A winch may be one of the most useful vehicular-based tools you can own, adding utility that is difficult to compensate for with other tools. Sure, you can also use a farm jack or come-along for many of the same tasks as a winch and more, but the amount of labor needed to get the same tasks done is larger than with an electrically or hydraulically powered winch. The most obvious task a winch can handle is vehicle recovery—assuming you have some sort of solid land anchor to winch to, be it another vehicle, a sturdy tree, large rock, or some mechanical anchor nearby. We’ve used winches for landscaping, moving rocks, logs, and dirt, and to uproot small trees and bushes out of the ground or impart a falling direction to a larger tree that’s getting cut down. We’ve also seen winches used to right fallen fences or add tension to a wire-based fence. Their utility around the house (and on the trail) is only limited by how you can imagine using them. On the trail a winch and a tree saver or other strap can make self-recovery much less of a hassle, although we would never recommend going four-wheeling alone. Winches come in handy for some trail repairs, like straightening bent tie rods, or acting as a stabilizer when a vehicle is in a precarious position and a wheel has to come off. Truly, winches are a versatile tool that can expand the utility of just about any 4x4 vehicle.
In today’s world there are tons of winches on the market with prices ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars and everywhere in between. Like with anything you might buy, these prices can reflect the manufacturer’s efforts at maintaining an affordable price or dedication to their products durability and reliability despite heavy use. Like with many tools, choosing the right winch for the job depends on what the job at hand is. The first step is to find out what’s available. Our plan is to introduce you to a wide selection of winches and winch manufacturers that offer winches with load ranges between 6,000 and 15,000 pounds. This range is perfect for use with most 4x4s from the smallest Jeep and Suzuki 4x4s on up to 3/4- and 1-ton 4x4 trucks. We’ll talk a little bit about the company and its product line, and we’ll show you an example of one of their winches in more detail. What you want and need is up to you now that we’ve made the introduction.
Modern ReliabilityWho: Warn
What: Warn might just be the most widely recognized American winch company in the world. We’ve seen and used Warn winches (sometimes in admittedly unkind ways) from the deepest corners of Africa to the northernmost points in Alaska and everywhere in between. Formed on June 10, 1948, Warn Industries cut their teeth making surplus WWII Jeeps more road-friendly right at the inception of four-wheeling as a hobby and have ever since built products of the utmost quality and reliability. Warn’s flagship winch is the ZEON Platinum 12s (although we will always have a special place in our hearts for the venerable and still available Warn 8274-50). With 80 feet of 3/8-inch military-inspired Spydura Pro synthetic rope and aluminum hawse fairlead, an all-new high-speed motor, and stronger gears, the ZEON Platinum 12s has best-in-class efficiency, and Warn’s highest durability rating. The advanced wireless remote allows you to control the winch’s functions including engaging the clutch and up to two accessories. This sophisticated, advanced remote provides operator feedback on vehicle battery charge and winch motor temperature, controls operation of the winch, and more.
Range of products: 100- to 30,000-pound electric and hydraulic winches, winch mounts, winch accessories, bumpers, body armor, locking hubs, lights, gloves, and more
Info: Warn Industries, 800/543-9276, warn.com
The Most Rugged RidgeWho: Rugged Ridge
What: Rugged Ridge is a division of the Jeep restoration and replacement parts company Omix-ADA. Rugged Ridge focuses on developing accessories for newer Jeeps. With both companies years of experience manufacturing parts it was a simple step for the company to step into the winch production game. The Rugged Ridge Nautic Series winches offer an impressive IP67 waterproof-rated solenoid, motor, and gearbox, all of which combine for a powerful off-road winch package that delivers in even the harshest conditions. Nautic winches feature series-wound motors and three-stage planetary gearboxes offering smooth, stable pulls and an automatic load braking system, internal to the drum, providing exceptional pull control. Both the motor cap and gearbox feature Rugged Ridge’s X-braced reinforced housing for increased structural strength under load. Nautic winches are available in both 5.5 hp for the 9,500-pound and 6.6 hp for the 12,500-pound versions with your choice of traditional steel cable or lightweight synthetic rope options. Nautic Series winches are backed by Rugged Ridge’s five-year limited warranty.
