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ProMark Offroad Blog

How Strong Should Your Winch Be?

Determining the winch strength you need in order to deliver the results you want depends on several factors. For some guidelines on how to find the best winch for your needs, read on below for a few basics to keep in mind.

Line Pull Rating
Each winch is rated with a line pull rate. This figure is typically the capacity of the first layer of the winch strength cable that is located the closest to the drum. When figuring the rated weight of a winch, it is important to take the gross weight of your ATV – that is, the curb weight, plus any accessories or gear you might have installed on it, as well as your own weight – and multiply that figure by 1.5. This gives you the added winch pulling power you will likely need if you wind up bogged down in a mud pit somewhere.

Length of Line
While you might want lots of line so you can reach further, there are distinct disadvantages to having excessive amounts. For one thing, to get the most pull from the winch, you need to release lots of line. However, the more line you have played out, the more likely it can get jammed up in the winch mechanism or snarled as you are trying to use it. One solution is to purchase a winch with less line, but to carry extra that can be spliced to the winch with a eye splice while you are on the go.

Line Speed
Most winches are quick to offload, a feature that lets you quickly get to work freeing your ATV. The speed under which it works when loaded is another matter completely. Almost all winches will slow down significantly when pulling in a load. If having a quick load speed is important to you, remember that there will be a tradeoff in that it will require a great deal of electricity in order to reach greater speeds.

Winch Motors
Winches come in two basic types of electric motors: series wound (SW) and permanent magnet (PM). SW winches are designed for heavier duty use, as well as the off roader, who is out in the field every weekend, expecting power and performance. For the person who goes off roading only occasionally or who is very careful with their winch, a PM model could be a good choice. Be aware, though, that these models tend to lose power when the temps dip. In addition, they deliver up to 15% fewer amps than SW winches.

When it comes to purchasing a winch, it is best to go with quality and pulling power over a cheaper version. If you go into the buying process with the thought that you will use the winch more than you planned, you can’t go wrong.

Choosing the Right Winch

Jeep winch

Choosing the right winch is about more than just load capacity.

It’s finally spring…and time for mud season! Are you ready? The right winch can get you out of the mud, move logs on your back forty, and load that old tractor onto a trailer bed.

Choosing the Best Winch

Choosing a winch depends on how you plan to use it. Winches can be used for a variety of applications, including pulling out stuck vehicles, moving deadwood, lifting a snow plow, and winching an old car onto a trailer, just to name a few.

Some types of winching place more strain on the winch. Rolling loads offer the least resistance, while stuck loads place the most strain on your winch. The sucking forces of mud and sand require the winch to work that much harder in order to pull out a stuck vehicle. Take this into account when you choose the pulling power of your winch.

Winch Brakes

If you expect the winch line to hold weight without creeping under heavy loads or on steep angles, be sure to get a winch with both mechanical and dynamic braking. Every winch includes a dynamic brake, which is an automatic in-the-drum braking system. Some winches also include a mechanical brake, which is a physical brake that works similar to the brakes on your car.

If you winch at steep angles, under heavy loads (close to the max winch capacity), or with a snow plow system, we recommend getting a winch with both dynamic and mechanical braking. The mechanical brake will hold the load better and prevent slipping.

Winch Line

When it comes to winch line, you have a choice between traditional wire rope and the newer synthetic rope. Steel rope is durable, resistant to abrasion, and holds up well under exposure to UV rays and the elements. Synthetic rope is less well known; however, it is gaining popularity in the offroad world due to the fact that it’s safer than wire rope (no dangerous recoil action), very lightweight (plus it floats in water), and easy on your hands (no burrs, stray wires, or burns).

What Size Recovery Winch?

8000 pound recovery winch

This recovery winch has 8000 pounds of pulling power, generally the minimum rating for a recovery vehicle.

One question we get asked fairly often from Jeep and truck owners is, “What size winch should I get?” While the general advice from most winch manufacturers and offroad experts is to multiply the gross weight of your vehicle by 1.5, the fact is that this may not be enough pulling power for how you will be using your recovery winch.

Calculating Winch Size

For light duty winching, 1.5 times the GVW might be fine, but for heavy duty winching, you’ll need a larger capacity truck or Jeep winch. When you factor in things like mud, bogs, inclines, pulling out rigs that are heavier than yours, and not being able to unwind the cable to its full capacity, you might find that you need a winch size 2 or even 2.5 times the gross weight of your vehicle. The resistance force from a mud hole or a steep incline can double or even triple the weight of your vehicle, requiring far more recovery power to get back out.

