Finding the Right Electric Winch

superwinch logo atv winch

Superwinch electric winches provide the means to free your vehicle by yourself. You can load cars, tractors, boats or mowers onto trailers. You can even remove tree stumps and shrubs or free your friend's car ... the possibilities are endless. The dilemma when it comes to electric winches isn't finding ways to use them; it's finding the winch with the right capacity at the right price. This page will give the information needed to find the right winch for you.


ATV / Vehicle Recovery Winch

With vehicle recovery, many things can impact the pulling capacity of the winch. The slope of the ground, the amount of friction on the object being pulled, the use of a pulley block, and the number of layers of rope wrapped around the winch drum can affect the capacity. If the line pull capacity of the winch is 4,000 lbs. the winch received that rating with a static load, and with only one layer of wire rope wrapped around the drum (Layer 1 in the table below). Each additional layer of wire (when the winch wire is laid on top of itself) reduces the winch's pulling capacity by 13% to 25%. Most of the Superwinch winches sold on our site include at least 50' of wire. The wire rope can be shortened to improve the pulling capacity of the winch. The table below shows the capacity of our most popular electric winches on their different rope layers.

Superwinch Models Wire Rope Layers
Layer 1 Layer 2 Layer 3 Layer 4 Layer 5 Layer 6
T1500 1,500 lbs. 1,225 lbs. 1,025 lbs. 900 lbs.
T2000 2,000 lbs. 1,650 lbs. 1,375 lbs. 1,200 lbs. 1,050 lbs. 945 lbs.
ATV1800 1,800 lbs. 1,470 lbs. 1,230 lbs. 1,080 lbs.
ATV2300 2,300 lbs. 1,898 lbs. 1,582 lbs. 1,380 lbs. 919 lbs. 827 lbs.
ATV3000 3,000 lbs. 2,375 lbs. 1,975 lbs. 1,675 lbs. 1,475 lbs. 1,300 lbs.
GP2300 2,300 lbs. 1,898 lbs. 1,582 lbs. 1,380 lbs. 919 lbs. 827 lbs.
GP3000 3,000 lbs. 2,375 lbs. 1,975 lbs. 1,675 lbs. 1,475 lbs. 1,300 lbs.
S4000 4,000 lbs. 3,000 lbs. 2,600 lbs. 2,000 lbs.
S5000 5,000 lbs. 4,000 lbs. 3,500 lbs. 2,900 lbs.
EPi6.0 6,000 lbs. 5,465 lbs. 5,000 lbs. 4,670 lbs.
EPi9.0 9,000 lbs. 8,190 lbs. 7,500 lbs. 7,010 lbs. 6,570 lbs.
Husky 8 8,500 lbs. 7,000 lbs. 5,950 lbs. 4,575 lbs. 4,100 lbs.
Husky 10 10,000 lbs. 8,175 lbs. 6,925 lbs. 6,000 lbs. 5,295 lbs.
EP12.5 12,500 lbs. 10,056 lbs. 8,657 lbs. 7,599 lbs. 6,770 lbs.
EP16.5 16,500 lbs. 12,292 lbs. 10,413 lbs. 9,033 lbs.

winch pulley block

When using the winch for vehicle recovery, sometimes the wire rope will be stretched quite far. However, if the winching distance is not going to be great, a pulley block can be used to run the winch rope to an anchor point, such as a tree, and then back to an attachment point, such as a tow hook, on the stuck vehicle. The pulley block alone will virtually double the pulling capacity of the winch and because more of the rope is being used, the pulling capacity increases further.

Gross Vehicle Weight - Getting the right winch for vehicle recovery depends on the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). The GVW is determined by two factors, the weight of the vehicle (curb weight) and the weight of the items in and on the vehicle. If you are not familiar with your vehicle's curb weight, consult the owner's manual.

Vehicle Curb Weight + Gear = GVW

Aside from the number of wire rope layers or an incline in the terrain, perhaps the most important factor in vehicle recovery is that the vehicle is stuck, making the winch work extremely hard. Because of this, etrailer.com recommends purchasing a winch with a line pull capacity at least 50% greater than the Gross Vehicle Weight.

GVW x 1.5 = minimum line pull capacity of winch

Most trucks and SUVs will require a winch with a capacity around 6,000 lbs. However, there is little difference in price between some of the 6,000 and 9,000 lb winches. A winch with a capacity 3,000 lbs greater for a few dollars more may be an acceptable cost, because the 9,000 lb winch will not be working as hard as the 6,000 lb winch, therefore performance is improved and the motor life is extended.


