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Pickup Trucks

HD WINCH GUIDE

Bruce Smith November 24, 2012

Buyer’s Guide:

HEAVY DUTY PICKUP WINCHES

 When it comes time to pull out the winch cable you want to be running one of the “Big Dawg” electric or hydraulic pickup winches

 

by Bruce W. Smith

When you work in the construction world you never know when the winch on your pickup is going to be called upon to save the day.

On one outing it could be used to pull a high-centered skid steer back to solid ground or winching a broken-down front-end loader up on the trailer to be towed back to the shop.

The next day it’s freeing your own pickup buried in the sand or sliding a blow-down off the road on the way to a remote jobsite.

The need for a heavy-duty winch – one capable of pulling a loaded diesel 4×4 crew cab up a bank as easily as it can roll piece of equipment onto a trailer or slide boulders or trees out of the way – is a must-have tool for the professional contractors who work every day outdoors.

To choose the right winch for heavy-duty use boils down to knowing a couple of simple items: 1) the weight of your pickup, and 2) the type of winching needs.

“Selecting a winch isn’t just a case of considering the vehicle weight. The contractor has to consider how a winch works and the forces involved in extracting a stuck vehicle or piece of equipment,” says Jeff Bimson, CEO of Warrior Winches.

“A general guide for those who actually use their winches on the job is to take the curb weight, add 50 percent [the effect of being stuck] and then multiply by two. This will give you a guide to the winch capacity required to be an effective tool in the field.”

So if a 4×4 crew-cab diesel has a curb weight of 6,500 pounds, adding 50 percent and doubling that number equates to 19,500 pounds. Overkill? Maybe. But Bimson’s thinking is spot on.

THINK BIG

The point is many winch buyers think too small. When push comes to pull, they end up kicking themselves as smoke boils from the winch or there’s not enough muscle to get the job done. It’s better to have a lot more pulling power at your fingertips than too little.

At a bare minimum you should get a winch with the capacity twice that of your pickup’s loaded weight. A 1/2-ton 4×4 pickup shouldn’t have anything less than a 10,000-pound-capacity winch, while a 4×4 dually diesel 4×4 should be set up with a 16,000-pound model. Bigger is better on both.

The type of winch depends on need and application. An electric is easier to install and there’s a wide range of models from which to choose. They also work whether the engine is running or not.

But electric winches tend to overheat under hard use and take a toll on the vehicle’s battery system if the winch operator doesn’t pay close attention to what’s going on. Electric winches are good for short pulls. But they all slow down on long, hard pulls as battery power drops. 

Hydraulic winches, on the other hand, keep pulling strong no matter the load or duration of the pull. The downside is they are a lot more expensive, the installation is more involved and they don’t work when the pickup’s engine stops.

MORE CONSIDERATIONS

Another thing to consider when buying a heavy-duty winch is how it’s made.

When you work in mud, sand and water day in and day out you want a winch with the highest quality internal components, and its electrical and drum/gear components sealed from the elements. The last thing you want is a winch that fails because mud and water worked their way into critical parts.

The winch mounting has to be up to the task as well. When you mount a winch capable of exerting six or eight tons of force, you don’t want to see the mount start bending or the bumper snapping off.

After all, a winch is only as strong as the weakest link in the system.

The common grill-guard winch-mounting system that goes over the factory bumper probably isn’t going to cut it.

What you’ll want to mount the big dawgs like the ones shown here in our buyer’s guide is a custom-fabricated bumper designed to hold the winch in place while you drag the world around.

The bumper should be made from heavy-duty materials, welded and gusseted to withstand heavy loads. It’s also nice to have light mounting points, shackles and tow hooks. Shop accordingly.

Winch Buyer’s Guide

The winches shown here are the biggest and baddest 12-volt and hydraulic models we could find. They have a minimum-pull rating of 10,000 pounds and top out at 18,000.

Winch manufacturers are constantly fine-tuning their offerings much like the vehicles they are mounted on. Today’s heavy-duty self-recovery winches are sleeker, more efficient, stronger, and more reliable than ever.

Whichever model or brand winch you choose depends on many factors. But in the end it all boils down to which one you have the most confidence in when it’s time to run out the cable. Shop smart. Let function and quality be your guide.

Remember, in our world a winch is a safety necessity – not a cosmetic accessory.