Advantages of a Heavy Winch

One of the advantages of choosing a heavy winch is that the larger the winch motor, the less work it has to do in order to pull you out. A bigger winch motor equals less demand on the winch, which means it can pull for longer periods of time without overheating and will most likely have a longer lifespan than a smaller winch motor that is overworked. Larger capacity winches also draw fewer amps and lighten the load on your electrical system.

Another advantage to a heavy winch is that not every pull will allow you to unwind the cable to the last row, where the maximum line capacity is rated. The less cable you spool out, the less power you will get from your winch. That means a winch rated at 10,000 pounds at the first layer can drop down to a rating of less than 8000 pounds at the second layer.

Recommendations for Heavy Duty Winching

If you winch in these conditions, choose a winch with at least 2x GVW, or the largest capacity winch that your rig can handle.

  • Mud and bogs
  • Steep inclines
  • Heavy duty winching and/or frequent use
  • Pulls with several wraps of cable still left on the drum
  • Recovery of vehicles heavier than your own

Which Winch Should I Buy?

The winch you buy could make the difference between getting back on the trail fast and making a long hike back to the trailhead. You want to make sure your winch is up to the challenge. At ProMark, we get a lot of questions from offroaders about what size winch to get, which type of cable is better (synthetic or steel), etc. There are a lot of factors that go into deciding which winch is best for your 4wheeler or rig. Ultimately, the choice is yours. But here are a few guidelines to help you out.

3000 lb XTR Synthetic Rope Winch Package

3000 lb XTR Synthetic Rope Winch Package

What size winch do I need?

To get a basic idea of how much winch power you’ll need, multiply the gross weight of your vehicle (plus the weight of all the gear and people you’ll be carrying) times 1.5. That’s the minimum winch capacity that you’ll need. Depending on how you plan to use your ATV or recovery winch (mud, wet sand, etc.), you may need more power. The sucking force of mud or sand requires a lot more power to free your vehicle.

What size winch you need also depends on the size of your mounting space. If the winch is too big, you may need to make some modifications or find a smaller body winch. The winch model and location of the drum may also make a difference as to how well the winch will fit inside the mounting space.

Synthetic rope or steel cable?

The debate is hot between synthetic and steel. Some guys swear by synthetic winch rope for its safety, lightness, and strength. Others prefer steel cable for its long history in the world of offroading.

Both types of winch line have their strengths and weaknesses. Synthetic cable is lighter and more flexible than steel cable, floats in water, won’t slice your hands with burrs, and can be easily spliced, among other benefits. Steel cable requires less maintenance, retains its circular properties under tension for neat and easy spooling, and has a long history of use in off road situations.

10K Silverback Recovery Winch

10K Silverback Recovery Winch

Do I need a mounting plate?

The safest and most secure way to mount your winch is to use a mounting plate. You can purchase either a universal mount plate or a custom mount plate that is designed to fit your vehicle. You also have the option of a multi-mount winch plate that allows you to move the winch from front to rear. If you choose not to use a mount plate, you must mount the winch to a flat, secure surface that is able to withstand the pulling force of the winch.

What about maintenance and repairs?

Offroad winches require very little maintenance. Keep it clean and dry with a winch cover to prevent corrosion and damage from the elements. Check the winch cable before and after use for any signs of damage. Clean the cable after use and allow it to dry before respooling. Check the tightness of the electrical connections and mounting bolts every few months, and remove any dirt or corrosion from the connections.

If your winch has been repeatedly exposed to harsh conditions, you may need to take it apart every so often to clean and re-lubricate it. A harsh grinding sound in the motor is one indication that your winch needs to be cleaned and serviced. All ProMark Offroad winches can be repaired and serviced by our technicians. Check to see if your winch is still under warranty before contacting us for repairs.

What Is the Difference Between a Winch and a Hoist?

XT 4000 lb ATV winch

This XT 4000 lb winch is designed with a dynamic braking system and is not approved for use as a hoist.

They might look fairly similar, but winches and hoists are made for two different purposes. A winch is designed to pull a heavy load across a fairly level surface or a slight incline. A hoist is designed to lift a load vertically or up a sharp incline (greater than 45 degrees).


