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Finding the Right Electric Winch
The uses for electric winches are practically endless. ATV and recovery winches can help free your vehicle if it gets stuck. Some winches are made to pull cars, tractors, boats, and mowers onto a trailer. Other winches are designed to lift like a hoist or crane. The dilemma when it comes to electric winches isn't finding ways to use them; it's finding the winch with the right features and capacity to do what you want... at the right price. The following article can help you find the right winch for your application. Learn more about the following winch topics:
Electric Winch CategoriesRecommended winch types for different applications:
winch application
Vehicle Recovery / ATV Winch CapacityTo determine recovery winch capacity, you need to know the Gross Vehicle Weight of your vehicle and the rated capacity of the winch. You may also want to consider other factors that can affect your choice of winch capacity. Read more, below. At, we recommend using this formula to determine winch capacity: 1.5 x GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) = Recommended Winch Rating With vehicle recovery, many things can impact the load placed on a winch:
  • Weight of the vehicle
  • Number of layers of rope wrapped around the winch drum
  • Whether a pulley block is used
  • Slope of the ground
  • Amount of friction on the object being pulled
Determine Gross Vehicle Weight Getting the right winch for vehicle recovery depends on the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). The GVW is determined by two factors, the weight of the vehicle (curb weight) and the weight of the items in and on the vehicle. If you are not familiar with your vehicle's curb weight, consult the owner's manual. Vehicle Curb Weight + Gear = GVW Layers of Wire Rope Winches are rated based on pulling against a static load and with only one layer of wire rope wrapped around the drum. But when a winch is in use and rope is pulled in and layered on the drum, the winch's pulling power drops. A winch has its greatest pulling power on the first 2 layers of rope. The table below shows typical capacities for different rope layers.
table 2
Pulley BlockThe use of a pulley block may be helpful when using a vehicle recovery winch. First, using a pulley block can double the pulling power of your winch. To achieve this extra power, run the winch rope to an anchor point, such as a tree, where the pulley block is attached, and then back to a sturdy point, such as a tow hook, on the vehicle. Second, using a pulley block lets you pull more wire rope out from your winch so that the winch is pulling on the lower layers where its power is greater. FrictionA stuck vehicle may not roll freely, which places extra load on the winch. Because of this, recommends purchasing a winch with a line pull capacity at least 50% greater than the GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight). Note: Most trucks and SUVs will require a winch with a capacity around 6,000 lbs. However, there is little difference in price between some of the 6,000 and 9,000 lb winches. A winch with a capacity 3,000 lbs greater for a few dollars more may be an acceptable cost, because the 9,000 lb winch will not be working as hard as the 6,000 lb winch; therefore performance is improved and the motor life is extended. Trailer Winch CapacityWinches are typically used on trailers to pull a boat, car, or tractor, etc. onto a trailer bed. Since the loads being pulled usually have wheels, the load (car, tractor, etc.) is considered to be a rolling load. Rolling loads are much easier on the winch, allowing the winch to pull more than its rated line pull capacity. At, we recommend matching winch rating to the weight of the rolling load: Weight of Vehicle = Recommended Winch Rating With trailer winches, many things can impact the load placed on a winch:
  • Weight of the vehicle
  • Slope of the ramps
  • Number of Layers of rope wrapped around the winch drum
  • Whether a pully block is used
Know your Rolling WeightThe chart below will help determine the minimum Rated Line Pull (RLP) needed to safely winch a rolling load onto your trailer. Rated Line Pull or RLP is the weight the winch could pull perpendicular to the ground with a single line on the first layer of wire rope on the drum. To use the chart, first find the column that matches your percentage of slope or grade. This can be determined by dividing the amount of the ramps rise by its length. Then match the slope with the weight of your rolling load, round up, and locate the corresponding winch Rated Line Pull (RLP).