* Listed prices are retail price, not street

NORTHERN TOOL 15

With 15,000 pounds of rated line pull, a four-stage planetary gear system, and a 6hp 12-volt motor, the model 141541 winch ($1,100) meets heavy-duty needs. The 143-pound winch that includes a 2-in-1 hand-held remote uses either wired or wireless, has an automatic brake, free-spooling clutch and integrated solenoid module designed for long service life. Winch comes with 94 feet of 7/16-inch cable and roller fairlead. One-year warranty. northerntool.com; (800) 221-0516

N0rthern tool 15 2

Northern Industrial Tools 12-volt truck winch, model 143758 ($1,400), packs 15,000 pound of sheer pulling capacity for easy recovery of full-size pickup trucks and SUVs. It also boasts a four-stage planetary gear drive with a 355:1 ratio for increased torque and pulling capacity. This 165-pound winch comes with remote control, cable, roller fairlead and a one-year warranty. northerntool.com; (800) 221-0516

Pierce PS15000

The Pierce 12-volt 15,000-pound-capacity planetary-gear winch, PS15000 ($679), features a compact solenoid assembly for electrical efficiency and reliability while its heavy-duty 6hp motor offers high-ampere resistance and output strength. The 115-pound winch comes with automatic braking, 7/16-inch aircraft cable and uses a 358:1 ratio three-stage planetary drive. The Pierce PS-series also includes 6-, 9-, 12- and 20,000-pound winches. Piercesales.com; (800) 658-6301

PIERCE PS20000

Pierce is well-known for their PTO and hydraulic wrecker winches. They are also getting a good reputation for the PS series winches like the new PS20000 ($1,025). The 20,000-pound capacity 12-volt electric features a heavy-duty motor, zinc-alloy gear box, three-stage planetary system, super torque strength and a mechanical safety brake system for large loading. Piercesales.com; (800) 658-6301

RECON BRUTE FORCE 17.5

Recon’s claims their new Brute Force Series winches have the fastest line speed (28fpm) and most powerful series-wound motor (7hp) offered in self-recovery winches. The 17,500-pound-capacity model ($700) uses a three-stage planetary drive system and automatic brake to control 92 feet of 7/16-inch aircraft cable. Winch weighs 125 pounds and comes with 22,050-pound-rated snatch block, roller fairlead and remote. Gorecon.com; (877) 377-3266

RECON BRUTE FORCE 10.5

Deep in a Louisiana swamp, sliding along on red Georgia clay, or making your way between mountains somewhere in Utah, the Recon 10,500-pound-capacity Pro Performance Series winch ($700) will give you peace of mind. A 12-volt 6.5hp series-wound motor and 218:1 three-stage planetary drive is at the heart of this 62-pound stump puller. Hawse-type fairlead and 88 feet of 7/16-inch synthetic rope come with the package. Gorecon.com; (877) 377-3266

MILE MARKER SEC12

Mile Marker’s SEC12 ($699) is a proven recovery platform for those heavy-duty winching needs. A powerful series-wound motor and rugged planetary gear set is the backbone of this expedition-grade, 12,000-pound-capacity winch. With a 500-amp sealed solenoid, a galvanized roller fairlead, a load holding brake, and an integrated kill switch, the SEC series is a proven winch design for heavy-duty needs. milemarker.com; (800) 886-8647

MILE MARKER HI12000

The Mile Marker HI12000 hydraulic-powered winch ($1,875) delivers continuous pulling power running off the pickup’s power-steering pump. The solenoid control valve is integrated into the winch body. Kit includes all mounting/installation hardware, remote control, roller fairlead and winch cable. HI Series winches (HI9000, HI10500, and HI12000) require a vehicle specific 35-series vehicle adapter kit. milemarker.com; (800) 886-8647

MILE MARKER H18K

Mile Marker introduces its largest pickup winch to date: the H18K. Offering a full 18,000 pounds of pulling and recovery power, this hydraulic winch can be utilized in many applications from field service vehicles to compact loader/excavators to industrial utility vehicles and beyond. Requiring only a hydraulic flow of 4gpm at 1500psi, the H18K ($3,496) can be powered by either stock power steering pumps, or PTO systems. milemarker.com; (800) 886-8647