Winches For Trailer Use

On trailers, a winch is typically used to pull a boat, car, or tractor etc. on to the trailer bed. Since the loads being pulled are not stuck and usually have wheels, the load (car, tractor, etc.) is considered to be a rolling load. Rolling loads are much easier on the winch, allowing the winch to pull more than its rated line pull capacity.

In many applications, you're dealing with a rolling load rather than pulling a dead weight. It is often said that one can probably push your vehicle but most can't lift it. Therefore, you need to size the winch to the rolling load, see the chart below for examples. Then you can select the winch features you will find most beneficial and that will allow you to load the trailer safely by yourself.

Know your Rolling Weight - The chart below will help determine the Rated Line Pull (RLP) needed in a winch to safely load a rolling load onto your trailer. Rated Line Pull or RLP is the weight the winch could pull perpendicular to the ground with a single line on the first layer of wire rope on the drum. First, find the column that matches your percentage of slope or grade. This can be determined by dividing the amount of the ramps rise by it's length. Then match the slope with the weight of your rolling load, always round up, and locate the corresponding winch Rated Line Pull (RLP).

Slope percentage illustration

slope percent example

Rated Line Pull (RLP) Slope Percent
10 percent 20 percent 40 percent 60 percent 80 percent 100 percent
1,000 lbs 5,025 lbs 3,401 lbs 2,155 lbs 1,664 lbs 1,422 lbs 1,285 lbs
1,500 lbs 7,538 lbs 5,102 lbs 3,233 lbs 2,496 lbs 2,134 lbs 1,928 lbs
2,000 lbs 10,050 lbs 6,803 lbs 4,308 lbs 3,331 lbs 2,845 lbs 2,175 lbs
2,500 lbs 12,563 lbs. 8,503 lbs. 5,388 lbs. 4,160 lbs. 3,556 lbs. 3,213 lbs.
3,000 lbs 15,075 lbs 10,251 lbs 6,428 lbs 4,991 lbs 4,268 lbs 3,854 lbs
3,500 lbs 17,588 lbs 11,905 lbs 7,543 lbs 5,824 lbs 4,979 lbs 4,499 lbs
4,000 lbs 20,100 lbs 13,597 lbs 8,643 lbs 6,655 lbs 5,690 lbs 5,138 lbs
4,500 lbs 22,613 lbs 15,306 lbs 9,698 lbs 7,488 lbs 6,401 lbs 5,784 lbs
5,000 lbs 25,126 lbs 17,009 lbs 10,776 lbs 8,320 lbs 7,112 lbs 6,427 lbs
6,000 lbs 30,151 lbs 20,408 lbs 12,931 lbs 9,983 lbs 8,535 lbs 7,712 lbs
9,000 lbs 45,226 lbs 30,612 lbs 19,397 lbs 14,975 lbs 12,802 lbs 11,568 lbs
12,500 lbs 62,812 lbs 42,492 lbs 26,926 lbs 20,825 lbs 17,786 lbs 16,071 lbs
16,500 lbs 82,911 lbs 56,089 lbs 35,542 lbs 27,489 lbs 23,478 lbs 21,213 lbs
A 10% slope is a rise of one foot in ten feet. All loads shown are for single-line operation and are based on first layer rope performance. You could experience a loss of up to 13% pulling capacity per layer of wire rope. Double-line operation with an optional pulley block approximately doubles the capacity of the winch.


Ramp degree illustration

ramp degree example

The table below shows the rolling load capacities of the most popular Superwinch electric trailer winches.

Superwinch Models Slope Degree
10 percent or 6 degrees 20 percent or 11 degrees 30 percent or 17 degrees 100 percent or 45 degrees
T1500 7,525 lbs. 5,100 lbs. 3,925 lbs. 1,925 lbs.
T2000 10,050 lbs. 6,800 lbs. 5,225 lbs. 2,575 lbs.
GP1800 7,525 lbs. 5,100 lbs. 3,925 lbs. 1,925 lbs.
GP2300 10,050 lbs. 6,800 lbs. 5,225 lbs. 2,575 lbs.
GP3000 15,075 lbs. 10,200 lbs. 7,825 lbs. 3,850 lbs.
S3000 12,563 lbs. 8,503 lbs. 6,527 lbs. 3,213 lbs.
S4000 17,588 lbs. 11,905 lbs. 9,138 lbs. 4,499 lbs.
S5000 22,613 lbs. 15,306 lbs. 11,749 lbs. 5,784 lbs.
EPi6.0 29,410 lbs. 20,760 lbs. 15,460 lbs. 7,710 lbs.
EPi9.0 45,225 lbs. 30,600 lbs. 23,500 lbs. 11,573 lbs.
* Above ratings assume a 10% coefficient of friction. A 10% slope is a rise of one foot in ten feet. All loads shown are for single-line operation and are based on first layer rope performance. Double-line operation with an optional pulley block approximately doubles the capacity of the winch.