Range of products: 2,500- to 12,500-pound electric winches, winching, and recovery components; and an extensive line of Jeep accessories
Info: Rugged Ridge, 770/614-6101, ruggedridge.com
This Land is Your Land…Who: Badland By Harbor Freight
What: If you’ve never been to a Harbor Freight store and ogled all the cool stuff they sell, crawl out of that moldy hole under a rock and find the nearest location as soon as possible. Personally, we can wander around Harbor Freight stores for hours until they try to close and have to winch us out. Harbor Freight’s winch brand is named Badland, after some of our favorite terrain, the Badlands of the western U.S. According to Harbor Freight, the bestselling Badland winch is the 12,000-pound unit. This winch features a series-wound motor, three-gear planetary geartrain, automatic load holding brake, aircraft-grade cable, ergonomic controller with 12 feet of cord, and a roller fairlead. Harbor Freight reports that its everyday price for the Badland 12,000-pound winch is $399.99, and if you keep your eyes peeled for a sale, it can be had with a coupon at $299.99. That’s an inexpensive way to get winching today!
Range of products: 440- to 18,000-pound electric hoists and winches and a lot of other tools
Info: Harbor Freight, 800/423-2567, harborfreight.com
R Is For Reliability … And RamseyWho: Ramsey
What: We’ll admit that we’ve abused winches in the past. Some winches have held strong, while others smoked and eventually failed. One winch in particular that we abused mercilessly was an older Ramsey 9500 winch. We overloaded this particular winch numerous times, heated it up, packed snow on the motor to cool it down, and continued the abuse (pictured). Guess what? It never gave up. Not even one burp or hiccup. Amazed? We were. That’s the type of reputation that follows only a few of the winch manufacturers in this article. Ramsey has a wide variety of winches ranging from recreational to professional and has been building them since 1945. The modern equivalent of that old winch we mistreated and abused is the Patriot 9500 UT. The Patriot 9500 has a series-wound 5.5hp motor, three-stage planetary gear, 138:1 gear ratio, 105 feet of 5/16-inch cable, a wireless remote system (that works up to 50 feet away), a roller fairlead, and a patented semi-automatic clutch that engages the clutch from free spool automatically. The Patriot 9500 UT and all modern Ramsey winches also carry the company’s bloodline and 71 years of winching experience.
Range of products: 2,500- to 130,000-pound industrial, electric and hydraulic worm gear and planetary drive winches, industrial cranes, oil field equipment, and much more
Info: Ramsey, 800/777-2760, ramsey.com
Smitty’s WinchWho: Smittybilt
What: In 1956, Basil "Smitty" Smith started a small machine and fabrication shop in his garage making parts to feed his and his friends need for off-road specialty parts. Since then, Smittybilt has grown into an international supplier of truck and SUV accessories including their own brand of winches. The new and improved Gen2 series of Smittybilt X2O and XRC (XRC 12,000 shown) winches have been thoroughly updated with heavy-duty features for enhanced performance. The 6.6 hp amphibious motor offers the highest torque in the industry and is connected to a three-stage planetary gear system for increased pulling power and line speed. The X20 Series features an all-new integrated wireless remote control for ease of use and maximum versatility. If you’re after a winch with the ultimate in pulling power, look to the X20 COMP Series and XRC COMP Series. Both COMP Series winches feature a competition aluminum fairlead and state-of-the-art synthetic rope. The top-of-the-line X20 COMP also features Smittybilt's exclusive Dynamic Braking System, which reduces drum temperatures by 66 percent and makes it perfectly suited to operate all types of synthetic ropes.
Range of products: 2,000- to 17,500-pound electric winches, winch accessories, and a full line of truck and SUV accessories
Info: Smittybilt, 888/717-5797, smittybilt.com
The Superhero of WinchesWho: Superwinch
What: Brand loyalty in the winching industry means something. When you meet someone you know uses a winch off-road hard and frequently and they are willing to stand loyal, that should mean something. Superwinch has this reputation and for good reason. For the past 45 years, Superwinch has proven its worth around the world and in the dirt with products designed for recreation, recovery, industrial uses, utility uses, and use in the military. The company’s global manufacturing facilities generate a large range of winches; from electric to hydraulic, worm gear to planetary gear drivetrain, and more. Superwinch sent us info on its Tiger Shark TS 9500, which they claim is the best value on the market today. With a powerful motor and strong gears assembled with long-life stainless steel parts, the Tiger shark TS 9500 (or another winch from the Tiger Shark series) is a solid winch for just about any 4x4 enthusiast setting the bar for value and performance.