SMITTYBILT XRC 10

The XRC 10 ($550) is the next generation in winch features and technology. This 10,000-pound-capacity Smittybilt winch has a state-of-the-art 5.5hp series-wound motor with a fast overheat recovery cycle. A three-stage planetary gear system with a 218:1 gear ratio delivers the pulling power. XRC 10 comes complete with the roller fairlead, remote control, hook and solenoid box. Smittybilt.com; (888) 717-5797

SMITTYBILT XRC 12

The new Smittybilt XRC 12 ($865) is a 12,000-pound powerhouse. The 6.6hp motor is state-of-the-art, and the three-stage planetary gear system, with a 265:1 gear ratio, delivers lightning fast line speed. Winch is finished in a high-gloss black powdercoat and comes with stainless steel hardware and aluminum cross bars. Illuminated remote control, solenoid box, a four-way roller fairlead and hook are part of the package. (A 15K model is also available.) Smittybilt.com; (888) 717-5797

SUPERWINCH TALON 12.5i

A new design of heavy-duty winches comes from Super Winch in the form of the Talon 12.5i and 12.5i SR (synthetic rope). These winches use a fast, strong 148:1 ratio two-stage planetary/two-stage spur-gear drive powered by a 6hp motor to deliver 12,500 of line pull. Braking is automatic and done inside the gearbox instead of the drum. The 12.5i solenoid is submersible and comes with a three-year warranty. The mechanicals have a limited lifetime warranty. Superwinch.com; (800) 323-2031

SUPERWINCH TALON 18.0

The Superwinch Talon Series’ biggest winch is the Talon 18.0, which uses a two-stage planetary/two-stage spur gear set and a 6hp series-wound motor to produce nine tons of pull. Winch is available in either steel cable or synthetic rope configurations. Ergonomic remote control, foot-down or foot-forward mounting, sealed housing and waterproof solenoid, light overall weight and a limited lifetime mechanical warranty are just some of the Talon’s features. Superwinch.com; (800) 323-2031

WESTIN T-MAX EWI-12000

Westin’s T-Max Heavy Duty Outback Series EWI-12000 Winch ($1,300) delivers 12,000 pounds line pull through a 6.6hp 12-volt motor and planetary drive. Comes complete with a roller fairlead; wireless remote control with 12-foot back up cable; 94 feet of 5/16-inch cable and hook. Westin also offers more than 20 accessories from which to choose. westinautomotive.com; (800) 345-8476

WARN M15000

The 136-pound Warn M15000 ($1,980) winch boasts high-strength carrier plates to handle the geartrain stresses of its 15,000-pound pull. The gear ratio is 315:1, with 90 feet of 7/16-inch wire rope equipped with a large latched hook. 4.6hp series-wound motor, low-profile design; automatic direct-drive braking. Limited lifetime warranty. Warn.com; (800) 543-9276

WARN 16.5ti

Warn’s 16.5ti Thermometric winch ($2,200) has the highest capacity and is the most technologically advanced truck winch in the Warn inventory. The 16.5ti can pull 16,000 pounds and features a built-in diagnostic and overheat warning system. Planetary gear drive, 4.6hp motor, fast line recovery speed (23.6fpm), low amp draw and sealed components. Limited lifetime warranty. Warn.com; (800) 543-9276

WARRIOR C12000 EWX

Winch Solutions Ltd UK, one of Europe’s premier winch suppliers, brings their premium Warrior-brand Stateside. The Warrior EWX Series C12000 ($530) delivers six tons of pull through a double-sealed planetary gearbox powered by a 6.5hp 12-volt motor with waterproof contactor assembly. Built-in wireless remote is standard. “No-quibble” lifetime mechanical warranty. warriorwinches.com; (866) 341-8087

WARRIOR C17500 EWX

Put a no-quibble lifetime mechanical warranty behind a 17,500-pound-capacity electric winch and you have the Warrior C17500 EWX ($870) – the big daddy of the Warrior line. Features include a 7hp, double-sealed 12-volt motor with brass fittings; heavy-duty waterproof contactors; double-sealed drum on maintenance free bearings; all-steel planetary gearing. Complete with 85 feet of 1/2-inch cable, heavy-duty integrated wireless remote. warriorwinches.com; (866) 341-8087

Buckstop Truckware

Buckstop Truckware manufactures heavy-duty replacement bumpers for trucks, vans, and SUVs from the mid 80’s through 2011.

