There are 3 basic types of winch gears: planetary, worm, and spur gears. The gear train’s job is to reduce the high speed power from the winch motor into a low speed, high torque pulling force. The main difference between these 3 types of winch gears is their transfer efficiency.
Planetary Gear Winch
Transfer Efficiency: 65%
A planetary gear winch is the most popular and most affordable type of offroad winch. It offers strength, smooth operation, and good resistance to torque loads. They also allow for higher gear ratios than worm or spur gears. A planetary winch is typically the most compact of the three types of gear trains, making it the most practical type of winch for ATVs and vehicles with restricted mounting space.
Planetary gears got their name because of their design, similar to a sun with revolving planets. A braking system is required to hold the load.
Worm Gear Winch
Transfer Efficiency: 35-40%
Worm gear winches are known for their endless endurance and high reliability. They are also self-braking, eliminating the need for a braking system. On the other hand, they are also mechanically less efficient than either planetary gear or a spur gear winch.
Compared to planetary winches, worm winches are heavier, more expensive, and more difficult to mount. Worm gear winches also have a slower line speed (especially in a no-load situation) and a higher amp draw than planetary winches.
Spur Gear Winch
Transfer Efficiency: 75%
A spur gear winch is the most efficient type of winch, with a fast line speed and high reliability. Unfortunately, space requirements make it impractical to mount on some vehicles. If your vehicle has space restrictions for mounting a winch, the design of the spur gear winch may require extensive modifications to your vehicle.
Also, if you’re set on a spur gear winch, expect to pay a little extra. Very few spur gear winches are designed for offroad use. As with the planetary winch, a braking system is required to hold the load.
Photo Credits: “Planetary Gear Train” is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Train_planetaire.png.