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New take on 'capstan' winches

2012-10-08 08:35

SAVED BY THE BELT: In this demonstration, a Land Rover Discovery pulls itself out of swamp mire with a 'capstan' attached to each rear wheel.

Older members of the 4x4 fraternity will remember the so called “capstan winches”; well, they're back. which were fitted vehicle wheel hubs. They allowed self-recovery as well as vehicle/vehicle recovery and consisted of a drum bolted to a rim using the existing studs and nuts.

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 anchor; they worked well but were very cumbersome, utilitarian and had a few drawbacks.

Today there’s 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; it also allows recovery to the rear of your vehicle.


In a simulation the hub winch was tested for functionality and practicality. 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 to 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 on the spools! The vehicle was on solid ground, all that remained was to clean the equipment and pack it away. That didn’t 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: vehicles with traction control, diff locks and the types of wheels, studs and wheel size.

It can be fitted to nearly all types of vehicle. The protection of 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 a wheel with the existing studs as was the case with the older capstan winches and can be attached and removed from the wheels within a few minutes - even off-road.


The hub winches are neatly packed in specially designed cases with the attachment system, the necessary straps and the so called ‘dwarsbalk’ - 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), requires no vehicle modification and 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 by courier to all large towns and, in the outlying areas, to the couriers’ closest depot.

For more info call Bernie Swart on +27 (0)83 492 9240 or e-mail mastercomp@mweb.co.za

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