The bumpers are loaded with features such as winch mount with enclosed latching door, recessed light buckets, and 2-inch trailer receiver.

Custom options include different colors, polished stainless steel, additional light options, five grill-guard styles, several specialized add-ons and stripped down versions for fleet/industrial applications. Made in USA. Buckstop.biz; (800) 431-6978

WINCH ACCESSORY KITS

Having a winch on your rig without a proper accessory kit is like having a socket set without extensions: Both can be used do the basic jobs, but they are worthless for more demanding situations.

Every pickup equipped with a heavy-duty winch should also carry a winch accessory kit that includes tree saver straps, choker chains, shackles, a snatch block, winch straps and leather gloves.

Notice many of the items listed above are plural.

Most winch accessory kits come with one item each. But heavy-duty winches being used around the jobsite or in the field often require longer, heavier and more difficult pulls than those encountered during a weekend hunting outing.

Two 30-foot winch straps, a pair of 10-foot choker chains, a double-sheave snatch block, and three or four shackles in your truck will handle most winching situations.

Having these items at your disposal when the winch on your rig might be the only one for miles around is smart thinking. Sure, they take up a bit more room, but the time these winching necessities save in a pinch is well worth that little bit of lost space in the tool box or under the back seat.

That equipment needs to be up to the pulling task as well. Keep safety at the forefront. Make sure whatever accessories you carry are capable of handling twice the load for which the winch is rated. Like the Boy Scout motto says, “Be prepared.”

MORE WINCH CONSIDERATIONS

When you work in the construction world you never know when the winch on your pickup is going to be called upon to save the day.

On one outing it could be used to pull a high-centered skid steer back to solid ground or winching a broken-down front-end loader up on the trailer to be towed back to the shop. The next day it’s freeing your own pickup buried in the sand or sliding a blow-down off the road on the way to a remote jobsite.

The need for a heavy-duty winch – one capable of pulling a loaded diesel 4×4 crew cab up a bank as easily as it can roll piece of equipment onto a trailer or slide boulders or trees out of the way – is a must-have tool for the professional contractors who work every day outdoors.

To choose the right winch for heavy-duty use boils down to knowing a couple of simple items: 1) the weight of your pickup, and 2) the type of winching needs.

“Selecting a winch isn’t just a case of considering the vehicle weight. The contractor has to consider how a winch works and the forces involved in extracting a stuck vehicle or piece of equipment,” says Jeff Bimson, CEO of Warrior Winches.

“A general guide for those who actually use their winches on the job is to take the curb weight, add 50 percent [the effect of being stuck] and then multiply by two. This will give you a guide to the winch capacity required to be an effective tool in the field.”

So if a 4×4 crew-cab diesel has a curb weight of 6,500 pounds, adding 50 percent and doubling that number equates to 19,500 pounds. Overkill? Maybe. But Bimson’s thinking is spot on.

THINK BIG

The point is many winch buyers think too small. When push comes to pull, they end up kicking themselves as smoke boils from the winch or there’s not enough muscle to get the job done. It’s better to have a lot more pulling power at your fingertips than too little.

At a bare minimum you should get a winch with the capacity twice that of your pickup’s loaded weight. A 1/2-ton 4×4 pickup shouldn’t have anything less than a 10,000-pound-capacity winch, while a 4×4 dually diesel 4×4 should be set up with a 16,000-pound model. Bigger is better on both.

The type of winch depends on need and application. An electric is easier to install and there’s a wide range of models from which to choose. They also work whether the engine is running or not.

But electric winches tend to overheat under hard use and take a toll on the vehicle’s battery system if the winch operator doesn’t pay close attention to what’s going on. Electric winches are good for short pulls. But they all slow down on long, hard pulls as battery power drops.

Hydraulic winches, on the other hand, keep pulling strong no matter the load or duration of the pull. The downside is they are a lot more expensive, the installation is more involved and they don’t work when the pickup’s engine stops.

QUALITY COMPONENTS

Another thing to consider when buying a heavy-duty winch is how it’s made. When you work in mud, sand and water day in and day out you want a winch with the highest quality internal components, and its electrical and drum/gear components sealed from the elements. The last thing you want is a winch that fails because mud and water worked their way into critical parts.

The winch mounting has to be up to the task as well. When you mount a winch capable of exerting six or eight tons of force, you don’t want to see the mount start bending or the bumper snapping off. After all, a winch is only as strong as the weakest link in the system.

