What Is a Manual Winch?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2019
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A manual winch is a device used to haul heavy items or otherwise move them by using a cable or rope wrapped around a drum or pulley. Unlike a motorized winch, a manual winch is hand-operated; the user will turn a crank arm attached to the drum or pulley, and in some cases, this crank arm will feature a brake system to stop the turning of the drum. These winches are usually used for lighter duty applications where a motorized system is not necessary.

Both industrial and recreational applications require a manual winch. Some recreational applications for the manual winch include hauling a boat onto a trailer for towing, raising or lowering sails on a boat, or even hoisting items for storage in a shed or garage. Industrial applications include hauling heavy items in a warehouse or factory, lifting items on a scaffolding structure, or even raising and lowering heavy doors or windows. A person may choose a manual winch over a motorized one for cost savings, as well as for simplicity, as the manual version requires no power source other than the user.


Most motorized winches feature a cable to haul items, whereas a manual winch is likely to feature a wire cable, a fiber rope, or even a chain, depending on the purpose for which the device will be used. At the end of a the chain, rope, or wire cable, a hook is usually mounted to allow the user to loop the rope, chain, or cable around a heavy item and secure it in place. This hook may feature a gate that will prevent the rope or cable from slipping out of place during use. Specialty winches may feature other attachments at the end of the rope or cable to accommodate a specific task.

In most cases, the body of the manual winch will need to be mounted to a stable surface in order to work properly. Once the body is in place, the cable or rope can be fed out or retracted safely and securely. The amount of weight the winch can support will vary by model. Most manufacturers will set a weight capacity for a particular unit, which dictates how much weight can safely be hauled before the system will fail, potentially leading to damage to the unit or injury to users.


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