Slope percentage illustration
table 3
Other Winch Size Considerations Based on the weight of your rolling load and the slope of your trailer's ramps, you can find the minimum winch to do the job. But you should also remember that winches are rated based on the first layer of rope, where they have the greatest power. In practice, your winch will probably have more than 1 layer of rope on the drum when it is working and will be pulling at less than its maximum. Winches lose from 13% to 25% of their pulling power with each wrap of rope on the winch drum. Because of this, recommends using a winch with a line pull capacity equal to that of the load being moved. You can increase the pulling power of a winch by using a pulley block. A pulley block can nearly double the winch's capacity by simply attaching the pulley block's hook directly to the load and the winch's hook to a sturdy mount near the winch. Electric Winch Accessories
To mount a winch to a vehicle or ATV / UTV, you will need to install a mounting plate. These are available for vehicles and ATVs / UTVs.
mounting plate
Roller fairleads guide the winch's wire rope and reduce its wear.
Tow hooks provide an anchor point for attaching a strap, cable, or rope to help in recovery situations. Some tow hooks bolt on and others can attach to a hitch receiver.
tow hook
Recovery straps can be very useful tools for freeing vehicles from stuck situations
recovery straps
Pulley (snatch) blocks can increase the effectiveness of a winch. Using a pulley block can allow you to pull more rope out of your winch so that your winch can operate from lower layers where it has more power. They can also allow you to double the rope back to your vehicle and double the winch's pulling power.
pulley block
Wire rope is available if you need longer or shorter rope, or if your old rope is worn.
wire rope
Bow shackles let you connect different parts of a winching setup - recovery straps to pulley blocks or winch rope. Bow shackles are connected to bumper eyelets to provide attachment points for winching equipment.
bow shackle
Electric Winch Information Minimum Vehicle Requirements - For any 12 volt winch installed on a vehicle or trailer, there are minimum electrical requirements. The truck, SUV or Jeep must have:
  • At least a 60 amp alternator
  • A battery with at least 440 cold-cranking amps (some manufacturers recommend 660 cold-cranking amps)
For frequent winching applications an auxiliary battery and heavy duty alternator are recommended. Using two batteries will allow for longer or more frequent winching periods without worrying about being able to start the vehicle afterwards. Installing two batteries will require a battery isolator. InstallationTo install a winch, you must consider wiring to power the winch and a mount to physically attach the winch to your vehicle or trailer. Wiring Electric winches need power to work. AC-powered winches simply plug into a standard 120V outlet. DC-powered winches are installed by running two wires to the battery. One goes to the positive post and one to the negative post. Winches usually come with the necessary wires and circuit breakers for installation. If you need longer wires, installation kits are available. If you want to set up a removable winch, quick disconnects are available for the wiring. MountsThe winch mount must be capable of handling the capacity of the winch. Many different styles are available to choose from. Custom fit winch mounts are available for ATVs. For a vehicle, the best system to use is a trailer-hitch winch mount. This type of mount can be easily attached to and removed from your vehicle. And if you have both a front and rear trailer hitch, the winch can easily be transferred from the front to the rear of the vehicle, making recovery from either direction an option. For a trailer, you should have a secure mount such as a steel plate welded to the trailer frame. FreespoolingWhen the winch operator takes the winch out of gear to pull out the amount of wire rope needed to get the job done. The freespooling option can save both battery power and time. Mechanical vs Dynamic Braking The mechanical style produces a stronger, positive braking action, which is more capable of holding a load. Dynamic braking uses the winch motor to add resistance to the drum. Dynamic braking is not strong enough to hold a load. Worm Gears vs. Planetary Gears A winch drum is rotated by either a worm gear or planetary gear. A worm gear train is where one gear is essentially a screw (the worm gear). As the screw is rotated, it turns the gears or sprockets connected to it. A planetary gear train is one with a single sprocket or gear in the middle (i.e., the sun). When the sun gear is turned, the 3 or 4 sprockets (the planets) around the center sprocket turn. And those 3 or 4 then make the larger sprocket surrounding them turn. A planetary gear is not as powerful as a worm gear, but can turn faster to generate more speed. Also, with a planetary gear train the "planet" gears can turn the "sun" gear, but in a worm gear train the other gears cannot change the direction of the worm gear. A worm-gear-operated winch cannot be reversed by the load it is pulling. Most winches use a planetary gear train. The Superwinch Heavy Duty Husky Series 2401A and 2404A use a worm gear. Written By: Raymond PUpdated By: Jacob JLast Updated: 11/27/2023



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