Updated: May 27, 2015

Winch Reviews:

Having a winch on your vehicle is not a necessity - unless you work and play hard and expect your car or truck to do the same. Winches expand your vehicle's functionality, which is sometimes a must for work, projects, and recreation. People use winches for a wide variety of applications, from towing boats and trailers to prying their 4x4s out of muddy backwoods trails, but they all need the same thing when it comes to their winches: strength, durability, and reliability. How do you get the best winch? What brands will provide you with better quality? How much do these things cost? This guide will answer your questions so you can find the right fit and continue to work and play as hard as your vehicle will allow.

How Does a Winch Work? - A winch is simply a device that features a drum or a spool. Cable is wound around it, and this can be pulled in or let out, while maintaining a steady tension, to allow for applications like towing. Hand operated ones work with a spool of cable and a hand crank. The bigger, electrical or motorized winches are more complex, but they operate on the same principle. Winches add a lot of functionality and versatility to the vehicle beyond towing. They are tremendously useful in off-road situations, as well as when you need to get a vehicle out of a snowdrift or muddy driveway, or when pulling your ATV out of the water on an ill-fated trip across a not-so-frozen lake (we don't recommend trying that last one). Whatever your intended usage, there are several factors you want to keep in mind so you make the best choice. The first is undoubtedly the pull load. This tells you the capacity of the winch and the strength of the drum. How are you going to use the winch? Is it for your Yamaha ATV or your Dodge Ram? What are you going to be doing with it? These questions will help you determine how much pull you'll need. Experts say to take your gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and multiply it by 1.5. So if your 2007 Ram 3500 has a GVWR of 11,000, your pull load will need to be at least 16,500. More power and bigger bulk isn't always better: a heavier duty winch can take your vehicle off-balance and cause performance issues. You need to choose the winch that fits your vehicle and your needs. Next, decide what type of winch you'd like. An electrical winch has the advantage of working when your motor is turned off, but it consumes a lot of power. A hydraulic winch also runs off your motor, but it has a heavier-duty capacity and can work when submerged, which may be a plus for your intended usage. These aren't as common as electric or motorized winches, and they are really intended for all day-every day, rugged use. You can also go with a hand winch, which uses you for power. The diameter of the cable is important; as you'd expect, the diameter increases as the pull load increases. Cable length is another concern. You will want a cable with a minimum length of 75 feet. This is usually sufficient if the next tree is likely to be 75 feet away. If you are ATVing in the desert, you may want to extend that to 150 feet. Here's something else you want to be aware of: the pull load rating drops about 10 percent for each layer of cable that is wrapped around the drum. What this means is that when one layer of cable is on the drum (it is nearly completely extended), it reaches its maximum pull load capacity. If you have a 95 foot cable and your winch is rated at 9000 pounds, for instance, it will be able to handle about 6200 to 7300 pounds when it is extended 40 to 50 feet. It is something to consider when you are purchasing your boat, ATV, truck, or trailer winch. Winch Reviews - There's nothing like reading some owner reviews to find out which winches perform the best. We found plenty online at websites like 4wheeloffroad.com, Northerntool.com, Jeepreviews.com, Offroaders, and Amazon.com. You can browse the best selling winches here.

Best Winches:

The best winch for you depends on your particular vehicle and needs. It is recommended, though, that you opt for top brands, which have built a reputation for quality and endurance. There is really no substitute for quality when your vehicle is stuck in a bog or you need to pull a friend out of a snow bank. One name emerges again and again as the best winch manufacturer: Warn. Warn winches are known for their outstanding durability and reliability. These rate consistently well with consumers and experts alike. If you went on a forum and asked, "Which winch is the best?", you are sure to see Warn mentioned repeatedly. So what can they offer you? Let's take a look at the Warn 76500 XT30 Extreme Terrain 3000-lb Winch to get an idea of the quality you can expect. The XT30 is an ATV winch which features a control system that is wireless, 3000 pound line capacity, 50 foot cable, 0.18 inch diameter, durable synthetic rope cable, patent-pending disc brake for security, sealed mini rocker control switch mounted on a handlebar, and all-metal planetary gear train (three stage). If you like off-roading, this is the winch to have to make sure you can get back on whatever mountain trail or goat path you've wandered onto. The XT30 sells for about $510 on Amazon. Ramsey is another top name. These are usually put in the class of "not quite as good as Warn but way more affordable." And if you are not planning on heavy duty or frequent use, then this may be a fine choice for a just-in-case winch. The Best Value 12V DC Winch - 8500-Lb. Capacity is a popular choice, and the front mount winch features 8500 pull load capacity, planetary gear system (three stage) for rapid line speed, holding brake with automatic lock, weather-resistant solenoid assembly, cam action clutch, 12 foot wired remote, 12 volt battery, galvanized aircraft cable with replaceable hook and safety latch, 95 foot length, and 5/16 inch diameter. The greater capacity makes it suitable for lighter cars or trucks, and at $500, it is more winch for your money than you'll get with a Warn. You will also see Smittybuilt products quite a bit and these are generally well-regarded by consumers and experts. The Smittybilt 97210 XRC 10 Black Winch, for instance, features 10,000 pound capacity, planetary gear system, galvanized aircraft cable with replaceable hook, wired remote control, roller fairlead, and hook. It has undergone testing under "extreme and unusual conditions" to ensure durability and performance. At $357, this is a good budget choice. Other brands to consider include Mile Marker and Superwinch. Look at the great selection of winches here and get ready to maximize your vehicle's potential.