Warn's 70th anniversary M8274-70 winch

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Warn’s venerable 8274 winch is one of two—the other being the Superwinch Husky—that could legitimately claim to be the best electric winch on the planet.

Each has its advantages. The Husky’s worm drive means it needs no external braking system; it is fully controlled whether powering in or out. The 8274’s spur drive gear train does require a brake but is significantly more efficient (about 75 percent versus 40 percent). It’s more a personal (or patriotic—British versus American) choice rather than a which-one-is-better decision.

Now, to celebrate the company’s 70th anniversary, Warn has announced a limited-edition, uprated version of the 8,000-pound-rated M8274-50. Only 999 will be available world-wide, at an eye-opening retail price of $3,100 (although $2,500 seems to be the going street price). The commemorative M8274-70 is rated to a full 10,000 pounds, and includes 150 feet of 3/8” synthetic line, a solid-state, waterproof Albright contactor rather than a solenoid, plus a few odds and ends such as uprated bearings, a stainless steel spool knob, and a billet aluminum hawse fairlead. (Warn’s site also notes that the winch’s box “features commemorative packaging.”)

I’ve had an 8274 on my FJ40 for about ten years now, and it has performed flawlessly both in the field and through many training sessions. So I delved into the new one to see what had changed besides the extra power (courtesy of a series-wound six-horsepower motor rather than the 4.6 hp version in mine).

And immediately this caught my eye:

“Up to 50% faster line speed at rated load vs. previous M8274-50.”

Fifty percent faster? One of my only complaints about the M8274-50 is that it is too fast already. Speeding it up even more is the last thing this winch needs.

Winching, more than any other recovery technique, is fraught with the potential for errors that could have disastrous consequences if the operator is not properly trained, paying one hundred percent attention, and ensuring that every step of the procedure is conducted in a controlled manner. The best way to guarantee a safe and successful winch recovery is to go slowly. The only exceptions I can think of to this rule are if you have stupidly bogged your vehicle below high tide line with an incoming tide, or have gotten stuck in the middle of a fast-flowing river that is scouring substrate out from under your tires and sinking the vehicle farther. Otherwise my opinion is that it is impossible to have a winch that is too slow. Indeed, on most recoveries or lessons with my 8274 I rig a double-line pull out of habit, just to ease the pace (since a double-line pull halves line speed while doubling power). I can’t imagine it 50 percent faster.

I wonder if the impetus behind this drive for faster line speed comes from a misdirected emulation of competition events such as King of the Hammers, where winches are commonly modified to achieve outrageous line speeds. Suffice to say that for overland travel, you do not want to use competition rock buggies as your build inspiration.

This in no way (well, barely) diminishes my respect for Warn’s 8274 series winches. The new one would be a fine choice for a heavier expedition vehicle in the 7,000-8,000-pound range. But I’d suggest employing a pulley for most recoveries—unless shark fins are circling offshore or trout are showing up in the footwells.

Factory vs. aftermarket

Aftermarket starter on the left; Toyota starter on the right

Aftermarket starter on the left; Toyota starter on the right

If you’ve ever turned over an engine by hand you know it’s no easy thing to do. You’re working against a lot of internal friction, plus the compression as each piston rises on the firing stroke. Your starter has to do the same job, except a lot faster. So it clearly needs to be built well.

Take a look at these two starters for a Land Cruiser F or 2F engine—an aftermarket unit on the left and a factory Toyota unit on the right. If you’re not familiar with how a starter works, notice the small gear visible at the top of each unit. When you turn the ignition key to start the engine, that gear slides forward and engages the flywheel behind the engine, and spins it rapidly to enable the ignition to catch and start the engine. Once it starts and you release the key, the gear slides back out of engagement.

It should be obvious that that gear is subjected to a great deal of stress—which is why the factory starter has a nose cone that supports the end of the shaft on which the gear slides, hugely increasing its stiffness (and also possibly helping keep random dirt and debris away from the shaft and gear).

Now look at the aftermarket starter. No nose cone, no support for the gear. Cheaper to make, for sure.

Which would you expect to last longer?

Handbrakes. Don't be one.

This is a handbrake.

This is a handbrake.

Burned in my memory is the first time I read a post on a popular overlanding forum by a fellow who wanted to go on a particular trip, except, as he put it, “The handbrake won’t go if there aren’t bathrooms.”

I was confused for a fraction of a second, until I realized the guy was referring to a human being—specifically his wife.

Shocked, I looked at subsequent posts to enjoy him get flamed for such a demeaning reference. Not only did he not; he had plenty of company. Since then I’ve run across the term dozens of times.

So is this.

So is this.

I’m sure the guys who use the term would act like it was I who were offending them, and laugh it off as “just a joke” if confronted, just as my stepfather used to laugh it off as “just a joke” when he referred to people as Pollacks and Nips, and worse. Spare me. No one uses such a reference as “just a joke.” It is a dehumanizing put-down and points out its user as someone lacking even a vestige of class.

Now that I have that off my chest, I would like to address the very real issue of differing expectations and needs while on journeys, because there is no doubt that many couples have them—especially when dealing with divergent attitudes toward “roughing it.” And let’s be honest: While in some cases it is the other way around (I know of several personally), usually it is the female half of the couple who resists the inconveniences associated with “roughing it.” So what to do?

