Not everybody likes math, but math lays down some simple principles we can use elsewhere in our lives, none probably more than Order of Operations. That’s the order in which you perform tasks. In automotive parlance, it can be argued that “install a winch” is second or third in the running order of mods you should make to your 4x4 for off-road survival. The first, of course, is armor. Armor keeps your rig alive. A winch unstucks the stuck, and then you add all the bits of flavor like a lift, bigger tires, lockers, and upgraded axle components. Makes sense to us.
When you are winch shopping, remember a couple key points. First, you want to select a winch that can pull at least 1.5 times the weight of your vehicle fully loaded. Second, you want to select a quality winch that’s not going to spit gear parts or bulge at the seams the first time you put a load on it. Third, you want to make sure your electrical system is up to snuff with no corroded wires or a weak battery. Fourth, you need to make sure you have a secure mount on which to put your winch. That’s it. It really is that simple.
For us, we had a 3,200-pound Wrangler. If good is good, better is better. So even though a 6,000-pound winch would suffice, we pulled the trigger on one of Warn’s newly redesigned VR10-s winches. The VR series is Warn’s value line, with a much more affordable price tag than the premium lines. That said, we find nothing cheap in terms of the VR series’ quality and performance, with a 10,000-pound pulling capacity, 100 feet of Warn’s excellent Spydura synthetic rope, and a smooth hawse fairlead. And it is all backed by Warn’s lifetime warranty. Even though the VR10-s is starting life on this little lightweight Wrangler, you can be sure it’ll eventually see duty on some of our other project rigs. That’s just the way things work around here.
We already had a universal winch plate mounted on our 1989 Wrangler, but Warn has mounting systems for a wide range of vehicle applications, so once you get your mount settled, the installation will go down just like ours. Check out how we added a ton (actually 5 tons) of pulling power in just a couple minutes.
Inside the Warn box you’ll find the winch with battery leads and cable or rope already installed, a remote, a hook, a fairlead, an abrasion sleeve (synthetic rope models only), and all the mounting hardware and instructions. If you already have a winch mount on your vehicle, you don’t need anything else. We pulled the winch plate off our Wrangler and did the install in the garage before transferring the whole thing back to the vehicle.
Depending on your mount design, you probably won’t have much room between the winch body and fairlead hardware, so we began by bolting the fairlead on with the supplied hardware. Our winch plate is 1/4-inch-thick steel. Warn includes longer bolts for such applications, but we used the black-coated shorter bolts and ran some medium-strength thread locker in lieu of the locking washers.
The winch mounting hardware consists of four long bolts, lock washers, and these square nuts that fit snugly inside the winch mounting feet. Insert the square nuts and then place the winch over your mount. If the square nuts fall out you can keep them in place with a dab of the sticky stuff of your choice or even with blue painter’s tape. We just grab a long pick and push them back in place once the winch is lined up over the mounting holes.
Before you bolt the winch down, cut the elastic holding the winch hook thimble to the winch body and feed it through the fairlead. Then insert the four mounting bolts with lock washers and tighten incrementally in a crisscross pattern.
Install the supplied Warn hook onto the rope or cable thimble. Slide the pin back in and insert the cotter pin through the pin bore, making sure you bend out the tabs so it is secured and won’t fall out.
If you are dealing with a removable mount like us, bolt it back on the vehicle, making sure you don’t damage or pinch any of the electrical cables. The last thing is to feed the cables to the battery and fasten them securely. If you have a battery with both top and side terminals, it is best to use the top terminals since they offer more contact area. We always run marine battery terminals on all our vehicles, which make for an easy and secure hookup.
The final step is to “spool” the cable or rope under slight tension. This is done to get the cable or rope wrapped tightly on the drum so it doesn’t pinch in on itself during a hard pull. Pay out the rope, leaving 10 wraps on the drum. Then winch in with slight load on the vehicle. We use our gently sloped driveway, but if you are dealing with flat ground you can just engage your E-brake a couple clicks. Once you are spooled your new winch is ready to rescue you and others on the trail.
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Clackamas, OR 97015