Winch 101: A Complete Guide on Winches

black standard portable winch with 2 set screws bottom mount application

Winches are commonly used in most tie down systems as a strong and durable safety component to securing cargo on flatbed trailers and straight trucks. Read on to learn more about winches and related winch products.

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What Are Winches?

Winches for flatbed trailers are small devices mounted onto the side or bottom of the trailer as part of the whole tie down system. While they are primarliy used by truckers and farmers, they help tie down heavy cargo items and equipment to trailers and flatbeds.

Made with a heavy-duty steel and a black painted finish, winches from U.S. Cargo Control are durable, reliable, and resistant to damage caused by dirt, gravel, or other road debris.

How Do You Use Winches?

This device plays an important role of tightening tie down straps onto the cargo load. Once they are mounted correctly, using these devices is simple and easy to do:

winch strap threaded through winch mounted on flatbed trailer

1. Feed the Strap Through the Winch

Take your winch strap of choice and feed the open end (the non-hook end) through the slot within the mandrel of the winch. Do not feed it through the bracket. Doing this prevents the strap from tightening.

After that, pull the open end out from the slot about 6-8 inches and fold it over onto the remainder of the strap. Slightly tighten the winch (by hand) by grabbing the end cap and twisting the strap so that the open end is tucked away. 

2. Hook the Strap

With the fitted end, take the winch strap and hook it onto the side of the flatbed trailer. You can do this before or after the first step. Make sure you hook it properly so you don't run into any issues during the tightening process. Also ensure that your strap should have the proper end fitting needed to hook onto your trailer.

tightening winch strap with winch bar

3. Tighten the Strap

After hooking the strap, return to the winch and tighten it by using a winch bar. To clarify, these bars fit into the holes of the winch's end cap to tighten the strap and make for very easy work, where the sprocket and pawl work together to prevent the strap from moving backwards and keeping it tight.

4. Releasing the Strap

The pawl pin on the device switches over so you can release the tension and begin removing the strap from the device. Once you completed transporting your cargo, you can switch this pawl pin over and release the tension on the strap and free it from the trailer winch.


Meanwhile, depending on your winch, you should make adjustments as needed to your strap, since there are a couple reasons for this:

  1. The frame of your device doesn't have enough room to store the excess webbing.
  2. The tie down strap or rope you wish to use is not compatible.
  3. The way the device is attached to the trailer isn't what you desire. 

Luckily, winches come in all different shapes, sizes, and makes to accommodate for these adjustments.

    Types of Winches

    Before deciding on the type you need, be aware of three things: (1) style of frame, (2) width/type of tie down, and (3) attachment. These three components determine the type of winch you need for your flatbed trailer.

    Frame Size

    The frame of the winch is arguably the most important part. It holds together all other components and keeps the strap sturdy and stable. It also holds excess webbing not used during the tie down process.

    There are three frame sizes to choose from for winches: standard, low-profile, and storable. Standard frames work best for most tie down options and hold enough extra webbing. Low-profile frames works in areas with little space underneath the flatbed trailer, however they hold less excess webbing. The storable profile hold the most amount of excess webbing and work ideally when you have plenty of room to use.


    The next step is deciding what kind of tie down to use. In other words, you choose whether to use straps or wire rope. Other types of tie down material won't be compatible with these devices. Overall, most winches accept webbing up to 4" to pass through.

    Lashing winches are compatible with 2" tie down webbing and come with easy release switches for safe and easy use. Combination winches are unique in that they accept both webbing (up to 4" wide) and wire rope to pass through. 


    Finally, you need to know how you want your winches to attach to your flatbed trailer. There are three types of attachment styles to choose from: weld-on, portable (or bolt-on), and sliding.

    Weld-on applications work best if you haul loads of the same size and weight consistently so as not to worry about adjusting the placement. Portable devices come with two set screws and are made with slots that allow it to bolt on to any part of the flatbed trailer. Sliding winches require a track - either a C-Track or a Double-L-Track rail - and can slide to any place along the track for easy adjustment.

