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February 1998 Letters

Posted February 1, 1998

Hydraulic vs. Electric Winch Shootout

Hydraulic vs. Electric Winch Shootout
I just read your "Hydraulic vs. Electric Winch Shootout" in the Nov. '97 issue, and was surprised by your experience. I have had a single-speed, 10,500-pound MileMarker winch on my two-door Chevrolet Tahoe for about a year and a half, and I haven't experienced any of the problems you ran into.

I've seen electrical components and winches get fried, and while some of the damage could have been avoided using common sense and a pulley, the experiences left me looking for an alternative.

The entire installation of the hydraulic winch, including mounting a Warn Trans4mer winch mount, took about five hours at Dirty Parts in Culver City, California. No dump valve was required, and I've been able to steer while winching. While the installation of the MileMarker is definitely more complicated than that of an electric winch, I believe the result is well worth it.

Also, I disagree with Warn's assertion that hydraulic winches are not for vehicle recovery-just ask any wrecker/tow-truck operator. If I were pulling logs, fences, or something similar and the two-speed MileMarker didn't exist, I'd probably get an electric winch. If I needed to pull a 6,000-plus-pound truck up a long, steep slope, or out of deep mud, I'd take a slow but dependable hydraulic winch every time.

My only complaints about the hydraulic winch are the slow no-load speed of the single-speed model, which makes reeling in the cable after winching very time-consuming, the stiff buttons on the standard remote control (MileMarker offers a wireless remote as well), and the rigidity of the 3/8-inch cable. I've considered replacing the cable with a thinner and longer one, but every time I push the winch to the limit, I'm glad to have the heavier cable.

Finally, I too have experienced some creep when the winch is stopped with a heavy load on it, but not as much as you did during your testing. On the downside, there's no way to lock the gears in the single-speed model as you described for the two-speed model, but the winch will hold the creeped-out position without the engine running.

I'm not trying to justify or validate my purchasing decision, or dispute your experiences with the MileMarker winch, but I did want to let you know that your findings may be the exception rather than the rule. Obviously, the design of the power steering setup and the state that it's in are critical to the operation of the MileMarker winch. Another important consideration is whether the vehicle is carbureted or has EFI-a carbureted engine that stalls on a hill will make the MileMarker useless.
Torsten Hoff
via e-mail

I just finished the great winch shootout. It seems the majority of the hydraulic-winch problems are with the power steering pump-would it be feasible to add a separate hydraulic pump to power just the winch? This would allow steering while engaging the winch. I built a wood splitter with a small pump; it puts out tremendous pressure with a 5hp engine.

Great article on the vintage Power Wagons. Not all of us have new $35,000 toys!!
Dale Lauborough
Walker Lake, NV

MileMarker can supply winches tuned for use with PTO-driven pumps or electric-over-hydraulic pumps. However, MileMarker claims the standard version of its winch will work adequately with the factory power steering pump, so that's the way we tested it. For the same reason, we didn't upgrade the electrical system for use with the electric winch. We're not disputing that we could make modifications to the truck to make either winch work better. In fact, we've since learned that many people are happy with their hydraulic winch after modification to the power steering system.

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