Which Winch

Picking a winch

I recently began researching winches to put on the Jeep. I want to get things outfitted to take the family on some trail rides this summer and camping trips. I would like to have the ability to perform self-recovery in case we get in a bind. My Jeep is pretty much stock (not planning on any serious rock crawling in it) and would like to keep the mods functional and utilitarian moving forward.

Winch Requirements: - 9,500 lb. + rating - High gear ratio (200:1 or higher) - Reasonable amp draw - Light weight

Lets walk through the winch requirements so you can get an idea of why they made the list.

9,500 lb. or Greater

The rule of thumb for a sizing a recovery winch is twice the vehicle weight. My 2016 JKU has a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) of 5,400lbs. Going by the rule, I would need at least a 10,800lb rated winch. If my vehicle only weighs 5,400lbs, why do I need a winch rated at 10k+?

  1. Line pull rating per wrap
  2. Friction
  3. Angle

That’s a Wrap

Line pull rating per wrap is something that I initially did not think about when I began looking into winch options. When line is spooled on the winch it creates layers as the drum is filled up. These layers are effectively increasing your drum diameter and decreasing your gear ratio. What this means is as you put more wraps on the drum, you reduce the amount of weight it can effectively pull. Below is a table showing this effect.

Wraps Rated Line Pull
1 10,000 lbs
2 8,000 lbs
3 6,670 lbs
4 5,720 lbs

Wrap number 1 indicates the first wrap on the drum, meaning your winch rope is in direct contact with the drum itself. As you can see, the rating drops pretty quick as you build up layers. Even with full wraps, a 10k winch could lift my Jeep off the ground (in theory at least).

Friction And Angle

In simple terms, friction is the force that resists movement. High friction situations magnify the effective weight of the vehicle you are trying to recover. The angle or slope of the ground you are trying to winch across also effects the effective weight of the vehicle as well. Regardless of how challenging the trail is, its quite likely that its not a flat, low friction surface that you have gotten your vehicle stuck in. With both friction and slope working against the winch, having some wiggle room is not a bad idea.

High Gear ratio

A high gear ratio in a winch reduces the load on the electric winch motor by allowing the motor to turn more revolutions per single turn of the drum. The load reduction on the motor translates to a reduction in amp draw. This is important for me because I don’t want to stress my vehicles battery and charging system any more than necessary and risk causing a premature failure. With these reduced loads also comes reduced speed, which could prove annoying for some one who is wheeling and winching every weekend, for me it’s not that big of a deal.

Reasonable Amp Draw

I touched on this earlier, the lower the amp draw of the winch motor, the lower the stress on the Jeep’s electrical system. Less stress = less failure. And the electrical failures I would likely experience would not be cheap (think batteries and alternators).

Low Weight

The weight of the winch is important for my application because I have stock suspension on the Jeep and it doesn’t take a lot of weight to start noticing sag. Some of the winch and bumper mounting options could add nearly 160 lbs to the front end of the Jeep. The easiest way to lose weight on the winch is to use synthetic rope instead of the traditional steel cable. The biggest drawback for synthetic wire rope is the cost. But I gain a few big benefits, lower weight, safer and field repairable.


Below are some resources I used while researching winches.

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