Many of our winches come standard with 50 feet or more of wire rope. In some cases this may be a disadvantage. Due to the length of your trailer you may be starting on the third or fourth wrap. This will decrease the pulling capacity of the winch by up to 13% per layer of wire rope. To gain maximum pulling capacity, simply shorten the wire rope to suit your needs, if for instance 30 feet will suit your needs, shortening the wire rope to this length will improve winch performance.

electric trailer winch

If the winch is going to be used to pull a load up a set of ramps and onto a trailer, the ramp incline, along with the slope of the ground the trailer is parked on, will need to be taken into consideration. The higher the slope, the higher the resistance, and the harder the winch will have to work. The rolling load can allow a smaller winch to be used, but keep in mind that the winch will not always be on the layer of winch wire closest to the winch drum (see the table above in the vehicle recovery section). Because of this, etrailer.com recommends using a winch with a line pull capacity equal to that of the load being moved.

For example, if a car weighing 4,000 lbs is going to be pulled onto a trailer, an electric winch with a line pull capacity equal to 4,000 lbs. should be used, such as the Superwinch S4000.

Weight of load = minimum line pull capacity of winch

Install your Electric Winch properly - Choose an installation site accessible to you. Align an unobstructed path to the rolling load you are loading. Prevent any metal-to-metal contact with the wire rope. Mount the winch close enough to the trailer's front to pull the vehicle completely on. If it's mounted under something, such as a toolbox, leave enough space to access the winch.

Consider a Pulley Block - With a hook for mounting and a pulley for the wire rope, a pulley block lets you offset the winch but retain a straight shot. A pulley block can also be used to nearly double the winch's capacity by simply attaching the pulley block's hook directly to the load and the winch's hook to a sturdy mount near the winch.


Electric Winch Information

Minimum Vehicle Requirements - For any 12 volt winch installed on a vehicle or trailer, there are minimum electrical requirements. The truck, SUV or Jeep must have:

  • At least a 60 amp alternator
  • A battery with at least 440 cold-cranking amps (some manufacturers recommend 660 cold-cranking amps)

For frequent winching applications an auxiliary battery and heavy duty alternator are recommended. Using two batteries will allow for longer or more frequent winching periods without worrying about being able to start the vehicle afterwards. Installing two batteries will require a battery isolator.

Installation - Electric winches need power to work. The winches are installed by running two wires to the battery. One goes to the positive post and one to the negative post. All the winches come with the necessary wires and circuit breakers for the installation. The length of those wires are listed in the product description. If the winch installation wires are not long enough, installation kits are available for either the front of the vehicle (2007), the rear of the vehicle (2008) or for a trailer (2008 and 1520). If the winch installation wires are long enough, but you do not want to permanently mount the winch, quick disconnects (2236 and 1551) are available to make for an easy winch removal.

The winch mount must be capable of handling the capacity of the winch. Many different styles are available to choose from. On an ATV, use etrailer.com's Hitch Hunter™ Fitguide to find the right winch mount specific for your ATV. For a trailer, you would want to have a secure mount such as a steel plate welded to the trailer frame. On a vehicle, the best system to use is a trailer hitch winch mount. With a front and rear trailer hitch and a winch mount plate, the winch can easily be transferred from the front to the rear of the vehicle, making recovery from either direction an option.

Freespooling - When the winch operator takes the winch out of gear to pull out the amount of wire rope needed to get the job done. All the Superwinch winches on our site have a power out mode to release the wire rope. This not only drains the battery, but also consumes time. All of the Superwinch models have the freespooling option that will save both battery power and time.

Mechanical vs. Dynamic Braking - The mechanical style produces a stronger, positive braking action, which is more capable of holding a load. Dynamic braking uses the winch motor to add resistance to the drum. Dynamic braking is not strong enough to hold a load.

Worm Gears vs. Planetary Gears - A winch drum is either rotated by a worm gear or planetary gear. A worm gear train is where one gear is essentially a screw (the worm gear). As the screw is rotated, it turns the gears or sprockets connected to it. A planetary gear train is one with a single sprocket or gear in the middle (i.e. the sun). When the sun gear is turned, the 3 or 4 sprockets (the planets) around the center sprocket turn. And those three or four then make the larger sprocket surrounding them turn. A planetary gear is not as powerful as a worm gear, but can turn faster to generate more speed. Also with a planetary gear train the "planet" gears can turn the "sun" gear, but in a worm gear train, the other gears can not change the direction of the worm gear. A worm gear operated winch will not be able to be reversed by the load it is pulling. Most winches use a planetary gear train. The Superwinch Heavy Duty Husky Series 2401A and 2404A use a worm gear.


