Choosing the Right Winch

Electric or Hydraulic?

Winches are powered two different ways. The most common are electric winches, which use the vehicle’s battery power to turn the motor. Electric winches typically have faster winding speed and are somewhat easier to install. They also offer the advantage of using a remote control that allows you to stand safely away from the winch and vehicle during recovery.

Because an electric winch draws lots of power from your truck’s electrical system, it’s important to make sure there’s enough power to operate it. Look at the winch manufacturer’s amperage rating and make sure your vehicle’s battery and alternator can deliver the necessary amperage to run it at full capacity, even with the headlights on. If not, you may need to upgrade to a dual-battery system or a higher-output alternator.

Hydraulic winches typically use the vehicle’s power steering pump to wind up the winch line. Many enthusiasts swear by hydraulic winches, as they are extremely reliable and not affected by water or low battery power. This is a reason why they are commonly used in areas with lots of mud or water. As long as the truck’s engine is still running, a hydraulic winch can pull you out of any situation. But since there’s extra plumbing and hydraulic lines to add, not all hydraulic winches fit on every truck or mounting application.

Steel Cable or Synthetic?

Winch manufacturers now offer a choice of using a steel or synthetic winch line. Steel is the most common, and for obvious reasons. It’s incredibly strong, lasts a long time and resists abrasions against rocks. Over time, however, steel cables will corrode, fray and sometimes break. If this happens under tension, a steel cable can cause serious injury because of the amount of potential energy stored in the cable.

This is why many off-road-racing sanctioning bodies and off-road events require using only synthetic winch lines. By far, synthetic lines are lighter and hold less potential energy. So if they snap under tension, there’s less chance of injury or damage. While a synthetic line is much lighter than a steel cable, it is also much stronger. But a synthetic line doesn’t resist abrasions well and will eventually snap if it’s constantly rubbed against rocks or dirt.

Most experienced off-road enthusiasts recommend learning safety self-recovery techniques with a steel cable first. Once you’ve learned how to secure the line and care for it properly, you can move to a lighter synthetic line and avoid any unnecessary contact to minimize abrasions.


Post time: Oct-10-2016

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