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Winches are the type of upgrade you don’t really think about too much, until you really need it. In that moment, it’s a complete game changer. A winch can be a great addition to your vehicle if you are prone to getting yourself stuck or enjoy challenging trails.
A good winch is expensive. There are budget options on the marketplace. Some of them even have pretty good reviews so we’re not against a certain price range. However, we’ve found most winches are going to cost upwards of 500 to get a quality American made setup. It’s at about that price range and up that you can get a decent setup.
The added weight to your vehicle will increase wear on your tires and reduce gas mileage to some extent as well. Lastly, they can be dangerous if used incorrectly. Below is an example of how not to use a winch.
What weight capacity should my winch be rated at?
A good rule of thumb is 1 1/2 times the weight of your fully loaded vehicle. The higher the rating, the more the price. But, it’s better to be safe than sorry. There is a big range in prices on winches that don’t always correspond directly to their quality. We’ll be doing a guide on that in the future.
Why you would need a winch
If you frequently are outdoors in rough terrain, a winch can be your best friend. While many skilled drivers can say that they’d rather spend the money on something else, a lot of us just aren’t that careful. I’m not a surgeon, sometimes my hand wavers and a poor(fun) choice is made.
Maybe that mud bog looks tempting, or that rock must yield to us. Whatever it is, I take no shame in saying I’ve been stuck before and thank goodness my buddy had a winch.
What are the types of winch
There are two main types: electric and hydraulic. For a hydraulic controlled winch, installation is going to be more of an ordeal. It hooks into your power steering with lines and uses that hydraulic pressure to operate the winch.
The drawback with this, besides price – is that the engine must be running to give the hydraulic system power to operate the winch.
So, say your jeep gets submerged in a mud hole or water and you’re unable to power your engine.. bam you’re out of luck. As long as your electric winch has battery power, it’s good to go. Which is a huge advantage as to why offroaders prefer an electric winch.
Mount your winch with a winch plate or a compatible bumper. A hitch-mounted winch plate is our recommendation.
How Does a winch Work?
All winches share the same basic setup for components. The center drum will have synthetic rope or steel cable, the on one side of the winch you’ll have your motor. Which is either going to be hydraulic or electric. On the opposite side of the winch is the gear casing. With a lever or some type of handle on top of the winch for clutch actuation. This allows you to put it into free spool mode.
For an electric winch there is a solenoid box on top of the motor. This connects your winch to your battery. Once you have either your battery remote plugged in or your engine running, you’re set to operate the winch. There are also wireless remotes nowadays.
Synthetic VS Steel Cable Winch Line
Steel lines are strong, you won’t have to worry about maintaining it. But, one of their huge downsides is that under load they store kinetic energy. If they snap, they’re going to hurt someone. Because it’s metal cable, it has the tendency to kink up as well. If you’ve used yours a bit, there will be kinks in the line. Similar to using headphones, they’re not going to smoothly roll up after a while. They also weigh more.
This is one of the main reasons most offroaders prefer synthetic these days. Under load if it snaps, it’ll fall straight to the ground. You won’t have to worry about it potentially hurting someone or damaging property and they’re light. Your synthetic winch setup will be about 25lbs less than steel.
They’re roughly the same strength as steel cables as well. But, you’ll have to maintain them and keep them clean. For us, we prefer synthetic because of the safety disparities.
Our verdict? Get a synthetic line. It is a modern option that you won’t have to worry about snapping or fraying at the edges.
Tips to Follow When Using a Winch
It can sound off-putting to most offroad die-hards, but everyone needs to wear proper safety equipment when operating a winch or any equipment under load. That means safety gloves and glasses. If that tree splinters, there is a chance it could get your eyes or another project could be put into motion. Always stand clear of a winch when there is tension on the line. Wear gloves so your hands don’t get pinched in any kinks and read the safety guidelines that came with your model of winch.
- Adjust the actuator to place the winch into free spool mode.
- Locate the sturdiest piece of material grounded to the earth securely that you can. In nearly all cases, this will be a tree.
- Wrap your tree protector around the tree and attach it to your winch, make sure the clasp is closed securely. The tree protector puts less strain on the line, it’s not just for environmentalists. It also gives us a wider surface area to pull from.
- Place your winch in gear and plug in your remote.
- Apply pretension and place a winch line damper on the line. These are a life saver and an item we absolutely recommend for anyone running a winch setup. If the rope were to snap or something happens, the damper will prevent the kinetic energy. If you have a cable winch line this is a bigger concern.
- Starting the engine is recommended for all winch types, even if an electric will work on battery.
- Crank it. Get yourself out of trouble and then respool your line.
I'm the owner of Beast Auto. I live in Phoenix, Arizona. I love anything automotive related, and taking road trips all across my beautiful state.