Operating a 4x4 vehicle recovery winch can be a very dangerous business. The mechanical forces generated are large, the attach points often uncertain, and the terrain awkward. If something breaks or gives way it usually means some object will come flying towards the winch at high speed - better not to be too close to it if possible. Many serious injuries have been caused by winch tackle breaking and attachments flying about.
To do his job the winch operator often needs to move all the way around the recovery operation to see how things are progressing. This entails a lot of running to and from the winch control. With a remote winch control the winch can be operated anywhere around the recovery site, and a mobile phone is something most people have near at hand, and the battery is usually charged. Safety and convenience.
To remotely control a 4x4 winch you need to connect a mobile phone remote control for 4x4 winch unit into the existing hand-held switch panel input, and install the mobile phone winch control app on your Android mobile phone.
The Versatile Vehicle Winch
There are many other uses for a winch other than vehicle recovery. Winches are used for a variety of purposes including raising flagpoles, roof trusses, and water-tank stands. Often while performing such duties the workplace is not fullt visible from the winch's location, so that an operator, bound by the length of the switch-panel cable, cannot properly see what is happenening at the hook end. Frequently there is an entire building between the winch and the business end of the cable.
The Bluetooth remote control for 4x4 winch app is installed as described on the connecting page. The line-of-sight range betwen the mobile phone can be up to 60 metres under ideal conditions - more than enough distance to allow free movement all around the vehicle recovery site.
To download the App find the Downloads menu item on the Home page.
Should the mobile phone lose touch with the control unit for any reason the winch will stop within less than half a second.
Feedback from the controller to the mobile include values for motor temperature, current draw and he battery voltage supplied to the winch, all of which are transmitted from the control unit and diplayed on the screen of the mobile phone. When correctly interpreted this gives an important indication of the condition of the winch and the charge state and general condition of the battery.
Small variances can be significant so it is vital that the voltage reading should be accurate and, since component values can vary somewhat there is a simple calbration facility to eliminate the variances.
Should the battery voltage fall below the critical level of 11,7V at any time the background to the voltage display will turn RED as a warning that battery damage will soon occur.
Calibrating the Voltage Display.
After a battery has been at rest for an hour its output voltage will have stabilised.(12,6V in a healthy battery, or a little less with an older unit). Hold the left hand Inch Mode button down while tapping the DactylTech logo. A slider will appear in place of the Reel In button. Move the slider in small increments until the voltage readout agrees with the known value of the battery. Tap the DactylTech logo only once again to save the setting and return to normal operation.
The flashlight button operated the mobile phone's camera flashlight.
Built Into Relay Housing
The advantage of having it built into the contactor housing is that the system is then ready for immediate action at the flip of a switch.
One disadvantage is that the controller will be damaged if the winch is immersed in water.
Not all winch housings have sufficient space within to house the necessary electronic components - T-Max does.
5-Pin XLR Aviation Audio Connector
A connector favoured by some manufacturers, though the 4-pin version would work equally well
The Controller comprises a buck regulator, a micro controller, a Bluetooth module, and a pair of relays, which simulate the function of the switches in the hand-held panel. They energize either the Reel-in or Reel-out contactor that powers the winch motor. The controller can be built into the contactor box, or it can be contained within an external, pluggable housing.
There is a wide variety of 4x4 winches available and new models regularly coming onto the market, all of which have their own housings and control-switch plugs. This means that a certain amount of ingenuity might be needed to successfully implement remote control, and puts it out of reach for many winch owners.
To be pluggable the connector that accepts the control panel must be equipped with more than 3 pins. Some winch manufacturers, such as Warn, employ a custom 3-pin plug which allows no modification, and makes it unsuitable for this remote control. Others, such as T-Max use an industry-standard connector with 4 or more pins, of which only 3 are used to control the winch, leaving at least one pin to be used by the Remote Control. The Remote Control requires 4 connections: +12V, GND, OUT 1, OUT 2, whereas the manual switch panel needs only three wires connected - either +12V or GND are unused.
Adding the ground wire is simply a matter of soldering a short single core of auto-electrical wire to a pin of the connector on one side and a lug to the vehicle GND on the other.
The External Unit
One advantage of the external unit is that it may be stored in a safe place. Another is that it can be moved between vehicles, provided that all target vehicles have the necessary ground wire fitted between the connector plug and the vehicle chassis.
The External Unit Plugged In
T-Max uses a 5-pin 12mm Silver XLR Aviation Audio PLUG. Should the unit stop working you can revert to the switch panel in seconds.
The handheld control unit will remain as functional as before. If the controller is built into the contactor box the handheld can be used simultaneously. Great care should then be taken that conflicts are avoided. If the pluggable unit is being used it will have to be unplugged to revert to the handheld panel.