I recently bought a Harbor Freight come-along (“cable winch puller”) but it wasn’t until I tightened a load that I realized I didn’t know how to release the tension! The manual was very little help and may well have been a poorly translated copy. I watched a few review videos of this product, but none of them could explain how it worked, either.
So I spent some time working through all of the parts of the come-along to figure out what they were doing. In doing so, I discovered that it’s actually super easy to release the tension — maybe even easier then “normal” come-alongs! It’s just not obvious and it’s not like any other come-along I’ve ever seen.
Here’s how it works.
The Come-Along in Question
Harbor Freight 8000 lb Haul Master Cable Winch Puller: https://www.harborfreight.com/8000-lb-cable-winch-puller-69855.html
The Come-Along Parts
This is the stop-pawl, which is super beefed up because it is what keeps the ratchet wheel from going in reverse and largely determines the come-along’s strength. It needs to be released in order to release the cable tension but it’s not possible to use your thumb on the trigger to do it at this stage due to the pressures involved.
The drive-pawl is what incrementally pulls the cable in. It also prevents the ratchet wheel from reversing as long as they are in tension. They also need to be released.
And then connected to the drive-pawl is what is possibly unique to just Harbor Freight come-alongs — the pawl spring. The pawl spring controls whether or not the drive-pawl is engaged (that is, in tension) or disengaged (or released). Simply put, if the pawl spring hook is on the bottom of the drive-pawl slot, then the drive-pawl is engaged (see above) and if it is in the top of the slot, then it is disengaged (see below).
The Release Procedure
That’s it for the parts. Watch the video to see the following procedure in action.
To release the tension, we start by just sliding the spring’s hook from the bottom of the slot to the top. That releases the drive-pawls and they can swing freely. That doesn’t yet release the cable’s tension, though.
Swing the handle all the way over to the other side until there is some resistance. Here’s the key — at this point, push a little bit harder until you hear a very audible “clunk”. That clunk is the sound of the stop-pawl being pushed off of the ratchet, thus releasing the tension just a little. The cable will release one step of the ratchet.
Keep doing this and every time you push the handle all the way and then relax it, it will loosen the cable one more step.
Do this until the tension is mostly gone. Then, to more quickly reel it out, swing the handle back to release the stop-pawl again, but this time grab the stop-pawl trigger with your thumb and don’t let it go back down. The ratchet wheel will now spin freely and you can just pull the cable out as fast and as much as you want.
And that’s all there is to it. Like I said, it’s blindingly obvious once you know how and really is one of the simpler mechanisms of any come-along I’ve seen.