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.
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.
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.
1,000 - 3,000 lbs ATV Winches
1,000 - 4,000 lbs Trailer Winches
5,000 - 9,000 lbs Recovery Winches
10,000 lbs + HD Recovery Winches
On trailers, a winch is typically used to pull a boat, car, or tractor etc. onto 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 its 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
Ramp degree illustration
The table below shows the rolling load capacities of the most popular Superwinch electric trailer winches.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Contact and Help
What our customers are saying:
Subscribe to email newsletter
privacy - we don't send unsolicited email
All images, layout and content copyright etrailer.com