Which Way Should A Winch Spool? – Complete Guide In 2023

Winch spooling is a very common question we get.

I suspect it’s because people are used to seeing winches mounted on vehicles, and if you don’t pay attention, you may not be able to see which way it is being spooled.

The best way to spool a winch is with the winch drum horizontal.

This keeps the load on the winch line as even as possible and prevents wear and tear on your lines, spool, or anything else attached to the outside of the winch.

But when you look at many vehicles with winches mounted, they are often spooling in an upward direction.

This can be easy to see if you have a large steel bumper on your vehicle because it will probably have holes for where the fairlead was attached to, and there will be some wear on the bumper.

Spooling With Fairlead:

Sometimes vehicles spool in the wrong direction but with a Fairlead attached, which helps deal with the tensile strength.

But if there is no fairlead, then spooling in the right direction is the only option.

When a vehicle is spooling in the wrong direction, it may be that the manufacturer installed the winch this way.

If your vehicle has a serious frontal impact, you might want to check if all of your components are properly mounted or if they will even fit on there at all.

The good news is that it’s easy to test if a vehicle is spooling in the wrong direction or not.

You’ll need some simple supplies for “Solo Testing” on your winch.

Winch Line:

12-16 ft of 3/8in line should do the trick. It’s not recommended to use a synthetic line.


You’ll need something to attach the line to.

A snatch block would be ideal, but if you don’t have one, you might want to try using a 4in Bulldog or Bow shackle on its side.

Because they are quite strong and have enough strength to pull a vehicle if you have it hooked with one of the hooks and toss it toward the winch.

Winch Mount

Winch Mount:

You’ll need to be able to attach your line, too, so make sure to grab a winch mount that is metal or heavy-duty plastic.

Make sure you find something that you can bolt to your vehicle.

If you can’t find the amount, a large bow shackle or snatch block would work if it’s bolted down in the front.

Winch Pulley:

Winch Pulley

You’ll need something that turns freely on your winch line and is big enough for the end of your line to fit thru.

A snatch block, bow shackle, or 4in Bulldog will work fine for this.

The first step is to attach your winch pulley to the end of your winch line using a Bow Shackle or Snatch Block (recommended) so that you have good control over it.

Then make a loop in the winch line and attach your Bow Shackle or Snatch Block to it.

Solo Testing Kit For Winch Spooling

Now that you have your “Solo Testing Kit” ready, it’s time to test if your vehicle is spooling in the right direction or not.

You should be able to test this by yourself.

You’ll want to attach your spooling line to the winch and then hook the Bow Shackle or Snatch Block into a safe location on your vehicle.

So you can have some control over it.

You will also want to make sure you have something sturdy behind the vehicle you’ll be pulling with.

Now that you’ve got your setup ready, it’s time to start testing! There are three steps in the solo test

Follow These Steps

  1. First of all, you have to get the vehicle to pull toward your winch. This step will tell you if the spooling is in reverse or not. Once you have it moving, you will have to take it down a steep hill with a curve in it, so it’s difficult for your vehicle to stop without rolling over.
  2. You will be able to tell how much force your vehicle is exerting on the line as it tries to pull itself back out of the curve. Once you have done this test, try stopping your vehicle from pulling backward and see if you can get it to spool in forwarding gear.
  3. You’ll find that if it’s spooling in the right direction, then it will be much easier to stop your vehicle from rolling back. If you can’t stop your vehicle from rolling backward, then your spooling is going in reverse. You will be able to easily tell the difference in how hard it is to stop your vehicle from pulling backward and forwards.

Winching With A Group


Although it’s possible to winch by yourself, there are some benefits of doing it with a group if you can find them.

The main benefit of this is that you have multiple people controlling the winch line.

This is a huge plus because it allows you to control the amount of tension you’re pulling on the stuck vehicle by how fast or slow they are paying outline.

With one person, you can see that they have no way of changing tension except for letting more slack into their spooling line.

The other benefit to pulling with a group is that you can help keep the stuck vehicle level while you are winching it out.

The only downside to pulling with a group is that if someone doesn’t have the right equipment and breaks their spooling line.

You are all screwed because there won’t be enough line to pull you both out.

Best Way To Spool

The right way to spool the winch is to spool it horizontally and pull it sideways.

This is the same for winching with a group as well.

If spooling your winch line horizontally, you’ll need to have some stopper on your rope.

End so that the rope doesn’t get pulled through the drum when you are trying to use it or if someone is using it while you aren’t.

This ensures that the rope doesn’t get pulled through the drum when someone is trying to use your winch.

Winching with a group, if you have more than one person pulling on the line.

Make sure each person has their stopper on their spool alongside their winch line.

This will ensure that when you pull on the line, there is no way for the rope to get pulled through your drum.

Because if one person breaks their spooling line, then all of you have a chance of being able to get out.

Disadvantage Of Reverse Spooling

Reverse Spooling

Using your winch in reverse can be dangerous and hard on your equipment.

This dangerous technique should only be used if you have properly mastered the correct way to spool your winch line.

Using your winch in reverse will cause it to be much harder on your equipment than using it normally.

So make sure that you aren’t putting excess strain on anything.

Also, when using a winch in reverse, you will be pulling the stuck vehicle towards yourself instead of away from yourself.

This is the opposite of what you should normally do when winching.


Winch spooling is a very important part of using your winch.

You should always practice safe spooling techniques to ensure that you are not hurting yourself or others around you.

Knowing your winch is an important part of using it.

You should know what you are doing before you get stuck in a situation where you might need to use your winch.

This Guide will surely provide a clear spooling, so stick to the method and enjoy winching.

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