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How to Wire an Electric Winch


Electric winches require power from a battery to be operational. With proper wiring, power can be provided to the winch through a vehicle battery or through a separate, auxiliary battery that powers the winch only.


The recommended way to wire your winch depends on three things:

SuperWinch Electric Winch

1. Where your winch is mounted

  • Trailer/Rear of Vehicle
  • Front of Vehicle

2. Type of winching

  • Light duty
    • Well below your winch's maximum weight capacity
    • Small to medium inclines
  • Medium duty
    • Within your winch's weight capacity
    • Medium inclines and pulling
  • Heavy duty
    • Consistently heavy weights that are close to your winch's maximum capacity
    • Rough and steep terrains
    • An additional battery is recommended to power the winch

3. How often you use your winch





Wiring a Front-Mount Vehicle-Recovery Winch

There are two ways to provide power to a winch when it is mounted on the front of a vehicle. The two options are outlined below.


Wiring Diagram of Front-Mount Winch to Vehicle Battery
Winch Wiring Quick Disconnects

Option 1: Standard Winch Wiring Using Vehicle's Battery

  • Recommended for light- to medium-duty winch and winching on a regular basis
  • Requires a vehicle battery with at least 440 cold-cranking amps and a 60-amp alternator
  • Procedure
    • On the winch
      1. Attach the power wire to the positive post on the winch
      2. Attach the negative wire to the negative ground post on the winch
      3. Run both wires from the winch to the engine compartment, avoiding hot areas and places where the wires could get pinched
    • Under the hood
      1. Attach the positive lead from the winch to the positive post on the vehicle's battery, using an in-line circuit breaker if one is included with the winch
      2. Attach the negative lead from the winch to the negative ground post on the vehicle's battery
  • Quick disconnects can be added to this setup to make it convenient to remove the winch when it is not being used
    • Install quick disconnects in-line with the power and ground wires running to the battery
    • Connect the battery's vehicle-side lead to the winch-side lead to operate the winch
    • Ensure that you buy quick disconnects that are compatible with the gauge of wire used in your application



Wiring Diagram of Front-Mount Winch to Auxiliary Vehicle Battery

Option 2: Using an Auxiliary Battery to Power the Winch

  • Recommended for medium- to heavy-duty and frequent winching
  • Requires an auxiliary vehicle battery with at least 440 to 660 cold-cranking amps and a 60-amp alternator
  • Procedure
    • Auxiliary battery
      • Must be wired in parallel with vehicle's battery
        • Ensures that the output of both batteries combined remains at 12V
      • A battery isolator must be installed between the vehicle's battery and the auxiliary battery
        • Ensures that the winch only draws power from the auxiliary battery when operating, preventing vehicle's battery power from being drained while the winch is in use
        • Installs in-line with the positive power wire running from the positive post on the vehicle's battery to the positive post on the auxiliary battery
        • Isolator is operated by a wire from the ignition circuit
    • On the winch
      1. Attach the power wire to the positive post on the winch
      2. Attach the negative wire to the negative ground post on the winch
      3. Run both wires from the winch to the battery compartment, avoiding hot areas and places where the wires could get pinched
    • Under the hood
      1. Attach the positive lead from the winch to the positive post on the auxiliary battery, using an in-line circuit breaker if one is included with the winch
      2. Attach the negative lead from the winch to the negative ground post on the auxiliary battery
  • Quick disconnects can be added to this setup to make it convenient to remove the winch when it is not being used
    • Install quick disconnects in-line with the power and ground wires running to the auxiliary battery
    • Connect the auxiliary battery's vehicle-side lead to the winch-side lead to operate the winch
    • Ensure that you buy quick disconnects that are compatible with the gauge of wire used in your application




Wiring a Trailer-Mounted Winch

There are two ways to provide power to a winch mounted on a trailer. The two options are outlined below.


Wiring Diagram of Trailer-Mounted Winch to Vehicle Battery

Option 1: Wiring the Winch with Trailer and Vehicle Winch Wiring Kit

  • Recommended for light- to medium-duty winching on a regular basis
  • Requires a vehicle battery with at least 440 cold-cranking amps and a 60-amp alternator
  • Uses included quick disconnects to make it convenient to connect your trailer-mounted winch to the power supply from the vehicle's battery
  • Procedure
    • Rear of the vehicle
      1. Find a place to mount vehicle-side quick disconnect at the end of the long power wire and short ground wire
      2. Ground the short wire from the quick disconnect to a clean, metal surface on the vehicle frame
      3. Run the long power from the quick disconnect to the vehicle's battery in the engine compartment, avoiding places where the wires could become too hot or get pinched
    • Under the hood
      1. Connect the power wire from the rear of the vehicle to the positive post on the vehicle's battery
        • NOTE: If a circuit breaker is included with the winch, the circuit breaker needs to be installed in-line with the power wire running to the vehicle's battery
      2. Using the separate, short wire with eyelets at both ends, ground the battery to a clean, metal surface on the vehicle's frame
    • On the winch
      • Wire the trailer-side quick disconnect to the winch
        1. Attach the power wire to the positive post on the winch
        2. Attach the ground wire to the negative ground post on the winch
        3. Run the opposite ends of the two wires, the end with the quick disconnect, to the coupler of the trailer for use
    • To provide power to the winch, simply connect the quick disconnect on the trailer side to the quick disconnect on the vehicle side



Wiring Diagram of Trailer-Mounted Winch to Trailer-Mounted Battery
Wiring Diagram of Trailer-Mounted Winch to Trailer-Mounted Battery

