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Which Winch Is the Right Winch?

Posted in Product Reviews on January 8, 2016
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Photographers: Courtesy of Warn Industries

“We compare them to see what you get for your money”

There was a time when the only factor in deciding which Warn winch you wanted to buy was matching the pulling power of the winch to the size of your vehicle. Those days are long behind us. Now Warn offers nearly two dozen winch options, and the options grow even larger when you consider the Multi-Mount options and the Spydura synthetic winch cable. Of course, other winch companies make quality products too, but we have had great results with Warn after years of abuse on trail rides such as our Ultimate Adventure. But just because you have your mind set on a Warn doesn’t mean your choice is made; it is just beginning. We compare the VR, ZEON, and ZEON Platinum lines to see how they differ and what you get for your money.

VR Series
Warn came out with the VR Series in 2011 as an alternative to the cheap, low-quality Chinese winches flooding the market at the time. The VR Series winches are produced overseas exclusively for Warn using Warn’s proven M8000 architecture (think of it like the Mahindra Jeeps that are built in India using the original MB design). The items that keep the cost down on VR Series winches are traditional solenoids instead of more robust contactors and a steel drum rather than aluminum. The VR range includes 8,000-, 10,000-, and 12,000-pound capacities, so they have most any vehicle covered. They are available with either steel cable or Warn’s Spydura synthetic winch line and make a perfect choice for vehicles that want a dependable winch for peace of mind on occasional outings.

ZEON Series
Warn designed the ZEON line as a clean sheet design but with decades of experience and knowledge. Introduced in 2012, the symmetrical design uses aluminum construction, including the drum, endcaps, and tie plates, which are fastened with stainless steel hardware. ZEON uses a beefy cast zinc alloy drum that’s up to 25 percent larger than the competition and prevents it from collapsing under the combination of synthetic rope and high shock loads. The cable is attached to the drum with a patented system 10 times stronger than the normal mounting method. Rather than solenoids, contactors are used to power the winch. Warn tested more than 20 suppliers before choosing Albright contactors. This helps contribute to the IP68 waterproof rating, preventing corrosion in the gear train. Speaking of the gears, they are larger than the VR Series and also made from chromoly steel for longevity. The ZEON Series is available in 8,000-, 10,000-, and 12,000-pound capacities, with each winch hand-assembled in Portland, Oregon.

ZEON Platinum Series
Last year Warn upped the game even more with the ZEON Platinum line. These winches build off of the ZEON line and share external dimensions, but with several notable differences. The most noteworthy upgrade to the Platinum line is the wireless remote, which actuates the clutch and winching functions from up to 150 feet away, saving you a trip back to your vehicle (to engage the clutch) and placing you closer to safety by moving you away from the winch. The remote control also gives you full-time live monitoring of the vehicle’s battery as well as the winch motor’s temperature. It can even operate two sets of lights (or any of two auxiliary items) plugged into the control pack. While the ZEON and ZEON Platinum winches look the same externally, the motor is specific to the Platinum, with a longer armature and 20 percent higher power output. The gears are also made from 4340 chromoly steel instead of the 4140 chromoly used in the ZEON. Like the ZEON, the ZEON Platinum uses contactors rather than solenoids. Warn is currently switching its 16.5Ti and 8274 winches to the Albright contactors, and by 2017 every truck winch will have contactors installed. There is also a different brake system in the Platinum, with a reduced coefficient of friction in the drum. This results in best-in-class power performance, even at full load.

Warn’s VR Series winches are offered in 8,000-, 10,000-, and 12,000-pound capacities to fit nearly any 4x4. They are available with a steel cable and roller fairlead (as shown) or with Warn’s Spydura synthetic rope and an aluminum fairlead (for 8,000- and 10,000-pound models).

The VR Series is the least expensive way to add a Warn winch to the front of your rig. They use three-stage planetary gears. You can see the solenoids inside of the control pack. The pack provides a variety of mounting options. The cone brake design is rare at this price point.

If you want an American-made winch but don’t have a big budget, the M8000 is the next step up from the VR Series. It adds contactors instead of solenoids, a higher-efficiency motor, and the same upgraded remove as the ZEON.

The Warn ZEON Series is constructed of aluminum for weight savings and heat dissipation. Note the details like the large free spool lever that can be operated easily, even with gloves on. The ZEON Series has IP68 rated sealing to keep mud and water out of the gears and electronics.

Synthetic line is more sensitive to heat than steel. Warn mitiagates rope damage two ways. The aluminum drum dissipates more heat than steel, and the Spydura rope has a heat-resistant sleeve on the first layer closest to the drum.

The ZEON winches use aluminum construction and are symmetrical, unlike most other winches on the market. This can make fitment an issue with some older bumpers, but Warn has a comprehensive application guide on its website to prevent any surprises.

Note that there is no free spool lever on this ZEON Platinum winch. The wireless winch controller is one of the biggest selling points of the ZEON Platinum. It uses a patented piece of technology to control the clutch, auxiliary lights, and winching operation wirelessly. It even monitors the vehicle battery condition and winch motor temperature.

In terms of line speed, the VR10000 pulls 25.9 fpm (feet per minute) at no load and 2.3 fpm at full load. The ZEON 10 is 33 fpm at no load and 4.8 fpm at full load. The ZEON Platinum is rated at 44 fpm at no load and 5.6 fpm at full load. The motor is not the sole contributor of the line speed; brake and mechanical efficiency are also a part of the equation.

The control pack on the ZEON and ZEON Platinum Series winches can be relocated with the addition of an optional relocation kit. This is useful for applications where space above the winch is at a premium. With the ZEON Platinum, access to the control pack is less of an issue since the remote is wireless.

The gearset on the left is from a VR10000, the middle from the ZEON and ZEON Platinum, and the right from an M12000 for reference. Just as a Dana 60 is larger and stronger than a Dana 44, the same philosophy applies to winch gears.

Note how the silver ZEON winch drum is significantly larger than the black VR Series winch drum but still lighter due to aluminum construction. The larger drum reduces rope/cable wear and increases line speed at any load, but it did require the larger frame on the ZEON winch that was designed to accommodate 100 feet of winch line.

The VR Series uses a traditional eye fitting to hold the winch cable in place. This fitting is not rated to hold any load, it merely holds the cable onto the drum. Warn recommends having at least six wraps on the winch drum when using the winch.

The Warn ZEON and ZEON Platinum winches capture the end of the winch cable through the drum. The ZEON anchor system is patented and nearly able to hold the full rated load of 10,000 pounds by the anchor only.

The VR Series of winches uses a traditional solenoid (left), and four of them are required to operate the winch. The ZEON and ZEON Platinum Series use Albright contactors (right). Contactors, by design, is a more robust electrical system with fewer parts and better reliability..

Each Warn winch line has a controller. The VR Series use the traditional toggle switch controller shown on the top. The ZEON Series use heavier gauge wiring and a plastic controller that has a wider switch, making them easier to operate with gloves on. The ZEON Platinum uses the wireless controller that not only spools in and out but also controls the clutch and other functions.

Sources

Warn Industries
Clackamas, OR 97015
800-910-1122
www.warn.com

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