How to Select a Boat Trailer Winch

Selecting a Boat Trailer Winch
If you’ve just purchased a Boat Trailer chances are it already has a manual winch installed. There are differences in manual winches, however, and depending on the size of your boat, the place where you launch the boat, and your own physical preferences, you may want to upgrade to a heftier manual winch or to an electric boat trailer winch.

First, a word for first time boat owners. Regardless of the size of your boat, never rely on the winch alone to secure the boat to the trailer. Hitting a pothole in the road may jar the boat off its glides and leave you with the boat dangling from the side of the trailer while still attached to the winch. Use separate tie downs to secure the bow and stern of the boat to the trailer at all times. Just remember to remove them before you launch the boat!

Manual Boat Trailer Winches
To select an upgraded manual or an electric winch for your boat trailer you will need to know the approximate weight of your boat, with full gas tanks and whatever gear you would normally carry. The boat manufacturers specs will tell you how much the boat weighs and probably how much full gas tanks weigh but they don’t tell you how much two or three coolers loaded with beer weigh! Once you have that weight divide it by 2 and you’ll get the pull capacity you need for your winch. If the area where you would typically launch your boat has a steep incline, divide by 1.5 instead of 2. If you’re not sure about the incline, divide by 1.5 as its better to have a little too much pulling power than too little.

A typical manual boat winch upgrade is from a one speed winch to a two speed winch. Any manual winch uses gear ratios to enhance your muscle power and allow you to haul in that boat with a few cranks. Well, maybe more than a few. Two speed boat winches have better gear ratios to maximize your strength even more. In addition, their fast speed enables you to reel in that boat a lot quicker and the slower speed enables better control of the boat as it comes up out of the water. Regardless of the pull capacity of a manual winch you’re still subjecting yourself to the possibility of shoulder and back strain as you crank. Manual winches are great for lightweight fishing boats, but if you have something a little heftier you may want to treat yourself to an electric boat trailer winch.

Electric Boat Trailer Winches
Electric Boat Winches have DC motors which you will need to wire in to your vehicle’s electrical system. The process is relatively simple but you will have to have a dedicated circuit to handle the amp draw of the motor. Many electric boat trailer winches in essence do only half the job. They use electric power to reel the boat in, but “free spool” the boat to get it back in the water. Free spooling is a little more involved than just releasing the winch lock and watching the boat whoosh back into the water. Electric boat winches have a clutch that allows you to control the lowering process and gradually let the boat glide down and reenter the water. However, if you have a heavy boat, or you’re launching from a steep ramp you probably want to look into spending a little more and getting an electric winch with a power-out feature which allows the motor to run in reverse. Power-In, Power-Out electric boat trailer winches are worth a look. Your shoulder and your back will thank you if you buy one!