How To Choose The Right Winch Size

Written by Tim Esterdahl | 1 Comment »

With the wide variety of winches available on the market, it may seem difficult to choose a winch. The right type of winch can get an off-roader and his friends out of most situations. The wrong type of winch can be an expensive paperweight.

Choose The Right Winch Size

Looking for a winch? Here is a handy guide to help you pick the right size.

When choosing a winch, it is essential that buyers select a sufficiently powerful motor. Winches with too little power will not pull the vehicle. Winches with just enough power will be more prone to overheating, although they will pull the vehicle for short durations. Winch buyers need not compare torque figures, as winch capacity is already rated in pounds.

How little is too little? A good rule of thumb when examining winch capacities is to get a winch with a capacity of at least 150 percent of your gross vehicle weight rating. For example, a winch for a pickup truck with a gross vehicle weight rating of 8,000 pounds will require a winch with a capacity exceeding 12,000 pounds. Do not select a winch based off a vehicle’s curb weight!

What works for a stripped-down Jeep Wrangler will not work for a heavy-duty diesel pickup with four doors and a lift kit; the former would be well equipped with an 8,000 pound winch while the latter might bear an 18,000 pound winch. The Wrangler owner will not need something that potent. Bigger is better, but only to a point.

There are a few reasons to choose winches with higher capacities. Vehicles bogged down in the mud, in sand, or in any other environment can have great resistance to movement if the tires and axles are pushing up against the terrain. Pulling a vehicle out of a stuck situation may require overcoming those forces. Additionally, most off-roaders don’t go into the sand or the mud with empty vehicles. Passengers, ice chests, equipment, and other material can drive the weight of a vehicle well above its unloaded curb weight.

Choosing a smaller winch has relatively few benefits. Although winches for trucks and sports-utility vehicles are not identical, they are similar in size and weight. Mounting a large winch will not be more difficult than mounting a smaller winch. The primary difference will be cost. The heaviest-duty winches can be expensive, but the financial difference between an 8,000 pound winch and a 12,000 pound winch is relatively minor. Individuals who have doubts about the capabilities of a lesser winch for their applications should select the more powerful one.

Always remember to use at least 150 percent of the gross vehicle weight rating when buying a winch, and you’ll have a solid piece of equipment that you can rely upon in the worst conditions.

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