Best Truck Winch: Review of the top winches and how to pick yours

It’s not an easy task trying to find the best truck winch on the market. Instead, we will try to guide you through a handful of different ones that we deemed are the best bang for your buck.

A truck winch is a tool that is used for hauling or lifting. It comes in different sizes and uses either a cable or chain that reels around a horizontal rotating drum, a powered spool. Sometimes you will find them mounted on the rear of the vehicle. Some users have them mounted behind the driver’s cab because they need to haul items into the truck bed. Some smaller trucks have their winch in the front of a reinforced bumper.

“I wish I had never gotten a winch”
– said no one, ever

Unless you get a bad winch, then you would say
I wish I had gotten a better winch”

best truck winch

Are you in a hurry and just want to get on with haulin’?

We picked the best truck winch here for your convenience.

The Main Benefits of Having a Truck Winch

  • You can haul pretty much anything you can wrap your winch around (Given that you’re within the weight limit, of course).
  • You can winch out yourself or someone else if they are stuck.
  • A winch can be a safety tool, especially when wheeling by yourself.
  • For some, a winch is like having an insurance policy. You need to have it because it can get you out of trouble, but you wish you never have to use it.
  • It is an easy tool to use and operate. Once it is installed you don’t need to study rocket science to use it, just wrap it and haul it.
  • A winch will give you a feeling of calm. You know it is sitting there and it will save you when you get stuck, need to move an object or save someone else.
  • A good winch will help you in your workday if you use your truck for work.
  • It will make your vehicle more versatile.
  • You can help your buddies when they are in dire need of an extraction.

 

Best Choice
Smittybilt 97495 XRC Winch - 9500 lb. Load Capacity
Superwinch 1510200 LP10000 Winch, 10,000lbs/4536kg single line pull with roller fairlead, and 12'...
Smittybilt 98495 XRC Synthetic Rope Winch - 9500 lb. Load Capacity
American Made
Warn 89611 ZEON 10-S Winch with Synthetic Rope - 10000 lb. Capacity
Customer Rating
Pulling
9,500 lbs
10,000 lbs
9,500 lbs
10,000 lbs
Line
Steel Wire
Steel Wire
Synthetic Rope
Synthetic Rope
Fairlead
Roller
Roller
Hawse
Hawse
Waterproof
Weight
83 pounds
82.9 pounds
63.1 pounds
80.5 pounds
Dimensions
13 x 25 x 10 in
21.3 x 6.3 x 8.6 inches
22.3 x 5.4 x 9.4 inches
26.2 x 8.5 x 19.8 inches
Prime Benefits
Price
$284.93
from $439.99
$391.06
from $837.82
Best Choice
Smittybilt 97495 XRC Winch - 9500 lb. Load Capacity
Customer Rating
Pulling
9,500 lbs
Line
Steel Wire
Fairlead
Roller
Waterproof
Weight
83 pounds
Dimensions
13 x 25 x 10 in
Prime Benefits
Price
$284.93
More Information
Superwinch 1510200 LP10000 Winch, 10,000lbs/4536kg single line pull with roller fairlead, and 12'...
Customer Rating
Pulling
10,000 lbs
Line
Steel Wire
Fairlead
Roller
Waterproof
Weight
82.9 pounds
Dimensions
21.3 x 6.3 x 8.6 inches
Prime Benefits
Price
from $439.99
More Information
Smittybilt 98495 XRC Synthetic Rope Winch - 9500 lb. Load Capacity
Customer Rating
Pulling
9,500 lbs
Line
Synthetic Rope
Fairlead
Hawse
Waterproof
Weight
63.1 pounds
Dimensions
22.3 x 5.4 x 9.4 inches
Prime Benefits
Price
$391.06
More Information
American Made
Warn 89611 ZEON 10-S Winch with Synthetic Rope - 10000 lb. Capacity
Customer Rating
Pulling
10,000 lbs
Line
Synthetic Rope
Fairlead
Hawse
Waterproof
Weight
80.5 pounds
Dimensions
26.2 x 8.5 x 19.8 inches
Prime Benefits
Price
from $837.82
More Information

 

The 11 Best Truck Winches You Should Consider

 

TEKTON 5547 4 Ton Power Puller – The lightweight option for reliable power

1tekton-power-puller

SIZE: 29.5 x 4.2 x 6.5 inches | WEIGHT: 13.2 pounds | PULLING: 4,000 pounds

This is neither an electrical winch nor is it a hydraulic one. This is a Power Puller. I know it is not what this article is about really, but if you don’t fancy a winch, this power puller will do the trick. It is heavy duty and will be the cheapest way to pulling you out of dire situations.

