on the trailer. Top it off every time you park the ATV.

In combination with the charge it gets from the ATV, a fully charged battery should be enough to get you through a day.

16. Remove Fallen Logs or Trees That Block the Trail

You won’t always be able to go around fallen trees that block the trail. I’ve lost count of how often the ATV winch has come to the rescue in situations like this.

Combined with a quality foldable saw, you can tackle most tree-blocking situations. The winch should be able to move even large trees easily if it’s well-positioned.

17. Drag Stuff Out of the Water Before It Freezes Over

When fall arrives, it’s not only boats that need to go out of the water. If you have stuff like a boat hoist, a raft, or a floating dock, these need to come onshore.

Once again, the ATV winch is a good tool for the job. Place some straight logs to make a good sliding ramp.

The main benefit of winching rather than pulling with your ATV is having more control over the whole operation. You can stop instantly, and the speed is slow and controllable.

18. Demolish a Building

Winching may be a good alternative for tearing small wooden buildings like treehouses, sheds, garages, and even small cabins.

If it’s speed and effectiveness you are looking for; you will probably be better off renting a good size excavator. But if time is not a big issue, and you already own an ATV with a winch, it’s worth giving it a try.

Especially when access is limited, the ATV winch may be your best bet. Together with a chainsaw and some chain or wire, you should have all the tools you need to get the job done.

I won’t go into the safety aspects of demolition. But winching will usually be a lot safer than other alternatives, such as pushing with a front loader or going at it with a sledgehammer.

You should always hook up an extension cable to winch safely from a distance.

I recommend getting a spare synthetic winch line. These are quite cheap, and when the demolition job is done, you have a great addition to your onboard tool kit.

By having a spare line available, you can extend your winching range when the situation calls for it. The added range of applications this gives you is only limited by your own imagination. Safe demolition is only one out of endless possibilities.

Do not connect the actual winch rope or winch cable directly to the building. It is likely to get pinched and snap or to get damaged from falling demolition debris.

Instead, you should get a few feet of chain or a beefy steel cable. Use this to connect the winch cable to the actual building.

19. Pull a Damaged ATV Onto a Flatbed Trailer

Let’s say you were so unlucky that your ATV belt broke from ripping it too hard in the waist-deep snow. Then the winch will be of great help for pulling the bike onto a flatbed trailer.

winch ATV onto flatbed trailer
Winching a damaged ATV sure beats pushing it!

20. Rescue a Truck That Has Gone off the Road

You’ll be surprised how strong an ATV winch actually is. One time I had to rescue a long-bed Ford F-250 pickup truck that had gone off a snowy road. I parked the ATV in the ditch on the opposite side of the road for optimal grip.

I must admit I was a bit skeptical, and the 3500-lb Polaris winch was pushing its limits. Buy the rescue was successful, the winch did its job.

21. Make a Spare Tire Mount

Spare tire winches are commonly used to attach spare tires to RVs and camping trailers. You can utilize the same principle to attach a spare tire to your ATV rig. All you need is a winch and a stick.

Simply pull the winch hook through the center of the wheel and attach it to a stick or metal rod. Then use the winch to tighten until the tire rests snugly on your brush guard.

This trick may not work on all ATVs, depending on where the winch is located. There is also a small risk of damaging the internals of the winch over time.

But it can be done, and it won’t add any weight to your rig other than the tire itself.

I prefer bringing a simple tire repair kit instead. These kits are cheap and allow you to repair a puncture in the field. It cannot be considered a permanent fix, but it is usually enough to finish the ride and bring you safely back home.

22. Attach a Power Loader

A power loader is basically a hinged steel or aluminum loading frame that attaches to the front of the ATV.

It utilizes the winch’s power to load some heavy big game, hay bales, firewood, toolboxes, ice chests, sacks of feed, building materials, fence posts, and many other heavy objects onto the ATV.

It’s a great back-saver and allows older riders or those with physical limitations to perform tasks they otherwise would not be capable of.

23. Make a Handy Clothesline

When out ATV camping or on trail rides that stretch over several days, there may arise a need to dry some clothes or wet riding gear.

24. Create a Quick Emergency Shelter

Stretch the winch line between two trees, and you’ll get a nice and strong ridgeline. Throw a tarp on top, and you have yourself a nice emergency shelter.

25. Straighten a Bent A-arm

Sometimes you may have to make emergency repairs out in the woods. Hitting a stump or rock may bend your A-arm, rendering the bike impossible to continue riding.

If your riding buddy has a winch, you may be able to straighten the bent part enough to continue the ride. It will not be a permanent fix, but that’s not really the goal.

26. Flip a Roofed Vehicle or Trailer

If a riding buddy is unlucky and flips his bike, or your trailer hits a rock and tips over, the winch has the power you need to get it back on its wheels.

27. Landscaping

Use the winch to move rocks or other heavy objects around. You may also be able to pull stumps from small trees and bushes.

Tip for increasing your chance of success when pulling the roots of a bush: Soak the area around the root ball with plenty of water in advance.

28. Pull cargo onto a trailer

With a rear-mounted winch or by mounting it on the trailer itself, it can be used to skid heavy loads onto a trailer.

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Haavard Krislok
Haavard Krislok
I'm an ATV and offroad-enthusiast, an engineer, a farmer, and an avid home-mechanic. I'm also the owner and editor of BoostATV.com. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding this article, please feel free to contact me.

Welcome to BoostATV

Hi, I’m Haavard, the guy behind Boost ATV.  I made this site to share what I have learned as an avid ATV owner and enthusiast. I hope it will help boost your ATV experience! Learn More