If you own a truck, you know how essential a truck winch is for pulling or hauling. While most people have seen truck winches before, many of those same people don’t have a clue what they’re for or how to use them. That’s why we’ve put together our top ten best truck winch reviews, plus a handy guide on what they are and how to use them.
Compared to the usual truck accessories and upgrades, such as the obvious Tonneau covers, truck bed upgrades, bed liners, running boards and nerf bars, roof racks and bull bars, tool boxes, fender flares, bed caps, floor mats, seat covers, and mud flaps, real utility winches make a truck into a true go-anywhere vehicle. A strong winch motor can pull you out of any situation, and take you to new places with added confidence. And that’s why you need a winch for your truck.
Most modern truck winches include some form of rope or cable that’s powered by a motor. If you get stuck or need to pull something else that’s stuck, the winch becomes your lifesaver. With a high-quality truck winch, you’ll never have to wait for that tow truck again.
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How Does a Truck Winch Work?
A truck winch is versatile and supports a multitude of vehicles. You may have seen them on Jeeps or other off-road machines. All winches have a motor that’s equipped to operate the attached rope or cable. The cable might range anywhere from 40 – 150 feet long. The winch is shaped in a cylinder that allows your wire to wrap itself around the apparatus. There’s also a gear train and drum involved. The drum utilizes a spool which wraps the cable.
The drum is turned by the motor. With this power, the cable wraps up around the drum. Older or cheaper winches had a manual crank instead of motor. With the more modern versions, human power isn’t needed to pull heavy objects. You can an electric winch or a hydraulic winch – both have pros and cons.
Buying a Truck Winch – Things to Consider
If you own a truck, most likely you want to perform heavy-duty actions with it; otherwise, you just use it to look good. If you’re going to help recover vehicles or pull a tree out, a winch is a necessary piece of equipment. Even though you know you need one, you might not know how to pick the best truck winch.
Depending on what you want to use it for and what kind of vehicle you drive, the best truck winch for you might vary. Before making your decision, there are some things to consider that will help you narrow down your options.
Hydraulic Winch or Electric Winch?
Electric winches draw power directly from your vehicle’s battery. Because of this, it’s easy to install and easy to use. Many truck enthusiasts opt for electric models to get them out of a bind. However, if you think you’re going to be doing seriously heavy duty pulling, then a hydraulic winch might be better. Because they rely on hydraulics, these winches require you to have a hydraulic pump and system installed on your truck. Hydraulics are more expensive and difficult to install, but they have superior pulling power and a stronger load capacity in almost every way. Consider which would be the best winch for your needs before investing.
You’ll find two main types of cable material on a winch: steel or synthetic. While you’ll hear various schools of thought on the subject, most people prefer the synthetic cable. That’s because they’re more flexible and have a high level of strength. A synthetic rope doesn’t need maintenance and is safe in the case of breakage. You’ll find that a synthetic cable can pull up to 9,500 pounds, which is pretty impressive. Even if you do purchase one with a steel cable, you can always swap it out for a synthetic later.
If you need a truck winch, there’s no question that you head out on rugged adventures. As you travel on the harsh terrains, you tend to sling around some mud, dirt, and dust. You don’t want a motor that’s exposed to these natural forces. Otherwise, it might malfunction when you need it the most.
Motor dysfunction is the cause of many failures, so you want to find one that’s sealed. Having a motor that’s sealed protects the mechanics from mud, moisture, rain, snow, and dust. These are common elements that lead to corrosion. Protect yourself and your truck winch by ensuring you invest in one that features a sealed motor.
When you use a winch to pull more than it’s capable of, you set yourself up for disaster. The cable snaps and then inertia takes over. This leads to numerous accidents, property damage, and even some deaths.
When you’re looking at the options available for your truck, make sure you invest in one that has high pulling capacity. Normally, you won’t want one that pulls less than 6,500 pounds unless you don’t plan on pulling anything heavy-duty.
Here’s another area that deserves a little extra investment on your part. You’ll find plenty of winches that don’t come with the accessories which make it easier to use. High-quality models feature a spool in the drum and wireless remote control devices to operate the winch. You should also receive detailed manuals so you know how to run your new winch properly. Also, consider vehicle versatility: a good winch could work for an ATV, UTE, and SUV too. A good ATV winch is always useful, so if your truck model works on both, then great!
Installing the Winch on a Truck
Once you’ve chosen the best truck winch, you’ll want to know how to install it. We can’t stress enough how critical it is that you install the winch properly, with the correct winch mounting plate. Not only could you damage the winch and your vehicle, but you could hurt someone if it’s not done correctly.
The Four Wheeler Network offers some great advice if you want to get in-depth, but the simple steps are as follows:
1 – Locate the spot on your front bumper where you want to mount it.
2 – Mount your winch onto your bumper. Make sure your winch mounts are secure.
3 – Connect the wire to your battery or another power source.
4 – Install the power switch.
5 – Pretension your wire inside the actual winch.
6 – Ensure that the cable is tightly spooled on the drum. Some come with the cable already spooled, and other models require you do it yourself.
If your truck bumper doesn’t have a hitch available, you’ll need to purchase a winch bumper. You’ll also want to make sure you have a decently powered battery to handle your winch.
Truck Winch Safety Tips
We care about your safety. When using a winch, there are a lot of factors that could go wrong. Winches attached to your front bumper and hooked into your battery leave a lot of things to consider. When you’re pulling things of extreme weights, you face numerous safety hazards. It only takes a second for the cable to snap or something else to come loose. In a split second, you could suffer injury.
Here are just a few safety tips you’ll want to keep in mind when you operate your pickup truck winch.
- Don’t climb on or step over the cable while tensioned.
- Always examine your cable, clamps, and winch before using it.
- Utilize someone operating the winch and have another person observe for any signs that something’s wrong.
- Make sure your winch remote isn’t located near the drum.
- Make sure that there’s no one standing near the winch or towed object just in case something should break.
While you can’t totally prevent accidents from occurring, these steps help you to protect yourself, others, and the property around you.
Our Favorite Truck Winches
While there are many more options available, we’ve put together this list of the top ten products available on the market right now. Make sure you review all the features of each option to determine which one will work best for you.