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How to choose the correct winch for you!

April 10, 2015 4 min read


Choosing the winch for you is probably one of the least favourite tasks of a 4WDer. A Winch is something that you will spend a lot of money on and will probably never use. But like many items it will be there when you need it, and whenever that is you want it to work and work well. So below is a number of important factors to think about when you are going to purchase your first or next winch.

How much do you weigh?

The first thing that you need to look at when selecting your winch is the weight of your vehicle. Putting a 17,000lb Dual Motor winch onto a Suzuki Jiminy is quite obviously ludicrous, despite the fact that you will be able to literally winch yourself up a tree. The same goes for putting a 9,500lb on a locked and lifted F350, except that in that case you are more likely to just break your winch.

When choosing the correct winch you should look at the total weight of your set up, this includes your vehicle as well as gear and any trailers you are to be towing. The Engineers at Sherpa 4x4 recommend that you use a winch that is 1.5 to 2 times the loaded weight of your vehicle.

 This would mean that if you have a Nissan Patrol with a GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) of 3040Kg (you shouldn’t be loading your vehicle above this) you would need a winch with a rating of around 6080Kg or 13,300Lb. In this scenario the 12,000lb “Colt” would be the right winch for you however you need to be stringent on not overloading your vehicle, which is a common problem.

Add a simple GVM upgrade and you are looking at needing 6990Kg or 15,400lb Winch. In this circumstance you need to seriously start considering something in the bigger range such as the 17,000lb "Steed".

If you then add a trailer to the picture, even one that is only a mere 1000Kg you are looking at needing a winch for around the 8990Kg or 19,800lb. If this is you then you need to very seriously be considering the 17,000lb winch. Disconnecting the trailer and pulling yourself and the trailer free separately is often a viable option but only if you have the time.

What are you going to be using the winch for?

This is always the second question to ask. If you are the average traveller then you are often carrying a winch purely as a safety factor, in case you get yourself stuck or into a tricky situation. This is probably one of the best reasons to have a winch. In saying this however it does mean that you are not looking at how long it is going to take you to do the recovery.

When you have time on your side additional techniques can be used to increase the pulling power of your winch such as a double line pull. These techniques however drastically slow down the progress of a recovery, doubling the pull halves the line speed. In most cases you will have all the time in the world and picking a winch that is just over the 1.5 time the weight will be entirely adequate.

If you are not so much your average traveller and swing more towards being your average 4WD adrenaline junky than you will want to start considering the line speed of your winch. Often a larger winch will have a faster line speed and a bigger motor, allowing you to push the winch a bit harder to get you out of the tricky situation in a fashion that won’t be to embarrassing for your friends.

So is speed really going to be important to you? If so always go for a larger winch than you require. The lesser the load on a winch in comparison to its overall capacity the faster it will spool in and the less stress you will put on your winch.


How good is your front end?

The weight on the front of your vehicle is the final factor to really consider. If you have not put springs in that will carry the additional load, don’t go for a heavy winch (talking about physical weight, not line pull). A winch with synthetic rope will often add between 25 & 30Kg to the front of your vehicle, if you then look at steel cable you are going to add an extra 10-15Kg. While it might not sound like much, this weight can impact substantially on the handling of your vehicle and longevity of the front end suspension.


When in doubt, go bigger!

While a winch may not be something that you will use often or even really feel is essential to your fit out it is one of the few items that the rule of “Bigger is better” really applies to.

By moving to the winch the next size up from what you feel you need it will essentially put substantially less strain on the winch. One of the most common failures of a winch is to burn out the solenoid, this occurs when the winch motor draws too much current for a long period of time. A larger winch will mean a longer useable winch time and less chance of overheating.  

In a lot of cases a small increase in cost can mean a big increase in performance and lifespan of your winch.

These are all important aspects to consider when you are looking to buy your new winch, however nothing is better than some personal advice. Talk to multiple experts and get a number of opinions on which size winch is best for your circumstances. Then come and talk to one of the team at Shepra 4x4 to get the best deal on the winch you need.

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