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Mechanics Corner: A power winch can come in handy

Published on 31 October 2011
A Winch

A power winch is one of those farm tools that’s handy to have around, especially if you like off-road driving, want to drag pallets or need to pull out a piece of equipment stuck in the mud. Here are a few ins and outs of buying a winch for your four-wheel-drive truck.

Three types
You may choose a low-voltage winch which runs off 12-volt or 24-volt DC electrical systems; a high-voltage winch which runs off 110-volt AC current; or the hydraulic-only winch, the most heavy-duty for farm jobs.



Line pull
This is the amount of load (weight) the winch can pull. There is a calculation to this rating. The rating is accurate for the first layer of rope (the steel cable) wound onto the drum. For each additional layer, deduct 10 percent from the maximum rating.

Winch size
To determine the size of the winch you’ll need, make this simple calculation: Multiply the gross vehicle weight of the truck (find it on the driver’s side door) by 1.5. That’s the minimum-size winch for the vehicle.

The higher-value winches have wire-core ropes. The less expensive systems have nylon cores. Most winches have 110 feet of rope.

Line speed
There are two measures of line speed, the speed required for the winch to recover the rope. Some may have a no-load speed of 38 feet per minute or may have a full-load speed at which the rope is recovered when moving at its maximum weight capacity.

Typically, you’ll choose between two types – a worm gear or a planetary gear.


Gearing converts motor speed to line-recovering torque on the drum. The worm gear generates the highest conversion. The planetary gear is a system that recovers the rope at a higher speed.

Permanent magnet motors are good for light-duty winching and series-wound motors are best for heavy pulling.

Winches put a heavy strain on a standard electrical system. Consider the alternator size, battery type (maybe add a second battery) and grounding setup.

Front- or rear-mounted
Most people choose one or the other. Portability from front to back is convenient. but the maximum pulling weight capacity will be reduced.  PD

—From DCHA Tip of the Week news release

Know the ins and outs before buying a winch for your four-wheel-drive truck.
Courtesy photo from DCHA