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Hand Winches


A hand winch is a tool that makes it easier to pull or lift large or heavy items such as:

  • Loading boats onto trailers
  • Multipurpose hauling or lifting of light loads

Note: Winches should never be used to hoist, lift, support or transport people. Winches should not be used for loads over areas where people may be present.


  • Makes it easier to move an item by mechanical advantage
  • Available in all cranking types - hand crank, loop, ratchet styles
  • Designed for use with cable or strap
  • Capacities: 400 to 4,000 lbs


single speed winch

Single Speed

  • Most basic design - uses only one gear
  • Planetary gear - for efficient, easy cranking
  • Great for small boats and short pulling distances
  • Capacities: 400 to 2,100 lbs

Two speed winch

Two Speed

  • Two gears
    • Low speed for more powerful cranking
    • High speed for faster, easier cranking
  • Planetary gear - for efficient, easy cranking
  • Ideal for heavy pulling and lifting, big boats, long pulling distances
  • Capacities: 1,600 to 3,700 lbs

worm gear

Worm Gear

  • Uses a screw to turn the gear
    • More powerful than planetary gear winches
  • Load cannot reverse direction of pull
  • Perfect for:
    • Lifting and holding canoes or bicycles for storage
    • Lifting equipment onto a truck bed
    • Controlled movement of loads
  • Capacities: 1,500 to 3,000 lbs

brake winch

Brake Winches

  • Self-locking - supplies holding action, prevents runaway load
    • Brake is automatically applied when cranking stops
  • Planetary gear for efficient, easy cranking
  • Superb for grain augers, boat lifts, pickup cranes or vertical lifting
  • Capacities: 1,200 to 3,500 lbs

light duty electric winch

Light-Duty Electric Winches

  • Mounted in place of hand winch
  • Employs freewheel clutch knob for fast and easy cable out
  • Designed for boat trailers and horizontal pulling
  • Capacities: 2,000 to 4,000 lbs

Crank Types

standard hand crank

Standard Hand Crank

  • Lets you wind cable or strap by cranking handle in circular motion
  • Allows for easy, continuous pulling and releasing

racheting winch


  • Turns winch drum by moving lever front and back
    • Advantageous when there is not enough room for a rotating hand crank
  • Used for horizontal or incline pulling
    • Not recommended for lifting
  • Freewheels when pawls are disengaged

loop drive

Loop Drive

  • Allows winch to be mounted out of reach
    • Drum is turned with an extension pole
  • Uses worm gear operation

Drum Types

single reel winch

Single Reel

  • Most basic design
  • Concentrates all power on pulling one line

split reel winch

Split Reel

  • Allows cable to pull from opposite directions
  • Perfect for opening and closing large windows or doors

Winch Capacities

Hand winch capacities are rated with one layer of rope wrapped around the drum. For every additional layer, the capacity is reduced by an additional 10 percent. The table below shows the amount that pulling capacity is reduced with each additional layer of cable. For maximum efficiency, use only the amount of line required.

Winch CapacityLayer 1Layer 2Layer 3Layer 4Layer 5Layer 6
600 lbs600 lbs540 lbs480 lbs420 lbs360 lbs300 lbs
900 lbs900 lbs810 lbs750 lbs690 lbs600 lbs510 lbs
1,200 lbs1,200 lbs1,000 lbs960 lbs 840 lbs720 lbs600 lbs

Finding the Right Capacity Winch for your Boat Trailer

  • Boat-size-to-winch capacity is generally 2 to 1
    • With good rollers and short winching distances, increase the ratio to 3 to 1
    • With wooden bunks and long winching distances, reduce the ratio to 1 to 1

For example, a 2,200-lb boat generally requires a 1,100-lb winch. If the same boat were winched a short distance with a low incline and with rollers in good condition, it can be safely winched with a 900-lb winch. The boat requires a winch with a 2,200-lb capacity if you are winching a longer distance with more resistance; for example, if the trailer had carpeted, wooden bunks or was set on a steeper incline.

Winching on an Incline

Static Loads vs. Rolling Loads

A static load (or dead load) is a weight without motion. The absence of wheels makes the load more resistant to pulling. The winch capacity is listed for pulling static loads.

A rolling load (for example, a vehicle) can be winched or moved more easily because it has wheels. When winching a rolling load, the winch can handle more weight than its rated capcity. On level ground, a winch can pull 10 times its capacity.


Pulling a load up a ramp or incline adds extra resistance. To find the amount of load that can be pulled up an incline, multiply the winch capacity by the factor shown in the chart. The multiplication factor shown includes a 10 percent rolling factor. Note: 5 percent incline is a 1/2 ft rise in 10 ft.

