Choosing a winch

Where do you start when you decide you are ready to get a winch for your truck? You’ll need to know the maximum weight of whatever it is you want the winch to pull. The most common application for a winch is self-recovery, or simply getting yourself unstuck from the mud. But we’re not talking about the “curb” weight of the truck, but the weight of the truck plus the weight of whatever gear you typically carry in the truck. When you get this number you multiply by 1.5 and that will give you the line pull capacity you need. To be safe, some manufacturers multiply by 2.

The next two things to consider are how you will use your winch and how much you want to spend.

These two issues are somewhat interrelated as heavier and more frequent winching will require a higher quality and thus more expensive winch. For the occasional winching application, almost any reasonable quality winch will do but there are some considerations that might draw even the “weekend warrior” user towards a higher priced winch.

Selecting a Truck Winch: The Motor
All of the cheaper truck winches use Permanent Magnet motors (PM) and while their promotional materials will tout the fact that this kind of motor draws less amps at startup, they won’t tell you they can overheat with heavy and prolonged pulls. The top rated and more expensive truck winches made by industry leader Warn Winch all feature more expensive Series Wound (SW) motors. SW motors will get the job done faster and last longer. Check the forums for tips on using truck winches and you’ll find experts who recommend resting your winch after a minute and a half of use. They should tell you this tip applies to winches with PM motors but they frequently don’t. So if you’re going to be a heavy duty wincher, you should stick with models offered by industry leaders like Warn Winch and Ramsey. Even for light duty users who can afford the cost, a winch with an SW motor will save time and aggravation.

Selecting a Truck Winch: The Electrical System
Many first time winchers are shocked when they finally free their vehicles from the mud only to find the battery is dead. Winches draw a lot of current and can easily overload your alternator and drain your battery. So you need to calculate the cost of strengthening your electrical system into your purchase decision. First you need to think about adding a heavier duty alternator, one that can output at least 100 amps. Second you’ll need to get a battery with the highest cranking power you can find. Diesel or tractor batteries are an option here. Some users configure dual battery setups using split charge systems.

If you don’t want to bother with electrical upgrades, there is one manufacturer out there that makes a hydraulic winch — Mile Marker. This winch is powered by your vehicle’s power steering pump and is completely independent of the electrical system. A hydraulic winch will keep on running and not overheat as long as the vehicle keeps running. Obvious disadvantages are running out of gas or if your vehicle already has a dead battery.

The final consideration when buying a truck winch is making sure you have the right mounting system and the right accessories. The mounting system has to match your vehicle and almost all winch manufacturers can provide them. Many people who think of accessories think of things like wireless remotes and snatch blocks and forget about that most basic of all accessories — heavy duty gloves. Good luck with your winching!