The common grill-guard winch-mounting system that goes over the factory bumper probably isn’t going to cut it.

What you’ll want to mount the big dawgs like the ones shown here in our buyer’s guide is a custom-fabricated bumper designed to hold the winch in place while you drag the world around.

The bumper should be made from heavy-duty materials, welded and gusseted to withstand heavy loads. It’s also nice to have light mounting points, shackles and tow hooks. Shop accordingly.

ROPE VS. CABLE

Many of today’s winches come with the choice of either traditional aircraft cable or synthetic rope. Rope looks cool and is very easy to handle. It’s also just as strong as any cable as is exhibited by Samson Amsteel-Blue (samsonrope.com), one of the favored winch ropes.

Synthetic winch line stores zero energy under stress and, in the event of breakage, doesn’t snap back with the deadly whiplash action of cable. However, some synthetic ropes are susceptible to cuts from sharp metal and abrasion. Rope also needs to be kept clean.

Winch cable can be easily damaged wrapping over itself on the drum, by kinking or bending over sharp edges. So be careful when rigging either rope or cable. And always use something over cable to help absorb the energy in the event it does break or comes loose from an attaching point.

BATTERY POWER

Electric winches are wonderful tools. But they are only as efficient as the flow of juice to the electric motor powering the winch drum; when the voltage drops, so does pulling power.

Owners of gas-powered pickups would be wise to add a second battery and a battery isolator to ensure their winches have the 12-volt power available to handle the more arduous situations.

Those who drive diesels should think adding a third battery and a battery isolator – or upgrading the dual OEM batteries to the heaviest duty batteries they can fit in the engine compartment.

Deep-cycle batteries work far better than cranking batteries when it comes to the kind of load a winch puts on an electrical system. Having a battery dedicated to the needs of the winch, such as East Penn Manufacturing’s new Duracell AGM batteries, ensures there’s a good supply of juice when you need it.

Batteries with Absorbed Glass Mat Technology (AGM) like that found in the Duracell line are purpose-built to withstand the demands of multiple accessory loads such as auxiliary lights, radios, GPS systems, spot lights, laptops and the other items the typical contractor or construction worker adds to make their pickup a better tool and rolling office.

SNATCH BLOCKS MAXIMIZE PULL

Sometimes we need more pulling power than the winch can provide – or we want to get the winching job done faster. Either scenario requires maximizing the winch’s capabilities.

A winch only delivers the maximum-rated pulling power when the cable is on the innermost layer. Pulling from subsequent layers reduces that power by about 20 percent per layer.

Employing a snatch block (or blocks) in the winching setup provides a big mechanical advantage and allows more cable to be run off the drum so the winch can pull harder.

Using a double-sheave snatch block along with the traditional single-pulley block found in winch accessory kits can help turn a frustrating winching situation into a piece of cake.

Employing both, as shown in the accompanying illustration, can make a 16,000-pound load feel more like 5,000 to your winch, speeding up the pull and reducing the electrical load on both winch and batteries. Heavy-duty, double-sheave snatch blocks are available from many sources including Gunnebo Johnson (gunnebojohnson.com).

WINCH ANCHOR POINTS

Some winching situations require a way to anchor your pickup so it doesn’t become the pulled object – or there’s nothing to serve as the anchor to get your truck out.

If you work in the Texas oil fields, desert or some other location where there aren’t any big rocks and trees to save the day, you can bury the spare tire or some other handy object in the ground attached to a snatch strap and your vehicle. Or you can use a tool designed for just such purposes.

One I’ve found works great in those situations is the Pull Pal (pullpal.com). It serves as a good anchor in sand, loose rock or dirt.

The Smittybilt (smittybilt.com) Winch Anchor Support Platform, or WASP, is a similar device, although of lighter material and lower cost. Both tools are designed to bury deeper into the ground the harder the pull.


Battery Wiring Kits

There’re a lot of sources for battery boxes, battery cables and dual/triple battery installation kits. If you don’t have a local source, Warn Industries (warn.com) and Painless Performance Products (painlessperformance.com) both offer battery isolators and dual wiring battery kits.

Wrangler NW Power Products (wranglernw.com) has a good selection of dual battery trays, while most automotive parts stores, boat and RV dealers carry battery boxes.

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