Choosing and Using an Electric Winch

An automotive electric winch can ease workloads and add peace of mind for both recreational and hard-working vehicle users. However, there are many types of winches available, and a winch is not necessarily a one-size-fits all tool. Depending on the type of work one expects to do with an electric winch and the vehicle on which it will be used, a product can be selected to ensure reliability and satisfaction.

The Electric Winch 12v
There are two primary types of automotive winches: electric winches and hydraulic winches. Each type has its own advantages. Electric winches operate directly from the vehicle’s 12v battery. Hydraulic winches operate off of a vehicle’s power steering pump, which can allow for longer extended use, especially if the vehicle’s engine is running. However, hydraulic pumps are more involved to install and remove from a vehicle. 12v electric winches are extremely common, and can often be found with a wider  assortment of features than their hydraulic counterparts.

Types of Electric Winches
At its core, an electric winch is made up of a motor and drive train. The ideal type of motor and drive train depend on the type of winching a consumer expects to be doing most often. There are two main types of motor:

  • Permanent magnetic: a permanent magnetic motor is energy efficient and the most economical choice in an electric winch. They have a moderate power draw and offer enough power for most everyday situations. However, they are less effective for heavy duty loads than series wound motors, and can be more subject to heat and cold.
  • Series wound:  a series wound motor is more effective for very heavy loads. Series wound motor winches tend to be more expensive and because of a higher power draw, may require upgrades to a vehicles electrical system in order to operate reliably (see below).

There are three major types of drive trains for and electric winch:

  • Spur Gear: a spur gear drive train operates at a relatively high speed, but at the cost of holding power. Very heavy loads will require an effective brake on the winch.
  • Worm Gear: a worm gear is slower than the spur gear, but excels at holding heavy loads without slippage.
  • Planetary Gear: a planetary gear is functionally a compromise between the spur gear and worm gear, and are perhaps the most common gear type used in automotive electric winches. They are frequently compact.

In addition to the basic type of winch system used, a person wanting to purchase and install an automotive electric winch should consider the following:

  • Capacity: How much does your vehicle weigh? What are you expecting to pull? Remember that you should budget at least 1.5 times your vehicle’s weight if you expect to be able to pull your vehicle out of hairy situations and up inclines. For example, if your truck weighs 3000lbs, your 12v electric winch should have a capacity of at least 4500lbs.
  • Size: For lighter-duty work such as loading boats and ATVs into trailers or vehicle recovery when steep inclines are not an issue, a consumer may find that a small electric winch is sufficient. A portable electric winch, commonly available with a 2000lb pulling capacity, may be an economical and effective choice for most users. On the other hand, serious 4×4 off-roading enthusiasts will probably want to have a larger winch with the recommended pulling capacity of 1.5 times the weight of their vehicle.
  • Your vehicle: when choosing and installing a winch, consumers should consider the alternator and battery in their vehicle. In certain cases these will need to be upgraded to ensure optimal performance of the winch and to prevent alternator or battery failure.

By understanding the types of 12v electric winches and available features, consumers can choose a unit that will provide long-term, reliable service and the peace of mind. And speaking of peace of mind, anyone installing and using a winch should be aware of all of the safety precautions necessary to winch use. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and enjoy your electric winch!

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