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Getting Stuck and Getting Out: Tacoma Winches

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If you're planning on staying in the great outdoors for any length of time, most fellow Tacoma owners will highly recommend purchasing a winch as a safety measure. Having a winch on hand can save your Tacoma from getting stuck in deep bogs or pull away obstacles in your path.

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What are you going to do with your Tacoma? Take it off-road. What happens off-road? You get stuck. Nobody likes to face the inevitable occurrence of getting caught in a sticky situation off-road - even if it is a big part of the fun. When getting caught on the trail, you don’t always have to rely on your buddy towing you out and rubbing it in your face how much better his truck is than yours. You might even be caught in the situation where your buddy is either stuck too or is simply not around. With a proper winch setup and safety measures, you can safely pull yourself back to traction without a worry in the world.

What is a Winch?

A winch, by definition, is a hauling or lifting device consisting of a chain, rope, or cable that’s wrapped around a horizontal rotating drum that is operated by a crank, motor, or another source of power. The kind of winch you will typically find for off-road use on your Tacoma will be motor powered or hydraulically powered, using a synthetic rope or a cable. These devices will also typically be mounted to the front or rear of the truck using either a bumper mount or a hitch mount. In the case of a custom build, it may be mounted in a variety of places.

Electronic Winch: Electronic winches are the most common type of off-road winches. With the use of a handheld remote for operation, the drum can be controlled to pull the rope or cable in or out. The remotes on these units can either be wired or wireless. These units work by tapping into the vehicle’s electrical system, making for a clean and easy installation. 

Hydraulic Winch:  Hydraulic winches have a lot in common with electronic winches but vary in terms of operation. Rather than relying on the vehicle’s battery to operate, they tap into an existing hydraulic pump operated system on the vehicle, which is typically the power steering system. This makes for a complicated installation, but the power and durability of this type of winch makes up for it. You must note that some electronics are required for operation of the winch via remote control.

Winch Cables and Ropes

A big part of selecting a winch is the type of rope or cable which is used. Though winches designed for industrial use may pull with a chain, the off-road market has simplified the manner with only using a synthetic rope or steel cable. Knowing the difference between the two is crucial before purchasing one. 

Steel Cable: Steel cable is the cheaper option up front and, regardless of its inferiority to synthetic rope, is a viable option. The cable used consists of tightly wound fibers of galvanized steel and can stand up to some serious abuse. They can quickly become dangerous if they begin to fray. Proper maintenance of any rope is important, but repairs to steel cable have proven to be more difficult than the alternative. 

Synthetic Rope:  Synthetic rope reigns superior in the eyes of many off-roaders because it requires less tentative attention for maintenance and can easily be repaired on the fly. Though, rough terrain and high heat can prove to be hard obstacles to overcome with the use of synthetic fibers. Some feel that synthetic rope is a safer bet, which is true to an extent, but in the instance of a break, they can still be quite deadly. 

Winch Mounting Options

The obvious truth is that the winch will need to be anchored to a secure location on your Tacoma to ensure proper recovery. Luckily, the aftermarket makes winch mounting fairly easy regardless of the build or the budget involved. They will either be anchored to the front or the rear of the truck, with use of either a hitch mount, or a bumper. 

Bumper: Bumper mounted winches are by far the most attractive. It will usually be tucked neatly into the bumper out of plain sight. Bumpers are mounted to the frame and heavy gauge steel will ensure that the winch can do its job safely. The only real drawback is the budget. Winch ready aftermarket bumpers can cost a small fortune which some may deem unreasonable. 

Hitch Receiver:  For a cheap alternative, winches can be mounted into a hitch receiver with the proper equipment. Some may feel that this lacks in integrity, but considering hitches mount to the frame with multiple anchoring points, one can rest assure it is secure. With that in mind, if one is using a low-profile tubular bumper on their Tacoma, this option is a must for use of a winch.

Proper Winch Use

Safety cannot be undermined with use of a winch. If the cable or rope is mounted improperly or is not fitted with safety devices, it is very easy for one to get killed. Use of gloves, proper tow and anchoring points, safety glasses, and basic common sense will go a long way.

Recovery Equipment

If at any point you have a winch on the front of your Tacoma, you should keep a winch recovery bag in the truck with you. In the bag, you should keep tow straps, gloves, safety glasses, recovery dampers, and spare tow hooks at the very least. Keeping this within arm’s reach can be the difference between a proper recovery and even life or death.

What Size Winch for a Tacoma

There’s no such thing as having too capable of a winch on your rig; the stronger the better. Budget may dictate you to keep from spending too much on a winch considering the more powerful it is, the more it will cost. 

What is the minimum winch weight rating for a Tacoma? Luckily, these aren’t heavy trucks so it’s ok to aim for the 8,000-pounds mark. But if the budget has the wiggle room, don’t skimp out here.

Fitment includes: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, Pre-Runner, X-Runner, SR, SR-5, TRD-Sport, TRD-Off-Road, Limited, TRD-Pro