From what I could find, this is probably one of the cheapest winches that haven’t compromised on quality.

Since it is a power puller, it does not require any installation. You basically carry it in your trunk and pull (no pun intended) it out when you need it.You won’t get out of the direst situations (probably), but you may very well get out of a bit of snow and move some objects if necessary.

You won’t get out of the direst situations (probably), but you may very well get out of a bit of snow and move some objects if necessary.

Money wise?

You can probably not go lower and find a better balance between usefulness and quality. In fact, I would even advise getting a power puller TOGETHER with your electrical winch.

PROS
  • It is cheap and won’t cost you a fortune.
  • Easy to carry with you.Robust and made of great quality.
  • Robust and made of great quality.
CONS
  • It takes manual work to get it to reel.
  • If you are hauling a lot of really heavy objects, you want to get an electric winch at least.

 

Smittybilt 98510 – Waterproof with a wireless remote

2smittybilt98510

SIZE: 22.3 x 9 x 5 inches | WEIGHT: 62.4 pounds | PULLING: 10,000 pounds

INSTALLATION: The intallation is straightforward and their manual is easy to understand.

FEATURES: This is a winch from Smittybilt, it comes as waterproof (not submersible-proof) and with a wireless remote. It features a synthetic rope for those who prefer that (read more about pros and cons of a rope versus a wire further in this guide).

What’s really feels great is the wireless remote. First of all, who wants MORE cables lying around getting tangled? It is enough to worry about the a winch that could get tangled, I don’t want the remote to do it as well.

Secondly, a wireless remote is pretty neat for safety as well. I mean, you can literally stand out of harm’s way should the winch snap and whip in your direction. So kudos for the wireless remote, which is a nice feature that is added.

The Smittybilt winch is a bit larger than its counterparts and I think you are better of with this winch if you drive around in a 1500-series and up truck. Perhaps you could mount it on a large SUV (I don’t know how that would look though). If you are driving a smaller wrangler or something of that sort, perhaps look further down.

Mind you if your truck is of a newer model because you might not get the cables to run through the grille, which could be a bit of a hurdle to install past.

The winch in itself is easy to install, all the wires are color coded, which is convenient (unless you’re color blind, but I’m sure you got your workarounds for that). The instructions are quite easy to follow along and should have you set up in like 30 minutes.

It’s not possible to remove the hook without cutting it off the actual rope, which does not feel very thought out. But if you don’t want a hook, you don’t, and you were probably going to remove it altogether anyway.

PROS
  • Convenient with wireless remote – included in the price
  • IP68 rated
  • Just about the right speed for winching
  • Looks good (people will ask you where you got it)
  • Competitive price for what you get in terms of features and weight rating.
CONS
  • The wireless remote is actually sensitive to rain (not as waterproof as the winch itself)
  • The bolts mounting the control box are not as good quality as the rest of the winch.

 

Smittybilt 97495 XRC – Heavy duty winch for a reasonable price

smittybilt winch

SIZE: 25 x 13 x 10 inches | WEIGHT: 83 pounds | PULLING: 9,500 pounds

INSTALLATION: The installation is actually quite easy, but there are a few things you may want to read up on before deciding.

I’ve noticed some confusion about the 4 roller fairlead not connecting to the winch and not knowing where to mount it. To be clear: the fairing isn’t supposed to connect to the winch. You want to attach it to a winch plate, or if you have a winch ready bumper, the bumper itself.