Electric Winch Categories

1-4K Pound Winches - These winches are great for general purpose and trailering use. Offering all the features you would want and expect such as powered IN and OUT, remote operation options, mechanical and dynamic braking, freespooling drums, rugged construction, and much more.

5-9K Pound Winches - High performance, Utility, and Heavy Duty winches with all the rugged and high performance features you need. These winches offer powerful operation and come in either worm or planetary gears so you can choose if you need brute strength or faster operation.

10K Pound and Larger Winches - Some people just need the biggest most powerful tools available. Well, this is where you will find the strongest and most rugged winches around. If you need to move some heavy loads or get unstuck from some very sticky situations these are the winches for you.

ATV Winches - Search using the Hitch Hunter to find ATV specific, custom fit, winches and accessories. Designed for the toughest ATV environments, the ATV series winches will get you and your ATV out of the toughest trouble spots.

Trailer Winches - Our selection of trailer winches will help make loading a rolling load such as a tractor or vehicle a breeze. Designed for easy operation and with sturdy construction, these trailer winches will perform time and again. Superwinch offers the S Series, which is the most popular performance trailer winch on the market. Race-Proven, S Series winches have powerful motors, an integrated sealed switching solenoid, and rugged handheld remote. Other standard features include power IN and OUT, freespooling drum, instant stop - absolutely no coasting, mechanical and dynamic braking, and roller fairlead. The fully weather resistant protective cover helps keep the weather out. These winches are "The Racer's Choice."

Vehicle Recovery Winches - If you spend time off road, in the mud, or in the snow a Vehicle Recovery Winch is a critical piece of gear. Designed to be powerful enough for vehicle recovery and sturdy enough to last, these winches will give you the assurance while off road that you will make it back on road.

AC Powered Winches - Superwinch AC winches have been designed to run off standard household current. For those winching applications where AC power is the only option.

Crane Winches - Designed to be used for vertical applications, a crane which is needed when loads will be pulled up or down. Standard winches should only be used to pull horizontally.

Hand Winches - Designed for use loading trailers, these hand crank winches are perfect for getting a boat or rolling load onto your trailer. These hand crank winches are perfect if you want to save some money and strengthen your arms.

Winch Accessory Kits - The perfect package to get started with your winch. The Winch Accessory Kits contain all the essentials such as gloves, strap, hooks, and comes with a handy carry bag.

Winch Hitch Mounts - A hitch winch mount allows you to easily install the winch when it is needed and store it when not in use. This protects the winch from unnecessary exposure to the elements while also allowing attachment to the front or rear trailer hitch so vehicle recovery can be done from either side.

Roller Fairleads - Roller fairleads reduce the amount of wear and tear on the wire rope by providing a dramatic reduction in friction. This will prolong the life of the wire rope and result in smoother winch performance. Most of the Superwinch models on our site include the fairlead. Sometimes the fairlead will mount to the winch, other times it must be secured to the winch mount.

Tow Hooks and Tow Loops - Sometimes you need to add and additional attachment point to a vehicle. These Tow Hooks and Tow Loops are sturdy and mount quickly. They can be attached to the front or rear of the vehicle to provide additional winch options and have many potential functions beyond use with a winch. Some are designed to attach to a trailer hitch and others will mount directly to the vehicle frame.

Tow Straps - With hooks or loops, break capacities up to 30,000 lbs, and lengths up to 30', we have the heavy duty tow straps you are going to need for fully utilizing your winch.

Pulley Blocks - When used correctly a Pulley Block can double the pulling capacity of your winch. They can also be used to move an anchor point and help keep the wire rope coming straight out of the winch reducing strain on the winch. A pulley block should be used any time you pull a load greater than two-thirds (2/3) the capacity of the winch.

Wire Rope - If your wire rope is getting worn, it may be time for a replacement. You may also want to carry a backup, just in case...

Bow Shackles - Bow Shackles provide the quickest, easiest and most secure method of securing all the winch pieces together. They are used to connect the strap, pulley block, and winch rope.

Tree Trunk Saver Strap - If you love trees and would not dream of killing one to free your vehicle then a tree saver strap is a must. If you don't love trees, but just want a convenient, rock solid attachment point to winch out your vehicle then a tree strap is a must.



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