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What Should I Consider When Buying a Winch Handle?

By Mal Baxter
Updated May 17, 2024
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Choosing a winch handle involves consideration of factors such as its intended use, material, size and cost. These and other aspects require careful analysis before selection, because the winch performs a critical sailing function in sometimes extreme conditions. Most winches come with an eight-pointed sprocket opening for easy universal installations. They usually come in two sizes: 10 inches (25.4 cm), which is the industry standard for its comfort; and 8 inches (20.3 cm), for faster cranking. Other factors you should consider include a locking versus plain handle, single or double grip, length, strength, rigidity, durability and even style.

A winch utilizes the mechanical principles of leverage and reduction gearing, and assists in pulling cables or ropes with great tension applied on them. Not only will its handle drive the winch, it will also provide the needed leverage. Gears increase power by reducing speed of rotation. The greater the size of the winch and winch handle, the more power available at hand. A locking winch handle provides added safety to prevent against accidental disengagement from the winch.

For a winch that will be used on a sailboat, some other factors to consider when buying a winch handle include sail size, wind forces, the faster speed of a smaller winch for racing versus the power and efficiency of a larger winch as well as styling with classical aesthetics. Marine winches often use materials such as stainless steel, though composites such as nylon feature lower costs and the ability to float. Traditional bronze ages green for an authentic nautical element. The key to selecting the best size depends on its placement and maneuvering room, possibly involving two crew members using a ratchet system for heavier loads. There might also be added handle space for two-handed grip.

A winch handle serves a vital function, and as such, it's always good to have a spare. Some offer ball bearings for smoother turning and rubberized coating to protect surrounding material or devices. Winches can operate for a very long time, so it's usually better to make the best choice for the long term. Consider also its ease of use, convenience of insertion and removal, weight and how much adjustment and fussing in general it might require.

Putting the best possible winch handle to work is a matter of determining its positioning in the available space and its likely user. It also bears considering its most typical conditions of intended use throughout the extent of its lifetime. In this vital piece of equipment, it is usually better to err on the side of preparedness and power.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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