The handle to make the switch from free spooling to engaged can be hard to move and get’s stuck from time to time. Wiggle it and try to wind in a bit and it should do the trick.

On thing that can get a bit tricky when installing this winch as you might find the bracket for side mounting the relay to be confusing. At first glance it seems that the screw hole spacing is off and it won’t be able to attach the bracket. But if you look for a small threaded hole on the side of the winch over the motor, you will be able to fit the bracket without a problem.

FEATURES:  The winch is less geared, which makes it wind faster and it’s rated as 9500 pounds.

Overall the winch is heavy duty and looks great on a Jeep. It works well and does what you pay the price for.

This winch rolls with a 3 stage planetary gear, which gives more speed at the cost of higher temperatures. But it is often the wisest choice if you are unsure (the other choice being worm, see guide below).

It is waterproof – not submersible – which is good for off-roading. Minor nice-to-have feature is the magnet in the control handle.

PROS
  • IP67 waterproof rating.
  • All wires included, no hassle there.
  • Lifetime warranty
CONS
  • Can be tricky to install if you don’t look out for pitfalls.
  • Smittybilt has had reported problems with their remotes.

 

Rugged Ridge Winch with Steel Cable – Lot’s of winch for the buck

4ruggedridge

SIZE: 26 x 12.5 x 10 inches | WEIGHT: 85 pounds | PULLING: 8,500 pounds

INSTALLATION: So when you install the winch, mind that you are wise to do the wiring before you actually bolt it to the bumper. The solenoid box can be installed to the side, over the motor or directly over the cable drum in the center.

On the bottom of the motor there’s a bolt for the ground wires. This is what you can’t access if you have already put the winch in place. So make sure that you do all the wiring and connect it properly before you start screwing and bolting. Once you have all the wires and electric cables in place, you can put the winch and mounting plate in place.

There’s been reporting of a faulty controller – when you install it, make sure you push it in and twist it until it clicks into place. It is not faulty, just tricky.

FEATURES: It is not explained in the instructions, but you can actually lock the handheld remote into the solenoid box.

It comes with a steel wire, which can be replaced by a synthetic rope if you don’t like wires. Wires are both strong and rigid for their use, however. See below if you need more info about what to choose.

PROS
  • 5 year limited warranty.
  • Wiring is done already to the box.
  • Clear instructions and easy installation.
CONS
  • Control box is a flimsy piece of plastic.
  • No hatin’ China, but yeah, made in China.

 

WARN 86260 VR12000 – The price friendly favorite

5_warn_vr12000

SIZE: 25 x 13 x 10 inches | WEIGHT: 83 pounds | PULLING: 12,000 lbs

Ok, here we go – WARN is probably one of the brands that many haulers swear by. You either go with a WARN (perhaps Superwinch, too) or you go home.

Frankly, I can understand the statement, but there are just so many good winches out there. The argument to go with a WARN is because it’s made in the US.

Sure, it is, but many parts are from China and the WARN is assembled in the US (look for models Zeon and Powerplant below).

INSTALLATION: The installation is quite easy and intuitive – which is thankful because the manual is useless.

FEATURES: So i wanted to include this and discuss the features a bit. The WARN brand is known to make great products, and they do. But if you are looking to buy a WARN because you want the true American made, the VR series is not for you. The VR is a price friendly product series that is imported to the US.

When you look at the winch in terms of hardware, it all fits perfectly to a truck or even an SUV. Wires are of good length and it is easy to replace anything you want to change. If you want another remote or replace it with a wireless, it could be done quite easily.

PROS
  • Reliable brand.
  • Assembled in the USA
CONS
  • Imported.
  • Winch drum is prone to rust and flaking.

 

Superwinch LP10000 – A blend of power and value

superwinch roller fairlead

SIZE: 21.3 x 6.3 x 8.6 inches | WEIGHT: 82.9 pounds | PULLING: 10,000 lbs

INSTALLATION: The installation is straightforward and quite easy to complete.

Be mindful about the bolts you attach it with. If you have a winch plate any thicker than ¼ you might want to get other bolts because they will be a bit short.