Range of products: 1,000- to 50,000-pound electric and hydraulic, worm, and planetary gear winches, and locking hubs
Info: Superwinch, 800/323-2031, superwinch.com
The Ferrari of Winches?Who: Red Winches USA
What: You may have heard of Red Winches, but we bet you probably haven’t. They offer some of the fastest high-end winches in the world, including the Viper, Hornet-2S Competition winch, and Cobra, but the may be best known for their twin motor kit for the Warn 8274, the Storm, which makes an already fast winch faster. All of Red Winches are made from billet machined aluminum and are 100 percent manufactured in England with top-quality materials. All Red winches offer modularity where the buyer can upgrade any of the four available winches depending on wants, needs, and budget. All Red winches are hand assembled and tested for guaranteed quality and use heavy-duty Albright solenoids that are waterproof, standing up to humidity, water, and mud. An air-activated clutch and brake are standard on all three complete Red Winches while air brakes are optional for the Storm, Red’s twin-motor 8274 upgrade. The air clutch claims a speedy free spool with little resistance, and the air brake locks when the winch is not actively powering in or out preventing the winch from continuing to spool or un-spool when not in use. Red Winches also rates their winches in a vertical weight pull rather than on a slope meaning these are some strong winches.
Range of products: 6,000- to 10,000-pound 12V and 24V winches
Info: Red Winches USA, 801/298-1008, redwinchesusa.com
Can’t Driveup? Winchup with ComeUpWho: ComeUp USA
What: When we first heard about ComeUp winches, we thought it was a funny name, and it is if you’re easily amused (like we are), but we digress. ComeUp offers a large range of electric hoists and electric and hydraulic winches to enthusiasts and professionals alike. Playing another game with words, the ComeUp Seal Gen2 9.5rsi winch features an IP68 rating, meaning it’s sealed from water and dust intrusion much like a seal, hence the name (see what we did there?), and that’s no joke. The Seal Gen2 9.5rsi (pictured) has a fully sealed transmission and motor system with a built-in LED and audio-indicated thermal detector. The winch also has a submersible sealed connector, a waterproof remote control, and a built-in waterproof receiver module for wireless remote control. All winches from the Seal series also include Intelligence Dashboard (IDB), which provides winch operation information and displays the condition of your vehicle’s battery during winching. Also, the external automatic full-load Cone Brake Structure (CBS) is reportedly perfect for synthetic rope, allowing heat from the brake to dissipate better than in competitors’ winches. Speaking of which, the Seal Gen2 9.5rsi has 100 feet of 3/8 inch SK-75 synthetic rope.
Range of products: 650- to 30,000-pound hoists, and hydraulic and electric winches
Info: ComeUp USA, 503/783-6142, comeupusa.com
Winching To The SummitWho: Summit Racing
What: We’ve said it before, and we will say it again, Summit Racing’s shipping department sure has their high-horsepower shipping ducks in a row. Its inventory and shipping speed rival anyone else dabbling in the automotive online retail world. Relatively new to their growing line of performance and replacement parts are Summit’s in-house winches. Summit sent us a photo of its SS 12000C winch that features a 12V 4.8hp motor, three-stage planetary gear, 100 feet of 3/8-inch cable, galvanized roller fairlead, hook, mounting hardware, and more. All Summit brand winches feature a machined gear to handle the toughest winching conditions, a series-wound motor for superior durability, and a low gear reduction ratio to prolong solenoid and motor life. Replacement parts are also available from Summit Racing, and at just less $400, this is one affordable 12,000-pound winch.
Range of products: 2,000- to 12,000-pound electric winches and a full catalog of replacement and performance parts
Info: Summit Racing, 800/230-3030, summitracing.com
Marking The MilesWho: Mile Marker
What: When we think of Mile Marker Winches, we imagine a decked out military HMMWV being dragged through grille-deep thick, orange mud by one of Mile Marker’s hydraulic winches. This image is in our head for good reason because, according to the company’s website, Mile Marker’s patented hydraulic winch is the only winch approved for the U.S. Military’s Humvee. That approval attests to the durability built into all Mile Marker electric and hydraulic winches. When we asked the company what to share with our readers, we were sent an image of the SEC 15 (ES) with synthetic rope, and that’s one nice looking electric winch. The SEC 15 (ES) features a three-stage planetary drivetrain, a 12V 6.8hp heavy-duty series-wound motor, IP68 fully sealed rating, stainless steel hardware, marine grade control connectors, a submersible 500-amp multi-mount solenoid, and is reportedly the lightest-weight winch in its class. That’s quite the list of features, and with Mile Marker’s pedigree, this winch should last and last.