Option 2: Wiring the Winch to a Separate, Trailer-Mounted Battery

  • Recommended for heavy-duty winching and frequent winching
  • Requires a vehicle battery with at least 440 cold-cranking amps and a 60-amp alternator
  • Trailer does not have to be hooked up to a vehicle for the winch to receive power
  • Battery is separate from the vehicle's battery, ensuring that the tow vehicle's battery will not be drained by the winch during heavy use
  • Procedure
    1. Mount trailer battery in a secure spot on the front of the trailer
      • Protecting the battery from the elements will prolong the life of the battery and the winch wiring connections
      • Placing the battery inside a toolbox and/or battery box is recommended
    2. Attach the power and ground leads to the appropriate posts on the winch
    3. Run the power and ground wires to the trailer-mounted battery
    4. Attach the power wire to the positive post on the battery and attach the ground wire to the negative post on the battery
      • NOTE: If a circuit breaker is included with the winch, the circuit breaker needs to be installed in-line with the power wire running to the trailer battery
    5. The battery will need to be recharged periodically to maintain charge. With additional wiring, charge can be maintained through the 12V accessory circuit from the trailer connector, which pulls power from the vehicle's battery. This involves additional wiring steps.
      • Once you establish that the 12V accessory circuit pin on your 7-way trailer connector is supplying current, run a length of 12-gauge wire from the corresponding prong on the trailer-side connector to the positive post on the trailer-mounted battery
      • Ensure that the trailer-end connector has a good ground connection to the trailer frame
      • Ground the trailer battery to the trailer frame using a length of 12-gauge wire
        • Clamp a ring terminal to both ends of the ground wire
        • Attach one end of the ground wire to the negative post on the trailer-mounted battery
        • Using a self-tapping screw, attach the remaining end to a clean, metal surface on the trailer frame
      • When the vehicle is running and the trailer and vehicle are connected, the 12V wire will maintain the trailer-mounted battery's charge
      • NOTE: When operating the winch, the trailer wiring must be disconnected from the tow vehicle. Failure to do this may result in an overload on the 12V accessory wire carrying current to the trailer-mounted battery, which can damage the battery and 12V circuit.

Updated by: Raymond P.

Last updated: 6/29/18





Mike

7/3/2023

With a power plug in the bed of my truck, is there any way to use it to power a winch/

Etrailer Expert

Mike L.

7/19/2023

@Mike There isn't. The 12V feed won't offer enough amperage to power a winch. Nowhere near. I'll link you to an article that explains a few different ways to wire up a trailer winch.

Mike

7/2/2023

I am planning to follow option 2 with a dedicated trailer battery. I plan to use a quick connect plug from truck to trailer to carry the heavy amps during winching. If I also setup a charger off the 7pin plug to charge and maintain the battery during towing will that need to be disconnected when using the winch? Finally if looking to have a solar panel in place to keep the trailer battery full while parked for long periods of time does that need a special wiring or can the panel be wired direct to battery? Thank you for the help

Etrailer Expert

Mike L.

7/19/2023

@Mike A solar battery charger like # PTW2997 would be an okay option but it will take a looong time to charge a battery; especially a battery large enough to power a winch. It would be better suited as a maintainer. Another option is a DC to DC charger that you can keep mounted on the trailer and attach the 12 volt hot lead from a 7-Way to. It will charge a battery faster than a solar charger. We have one, # 331-BCDC1240D. It can also have a solar panel attached to it if needed. This charger will not only charge the battery and do it faster than solar power but can also recondition a battery allowing it to last longer. This would be a good option if you use the winch a lot.

Mike

7/19/2023

@MikeL Good info,any problem having both? I plan to run the trailer 2 or 3 times a year. Ideally using solar to keep the battery full when not in use and the charger you mentioned while on the road I have a quick connect plug directly from my battery that I plan to attach to the trailer during heavy use like winching
Etrailer Expert

Mike L.

8/2/2023

@Mike That sounds like a great plan!!

Mzhng

7/2/2023

I plan on running a 10 g wire to only charge, not run, the remote winch battery on my trailer through the 7 way. I would like to fuse this wire near the battery. What amp fuse should I use? The battery also supports the dual axle electric brakes upon breakaway.

Etrailer Expert

Heather A.

7/17/2023

@Mzhng The breakaway system must be attached to it's own separate battery by law in most states so I cannot recommend using the battery for both the winch and the breakaway. You would want to use a separate battery on the trailer for the winch that is charged by 12v accessory circuit of the 7-way on your truck using a battery isolator part # TR118665. to avoid draining the vehicle's battery when the truck isn't running. However, the most common way to power the winch is to use a wiring kit part # BDW20207 and attach it to the vehicle battery. You would not need a fuse with either of these options.

Jamie G.

5/28/2023

I have a 2022 Ram 3500 with the trailer towing package, and it has the trailer hookup for a 5th wheel trailer. Is that adequate for running a winch mounted to my flat deck trailer, or do I wire it up to the trucks battery as suggested? (Thanks for the info by the way)

Etrailer Expert

Mike L.

5/29/2023

@JamieG The circuit feeding 12-V power to your trailer connector won't be able to deliver the proper amperage to your winch in order for it to function. A wiring kit like # BDW20206 which will work for a winch that draws up to 150 amps.

Joe W.

4/9/2023

I am a beginner somewhat, what I would like to do is have my 10000 lb connected to y trailer plug. Is that possible?

Etrailer Expert

Mike L.

4/11/2023

@JoeW Your 10K winch will draw way too much amperage to be able to use the aux circuit on the 7-way. You'll want to run it from a trailer mounted battery or from the tow vehicle battery as outlined in the article we've linked for you.


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