    Winch Products

    With these components, we make a variety of unique winches that fit your specific needs:

    standard portable winch

    Standard Portable

                • Accommodates 25 ft. of excess webbing
                • Bottom mount bolt-on (comes with 2 screws)
                • Can be placed as needed.


    low profile storable winch

    Low-Profile Portable

                • Holds 15 ft. of excess webbing
                • Side mount bolt-on (comes with 2 screws)
                • Works in areas with little space




    storable weld-on winch
    Storable Weld-On
                • Holds 50 ft. of excess webbing
                • Permanent application for higher strength
                • Ideal for consistent loads





    low-profile weld-on winch

    Low-Profile Weld-On

                • Holds 15 ft. of webbing
                • Works great for small spaces
                • Permanent application for consistent loads



    weld-on combination winch

    Weld-On Combination

                • Allows both webbing and wire rope
                • Also works in smaller spaces
                • Uses permanent application for higher strength


    standard sliding winch along double l-track

    Standard Sliding (Double-L Track)

                • Accommodates 20 ft. of excess webbing
                • Slides along L-track in both directions
                • Locks in place under tension for security



    storable sliding winch

    Storable Sliding (C-Track)

                • Holds 50 ft. of excess webbing
                • Slides in both direction for easy adjustment
                • Locks under tension and stays in place



    low profile sliding winch

    Low-Profile Sliding (Double L-Track)

                • Works in areas with little space
                • Slides along track in either direction
                • Stays in place when under tension



    low-profile sliding winch

    Low-Profile Sliding (C-Track)

                • Holds 15 ft. of excess webbing
                • Works in smaller spaces
                • Slides along C-Track for re-adjustment




    lashing truck tie down winch

    Left Lashing

                • Accommodates 2" wide webbing
                • Holds up to 3 ft. of strap
                • Bolt-on or Weld-on application - tightening on left side



    lashing tie down winch right

    Right Lashing

                • Holds 2" wide webbing
                • Can hold up to 3 ft. excess webbing
                • Bolt-on or weld-on application - tightening on right side



    lashing tie down winch both sides

    Lashing (Versatile)

                • Used with 2" wide webbing
                • Double Hex allows for tightening on either side
                • Bolt-on or weld-on application




    Winch Tie Down System

    Winches play an integral part in the entire tie down system. However, to complete your tie down setup, make sure you have the necessary tools to apply the device to your trailer and tighten it safely.

    Winch Straps

    Winch straps fit perfectly within the winch devices and make tying down cargo easy to do. These straps come in 2", 3" and 4" widths for your needs along with a variety of different hooks and end fittings to choose from. 

    Know your working load limit of your cargo to help determine which strap you'll need.

    Winch Bars

    Use one of our sturdy winch bars to help tighten the strap down. Made with safety and usability in mind, these cargo bars insert easily into the device's end cap and create a lever to increase the tension of the strap. 

    We offer standard, combination and Ergo 360 winch bars to choose from. Each bar is uniquely designed to fit your tie down needs.

    Winch Tracks

    Sliding winches require some sort of track along your flatbed trailer in order to work. If you don't already have some type of railing on your trailer, then invest in one of our winch tracks to give your tie down system the versatility that you desire.

    The standard C-tracks come in 6 ft. lengths of both steel and aluminum track.

    Other Products

    Cordura® wear sleeve on winch strap

    Cordura® Wear Sleeves
    If you plan on your straps enduring potentially harsh environments or usage, then add in Cordura® wear sleeves for protection. This high-strength fabric easily slips over the strap and protects the webbing from cuts and abrasions. Apply these protective wear sleeves before tying down the strap and slide the protection over vulnerable areas. 


    black strap winder

    Strap Winder
    Make rolling up excess webbing easy with our strap winder.  This contraption easily attaches to the side rail of any flatbed trailer and holds your extra webbing nicely. Watch our video on how to use a strap winder to see it in action.




    ratcheting winch

    Ratcheting Winch Cap
    Applicable to any bolt-on, weld-on, or sliding device, the ratcheting winch cap saves you time and energy when tightening down your load. This converts your device into a ratcheting winch by sliding it over the end cap and securely bolting it on. You will have your straps tightened in no time, with no need to remove the bar from the cap.

    Why Choose Winches Over Other Tie Down Options?

    Using winches to tie down cargo gives you peace of mind over other options. The devices provide better security and strength to tying down items and prevent any straps from releasing, as well as any cargo from moving or shifting during transit. 

    The metal devices also do not bend or break under pressure and can maintain extra webbing according to their size of frame. Regardless if you prefer permanent placement or the freedom to adjust where the device should go, winches are a must have for your flatbed trailer.


    For any questions you have on our winch products, call us today at (866) 444-9990 or by emailing Our team of product experts will be happy to help you get what you want, when you need it.

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