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There’s nothing like the notorious Blue Mountains ‘Spanish Steps’ in the wet to put the VRS 9500lb winch through its paces.
Words: Bill Callinan Photos: Harry Armstrong and BC
A veritable glut of electric winches floods the market nowadays, so sorting the good from the awful can be a challenge. We were quietly excited when the VRS 9500lb winch landed in the office though. Why? Well, despite it being made in China, its distributor is Ateco. In Australia, Ateco is a specialist importer, having brands like RAM, LDV and Maserati under its moniker.
I put the VRS 9500lb winch through its paces on a some rather steep tracks, over a wet weekend out near Lithgow. In the dry, the track out of the Spanish steps (travelling west to east) is achievable for most 4X4s, especially if you have the help of a locker; but after three days of consistent rain, ‘The Steps’ proved to be far more challenging than we thought. Slippery clay clogged up the tyres, making traction an impossibility even at low pressures.
We decided the best plan of attack was to send the 4X4 with the winch up first, then perform a slingshot pull to bring the rest of the convoy up. This meant that the winch was used for almost two hours if you include the break time to let it cool down. The vehicles we hauled up the hill weren’t light either. A ‘big-boned’ Troopy set up for touring, and some well-equipped 80s hung from the end of the winch line, just to name a few.
When setting up the rigging for our pull, we ran the winch line from the D-max (facing uphill) through a recovery ring and back down to the vehicles attempting the climb. We ran the ring through a soft shackle connected to a tree trunk protector and winch extension up the top of the hill.
It’s important to note that even though the VRS winch comes with a synthetic rope rather than a steel cable, we still chose to use a cable dampener. This was just in case any recovery points, rings, straps or the line itself let go – better to be safe than sorry.
The first thing you notice when you see the unit is its compact size; the 9500lb unit has a relatively small motor and housing, which makes for a tidy install inside most winch bars.
Both the wired and wireless remotes seemed sturdy enough, and the entire unit including both controllers are rated to IP68 against dust and water ingress. I’ve fully submerged the unit no less than 10 times now and haven’t had any issues. Only time will tell if corrosion manages to get in, but with stainless steel hardware and fittings, the quality seems to be there.
The cast housing the winch sits in is coated in a super durable high matte coating, and despite the controller box seeing plenty of sunlight mounted up on top of the bar, the plastic hasn’t shown signs of fading or ageing.
Ease of Use
There’s not much room to move with fancy new features on winches, because at the end of the day, they all do the same thing. But a nice feature on the VRS 9500lb winch is the option of a wireless controller. We put far less stress on both the winch vehicle and the recovered vehicle because the stuck driver had full control over the recovery.
You can easily time the throttle input with the winch input, giving you the best chance of getting out of trouble. All of our vehicles had manual transmissions, so this enabled us to minimise jolting and have better timed clutch releases which minimised any unnecessary stress on the four-wheel drives.
We had the wireless controller about 15 metres from the receiver and, even at that distance, we didn’t have any connection issues. There was a small delay in releasing the button on the wireless controller and the winch actually stopping, but the winch movements we were doing didn’t require us to be super precise.
As far as pulling performance goes, the winch had a good strong pull regardless of how many spools of rope were on the drum. We kept the revs up a little bit on the D-Max to help keep the charge up to the battery, but it maintained a consistent line speed regardless of the weight of the car or the severity of the incline.
There was a fair bit of heat coming from the winch after the fourth pull, but that is to be expected when running for that long. This confirmed for us the reasoning behind giving the winch a few moments to cool down between each pull, which is good mechanical sympathy, regardless.
The rope held up well to a little bit of abrasion on the rock faces but running a synthetic rope over rough surfaces isn’t something to make a habit of.
Overall, I was super-impressed with my initial road test of the VRS 9500lb. We set the winch a serious task – dragging six big heavy touring four-wheel drives up a 20m incline, one after the other. It passed this task with flying colours. I would recommend a unit like this to anyone with a dual-cab or mid-sized wagon. If you’ve got a heavier rig, VRS also market a 12,500lb winch.
- Compact drum and motor size
- Sturdy IP68 rated components
- Lightweight synthetic winch rope
- Super strong and reliable
- Designed in Australia
- The wireless receiver needs to be plugged into the winch solenoid box, which looks average if your control box is on your bar, and not recessed