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Nuts & Bolts: Which Winch for a 1999 GMC Sierra 1500

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on February 13, 2017
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Which Winch

I have a 1999 GMC Sierra 1500 that has been in my family since birth and spent most of its life working on our farm. It just crossed over 200,000 miles and shows no signs of slowing down. I have a few more upgrades planned for it, such as a cold air kit, KC lights, onboard air, and a hidden winch like you did on your Ultimate Z71. I know I want a Warn winch. What do you recommend? Would it be better to get a new Warn winch like a VR 10, or better to get one of the old standby models on the used market like an 8274 or something similar? I like supporting American companies and buying American-made products, and I know Warn makes outstanding winches. I would appreciate your advice.

Rob R.
via nuts@4wheeloffroad.com

We fully understand and support you wanting to invest in a good-quality winch like those from Warn Industries (warn.com). When you can buy a number of cheap imported 9,000-pound winches for under $350, it can be hard to resist the urge to go cheap. However, we consider a winch to be an important safety item on a 4x4. The only thing worse than not having a winch when you need it is having one that doesn’t work—or one that fails in the middle of a recovery. When you need a winch, you really need a winch. We see crappy imported winches all the time around town but hardly ever see them on 4x4s that actually get used (hint to the mall-crawlers out there that bought a winch because it looks tough). We usually recommend buying a used Warn winch over a new no-name brand if budget is a concern, because even used Warn winches are usually more reliable than new cheap ones.

Now that we’ve climbed off the soapbox, just about any Warn winch will do the job provided it has enough load capacity your truck. The VR series winches are a great entry-level choice, but they are technically built overseas. Still, the VR series were all engineered here in the USA and have to pass the same quality control tests as all of Warn’s other fully domestic products, and they are backed by Warn’s limited lifetime warranty. These are among the reasons a VR winch is going to be a better choice than virtually any imported winch on the market.

But if your budget allows, we recommend going with Warn’s other winch lines, such as the Zeon, XD Series, or XP Series. All of the Warn winch lines with the exception of the VR series are manufactured in the USA, and they are better in a number of ways that make them more durable and reliable. Aside from these, the Warn 8274 is a legendary winch and would also be a good choice, but we hesitate to recommend it for your application because mounting the 8274 is a bit harder due to its size. As a result, it’s not a good choice for a hidden application like yours.

As far as capacity goes, we would recommend a winch with a 9,000-pound capacity for your truck. As a rule you want a winch rated to pull one and a half times the weight of the truck. Your Chevy is close to 5,000 pounds in stock form, so technically an 8,000-pound winch would do the job, but there’s very little price difference between most 8,000 and 9,000 pound winches, so why not go bigger? If you plan on using the winch often for duties around the farm, then even a 10,000- to 12,000-pound winch would not be overkill.

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