Memoirs of Winch

A bunch of teenagers borrow their parent’s 4X4s for a “nice quiet drive”. What could go wrong?

A few weeks after getting my license- my old man made the mistake of letting me take his pride and joy, his ’88 Landcruiser Sahara for a road trip with my mates. We told him were going for a nice, quiet drive along NSW’s central coast; no bush bashing whatsoever. We forgot to tell him about the part where all along we were heading to the Watagans to have an ‘epic’ bonfire camp with all our mates. Everyone in our group was the same age, late teens, and all of us were all borrowing our family 4X4s.

The Trip

It had been raining the past few nights, and after an hour or so of scenic dirt road driving through the Wattos we decided to set up camp in a clearing somewhere off Greens Break Road. Although it was still raining when we arrived, the campfire was blazing, music blasting, and we were having a great night (or so we thought), until we realised that 2 of our mates who left the campsite to get more supplies back in town were yet to return to our night camp.

Shortly afterwards we saw two figures approach us with torches. Lo and behold it was them; they couldn’t get up the muddy hill that led to our campsite, and told us they lost control, rolled down a valley and were bogged deep at the bottom in mud. We all hopped in our cars, and drove back down the trail in a rush to get to the bogged Toyota 4Runner.

The Recovery. Or recoveries.

We could see the trails of a car veer off the path and straight off the hill; as we pulled up to the edge of the track we saw the 4Runner chassis-deep in a mud pit. Due to the height of the mud we couldn’t get to the front end of his car, so we had to recover from the rear. I never recovered a vehicle on my own before, especially where I had to position my car on the edge of a hill to do it, but I saw the 4Runner’s D-shackle and hooked my winch on that. The moment the winch pulled on the slack we heard a loud whining and what sounded like something expensive break.

I got out of my Landcruiser and ran down the hill to try and confirm what broke, and it turns out it was a bolt that flew off the hitch receiver. As I assessed the damage, my mates waiting at the top of the hill in their cars start beeping their horns and waving their hands at me in the air.

Within a split second I found out why they were trying to get my attention. My old man’s Landcruiser, which was meant to be stationary, was rolling down the hill; and heading straight for me and the car I was meant to be recovering. All 10 or so of my mates then jump out of their cars and start running down the hill trying to get in my old man’s Landcruiser. As the grass was wet and there were ditches everywhere, a few of them tripped and started rolling down the hill. If it wasn’t my dad’s car (and my life on the line) I might have seen the funny side of 10 teenage males swearing and screaming in the rain while they tumble down a hill in a brazen attempt to save a rolling 4-wheeler.

The Landcruiser started to dangerously pick up momentum, and in the heat of the moment I told everyone to run and get out of the way. As we were all watching and preparing for impact with the 4Runner at the bottom of the hill, its tyres turn to the right, and just when I thought it was going to flip, the mud and change of direction somehow slowed it down to an almost complete halt.

I started frantically screaming again; this time telling everyone to once again get in the %^%*^* Landcruiser and pull the handbrake up. We managed to achieve that without any further disasters, and after taking a few deep breaths we decided to play it safe and have my car towed up the hill. From there we deflated the 4Runner’s tyres (yes, the 4Runner had not moved since the whole ordeal began), and managed to snatch it out.

The Aftermath

There were so many lessons to take away from that absolute nightmare; however, there is one lesson that I look back on more than the others, which there are clearly many of.

The next day we took our convoy of 4 wheelers to a carwash in Gosford to remove the evidence of what we got up to, and I thought I got away with it, until my old man called me a few weeks later. He was 4wding by himself that weekend with the Landcruiser, and couldn’t recover himself as the winch was spooled. What’s worse, is when he took it apart, discovered that the internals were corroded and clogged thanks to a whole lot of mud that I forgot to wash off after my trip. It was a $2,500 replacement which my funds of course covered, and a lesson I learnt very well.

Moral of the story: clean the bloody winch!

PM4X4 Comment

I think we’ve all got one story of a narrow escape and that’s a great one! Really underscores the importance of not rushing and ensuring vehicles are secured.

This Reader’s Write story was submitted as part of our Win a Set of MAXTRAX competition. We will publish the rest of the (publishable!) entries over the next few days and then pick a winner. We have also published a MAXTRAX product review.

MAXTRAX come in all sorts of colours, although, it must be said that orange is the coolest, or so we reckon…


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Bill Malley

Bill Malley

Life's there to be lived. Take big bites and chew like hell