Various types of vehicles are likely to be outfitted with a remote winch, which is a unit often mounted to the front or rear of a vehicle and is used to either haul heavy items toward the vehicle or pull the vehicle out of incapacitating situations. The difference between a remote winch and other winch models is the manner in which this motorized device is controlled: remote winches feature a hand controller that allows a user to stand away from the vehicle or the winch while still controlling the device.
A winch generally consists of a long metal cable wrapped around a spool, sometimes known as a pulley or cylinder. As the cylinder turns in one direction, the cable is fed out, and when it turns in the other direction, the cable is retracted. A hook is usually secured to one end of the cable of the remote winch so it can be secured around other solid objects. Controlling the remote winch usually involves using a handheld unit that will feature basic controls, such as "feed," "retract," and "stop." The remote will not be hard-wired to the winch unit; instead, it will send radio or cellular signals to the receiver mounted on the unit to tell the winch what to do.
Sometimes the remote controller for the remote winch will be mounted within the cab of a vehicle. This allows the user to sit in the vehicle while the winch is in motion, thereby allowing the user greater control over the positioning of the vehicle at any given time. He or she will, of course, need to leave the vehicle in order to secure the winch cable around an object, but once the cable is in place, the user can return to the driver's seat. Some hand controllers can be mounted in the cab and removed from the cab as necessary, further adding to the versatility of the unit.
One common application for a remote winch is towing. Certain types of tow trucks will feature a winch mounted to a flat bed; the winch cable can be fed out and secured around a disabled vehicle, and then retracted to pull that vehicle onto the truck bed. On ATVs and other off-road vehicles, the remote winch is usually mounted to the front of the vehicle; if the ATV gets stuck in mud or snow, or if it cannot climb up a steep slope, the cable can be fed out and secured around a solid object to help pull the vehicle forward.