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Buying Guide: Which Winch Do I Need?

Jeep Recovery & Winches for Wrangler

Whether you need one for work or helping a friend whose car has stalled, a winch can come in handy on your truck. However, it can be challenging to know how to pick the best one for your vehicle. 

You may already be thinking about the primary features like weight. But, there are more aspects to consider. Here's some insight into how to select the best truck winch for your vehicle.

Winch Based Off of Budget


Depending on the brand and size, a winch can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. Popular brands like Smittybilt and Warn winches are what you'll have to choose from, and they can span a variety of price points. 

Winches with a higher weight rating and other features like LED lighting could be more expensive. Additionally, the composition of the winch could also play a part. For example, more costly truck winches may be made out of aluminum instead of steel. You have to determine the features that matter most to you and use that to help you determine if a more expensive option is worth it. 

Winch Based Off of Gearing


Another feature that you need to consider is gearing. A winch's gear ratio is related to its pulling power. A higher gear ratio means your winch can offer more power, but you may have to compromise on speed. A good selection for your winch will be a product that has a solid balance between speed and power. 

A gear winch with a line that can pull 9,500 pounds could have a gear ratio of 161.28:1, while one that pulls 16,500 pounds has a gear ratio of 315:1. Again, a lower ratio means less power but more speed, and vice versa. So, you have to determine which aspect is more critical. Fortunately, there are some products that you can acquire to increase the pulling power if speed is more important — like a snatch block. 

Winch Based Off of Terrain


You'll also need to consider the type of terrain you will navigate while using your truck winch. Pulling a car on a level paved road will require different features than using a winch while off-roading or traveling on mountainous terrain. 

A lot of this will come down to the type of line — which can also impact the winch's cost. For example, a winch that uses a synthetic rope may be preferable on mountainous terrain. 

This is because steel ropes can be dangerous and are more likely to recoil if they snap when stressed and potentially injure those around in the process. On the other hand, a synthetic rope is lighter weight and will only drop if it's broken. 

On rougher roads, it's better to have a safer line to work with, so you may want to focus on winches with synthetic lines. Additionally, a winch with a steel line may be sufficient if you do not have to move through more mountainous terrain. 

Water Protection


You want to ensure that your winch can withstand the elements, especially water and mud. One of the most significant risks that you'll come up against with a winch is dealing with rust. Rust occurs when iron particles are exposed to oxygen, and if it expands, it can cause significant damage to your winch. 

If you expect to use a winch in off-roading areas and locations with a lot of water, you'll need to carefully consider purchasing a winch that can combat this. For example, you can invest in an aluminum winch since the metal is rust resistant. 

Additionally, you should pay attention to a winch's IP (Ingress Protection) rating. It's a number that reveals how much a winch is sealed off from damage due to water or solids like dust. Here's how the IP rating works:

  • The first number shows how much the winch is protected from solids. The highest rating of six shows that the winch is resistant to the intrusion of smaller particles. 
  • The second number shows how much the inside of the winch is protected from water. The highest rating is a 9K, meaning the winch can be submerged within water for a specific period.

You want to consider looking at a winch with a higher IP rating so you can trust that it won't be as vulnerable to costly damage. 

Key Takeaways


Selecting the best winch for your car doesn't have to be challenging. The most crucial things to look out for are how much weight you need your winch to pull, water protection, preferred gear ratio, and how much you can pay. Once you decide on your preference and the brand that fits your needs, it'll be easier to choose the best winch product for your truck or SUV. And when you’re ready to buy, XT has what you need.