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Off-Road Winch Guide - Which Winch For You?

Posted in How To on April 30, 2013
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Off-road winches are often our saviors when we choose to push ourselves just a bit too far into some rocky abyss or nose way too deep into the gooey slop. They give us the confidence to push our rigs just a bit further knowing we have a rescue line on the front or rear bumper. And, they can also help us put four tires back on the ground when gravity wins in our fight to keep the rubber side down. Modern manufacturers offer us a huge variety of winches to choose from, ranging from sub-ton ATV winches up to heavy behemoths with huge pull ratings. It’s great to have all the choices to fit most any application and budget. We found a number of winches on the market that stand out to us for those looking for specific features. These are some of the more unique offerings. OR

Speedy Recovery

Warn 8274-50
The 8274 has been around in one form or another for about a half century and still boasts the fastest winch line speed with a no-load rate of about 73 feet per minute. The 8,000-pound design uses a spur-gear drivetrain with an automatic disc brake system. Its upright design does not fit well on the snout of some vehicles, but its speedy spool comes wound with a whapping 150 feet of 5/16-inch-diameter steel cable.

Safe With Synthetic

ComeUp Seal Series
ComeUp Winch has been building automotive winches for more than 37 years. Their latest Seal Series winches are fully submersible and offer an automatic full-load Cone Brake Structure that locates the winch brake outside the drum area. This allows for improved heat dissipation to ensure your synthetic rope is not thermally damaged during longer winch pulls.

Wetter Winching

Smittybilt X2O Series
Smittybilt designed their X2O series winches to be submersible and waterproof. The series wound motor is a sealed unit and the electrical components are waterproofed. Hardware is marine-grade stainless steel. Capacities are offered from 8,000 to 15,000 pounds, and models are offered with steel cable or synthetic rope.

Most Pull for the Money

Summit Racing SUM931120
Budget dollars count when you’re working on your project. Summit Racing has a simple yet complete winch kit with 12,000-pound pulling capacity offered for an economical price. Line speed is a little on the slow side due to the high gear reduction three-stage planetary. But, if you can sacrifice a little winch speed, you can pick up a 12,000-pound winch with roller fairlead and 100 feet of 3/8-inch steel cable for less than $400.

Remote Winching

Ramsey Winches
We’ve used plenty of wired winch controllers and in-cab–mounted winch control switches. However, Ramsey Winch is one company that offers a wireless remote that’s a small fob that can fit in your pocket. It operates up to 50 feet from the winch to control forward and reverse directions from anywhere in or around your rig. The remote works on most all Ramsey winches, and they make controls that work on winches made by a few other manufacturers.

Lightweight Strength

Warn 9.0Rc
At a feathery 54 pounds, this Warn lightweight packs 9,000 pounds of pulling capacity into a relatively small package. It was designed as a compact but powerful winch for competition rock crawlers, allowing fitment in tight spaces and the benefit of reduced weight. Warn dropped the line capacity to 50 feet of 3/8-inch synthetic rope but kept a powerful 4.8-horsepower series wound motor in this little powerhouse.

Winch All Day

Warn Endurance 12.0
Pull long and hard with an electric winch and the motor will produce a lot of heat. Excessive heat can eventually damage motor windings and other internal components. Warn set out to greatly increase the operating duty cycle of an electric winch. They created the 12,000-pound Endurance model that includes a thermostat-controlled cooling fan to keep the motor cooler and allow you to keep pulling you and your buddies out of the quagmire.

Juice Power

Mile Marker Hydraulics
Most off-road winches tend to be driven with electric motors, but there are applications where hydraulically driven winches thrive. These are typically run off the power steering pump and can run for long periods of time without overheating. Mile Marker is a leader in hydraulic winch offerings. They have two-speed, continuous-duty models ranging from 9,000- to 18,000-pound capacities.

Heavyweight Puller

Superwinch Talon 18.0
Got a big truck? Need a heavy-duty winch? The Talon 18.0 packs an 18,000-pound pull into a winch package using a 6-horsepower series wound motor. It uses a two-stage planetary and two-stage spur drivetrain to get the super low gearing needed for its hefty capacity. A winch this size needs beefier line and this one comes with 90 feet of 1/2-inch steel cable. Prepare to add about 172 pounds of rescue gear to the front bumper of your fullsize truck.

Classy & Stout

Superwinch Bill Burke Signature
What if you could have a reliable sealed winch with good looks and a different kind of gearbox? Superwinch created a heavy-duty winch with a spur-gear reduction and heat-treated worm gear drivetrain offering a fairly slow line speed but smooth line control. Built in Tavistock, UK, the 10,000-pound winch bears the signature nameplate and endorsement of world-renowned 4x4 expert Bill Burke.

By Day & By Night

Engo LT10000
Engo offers a 10,000-pound winch in their line that does more than just get you unstuck or pulled up the steep waterfall ledge. Their LT10000 can shine some light right where you need it during night operations. The LT Series has two LED spotlights built right into the hydro-printed carbon-fiber upper housing. You can run 1800 lumens of light while you’re doing a night rescue, or simply use them to light your way down the trail.


Summit Racing
Akron, OH
Compton, CA 90220
Putnam, CT 06260
Mile Marker
Pompano Beach, FL
Mile Marker
Ramsey Winches
Tulsa, OK 74116
Comeup USA
ENGO Industries

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