Cable Puller Winches
The cable puller winch – also known as a come-a-long or hand winch – is the jack of all trades when it comes to a variety of pulling, lifting, or stretching tasks. A good cable puller winch can save your bacon if you are stuck in the mud, or need to pull a framed wall into place during construction, or drag a trophy buck or moose onto a trailer. The portability, versatility, and affordability of this amazing winch make it a must-have tool for your garage or vehicle.
How Does A Come-A-Long Winch Operate?
A cable puller winch is made up of a lever arm and a body. At one end of the body is a fixed hook, and at the other end a hook attached to a cable runs out through a guide. The other end of the cable is attached to a drum in the center of the body. The lever is attached to a gear mechanism that rotates the drum. There are also two latches on the body – one prevents the drum from unwinding while at the same time applying tension to the spooling end with the lever arm. The second latch is attached to the lever, and advances the spool (thus coiling the wire) as the lever is pulled. The mechanical advantage of the gears means that a relatively light force on the lever translates into a much stronger pulling force on the cable. Heavy-duty models are rated to pull loads as large as 5 tons!
Features Of A Good Hand Winch
Everyone likes to save a buck where they can, and that attitude also extends to the purchase of tools. Since the prices on come-a-longs range from $20 to several hundred dollars, the temptation is to grab a cheap unit. But the saying “You get what you pay for.” holds true for hand winches, so it is important to understand the different features that affect the cost of a particular unity. The following items affect the pricing – and functionality – of a cable puller winch:
- Metal – the type of metal used in a come-a-long’s manufacturing will have a huge impact on its price and operation. The use of high grade steel is best, as it has high shear tolerance that will keep the unit from failing under a heavy load.
- Construction Type – Another factor in unit strength is frame construction. The better units use single-piece construction of the external frame. The use of multiple pieces bolted or welded together make for more failure points on the winch. The use of heat treated bolts is also important, as they are less likely shear off under heavy use.
- Gear Construction – Inexpensive cable puller winches often use gears made from inferior metals. These components will wear quickly, meaning the life of a cheap hand winch will be much shorter than a higher-quality unit.
Come-A-Long Winch Safety
Another consideration when looking at hand winches is safety. Depending on how you are using it catastrophic failure of a cable puller winch can result in property damage, injury, or even death. For this reason it is critical to keep a few things in mind when both choosing a come-a-long, and also when operating one:
- Inspect Cable & Attachments – A frayed cable, strap, or rope can snap when the come-a-long applies tension, so it is important to make a visual check before using the hand winch. A snapped cable can cause significant injury, as the sudden release of force can make them move fast enough to cut. And depending on how you are using it, you or others could also be injured if your load suddenly breaks free.
- Know Your Weights & Load Capacity – Some items such as logs and rocks weigh much more than you might think. Trying to use a cable puller hoist to lift more than it is rated for is dangerous, as components may shear or buckle once the load is applied. It is better to buy a come-a-long that is rated above your expected loads than risk injury or damage from one that is inadequate.
- Practice On Lighter Loads – Using your come-a-long to pull loads that are well under the unit’s capacity will help familiarize you with how it is supposed to operate under normal conditions. This familiarity with the device will give you insight if you ever do attach a load that is too much for your hand winch, so you will recognize the signs of overloading and be more likely to stop before any dangerous breakage or device failure occurs.