Bullbar, Winch and Diff-locks. 

Bullbars are an evil to some and a saviour to others.  Usually of steel or aluminium construction they are designed to stop damage to you vehicles by wandering stock or the local fauna, hence the name bull bar. City dwelling arm chair experts say they kill pedestrians and should be outlawed in metropolitan areas. Unfortunately I live in the Melbourne Metropolitan Area and I have a bullbar on my vehicle that regularly travels all over OZ.  The arm chair expert , in my opinion, fails to get the picture.  If a pedestrian is hit by a full sized 4x4 travelling at 60 kph it doesn't matter if there is a bull bar fitted or not that pedestrian is in a lot of trouble.  

Bull bars provide mounting points and protection for all sorts of things like driving lights, winches aerials etc.  They allow short distance travel through the Spinifex and lightly wooded country in times of need without scratching the paint on the front.  Bullbars  do not give you vehicle the abilities of a grader.  On a modern 4x4 you hit just that littler bit too hard and the air bags spring to life and it costs a lot to put them back.

Bullbars - ARB supplied and fitted (www.arb.com.au).  Steel or Alloy is a personal preference and having had both, I prefer steel, as it bends rather than tears.   They are however, a fair bit heavier.  I have encountered most winches available on the market today and some that are no longer around, but today’s choice seems to be between electric and hydraulic.  I’ve had personal experience of both and I prefer the Warne Electric Winch XD 9,000 LB low mount. 

  Hydraulic winches that I have encountered have lacked the power to do the job on a standard vehicle.  I think that they need a separate pump and large independent fluid reservoir.  They also require the engine to be running which could be a problem when you're stuck in a creek up to the door handles.

Warne Winches do not require the motor to be running and will work for a very short time under water.  After that, you take it back to ARB for a new set of planetary gears and a service.  On the whole though, it is the toughest winch we’ve seen lately. This is especially handy when quiet has descended over any one of the many creeks in this country and you open your door and step into 4 feet of stinking brown sludge.  Apart from the wet gear, hydrauliced CD stacker, an engine that has ceased to function, Mum has thrown the best hissy fit so far.  Thanks to the Almighty for the snorkel and the apple to go up the exhaust to prevent further water getting into the system.  This is exactly the time one gives serious consideration to his or her choice of winch, because, all but the electric winch are about as much use as a hip pocket in a singlet.

Be aware that other, newer products on the market can cause a fair bit of grief.  On the last trip, one of the vehicles was fitted with a Chinese imitation of the Warne XD 9000.  It looked great, made lots more horsepower than a Warne, but blew a solenoid when unspooling and after three or four winches the other (retrieve) solenoid packed it in too.  The winch cable was unceremoniously wound around the bullbar.   "It didn't work," but at the start it sure looked good.  After repairs at Weipa it still looked good, but it still didn't work and at the end of the trip it didn't even look good. It didn't look so great then and was only fit to be used as a boat anchor.

Good accessories enjoy a great reputation built up over many years of research, development and product improvement.  Ordinary companies come along and copy a good product, mostly using cheap labour and materials and sell them cheap.  Good accessories enjoy a great reputation built up over many years of research, development and product improvement.  Ordinary companies come along and copy a good product, mostly using cheap labour and materials and sell them cheap.  Buy Cheap Get Cheap.  These products are not the real McCoy so when they blow up don't say you weren't told.

Pause, if you will, for a short time and imagine the ramifications of this situation.  You are on your own, stuck in the middle of nowhere, not a sound from any of the radios, coming on dark and your Chinese winch blows both solenoids.  What do you do?  Not much!!! The old colloquialism "Never look a gift horse in the mouth" does not apply in the 4x4 world.   If you are offered a winch other then Warne, Ramsay and Thomas, find out the availability of spare parts outside the capitol cities.  There is a 99% chance they aren't available. So, you're in Weipa and the parts are in Brisbane.  Join the dots on the rest and watch your money just fly away on crap.  Look thoroughly at all winches and don't fall for the sales pitch "its got more horse power than a Warne or whatever".

Warne and other winches require regular use and servicing.  ARB suggested 6 monthly intervals when I made my purchase.  I've now settled for once a year and have it done before we head north in winter  and then it's right for the high country in summer.  I cannot stress the importance of the right decision in buying a winch.  You've obviously decided to travel well of the beaten track so it is in you own best interests to buy the best.  Do your homework, look a gift horse in the mouth, check it right out and buy something that works. 

Hand Winches - I personally prefer the flexibility of  using one of these.  They allow you to recover your vehicle from any angle and just about every situation I've struck.  Unfortunately, they are slow.


I would like to say this was staged for the purposes of the article but I can't, it is a perfect example of the old maxim "fail to seek fail to find". Which basically means if you don't look first don't complain about the holes you didn't look for. 

You will notice that the electric winch is not much good in this situation but, if it was all you had, you would make do.  This is an ideal situation for the hand winch which would  pull the vehicle back and out of the hole.   It is also able to be used single handedly.  Now, I would love to be able to show you a picture of the recovery but alack and alas when I threw my bucket 'o' chain onto the softer edibles making them into crepes, I  concentrated on the recovery, forgetting to take the necessary photos, and taught the local fauna some new words.

The modern hand winch has come a long way from the old Tirfor which almost took two to lift it out of the truck.  This is one purchase where I laboured over the decision for a long time.  I was able to try all the current brands on the market and make my own comparison.  In the end, one winch stood out head and shoulders above the rest.

The Big Haul Hand winch is lighter and easier to use than their competition.  One of the worst things about a hand winch recovery is the amount of energy expended getting set up.  The Big Haul is a breeze.   It operates on the same principles as the Tirfor,( as do all the others), but has a longer handle, longer swing and seems to get further, with less effort.

The Big Haul has spare sheer pins in the handle.  I haven't broken one in the last two years and the one above hasn't  missed a beat over a longer period.  It is currently used for training on a weekly basis.  Don't take my word for it.   Check out the major magazines as they've all done hand winch reviews over the last 12 months.  See "Sales of Stuff" for the cheapest price around.

Diff-locks  What are they and why do I need them?  They are a traction aid that locks the differential and makes  both wheels on that axle rotate at the same rate regardless of the traction available.  All 4 wheel drives can lose traction by allocating all the power to the wheel that has no traction and spinning.  Manufacturers have all sorts of electronic devices to stop this but the only system I've seen that is truly effective is the Quadra Drive  fitted to the Jeeps.  The jeep can push / pull itself along with traction to only one wheel.  Diff locks provide true 4 wheel drive, provide huge increases in traction and give stump pulling power at all 4 wheels. and unless you’re going to extreme lengths the average recreational 4x4 driver doesn't really need them.  

My experience has taught me that ARB Air Lockers are the best.  They are only as good as the driver and on our last trip I managed to end up near vertical with the front 2 wheels way off the ground.  My passenger showed his faith in them by hitting the compressor switch to activate the diff locks and directed me to drive on.  They will not give your vehicle wings.

Why ARB?  They simply are the best as far as I’m concerned.   Over the years, they’ve extended into other areas but their specialty is still bullbars and diff locks.  Warne winches have stood on their own for years and probably will for years to come.  

Remember the main thing- the engine does not have to be running.  Always check the pedigree of any "schmick" winches at bargain prices. That is unless you need a new boat anchor of course.


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