4wd Winch


A winch on your 4WD is the ultimate safety net. When you are stuck and everything else fails, it will be the pulling power of your winch that gets you out. Once upon a time, there were two main winch brands. You simply chose which one you wanted, and you were set for life. But with so many smaller players now in the market with their own technological niche, buying a winch is not as simple as it once was.


To start with, you will need to know how much your vehicle weighs. Your gross vehicle weight (GVW) should be etched onto a plate near the vehicle’s door. If you can’t find it here, check the owner’s manual. You will need to add the weight of any modifications you have made to the vehicle, like adding a bull bar or lights.

Once you have your total weight, add somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of the weight again. This should be the pulling power you are considering for your winch. If your 4WD weighs 3040kg, you need to be looking at winches that can pull more than 3630 kg. This is because if you are bogged down in mud or sand, your winch will need to be able to pull more weight than just your vehicle.


I would go for a shorter winch, with the opportunity to add an extension in if necessary. This keeps weight down but also means there is less line to become tangled or snarled up on the winch. If you are in a situation where you need a longer line, keep a 50 ft extension in your vehicle you can add in yourself in an emergency. The pulling power of a winch is also measured on the bottom layer of cable wrapped around the drum. The longer your cable, the more you will have to unwind to unleash the winch’s full pulling potential.


Choosing between a permanent magnet, series wound or hydraulic will be determined by the type of use, the frequency of use, and your budget. If you only need a winch for occasional light pulling, a permanent magnet motor winch will do. If you are an avid off-roader and frequently use your winch to get you out of a jam, go for a series wound. If winching is your bread and butter and you are pulling all day, you need something that won’t drain your battery, so go for a hydraulic winch.


Patience is a virtue, particularly when it comes to winching. We would all love a super-fast winch that can get us out in a second under a heavy load, but it just isn’t feasible. The faster the line speed, the more it drains the battery. Ultimately the whole winch is only as good as the battery.

Spur gear models have an impressive line speed but have low amperage draw. Worm gears, on the other hand, are very robust and are great at load holding, but their line speed is much slower. The most common type on the market is a planetary gear system. These are compact and affordable but tend to get very hot when spooling. They are quicker than the worm gears but slower than the spur gears, representing a good middle ground option.


Your mounting location will depend on the conditions you typically go off-road in. If you don’t encounter mud and mainly off-road in gravel, a low mount is fine. A low mount is also great for those folks living in the north where temperatures go sky high. A low mount is well away from the air flow to the radiator and will not interfere.

But if you live somewhere where mud and water can take a hold of your 4WD, you might need something a little higher, so the cable doesn’t get submerged.

Selecting the right winch isn’t always an easy choice. Take your time and make your decision carefully. The good news is that once you have it, you can move it around your 4WD vehicles for years to come. The best winches are incredibly durable and provide a near indestructible product for your 4WD arsenal.


Do you have any winch recommendations you can share with everyone? Let us know through the comments section below.

Oli Ward
Oli Ward

Oli has camped and hiked his way around Australia and most of Europe. He also loves writing about his experiences and sharing his knowledge.