The hub winch, a new take on an old idea!


The older members of the 4×4 fraternity will remember the so called “capstan winches” which were fitted to the hubs of vehicles. They allowed self recovery as well as vehicle to vehicle recovery and consisted of drums bolted onto the rims using the existing studs and nuts.

hub winch

A length of thick rope was inserted into grooved slot on the drum when the vehicle was stuck. The driver then pulled himself out using his wheels and the rope which was attached to a tree or other form of anchor; they worked well but were very cumbersome, utilitarian and had a few drawbacks.

 Today there is a new take on the “capstan” winch known as the “hub winch” which has ironed out the flaws and offers a very cost effective solution to a winch, in addition it also allows recovery to the rear of your vehicle if so required.

In a simulation the hub winch was tested both from a functionality as well as practicality point of view, a vehicle was driven into a section of deep black turf and well and truly bedded down. Within a few minutes the two base plates and spools were fitted onto the rear wheels, the straps laid out and the whole arrangement attached to a “dwarsbalk and anchor point.

The vehicle engaged reverse gear and pulled away. The spools took up the slack and within 30 seconds the straps had rolled up onto the spools! The vehicle was on solid ground, all that remained was to clean the equipment and pack it away. And that did not take long either.

When compared to the old “capstan” winches it is immediately apparent that this is a highly engineered version. A good deal of thought had gone into the design which covers all the permutations i.e. vehicles with traction control, diff-locks etc. as well as the types of wheels, studs and wheel size ,it can be fitted to nearly all types of vehicles including “soft” 4×4’s, 4×2’s, etc. The protection of very expensive alloy rims with the base plates and attaching bolts being covered in polypropylene and rubber has also been considered .The hub winch does not attach to the wheels via the existing studs as was the case with the older Capstan style winches and can be attached and removed from the wheels within a few minutes – even when off-road.

The hub winches are neatly packed in specially designed cases with the attachment system, the necessary straps and the so called ‘dwarsbalk’. The latter consists of six interlocking tubes with recovery points, the straps are attached to the “dwarsbalk” keeping them parallel when you are recovering, and this in turn is attached to a recovery point. All the standard safety requirements would need to be applied when in use, as with any form of recovery. Yet the system does not employ potentially lethal steel cables and is thus much safer to use.

In the final analysis it’s an engineered take on an old concept but it definitely has merit and will cost a lot less than a winch and replacement bumper. It is not permanently attached to the vehicle (no extra weight to the front suspension) and requires no modifications to a vehicle. What’s more it does not impede airflow to the radiator. It’s a South African product which, if correctly used, carries a five year warranty on metal components. Delivery is door to door via courier to all large towns and in the outlying areas, to the couriers’ closest depot making it easily accessible.