I’ve seen reporting of loose bolts that is supposed to hold down the end to the drum. Here is how you check and fix that; you unwind the cable fully (pull it straight out) and then you check the bolts to see that they are completely fixed. When you reel it back in, remember to put a bit of a tension to it. You can hold it with your hands if you wear gloves.

FEATURES:  It is weather resistant, the sun, or rather the UV rays will fade the colors a bit, but you know what? Superwinch is a nice bunch and will replace any faded stickers if you want new ones 🙂 Also, the winch is pretty sturdy outdoors in poor weather conditions, even after 2 years.

PROS
  • Water resistant
  • 2-year limited warranty
  • Well-known brand
CONS
  • No roller fairlead

 

WARN VR8000 – A sibling of the Warn VR12000

7_warn_vr8000

SIZE: 25.2 x 13.5 x 8 inches | WEIGHT: 80 pounds | PULLING: 8,000 lbs  

INSTALLATION: Pretty much the same as with the VR12000 version – the manual is a joke. But since the installation is easy to do, you don’t really need it anyway.

FEATURES: It comes with a roller fairlead to spare you the extra expense for one of those.

This winch features a 3-stage planetary gear train, which is better for the occasional use. It comes with a 94’, 5/16” steel wire – which is generally stronger, but more dangerous if it snaps. Make sure to wear gloves when working with steel wires.

PROS
  • Comes with a roller fairlead.
CONS
  • It is powder coated which is prone to flaking.

 

Smittybilt 98495 XRC – A good choice if you want the looks and the power

smittybilt winch

SIZE: 22.3 x 5.4 x 9.4 inches | WEIGHT: 63.1 pounds | PULLING: 9,500 lbs

INSTALLATION: As with many Smittybilt winches, this is one is also fairly easy to mount. Everything is included from wires to bolts and you can wire it straight to the battery with little effort. The mountings are standard and if you have a winch mount on your bumper it should fit most trucks.

The solenoid can be installed and mounted remotely, mind you that the wires may have to be replaced if you decide to mount it far off.

FEATURES: This is one of the more popular options for and if you go up a version you get one from their X20 series.

There are reportings of corrosion in and around the control box, however take a few pictures and send it to Smittybilt within their warranty and they usually send you a new box.

This winch comes with a synthetic rope, which is nice due to the risk of a deadly whip with snapping steel wires. However, this particular winch does not come with the best synthetic rope and you might wanna pick up a better one when you place an order.

PROS
  • Comes with a fairlead (Hawse).
  • IP67 waterproof (1-meter submersible).
  • Reliable brand.
CONS
  • Control box prone to corrosion
  • Synthetic rope is fairly fragile in relation to other winches on the market.

 

WARN ZEON 10-S – An American favorite

Warn Zeon winch

SIZE: 26.2 x 8.5 x 19.8 inches | WEIGHT: 80.5 pounds | PULLING: 10,000 lbs

INSTALLATION: Smooth to install and you can chose to mount the control pack separately from the winch – your choice.

FEATURES: It may very well just be me but this is what I’m talking about! This is what I want to see in a winch. From this list, this (and the Smittybilt XRC) is probably one of the more good looking winches.

Apart from its totally awesome tactical look, we have to talk hardware and performance.

This winch is part of WARN’s ZEON series, which is a little bit more expensive, but this is the winch most professionals tend to invest in. It is reliable and works for many years to come.

The ZEON series has a little more thought and touch to it. It has better components that are more resistant to wear and weather (better sealing etc.). You also get a larger diameter of the winch drum, which will reduce rope wear. With an integrated rope anchor it is easy to replace as well.

This one, with the synthetic rope, comes with a hawse fairlead and those with the wire has a roller fairlead. But I decided to show you the one with the synthetic rope in this list because a lot of users love the rope over wire.

The ZEON series range from 8 to 12 each with a synthetic rope version instead of the steel wire. You can also get them as a multi-mount.

PROS
  • Awesome looks.
  • Made in USA
  • Corrosion resistant
CONS
  • Although it is marketed as waterproof, there has been reporting of rust.