Range of products: 2,500- to 18,000-pound electric and hydraulic winches, locking hubs, recovery gear, winching accessories, mounts, and more
Info: Mile Marker, 800/886-8647, milemarker.com
Alpha DogWho: Bulldog
What: Bulldog Winch Co. LLC was founded in 2006 to provide customers with a broad choice of winches, mounts, and rigging equipment. Bulldog winches are used by enthusiasts, tradesman, and professional race teams. Race accomplishments, which you can rest assured are hard on winching equipment, include a 2012 WE Rock National Championship, 2012 Ultra4 National Championship, and 2013 and 2015 King of the Hammers Champion, so you can be sure Bulldog winches are fast, lightweight, and durable. Bulldog sent us an image of one of its Alpha (get it, Alpha Dog?) winches, which are available in a 9,300-, 12,500-, and 15,000-pound ratings and reportedly feature premium quality components, including premium series-wound motors, 500-amp sealed contactor switches, motor overheat protection, fast line speeds, thicker frames, impressive duty cycle, and a limited lifetime warranty.
Range of products: 2,000- to 15,000-pound electric winches, a 2,000-pound snow plow lift, rigging equipment, mounts, electrical components, hooks, rope, cable, and more
Info: Bulldog Winch, 855/327-1835, bulldogwinch.com
King Kong of WinchesWho: KingOne
What: When your name is KingOne, you can be the King Kong of winch companies if you want to be. As one of China’s famous manufacturers, Ningbo KingOne Industrial Company’s winches are affordable and durable offering a full line of electric and hydraulic winches. Perfect for the average Four Wheeler reader is the KingOne BULL 9.5 SR, which offers a line pull rating of 9,500 pounds with a gear ratio of 156:1. The winch is rated with an IP68, which means it is sealed from dust intrusion as well as for prolonged use while submerged in 1 meter of water. The BULL 9.5 SR also comes with synthetic rope, a series-wound motor, three-stage planetary gear drivetrain, a patented double-cone brake, and an easy-to-operate clutch.
Range of products: 1,500- to 20,000-pound electric and hydraulic winches, winch accessories, and more
Info: Ningbo Kingone Industrial Company, kingonewinch.com
Stealth WinchingWho: Quadratec
What: Quadratec is known for their huge catalog of parts for just about every type of Jeep, but did you know they also make and sell winches? We did, but that’s part of our job, and another part of our job is to share this kind of info with you. For Quadratec's 25th anniversary, the company’s widely popular Q9500i winch is now available in a Stealth version. This special edition Q-Series Stealth winch features a black anodized aluminum hawse fairlead, 80 feet of 3/8-inch charcoal gray synthetic winch line (which contains Dyneema fiber, a fiber 15 times stronger than steel), black winch controller, black nylon safety hook strap, and removable deluxe black powdercoated winch hook. The unique black and brushed silver applique package finishes off the job with authority. The winch also features case hardened gears and winch drum, a durable powdercoat finish, a powerful 4.8hp series-wound motor, a heavy-duty integrated solenoid, and a forged steel hook.
Range of products: 9,000- to 11,500-pound electric winches and darn near every Jeep part imaginable
Info: Quadratec, 800/745-2348, quadratec.com
Winches Are Bigger In Texas?Who: Pierce Sales
What: According to their website, in 1976, George and Jeff Pierce, a father-son team from Henrietta, Texas, began Pierce Sales. They intended to offer exceptional products at low prices. Over the past 40 years, this strategy took off with Pierce Sales’ inventory including a wide variety of products for ranchers, oil field workers, tow companies, and more. This also includes a wide range of hydraulic and electric winches (12V and 110V) built using the best endemic and international components. Pictured is the Pierce Sales PS 9000 winch on Pierce’s own 2-inch receiver winch mount. The PS 9000 features cast-metal construction with a three-gear planetary drivetrain, in-drum brake, 5 1/2hp 12V motor, sliding ring-gear clutch, and comes dressed with 94 feet of 3/8 wire rope. This winch, as well as other Pierce Sales winches from the PS line (available with 4,000-20,000-pound load ratings) come equipped with a roller fairlead, wired remote, a forged hook, a snatch block, and all necessary electrical cables.
