Trailer winches make it easier to load boats, cars, and other cargo. Keep in mind that they are designed to load and unload boats—not to hold them in place. You should never rely on the winch strap alone to hold your boat on the trailer. If you hit a bump in the road, the winch line can pay out. To make sure your boat is securely strapped down, use separate tie downs.
Using a Trailer Winch
If you are using a hand winch, be careful not to let the handle kick back. Make sure your footing is secure and you have good leverage to wind the boat onto the trailer. If loading a boat leaves you fatigued, consider investing in an electric trailer winch. By letting the winch do all of the work, you no longer have to deal with a sore back and shoulders. An electric trailer winch also leaves you with a free hand to guide the boat onto the trailer.
Avoid chafing on the winch line. Don’t let it rub on sharp edges, such as on the winch mount or on the trailer. Rubbing can create sharp frays on the winch cable or damage the cable prematurely, forcing you to buy a new cable.
Choosing a Trailer Winch
Choose a trailer winch based on the weight of your boat, not just the length. Although length is a good starting point—and easier to estimate—the winch is designed to pull weight, not length. Gross weight can vary significantly from one boat to another, even though they are the same length. Fuel load, gear, water, and the materials used in the construction of the boat, along with other factors, all impact the boat’s weight. When estimating the weight of your boat, include the weight of anything else that will be inside the boat at the time you are loading it onto the trailer.