 

WARN ZEON Platinum 10-S – The platinum power house

warn winch zeon platinum

SIZE: 26.1 x 8.2 x 20 inches | WEIGHT: 69.5 pounds | PULLING: 10,000 lbs  

INSTALLATION: If you’re installing it on a regular bumper you should be able to do it with little effort (most winches today are in fact quite easy to install). But if you have a customization on your truck, you might need to have a bit of mechanical knowledge on how to properly install this piece.

FEATURES: WARN themselves claim the Platinum series to be the gold standard of winches.

You get a steel wire with roller fairlead, with some of the latest in winching technology. It has strong motor that is supposed to be resistant to corrosion. It features a durable aluminium housing with it is possible to mount the control box separately from the winch.

Again, the linked winch in this list is the synthetic rope (-S) model, if you prefer a steel wire with roller fairlead, there’s one version like that. But the Hawse fairlead with synthetic rope is really neat. You will be able to pull at angles and synthetic rope won’t rust up on you. Also, if you get a problem with a rope, it is easy to replace.

So if you read about the ZEON series above, this is the Platinum extension. It comes with the wireless controller and some extra hauling speed (approx 20% extra).

The wireless remote provides data like motor temperature, battery status, clutch, auxiliary accessory status and more. I’d say the remote feels like a well-made piece. It’s also waterproof.

PROS
  • Limited lifetime warranty.
  • Made in USA.
  • Wireless remote.
CONS
  • Fairlead is not polished aluminum.

 

WARN PowerPlant Compressor Winch – Build the ultimate duty vehicle

warn powerplant compressor winch

SIZE: 13 x 26 x 17 inches | WEIGHT: 116 pounds | PULLING: 120,000 lbs

INSTALLATION: The installation of the winch itself it not much different from any other WARN winch or brands. The confusing part could be the air compressor. You don’t need anything extra to run the compressor, but you need to mount the hose with the hose filter inside the engine compartment as high as possible.

It also helps to keep in mind that your 12V DC battery need at least 650 cold cranking amps.

FEATURES: Here you have a winch from WARN that is both a powerful in combination with a high performance air compressor. If you don’t need the air compressor

The compressor can air up to four 35 inch tires in 8 minutes. You can likewise run your air tools with the compressor. The compressor delivers 5 CFM @ 90 PSI, which is a lot of power.

The winch comes with extra an air hose, quick-connect couplers and a tire pressure gauge.

If you are looking for a winch for the looks, or just a working buddy to have in dire times, you might want to consider one of the other winches. This is for those who need the air compressor and wants to have something very specific to their needs. Nonetheless, it is a well-made winch that will be reliable and strong for when you need it.

PROS
  • Air compressor
CONS
  • Remote is not wireless.

 

Winch structure

Getting your hands on the best winch is pretty straightforward as long as you know what to look for. But it is a bit more tricky to become familiar with every aspect of the winch. Instead of having to look elsewhere, you can just tick off of this list of the things a winch is made up of.

Motor: Every winch has a motor. Think of this as the heart. The motor will power the gear train, which makes the drum turn and winch in the wire. If you go with an electrical winch, it will connect to your battery (12v or 24v) while a hydraulic winch motor is connected to the power steering pump.

Gear Train: This is like an amplifier that gives the winch its hauling power. The first type is planetary, which has multiple gears that spin together (more speed and higher temperature). The second type is a worm, which has two heavy duty gears (more power and lower temperature).

Drum: This is the spool on which the wire is wrapped around. Powered by the gear train, it will be the moving part that feeds the wire and reel it in.

Wire, cable or rope: This is the actual wire that you use to pull things. Most people think of a braided steel wire when they think of a winch, but it can also be a synthetic fiber rope, which is lighter and safer if it should snap. The diameter and length of the wire will determine the strength of it.

Fairlead: It makes sure the wire is wrapped safely back onto the drum and guide the wire if you winch at an angle. There are two types of fairlead; Hawse and Roller. Hawse is oval-shaped and is useful for when you have a synthetic rope because there are no corners to snag on. The Roller is useful with steel wires because of their rectangular openings, which reduce splintering.

