Should You Buy An Electric Winch or a Hydraulic Winch?

Written by Tim Esterdahl | 3 Comments »

Getting stuck is a part of off-roading. Getting out of a tough situation is easy enough with a winch; simply attach it to a tree or a friend’s vehicle and pull yourself out. Choosing either an electric or a hydraulic winch depends various factors, including cost, durability requirements and the availability of engine power. Which one should you choose — electric or hydraulic?

Should You Buy An Electric Winch or a Hydraulic Winch?

When off-roading, you will most likely get stuck at some point. With that in mind, which type of winch is best for you – electric or hydraulic?

Electric Winches

Electric winches use an electric motor to wind up the winch cable. These are the most common types of winch and they generally have one of two different motors. Permanent magnet motors use permanent magnets to generate torque. They are small, light, and efficient winches usually found at the lower end of the cost spectrum. Series wound electric motors are comparatively more durable.

Electric winches have some benefits. First, they are widely available and inexpensive. Shopping around for deals and a great selection will be easy. Second, they do not require the engine to be running to use them. This is important, as there are many situations in which a vehicle can be stuck and not have an operating engine.

Electric winches have some drawbacks as well. Even higher quality electric winches can overheat with prolonged use. If the user will simply pull one or two vehicles for under a minute, these differences will not become apparent. If a winch operator intends to use the winch all day long, he or she will probably encounter limitations with the winch or with the vehicle’s electrical system.

Hydraulic Winches

Hydraulic winches are heavier-duty. They are resistant to fatigue, overheating, and weak vehicular electrical systems. Individuals seeking to use their winches frequently will benefit from a hydraulic winch. For example, tow truck winches are often hydraulic.

Hydraulic winches are not perfect. For one thing, hydraulic winches are relatively less common than electric winches. Companies such as WARN Industries and Mile Marker are about the only options for hydraulic winches. Additionally, hydraulic winches operate off the power steering pump. Hence, to use a hydraulic winch, the engine must be running.

What to Choose?

Hydraulic winches are better for consistent hard use over the short term. Individuals who use winches frequently and for longer periods of time will benefit from the more solid operation of the hydraulic winch. Commercial operators can benefit from a hydraulic winch.

Unfortunately for common off-road use, one cannot guarantee that their engine will always be running. If a truck is bogged down in the muck, a hydraulic winch will be fine. If an impact jars a connection loose and the truck dies, the owner had better enjoy troubleshooting the issue in the mud! Since this isn’t particularly enjoyable, an electric winch is a better choice for the off-roader.

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  3. Yang says:

    Great post! Electric winch or hydraulic winch? It depends on practical conditions and needs.

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