% InclineMultiply By:
0% (Level surface)10
5% (3-degree)6.67
10% (6-degree)5.02
20% (11-degree)3.40
30% (17-degree)2.61
50% (26-degree)1.86
70% (35-degree)1.53
100% (45-degree)1.29

For example, a 2,000-lb winch pulling a rolling load on a level surface can handle up to 20,000 lbs. At a 5 percent incline, the same winch can handle a rolling load up to 13,340 lbs. As the incline increases, the weight a winch can pull decreases.


Mechanical Advantage

  • The factor by which a winch multiplies the force or torque put into it to move an item
  • Pulleys also increase the mechanical advantage

For example, a 1,500-lb, single-speed hand winch has a maximum mechanical advantage of 49:1 at its most effective (with one layer of cable on the drum). This mechanical advantage can decrease to 15:1 as the cable or strap winds around the drum. The greater a machine's mechanical advantage, the greater its output force compared to its input force.

Gear Ratio

  • The number of revolutions a larger gear makes in relation to the smaller gear
    • The higher the gear ratio, the more efficient the pulling

For example, a 1,400-lb hand winch has a gear ratio of 4.4:1. A larger capacity winch, such as a 2,500-lb, has a gear ratio of 17.3:1. Worm gear winches with a 2,000-lb capacity provide up to 40:1 gear ratio. Light-duty electric winches have gear ratios up to 570:1.

Freespooling or Freewheeling

  • The ability to freely pull cable from the drum without turning the crank or unwinding
  • Saves time and energy when attaching cable or strap to a load

Worm Gears vs Planetary Gears

worm gear

Worm Gears

  • Main gear is essentially a screw that turns the other gears
  • Cannot be reversed by the load it is pulling
  • Creates more power than a planetary gear

planetary gear

Planetary Gear

  • Central gear turns smaller gears
  • More efficient than worm gear
    • Turns faster, cranks more easily

Winch Accessories

pulley block with hook

Pulley Blocks

  • Double the pulling capacity of a winch
  • Can be used to move an anchor point and keep winch cables straight

To attach a pulley block to the load you are moving, run the cable from the winch, through the block and back to an attachment point close to the winch. A pulley block helps the winch cable stay closer to layer 1, so the winch is pulling at its highest capacity.

wire rope or wire cable

Wire Rope or Cable

  • Replaces frayed or damaged cables
  • Available for maximum working loads up to 2,500 lbs
  • Most common line for winching


Winch Straps

  • Heavy-duty, nylon web winch straps with hooks
  • Available for maximum working loads up to 4,800 lbs
  • Winds cleaner on the drum than wire cable and doesn't kink
  • Better for boat trailers than wire cable, which may corrode

marine grease grease gun kit


  • Should be applied to winch gears
  • Keeps winch running longer with smoother operation
  • Provides corrosion protection for the harshest saltwater and air
    • Water-insoluble formula for marine winches
  • Use a grease gun kit for hard-to-reach places

Jim M.


I forgot to mention this is a saltwater environment and the lift height is 20’

Etrailer Expert

Mike L.


@JimM The # DL14730 provides a Zinc Tuffplate finish which offers pretty decent corrosion resistance. It doesn't include cable, you could use the # DL24104 cable.

Jim M.


I want a self braking hand winch I can mount on my boom located just behind my upper helm station. The boom is used primarily lift my inflatable dinghy atop the mother ship. The dinghy weighs 900 lbs with motor and fuel.

Etrailer Expert

Mike L.


@JimM Something like the Dutton-Lainson brake winch, part # DL14730 would work well for you, however this really isn't intended for lifting. You'll want to make sure there's nobody under the Dinghy when you're lifting it.

Rob O.


I have a 2021 Shorlandr Boat Trailer with a Dutton-Lainson DL1802A winch. I want to upgrade to a 2-speed winch like the Fulton F2. I see no way to mount a new winch as there are no mounting holes. Suggestions?

Etrailer Expert

Jon G.


If you don't have any mounting holes in your current setup then you'll probably need to drill holes into it once you have your winch.

Bill C.


Has anyone used a winch to help pull a load up an incline? With the help of a couple friends, I need to pull a 1000 lb hot tub up a ramp over my deck stairs. I’m unsure which type of winch is best and what size. I have a come-along but it is only 12’ and I need to pull it 20 ft. Any suggestions?

Etrailer Expert

Chris R.


A hand winch can certainly help to pull a load up an incline.One with a hand brake is probably your safest option so you can manually control the release. I recommend the Dutton-Lainson # DL14830 specifically that can be used with the 25' Cable # DL24102.



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