Brakes: A winch needs a braking system that holds your load under control if you should pause the winching process.

Clutch: It has a pretty similar function to that of your truck. If you disengage the gear train you will be able to free-spool and if you engage it you can get down to pull.

Control box: This is the part that tells your winch in which direction to go (reel in or reel out).

Remote control: You can have either a wireless remote, which is popular because it allows you to work at a safe distance. You can also go with a wired remote, which is reliable because you always have it connected, but you have the inconvenience of always having to stay next to the winch.

Electric Winches versus Hydraulic Winches

There are two types of winches that can be used. The electrical is connected to your battery and uses electricity to generate power. The hydraulic winch will use power from the power steering pump.

Electric winches:

Pros:

  • Easy to install because you can mount it on your rig, pull some cords and you’re pretty much done. They can be connected to both 12v and 24v (depending on which one you need and get).
  • There is a lot to pick from. The assortment of electrical winches is vast and you can find all sorts of winches.

Cons:

  • It operates at higher temperatures. An electric motor of this type generates a lot of heat that is released into the drum. Heat and metal usually do not go well together and hence the wire could be damaged from the heat. Synthetic ropes often contain plastic, which melts.
  • Be wary of the power drain. You will probably have to have your motor running because the winch might drain the battery otherwise.
  • Electrical winches are mostly designed for intermittent use and not for prolonged pulls.

Hydraulic winches:

Pros:

  • You can pull for an extended time because it is connected to the power steering pump and not the battery.
  • The winch will run at cooler temperatures. This is a bit safer because it won’t cause as much damage to the steel wire or make a synthetic rope melt or tear due to heat.

Cons:

  • Difficult installation. It is not nearly as easy as the electric winch to install because you need a bit of knowledge about how to connect it to your power steering pump. Due to the fact that you have to make all these changes and that it becomes more permanent than an electrical winch, it is also more difficult to steal (if you park your truck in a shady place).
  • Not as much to choose from. It will be harder to find one for your specific vehicle and you won’t be able to pick from as nearly a large selection as with electrical winches.

Picking between these two boils down to preferences as laid out above. Don’t overthink it, whatever you pick will be a good choice. Just make sure you and your truck can handle the winch itself and its installation.

How to choose the best truck winch

Capacity

Make sure you decide on the main purpose of your winch. Answer the question, what will you use this for? This answer will help you decide on the capacity you need. The capacity is affected by the size of the vehicle. If your truck is between say 5,000 to 10,000 pounds and your winch can pull 3,500 pounds, you will mostly use it to winch in smaller vehicles and objects.

How much-rated line pull do you need?

There is a rather simple formula for calculating how much you need. But keep in mind that you should always be safe than sorry, meaning that it is better to pick more rated line pull than less.

Formula
Gross vehicle weight x 1.5 = Minimum rated line pull

What is the gross weight you ask? It is the total weight your vehicle is allowed when loaded with passengers, stuff and a full tank. You can usually find it in your user’s manual. If it is not there, take the curb weight and add the weight of 5 medium sized men, a bag and some gear for each of them. That should get you in the ballpark.

All you need is the gross weight and then you can get going. So what if you’re driving a Jeep Wrangler (a common off-road truck and even more common to have a winch)? Assume that you have a weight of 4,700 pounds, which times 1.5 equal 7,050lb. This means you can’t go lower than that. But to be safe, it is better to look at a winch in the 8,000-pound range.

How fast does the winch need to be?

Recall what we said about the Gear Train. That’s what matters here. Since there are only two types of gear trains, planetary, and worm. The planetary will give you the most speed (mind that it get’s to higher temperatures) but if your biggest concern is heat, then look for a worm. Bottom line is that it is probably wiser to get a planetary gear train, but as I said, you may have special preferences here.

Which type of cable do I need?

Again, we spoke about both the braided steel wire and the synthetic rope. You know their differences already and it boils down to strength here. Steel being the most common one, has the benefits of being stronger, increased durability and will probably be more versatile for your use. That said, if you don’t look after your winch and the wire snap during tension, it can be mortal.

