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September 2011 Inbox - Letters to the Editor

Group Of Winches
Posted September 1, 2011

Winches, Blazers, Budget Builds, and More!

Winch Wins and Winces
Robin Stover and the Four Wheeler crew are really on a roll! First, you gave us the best mud-tire comparo of all time, and then you do a hardcore ’til-it-breaks test of winches (“Multi-Winch Shootout,” July ’11). Four Wheeler seems to be the only magazine unafraid to call a spade a spade!

I wish arrangements could have been made to get replacement winches from Badlands and Summit in time for testing, and since Smittybilt’s winches have proven to be so popular, it would have been nice to see how they perform, too. Perhaps a follow-up article could be published at some point in the future in which the Smittybilt, Badlands, and Summit winches (as well as any untested newcomers) could be subjected to the same battery of tests? Hopefully, Ramsey and MileMarker won’t be flakes next time around.

Keep up the good work! With tests like these, Four Wheeler stands head and shoulders above the other mainstream 4x4 mags. Keep looking to 4WD Toyota Owner and Overland Journal as your benchmarks.
Geoff Beasley
Concord, CA

I just finished reading the winch shootout in the July issue. You guys totally got it wrong. Look, I realize that Warn is a big corporate sponsor, but does it have to skew shootouts that much? The Warn made it a whopping 43 feet before it drained an Optima dead that was on a 195-amp charging system. Then on the stall test, it broke! It is also very convenient that this shootout does not include price as a judgment factor. That is the biggest factor in buying anything for those of us who work for a living. The Engo costs roughly one-fifth as much money and went 25 feet further than the Warn. Oh, and it didn’t break like the Warn. Who cares about looks, packaging, and how well the controller fits in the hand? The cheap winch is more reliable and takes you further than the grossly overpriced Warn (at that price, I could buy a whole other 4x4 to pull me out). At $1,484.99, it is expected that it would come with a planetary that can handle the motor’s stall. No, for that one must spend a mere $329.99.

Then it gets praised for running the coolest. It only went 43 feet! Yeah, the Superwinch ran hotter, after 92 feet. It got hotter because it was doing work, the Warn ran cooler because it went half the distance (a.k.a., not doing work).

It was also disappointing to see the Harbor Freight and Summit winches being left out. I understand they were both DOA, but Summit would have overnighted a replacement, and a quick trip to HF would have given a new winch. These things do come with warranties, after all. I couldn’t care less about any of the $900-plus winches—it is the cheapos that are intriguing. So let’s try it again, but this time let’s throw a Smittybilt and Viper in, ensure they operate upon arrival, and do a more objective test. A cheap-versus-overpriced shootout would be cool (I know the corporate sponsors would hate that).
Roy Hawkins
Tallahassee, FL

I have been a subscriber to Four Wheeler for many years, and the July ’11 issue is why I read this magazine. In the past few years, I had lost interest in the magazine. It seems that it had lost track of what it was all about in the first place. Past issues that have been all about the Top Truck or some $50,000 truck are just plain depressing. Please print more like this issue; it has challenges that not only involve expensive vehicles but articles that have great information (“Winch Anatomy,” “Recovery Gear Buyers Guide,” “Vehicle Recovery Devices”). Thank you for giving me a copy of Four Wheeler that will get worn out, and not just stuck on a shelf.
Anthony Dillon
Manteo, NC

After reading the winch test, I had to wonder why a winch that failed the test won First Place. While Warn winches are known around the world, the new Warn winches do not seem to be the same as the old ones. The two winches that survived the test should be First and Second, with the Engo E9000 most likely First. As I’ve had a Superwinch mounted on one truck, I know of their quality, but a winch that cost $966.23 and broke on its first test is not a “great deal of winch for the dollar.” Keep up the good work, but let’s be real.
Wally Burkhart
Myrtle Beach, SC

We anticipated some criticism when we went to press with the July issue, so briefly, our replies:

First, yes, the winning winch “failed,” but it took a 16,000-pound pull for a winch that’s only rated to pull 9,000 to stop it. We don’t consider that a case of “catastrophic” failure, though two other winches in the test managed to keep pulling at that load rating.

Second, we think that a number of non-objective factors—such as ease of remote-control operation and the legibility of the instruction manual—need to be included in scoring criteria for any evaluation since the “user experience” in assessing the value of any product seldom comes down to pure numbers. To give you a hypothetical: A Suzuki SUV will give you a lot better mileage than a fullsize GM, and it costs a whole lot less, too. But if you’re a big, tall guy and the dimensions of the Suzuki cab are simply too cramped for you, are you really gonna buy the vehicle simply because it costs less?

But we understand the point here, and that’s why we published all of our numbers, both empirical and subjective, so readers could make up their own minds about our test procedures and draw their own conclusions.

Finally, we had the same concerns about the winches that didn’t perform out of the box. Unfortunately, time constraints didn’t allow us to delay our test to order replacements, so we’ve invited those manufacturers, and several others, to participate in another winch comparison test, which Robin Stover is currently working on and we’ll be publishing in a few months. This time around, all of the winches that participate—we’re guessing around 10 in all—will have sticker prices of $500 or less. Call it a “Budget Winch Throwdown,” if you like. How does that work for everyone?

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