The main difference between a winch and a hoist is the braking system. Most offroad winches are made with dynamic brakes, meaning that the gear system is designed to automatically hold the load. A dynamic brake uses the gears in the winch to provide resistance, acting as a brake. But with this type of braking system, the winch line could bleed out slightly under a heavy enough load. Dynamic braking is not safe for suspended loads. If you try using your winch as a hoist, the load could slip, creating a danger hazard, or the gears could strip out, damaging the winch.

A hoist, on the other hand, includes a mechanical braking system, which is a physical brake that locks the spool in place so that there is no line bleed. In addition, there is no freespool mechanism available on a hoist.

Some specially-manufactured winches are designed to double as a hoist. In order for these devices to act as a hoist, the device must include a locking brake and no freespool mechanism (or the freespool must be completely removed or disabled). Never use a winch as a hoist unless the manufacturer specifically states that the winch is approved for use as a hoist.

Electrical Requirements for Winches

Winching Tip of the Week from ProMark Offroad


Winching Tip of the Week: Make sure your battery and alternator are up to the challenge of winching.

Silver Back Recovery WinchElectrical winches use a lot of power. Make sure your battery and power supply meet the electrical requirements for your winch model. Check the specifications for your winch supplied by the manufacturer to make sure your battery and power supply are able to handle the electrical load, or you could risk damaging your winch, battery, or alternator.

If the winch is under heavy use, consider upgrading to dual batteries and a heavy-duty alternator for best performance.

Dynamic vs Mechanical Winch Brakes

The Outback Series winches have both dynamic and mechanical brakes.

The Outback Series winches have both dynamic and mechanical brakes.

A dynamic winch brake uses the resistance from the winch motor to prevent the drum from turning. It’s a natural braking mechanism built into the winch.


Unless you plan to use your winch as a hoist, a dynamic brake should be all you need. Winches with dynamic brakes should never be used for a hoist system.

The excessive force on the winch cable caused by hoisted weight will cause the line to “bleed” out, making the load unsafe and endangering the user. If you plan to use your winch as a hoist, make sure the winch you purchase is specifically designed for this purpose.

A mechanical winch brake is a physical brake, like on a car, that stops the drum from turning when there is a load on the cable. Mechanical brakes are optional on most ATV winches, although some winches come with both dynamic and mechanical brakes.

Which Is Better: Dynamic or Mechanical?

The dynamic braking system is sufficient for most ATV winch owners; however, a mechanical brake can be installed in addition to the dynamic brake in order to offer better control and prevent roll back. The XT 1500 winch and the Outback Series winches are designed with a mechanical winch braking system.

The downside of a mechanical brake is the added weight (winches are heavy enough as it is) and the increased size of the winch body. The weight and size issue can be a big deal for ATVs and UTVs with tight mounting spaces.

If you plan to use your winch as a hoist, however, you will need a winch with a mechanical brake to securely hold a vertical load.

Buying a Winch: 3 Things to Consider

Don’t neglect these 3 important factors when it comes to looking for an ATV or truck winch.

1. Warranty

ATV Winch WarrantyYou get your new winch, spend several hours hooking it up, and on the test run, the winch motor only turns in one direction. After tinkering with it for awhile and following the troubleshooting guide in your manual, it still won’t work right. Come to find out, you’ve got a defective solenoid.

Now what? Time to call customer service and request a warranty claim. You may not give your winch warranty much thought until you need it, but the length and coverage of your warranty should be an important factor in your decision to buy an off road winch. The quality of the warranty speaks volumes about the company’s commitment to stand behind their product.

Another question to consider is how much hassle it is to get covered under your warranty. Does the company have a “no questions asked” policy, or do you have to jump through hoops to get your winch repaired under warranty? If there are too many restrictions, claiming your warranty may be more of a headache than it’s worth.

Check out the warranty BEFORE you buy. That way, if you run into problems, you know what’s covered, what’s not, and for how long. Also check on the availability of replacement parts. If a part is not covered under warranty, can you purchase a replacement part through the company instead of having to purchase a whole new winch?

2. Satisfaction Guarantee

Does the company stand behind its product? Check out their satisfaction guarantee. If you have questions or problems, is the customer service department available to help you out? Can you get the technical support you need? Helpful, friendly customer service shows that the company cares about its customers and wants to keep its customers satisfied.