This is no joke. We are talking about braided steel that is under tension from pulling thousands of pounds. Luckily, accidents are rare and if you take the precautions, you have at least minimized the risks.

Risks are probably the main reason synthetic rope is gaining popularity. It is also lighter and easier to manage with than the steel wire.

If this is your first winch, I would recommend a steel wire straight up. The synthetic rope requires a little bit more finesse when pulling and can are easier to snap (although much safer doing so). In addition, steel wire is cheaper and a better choice for beginners.

How much wire or rope do I need?

Here comes the all-time lousy answer: it depends. If the wire is too short you won’t reach your anchor point (i.e. the very thing you want to connect your wire to). If the wire is too long you won’t be able to make use of all the power in your winch.

Around 100 inches is a good guess for most situations. Try to think about where you usually go with your vehicle. If you are off-roading in the woods with lots of trees and rocks, you can do with a shorter wire because it will be easier.

If you are the type who take the family to the open lands (think Arizona, Utah, etc.) you want to have a longer wire because there is just so much stuff to anchor the cable.

Are you a trucker, and you need a winch for your rig, I would say go with something a little bit longer. In most cases your winch is heavy duty, you will be working in urban or suburban areas and mostly be pulling cargo, occasionally cars and other stuff. So you might find a 100’ a little too short.

Who buys a truck winch?

The type of buyer who purchases a winch are usually those who love a bit of adventure likes to be safe on the road. Some are do-it-yourselfers and some just want to haul stuff. Whatever you do, you are probably a person who wants to be in control and have a feeling of freedom and safety.

I know I love the freedom-feeling I get from the thought of having a winch at my rig. It’s like not having to worry about getting stuck anywhere. That does not mean I have to stop at every poor soul and help him out of a trench, but I like the feeling of being helpful. A little like the hero of the road.

Setup process

If you are installing a new truck winch from scratch and don’t have any other equipment at the time of purchase, there are some things you need to consider.

The following are products and equipment that come highly recommended to use with any winch:

  • A tree strap. This is like a glove that you put around the tree so you won’t kill it or hurt it. Then you use it as an anchor. It will also be needed to keep the wire or winch safely from damage or tear.
  • Invest in a pulley block. This is to lessen the load you put on the winch, it will also be used to increase the pulling power.
  • You will be dealing with a strong force and injuries come so easy. If anything, you need to invest in a pair of heavy-duty gloves to protect your hands and wrists.
  • And while we’re on the topic of keeping your hands safe, it is recommended to use a finger saver. It’s a small piece of bent rod used to keep your fingers out of harm’s way when you feed the wire onto the spool. You do not want to get stuck and pulled through the fairlead or rollers.
  • Shackles will come in handy to connect everything together.

Then you have some equipment that is dependent on the situation you’re in. It depends on what kind of vehicle you are using. You will know if you need anything of the following, however:

  • A Dampener is like a blanket (which could also work as a budget version) that offers some weight in case the wire breaks. When you put extreme tension on the wire and it breaks it won’t whip around thanks to the dampener keeping it in check. You can see some pretty nasty footage on YouTube and online about wires flying around. Let’s not imagine the outcome of a razor sharp wire cutting through the air… If you have seen Final Destination, you know what I mean.
  • Let’s say you found a winch that you like and is appropriate to your area of use. Ask yourself, does my truck have enough reliable battery power? There is only one thing that is worse than being stuck in the wilderness mud without a winch, and that is being stuck without enough power to run the winch. Get yourself a battery that is reliable enough to support the price tag of your new winch.
  • Most trucks are heavy duty (duh) but you may want to consider a winch bumper or a bull bar. It is a special bar to fit the winch to the vehicle.
  • If you’re in a smaller vehicle or truck, remember that a heavy winch along with another heavy bumper/bar, your suspension may be lowered. This is a serious matter. You will put your front at excessive risk of damage when driving. Even the headlights may be affected by the different angle. Make sure your springs are up for the task…

Maintenance needs

A truck winch requires quite the little maintenance.

