What Drives a Winch

Written by Elizabeth Puckett | Comment Now »

There are a few different types of drivetrains used to drive winches, and understanding them is the best way to make the best choice when purchasing your next winch. In modern winches, there are three different types of gears used in the drivetrain. Each different type of gear has its strengths, as well as its weaknesses. Here’s a breakdown on the kind of winch gears that make the unit work.

Truck with Winch

Spur Gear Drive

Warn Winch

There are very few spur geared winches still on the market. A winch of this kind uses a set of spur gears — a bigger one of the motor shaft and a smaller one for the winch shaft. Winches with spur gears are very quick and have a low draw for their speed due to a lower gear friction internally — they do, however, need a strong brake to hold the load. Only people with the legendary Warn brand 8247-50 model winches will have the kind with spur driven units.

 Worm Gear Drive

Worm Drive Winch

Worm gear driven winches are commonly used on light duty 4-wheelers. The worm gear is good at holding a load and lowering under power. Winches with this gear drive are much slower than other models, although the drivetrains are usually robust and they only need minimal brake power to hold the load.

Planetary Gear Drive 

Winch with Planetary Gear Drive

Planetary gear driven winches use a small gear similar to that used in an automatic transmission. These units are more compact, lighter, and cost less than other types. Most winches sold today are driven by a planetary gear — also, most most off-road recreational vehicles and trucks use winches with this kind of gear drive.

Next time you find yourself shopping for a winch and can’t decide between models, take the internal gears into consideration and use this information to make a smart choice. Winches are not one size or one job fits all, and your selection should be based on what you’ll be using the unit for the most. You might even find that you could benefit from having multiple kinds of winches on hand if you do a lot of winching for different reasons.

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