3. The Total Package

Figure out the total cost of your winch package before you make your decision. Does the winch come with accessories, or do you need to purchase those separately? Don’t forget to add in the mounting plate and any winch tools you might need (tree straps, shackles, snatch blocks). Add in shipping and handling costs to find the total cost of your winch package. You can then use this total to compare different winches, keeping in mind the warranty offered and other factors beyond cost alone.


Gorilla Winches [now ProMark Offroad] offers a Limited Lifetime Warranty on ATV winches, Free Shipping on all orders, and 100% Satisfaction Guarantee on all Gorilla [now ProMark] products, including winches and off-road accessories.

First-Time Winch Buyer’s Guide

We’ve put together a checklist for first-time winch buyers.

The Basics:

checkmark21 Winch (Find out more about choosing a winch here.)

Most likely your winch will come loaded with cable already spooled on the drum. It should also include a contactor, thumb switch, spring hook and pull strap, wiring, and all necessary hardware. Some winches come with a fairlead. Some don’t. If your winch has steel cable, you’ll need a roller fairlead. For synthetic cable, you’ll need a hawse fairlead. Your winch may also come with a few bonus features (remote control, rubber winch stopper, etc.).

checkmark21 Mount Plate

ATV mount for Yamaha Grizzly

There are two basic types of mount plates: 1) Universal and 2) Custom / ATV Specific. Which type of mount you choose depends on how much you like to customize on your own. If you don’t mind drilling a few holes, a universal mount can save you a few dollars. A universal mount may fit as is, but it’s not guaranteed. If you want a mount that fits your quad without any modifications, choose a mount that’s specifically designed for your ATV or truck model.

Basic Winching Accessories:

checkmark21 Gloves, Snatch Block, Tree Strap, Clevis

If you plan to use anything besides a straight, single-line pull, you’re going to need a few winch accessories to help you out. Gloves are essential. They protect your hands from barbs and rope burns, among other things. If you ever need to straighten out an angle pull or double up the line, a snatch block, tree strap, and clevis will come in handy. A long tree strap can also double as a tow strap. If you buy a winch accessory kit, it even comes with a bag to keep all your tools in one place.


checkmark21 Winch Cover

Using a winch cover is one of the easiest ways to protect your winch and reduce the need for cleaning and maintenance.

checkmark21 Remote Control

A remote winch control helps you stay safe while winching and gives yourself more options for winching out. It’s also ideal for winching out alone.

checkmark21 Rubber Stopper

A winch stopper keeps your cable hook from tangling up in the winch housing as you respool.

checkmark21 Synthetic Cable Extension

If you have synthetic rope on your winch, a cable extension can help you out in desolate terrain when your closest anchor point is just out of reach.

What Size Winch Do You Need?

Here’s some tips on how to find the right size winch for your quad or truck.

Jeep winch wirelessOne of the first questions to ask when you’re looking for an off road winch is what size you need. The basic rule of thumb is to multiply the gross weight of your vehicle by 1.5. The gross vehicle weight includes a full tank of gas, the driver and passengers, and all of the tools and gear you carry along with you. Weigh your fully loaded vehicle on a truck scale for the most accurate total, or if you can’t weigh your rig on a scale, estimate the gross weight as precisely as you can.

This total gives you the minimum rating needed for your rig. Note that this is only the minimum. If you wheel in mud, the sucking force of the mud will make your winch work harder. The same rule applies to other situations where getting unstuck requires extra power. When you’re trying to decide on the best winch size, take into account where you ride and how bad you might get stuck.

Another factor that you should consider is how the extra weight of the winch will affect your vehicle. Check out the manufacturer’s rated load capacity for the front or rear of your vehicle—depending on where you plan to mount the winch—and make sure that the winch is not too heavy for your truck or quad.

This load rating will limit how big a winch you can mount on your vehicle. If you’re tempted to buy a bigger winch than you need, remind yourself that it’s not worth the extra weight. This extra weight can change the way that your vehicle handles and increase your chances of tipping or rolling, so don’t overload your ATV or truck.

How high or low you mount the winch can also affect the handling of your vehicle and its center of gravity. Give yourself time to get used to the changes in handling before you try any crazy stunts.

Before you buy a winch, check the dimensions to make sure it will fit in the mount space on your rig. Finally, remember that you can always double your winch capacity with a snatch block. So even if you get into an unusually sticky situation, you can always double up the cable for a stronger (but slower) pull.