Purchasing a winch for the first time

Author: James Don   Date Posted:25 March 2020 

Purchasing a winch for the first time?

Here are the basics that you need to know before you part with your hard earned cash.


If you're purchasing a winch for the first time maybe because you got stuck on a track and you want to feel more confident to take on something more difficult. Purchasing a winch is a good, actually a great idea! And better yet if you go 4wding without other vehicles its a bit of an insurance policy at best.


Winch mounting method

Firstly you have to decide how you are going to mount the winch to your vehicle. If you already have a winch ready bull bar, you are on your way, but if you don't you will need to select a mounting method of either a winch ready bull bar or a hidden winch mount that goes in behind your standard bumper. This new trend allows you to keep the look of your vehicle.


What size winch do I need?

Now before you go out and purchase the biggest and baddest winch you will need to consider what your bull bar or mounting cradle is rated to - its usually on a plaque on the bull bar or check the manufacturers website for ratings. Some are rated to 9500 lbs some are rated to 12000 lbs and the bigger vehicles e.g Dodge RAM Ford F250 can utilise a 17000 lbs winch. But check first, you don't want to be playing the return game or buying two winches.


How do I choose a winch brand and how much should I spend?

Right...  now you have a mounting system and have worked out the winch rating required you need to start drilling down and ask yourself - whats my budget and what do I get for the money and foremost is it going to be reliable when i need it most.

There are many winches on the market ranging from $250 - $3000 you need to decide how often you will be needing the winch and how much you will be relying on it to perform. First and foremost check the warranty if it doesn't offer more than three years start wondering why they don't back their product and move on. Then start looking at social media, peoples reviews etc. this is not always a defining factor as you know what social media is like, but it can assist you with drilling down to a selection of winches.

Features.... there are so many - motor HP, 3 stage planetary gear boxes, synthetic rope vs steel cable- another conundrum worth considering - weight vs durability, IP67 water proof rating, motor breather, alloy or steel construction, winch braking systems(very important) the list goes on.


Will the winch fit my vehicle and cradle or bull bar? 

Once you have found your balance between price and reliability and before you hit the purchase button just double check the fitment drawing of the winch and see if it will fit in your bull bar/ cradle. This step is usually overlooked and can be costly with freight. It is highly recomended that you speak to your bull bar manufacturer before you start pulling your vehicle apart to fit the winch; as some very popular bull bar brands can sometimes require the purchase of additional mounting hardware.

What sort of battery is needed to power a winch?

Another thing to check before you hit the fire button is to see if your battery is up to the challenge. Most reputable manufacturers will list the minimum required CCA - Cold Cranking Amps to operate the winch under load. A general rule of thumb is 650 CCA, so if your battery isn't the correct CCA your winch won't perform up to its specifications.


So now you are on your way, you've ordered your winch and spoken to your mates about it, who are probably happy that they don't have to winch your sorry ass out of the bog hole anymore. And hopefully they have volunteered to help you to install the winch and sink a few beers. A word of advice, unless you have a full mechanical workshop at home with a hoist, take the bullbar off the vehicle to fit the winch. There are some vehicles and mounting solutions where you don't have to do this; however for 95% of install's this simple step will make the process much easier, faster and result in far less frustration and hand injuries. 



Smart people install power isolators 

You will notice the winch power cables are very thick, this is because they transfer a lot of amps when the winch is operating. It is therefore a great idea to Isolate that potential power from the winch when it is not in use, which for most people is 99% of the time. A simple word of advice, don't skimp on an isolation switch as this may save your vehicle from a fire, flat battery or a torn apart bull bar. Good practice is to only turn the power on once you leave the highway and hit the bush. 

Test winch, lay rope onto drum under load....then go bush!

Make sure that you test all of the winch functions after installation and don't forget to run the line out and then spool your winch under load before going 4wding. This will pre-tension the rope on the drum and prevent it from bunching up, cutting into itself and binding up. Be careful that you dont fully unspool the winch rope when doing this last step, leave at least one to one and a half layers of rope of the drum. This is important as most winch ropes are only attached by a small grub screw and it is actually the pressure of the rope on the drum that holds it fast!


Happy 4wding and winching!!!

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