Range of products: 2,000- to 20,000-pound electric and hydraulic winches, winch accessories, hoists, cable, controllers, and more
Info: Pierce Sales, 800/658-6301, piercesales.com
Hello, My Name is ENGO Montoya, You Kill My Father…Who: ENGO Winch
What: So our title for ENGO is a bit of a stretch…forgive us, but it’s a great movie, and what came to mind when we saw the name of the winch company. With decades working in the winch industry ENGO Winch’s founder formed the company out of an interest in innovation combined with a focus on the customer; providing top quality performance, first class design, and an unbeatable warranty all at the right price. The ENGO SR9 winch provides all the best features you would want in a winch. Rated at 9,000 pounds using a state of the art series-wound motor, efficient three-stage planetary geartrain, automatic load-holding brake, rugged hand-remote, free spooling, power in and out, IP67 rating (meaning it’s sealed against dust and waterproof to a 1-meter depth), stainless steel fasteners and a standard four-way galvanized roller fairlead. ENGO also provides a one-year electrical warranty and a limited lifetime mechanical warranty.
Range of products: 2,000- to 16,000-pound electric winches, accessories, and other off-road accessories
Info: ENGO Winch, 360/573-0882, store.engousa.com
The Bear of WinchesWho: Kodiak Winches by Quality Gear
What: With a name like Kodiak Winches you may expect a larger than life product, and that’s what you get, but the price of the Kodiak range of winches won’t be a huge burden to bear…if you know what we mean. The Kodiak Polar EXT winch is easy to install with color-coded power cables and included mounting hardware kit. This winch has all-metal gearing, an automatic load-holding brake, fast line speed, low electric current draw and controls that include free spool and power in and out. The winch also has a non-integrated waterproof solenoid, a remote control with 15 feet of wire, a wireless remote control, 100 feet of synthetic winch line, a hawse fairlead and hook and is ready to go out of the box thanks to the Bear Essentials Kit that is included with each winch. The Bear Essentials Kit includes a tree saver, two D-ring shackles, a snatch block, and gloves that all fit snugly in a branded bag.
Range of products: 2,500- to 12,000-pound electric winches and winch accessories kit
Info: Kodiak Winches, kodiakwinch.com
Gear On The TrailWho: Trail-Gear
What: Trail-Gear is a relatively new company at just more than 11 years old when compared with some companies within this buyer’s guide that were formed in the ’40s and ’50s, but that’s not to say they don’t know what they are doing—quite to the contrary. Trail-Gear has grown by leaps and bounds since opening its doors in 2005 and has exploded on the scene, gaining tons of experience building and selling high quality parts at a great price. Trail-Gear says that it’s TG10000 winch is toughest and most reliable winch in the world. It has an IP68 rating on the solenoid and IP67 rating on the drum. That means dust and water is kept at bay thanks to the TG10000’s 17 internal seals. The winch also features a 6 1/2 hp series-wound motor, a three-stage planetary gear for a 265:1 gear ratio, and an automatic load holding brake. Maximum winch line capacity for the TG10000 is 75 feet of 3/8-inch Duraline Exoshield winch line or 100 feet of 3/8-inch Duraline winch line.
Range of products: 3,000- to 10,000-pound electric winches, recovery gear, mounts, bumpers, and lots more
Info: Trail-Gear, 877/494-8697, trail-gear.com
For The Roughest Of CountryWho: Rough Country
What: Rough Country is known for their budget-minded suspension lift kit products, but that doesn’t mean the company doesn’t dabble with winches. Rough Country offers two different winches, either a 9,500 or 12,000-pound version. Both are available with either a synthetic rope and hawse fairlead or a steel cable and four-way roller fairlead. Rough Country promises easy bolt-on installation with an IP67 waterproof and dustproof rating. These winches also have a series-wound 5 1/2hp or 6hp motor (for 9,500 and 12,000-pound versions, respectively, and a three-stage planetary geartrain for a cool running 265:1 gear ratio.
Range of products: 9,500- to 12,000-pound electric winches, winch accessories, lift kits, leveling kits, body lifts, and a slew of other accessories for your 4x4
Info: Rough Country, 800/222-7023, roughcountry.com