Big Pull, Little Dollars
Why should you buy a winch in this downtrodden economy? A winch can pull you if you're stuck, reshape bent suspension or steering links, right you if you roll, move stuff out of your way, and so much more. Often, a good winch will offset the lack of an expensive locker, spendy tires, or low gears, allowing you to get up and over obstacles that would otherwise hang you up and make your Jeep a permanent trail decoration.
There's affordable and then there's cheap. Sometimes they're one in the same and sometimes they're very different. So we thought we'd lay hands on a number of inexpensive winches to see what's up in the world of affordable pulling power. We instructed our ad vermin to invite any company they could find offering a winch for $700 or less to send us a unit for testing. The prices we list were found in catalogs or on the web and are current as of press time. Are they all cheap? Can you really get a decent winch for less than the cost of most lockers? Read on.
In the Box: The Bulldog arrives nicely packaged. Neatly secured within its box are a powdercoated roller fairlead, cable, battery leads, external solenoid pack, forged hook with safety pull strap, winch and fairlead mounting hardware, remote, and clear and easy-to-read instructions.
Quality and Installation: Despite the fact the remote shares characteristics of some of our less-expensive test winches, the Bulldog had nicely-routed power leads that exited the rear of the solenoid pack through twist-on hard fittings, making a very clean setup. The motor cable lugs were color-coded for a dummy-proof hook up.
Function and Performance: The line speed was OK, but not blisteringly fast, which is not surprising considering the big winch's 265:1 gearing. The powerful 5.5hp Series Wound motor did get pretty hot during our testing, but it never started smoking. The clutch lever hits the remote plug when engaged, so we'd advise offsetting the solenoid pack towards the passenger-side of the winch body for clearance, rather than centering it as we did.
One major gripe we had was the fact that when the clutch was disengaged there was no brake load keeping the drum from freespooling backwards. Even without pulling on the cable, the drum will reverse and allow the cable to backlash like an open-face fishing reel. The brake works fine and doesn't allow any reversing of the cable when the clutch is engaged, but we'd like to see some tension on the drum when the clutch is disengaged to prevent the cable from chasing you as you pay it out and to keep the cable nicely wrapped if you need to reposition in the middle of a recovery pull.
*Engagement lever Allen head retaining screw only finger tight, but lever not wobbly
*Motor not wobbly or sloppy on drum
*Winch body not sloppy and solenoid mounting brackets pre-installed.
*Drum unwinding blows otherwise great setup
*Instructions very clear and include winching tips and exploded schematic with parts list.
*Steady motor sound
Bottom Line: Good pulling power at a fair price, but the freespooling action when the clutch is disengaged is an undesirable attribute.
PhotosView Photo Gallery
Black Mountain BM 8000S --$329.95
In the Box: Built for and sold by Collins Bros Jeep, Black Mountain includes a forged and anodized winch hook, cable, remote, instructions, and winch and fairlead mounting bolts. The company also offers an affordable combo kit that includes a roller fairlead and CJ, YJ, or TJ winch mounting plate for $449.95.
Quality and Installation: This is not a cheap winch. This is an affordable winch. Although it's got a blocky look like Herman Munster's head, the Black Mountain winch is dirt-simple, tight, and feels of high quality. It was also the easiest to install, with its integrated solenoid pack and the power and ground leads already attached to the winch.
Function and Performance: Although the line speed is a bit on the slow side, the BM 8000S exhibited a nice, even motor sound and ran very cool during our testing. The clutch engagement lever operates crisply and surely and the whole winch layout and function reminds us of a higher-end Ramsey winch. In fact, the three-prong BM 8000S remote operated our Ramsey 9500 and vice verse.
*Power cables slightly shorter than some others, but still reached battery on our test YJ with no problem
*Controller is a bit uncomfortable for longer pulls and rubberized buttons should have different in/out colored buttons for safety.
*Controller is plastic and feels solid, although you wouldn't want to carelessly toss it in a tool box in the back of Jeep.
*Ability to use standard Ramsey remote advantageous if you lose or damage your Black Mountain remote (beg, borrow, or buy a new one almost anywhere)
*Lightest of group at 69lb shipping weight.
*Instructions clear, easy to read
Bottom Line: Exceptional performance and value for the money.