An important factor is weather. If you drive in a lot of rain, with salt and dirt, the winch may jam or rust. There are covers you can get, which may help.

When you wash it, make it a habit to release and pull out the wire, dry it off with a cloth and then reel it in. That way you make sure that it is clean, dry and functioning properly. It takes no more than 5 minutes but can save you hours on the road if you get stuck with a malfunctioning winch.

Electrical errors are not recommended to service yourself. Contact the manufacturer or return the winch in order to get a new one. If you don’t know your truck’s electrical wiring it may be a bad idea to start fiddle with it.

Cons of having a winch

You need to be aware of some downsides of using a truck winch, or rather having one.

  • First of all, it will carry some extra weight. Now, you can argue if you are weight-aware, that added weight will decrease brake performance (duly noted). But I a winch is too lightweight to concern. I mean, you are prepared to have passengers and a full tank right? that‘s also extra weight. And you don’t put a truck winch on a VW Polo, do you? If you think weight is such a problem, I would suggest looking at a Power Puller instead.
  • Something extra to wash and clean. This is very true. But hey, I rather get unstuck and save hours of waiting for a tow (plus the expenses for that service) than trying to save 5 minutes cleaning the winch, should it get dirty.

What you need to know about winch mounts

Ok, you need to mount your winch somewhere and you can’t just nail it to the bumper. The most common mounts you can find are:

Hitch Mounts – They are among the easiest to install and won’t take too much know-how to get them up and running. You can share the winch between multiple trucks because they are mobile in their use, i.e. you can place the same on different vehicles.

Grille Guard mounts – These are popular and give a stronghold for your winch. They give a forceful look. Some of these mounts are custom made and they are great for protecting your front from hazards and dangers.

Hidden and Semi-hidden Mounts: Gives a clean look and are a bit more difficult to install than others. In return for being harder to access, install and use, they are better protected from thieves than others.

Replacement Bumper Mounts: These are custom mounts for when you need something unique to your rig. If you really need the heavy-duty gear, this might be the road for you. But if you need this, I reckon you know exactly what you need when it comes to mounts.

Product brands

When you decide to pick a truck winch, there are a few brands that you may want to consider. To make it easier for you and to solidify your knowledge, I have written a small summary of each brand I think you should consider. These brands are worth your time:

  • WARN
  • Superwinch
  • Smittybilt
  • Rugged Ridge

Winching safety recommendations

Please stay safe when you are winching and hauling. Remember:

  • Allow plenty of time to plan your pull.
  • ALWAYS wear gloves when winching. Tear or splinters will rupture your hands.
  • Use a dampener or blanket to absorb the force if it should snap.
  • Try to use some common sense, if you think it is a bad idea, it probably is.
  • If you have bystanders, make sure they stand at a safe distance.
  • When you initiate the pull, always go slow and steady.

Check out this video on winching:

Product Q&A

Is the winch waterproof?
It’s not possible to say for all winches, they are different from brand to brand and model to model.
What is the difference between the vr 12 and the vr 12s?
The “S” stands for synthetic rope
Can I change from a steel wire to a synthetic rope?
It is most likely possible to do on most winches, make sure to check the instructions manual prior to changing.
Do all winches connect to the battery?
No, some are hydraulic, but the most common is to attach it to the battery and it is wise to purchase on that do.  
Can change to a wireless remote?
Not all winches support this feature, some do. If it is possible you can find a workaround in most cases.

Conclusion

Picking the best truck winch for your vehicle should now be a lot easier. If you haven’t already decided, you can always go with the editor’s pick (that’s mine). Otherwise, a winch is a great tool and I use it plenty of the time I’m in the woods. Whether it is getting myself out of a muddy place, I need to move some timber or I just want to reel something in, it is always great fun and a pleasure.

Oh don’t forget, I already told you about how cool I think winching is and why you need a truck winch. But what’s even better? Having a dash cam to your windshield and being able to record your winching days, don’t miss that.

Last update on 2019-06-25 at 14:13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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