This is not.

This is not.

Easy: Just make it not rough.

One of the benefits of the explosion in interest in overlanding over the last decade is the commensurate explosion in equipment of all kinds. It has never been easier to bring along most of the comforts of home. Here’s a look by category.

Bathroom. This is the big point of resistance for most women. It’s easy for men to forget that for a woman, going “#1” is basically as involved as it is for a man going “#2.” Fortunately there are numerous ways to make the procedure both comfortable and private. You can store a pop-up enclosure in the back of the vehicle and deploy and un-deploy it in seconds if privacy is necessary or desired. Portable toilet systems now range from basic but surprisingly comfortable seats that fit over a five-gallon bucket with a liner, to porta-pottis with a water reservoir for flushing, and cassette toilets that simplify emptying later. Add something as simple as a tap on a five-gallon water can for washing, and you’ll have all the same things covered as you would at home: privacy, comfort, and cleanliness.

Shower. Closely related to the bathroom issue, since the enclosure can serve both. However, bathing and changing is much easier in a fairly large and decently windproof enclosure (i.e. not a pop-up), so there’s nothing wrong with carrying a compact pop-up for on-the-road bathroom breaks, as well as a larger enclosure for camp duty as both toilet and shower room. There are lots of excellent products on the market that will provide a hot shower, from simple but effective hanging bags heated by the sun to engine-mounted heat exchangers to propane-heated units with 12V powered pumps. Go with whatever level of luxury you feel your mate desires—or deserves.

Bedroom. If you have a camper or trailer this is pretty easy. If not, consider either a roof tent with a dressing room attachment, or a ground tent with standing headroom (e.g., a Turbo Tent or a Springbar, two of my favorites). Equip the ground tent with generously-sized cots, thick Therm-a-Rest camp mattresses, a flannel-lined sleeping bags, and a real pillow, and there’s a good chance your significant other will wake up the next morning and say, “That was more comfortable than our bed at home.”

Kitchen. You might be fine with spooning SpaghettiOs out of a can heated in the fire when you’re out on your own. Or you may have the full-on Snow Peak Iron Grill kit. In either case, when your mate is along you need to orient the kitchen and food to her (or his) taste. Does she do the cooking at home? If so, would she like to in the outdoors as well given a sufficiently well-equipped kitchen? Then make it so. If she cooks at home but has no desire to do so on the road, then do your finest to provide her with excellent meals. With the superb 12V fridges available now, there is no excuse not to bring fresh produce and meats and have menus fully the equivalent of those at home. And if getting her out means skipping camp food for restaurants now and then, do it. Along those lines . . .

Hotels. I’ve talked with a surprising number of both men and women who enjoy camping—just not for weeks at a time. If your situation is similar, then work out trips and itineraries so that camp days can alternate with hotel or lodge days on whatever schedule works best. Do this for a while and you might find you both start being happy with more days camping and fewer under roofs.

Overlanding does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition, unless your loved one simply does not like camping at all, period. Even in that case it’s possible to compromise. Enjoy civilized trips together, then every once in a while you can take off on your own, skip showers for a week, pee on trees, and eat SpaghettiOs.

Just don’t be the handbrake on your relationship.

More praise for high-tooth-count ratchets

Top to bottom: and 80-tooth Snap-on 1/2-inch ratchet, a 72-tooth 3/8-inch Britool ratchet, and a 72-tooth 1/4-inch Proxxon ratchet.

Top to bottom: and 80-tooth Snap-on 1/2-inch ratchet, a 72-tooth 3/8-inch Britool ratchet, and a 72-tooth 1/4-inch Proxxon ratchet.

I’ve written here and there in these pages and elsewhere of my strong preference for ratchets with a high tooth count—at least 72 or 80 (some have even gone beyond that).

The advantage to this is the ratchet handle does not have to pivot as far to engage the next tooth (or teeth, as most ratchets engage multiple teeth). And that is a significant advantage when working in tight spots where you do not have much room to swing the handle. An 80-tooth ratchet needs just 4.5 degrees of movement to advance the socket, whereas, say a 48-tooth ratchet would need 7.5 degrees. It might not sound like much, but sometimes it means the difference between very limited access and none at all.

I had another demonstration of this advantage the other day, when I had to replace the clutch master cylinder on the FJ40. For some reason the cylinder I bought interfered just barely with the brake master cylinder’s booster, so I had to loosen the latter from inside the footwell. And the upper left bolt of the bracket sits just so between a reinforcing strut and the brake pedal, so that swing room for my ratchet was reduced to . . . well, just abut 4.5 degrees. However, that was no problem for the 80-tooth 3/8ths ratchet I had on hand. 

You might think that the strength of the ratchet head would suffer with such a fine engagement, but in fact modern ratchets are probably stronger than older, coarser models due to better metalurgy and that multi-tooth engagement. One of my favorite tool investments is a Snap-on SX80-A flex-head 1/2-inch ratchet, with an 80-tooth head and an 18-inch handle—the same length as a common, non-ratcheting breaker bar used for loosening the tightest large nuts on transmissions and suspensions. And that’s how I use this, knowing that Snap-on makes the same ratchet with a 24-inch handle. Obviously they have confidence in that head. 

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