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ProMark Offroad Blog

Electric Winch Troubleshooting Chart

Having trouble with your electric winch? Winch trouble can be caused by anything from letting the motor run too long to incorrect wiring to low battery power.

The chart below will help you figure out what is wrong with your winch, what’s causing the problem, and how to fix it.

Winch Troubleshooting Tips

Problem Possible Cause(s) Solution
Winch motor will not operate or runs in one direction only
  1. Switch inoperative or wired incorrectly
  2. Broken wires or bad connection
  3. Damaged winch motor
  1. Replace switch
  2. Check for poor connections
  3. Replace or repair winch motor
Winch motor runs extremely hot
  1. Long period of operation
  2. Damaged winch motor
  1. Allow to cool
  2. Replace or repair winch motor
Winch motor runs but with insufficient power or line speed
  1. Weak battery
  2. Battery to winch wire too long
  3. Poor battery connection
  4. Poor ground
  5. Damaged winch motor
  1. Recharge or replace battery; check charging system
  2. Keep winch within distance allowed by lead wires
  3. Check battery terminals for corrosion; clean as required
  4. Check and clean connections
  5. Replace or repair winch motor
Winch motor runs but drum doesn’t turn Clutch not engaged Engage clutch
Winch runs backwards
  1. Motor wires reversed
  2. Switch wires reversed
  3. Switch installed incorrectly
  1. Recheck wiring
  2. Recheck wiring
  3. Check switch installation
Winch will not hold load Excessive load Reduce load or double line

Winch Wiring to Prevent Battery Drain

Winch wiring

Winch wiring for in-line remote kit

Having trouble with your winch draining the battery? The problem may be in the way you wired your winch. If you wired the switch to be “hot” all the time (running it directly to the battery), you run the chance of operating the winch without power and draining the battery or operating the winch unintentionally.

Connect the winch switch wire to a keyed power source that is only “hot” when the ignition is on. Do not connect it directly to the battery. Wiring the winch this way is a safety issue as well as helping to prevent battery drain. By making sure the winch only receives power when the ATV is on, you prevent accidental operation by kids fooling around or someone out playing pranks.

Since an electric ATV winch requires a significant amount of power, it’s best to run the winch only when the ATV is running. You might think you’re only using a small amount of battery power, but you can easily drain the battery within a few minutes if the ATV is off.

If you want to upgrade your system with a wireless remote, use the Universal In-Line ATV Winch Wireless Remote Kit from ProMark Offroad, which includes a wireless keychain remote, receiver control box, and wiring.

Wiring an Electric Recovery Winch

Winch wiring

Electric recovery winch wiring

To power your winch, you can either use your vehicle battery or an auxiliary battery. For light to medium duty winching, your vehicle’s battery should provide enough power. For heavy duty winching (close to the winch’s maximum capacity), we recommend installing a second battery to power the winch.

To wire a 12 volt electric winch using your vehicle’s battery, follow these steps. For more specific directions, see the instruction manual provided with your winch.

1. Run the positive wire to the positive terminal on the winch.
2. Run the negative wire to the negative terminal on the winch.
3. Route both wires to the engine, making sure the wires will not get pinched or come in contact with any hot spots.

Now you’re ready to work under the hood.

1. First, connect the positive lead from the winch to the positive terminal on the battery. Use an in-line circuit breaker if needed.
2. Next, connect the negative lead from the winch to the negative terminal on the battery.

If you plan to take your recovery winch on and off (for example, with a mobile mount), you can make it easier on yourself by installing a quick connect setup. Make sure the quick connects are approved for use with the gauge of wire used in your winch setup.

Quick Connect Electrical Wiring for ATVs

ATV Quick Connect Wiring Kit

This quick connect wiring kit lets you easily connect and disconnect your ATV winch.

Ever wish you could move your winch from front to rear? Share a winch between two ATVs? Rig up a dual winch setup? With quick connect wiring, all of these are possibilities, and it won’t take long to connect and disconnect your winch whenever you need to. With a mobile winch mount and quick connect wiring, you can take your winch off when you don’t need it, move it from front to rear, and move it to another ATV.

How It Works

ATV quick connect wiring generally comes with three leads. The shortest lead (18″ for the ProMark kit) connects to the positive and negative winch terminals. The medium and long leads (30″ and 86″ for the ProMark kit) provide power to the front and back of the ATV, allowing you to hook up front and rear winches or use a mobile winch mount to move the winch from front to rear. By wiring a second ATV, you can also swap the winch between bikes.

Advantages of Quick Connect Wiring

Disconnecting the wiring, pulling a pin on the winch mount, and moving the winch takes only seconds. Removing the winch from your ATV cuts down on weight, keeps it from getting stolen, and makes it easier to do wheelies. Moving the winch from front to rear comes in handy for pulling other vehicles out of the mud and doing work around the yard.

Electric Winch Wiring and Installation Tips

Midnight Recovery Winch Wiring

Winch wiring diagram for the Midnight Series recovery winch

Learning how to properly route the electrical wiring for your ATV winch or recovery winch is important for correct operation and for your own safety. The installation tips below provide a few key tips for winch wiring. Consult the instruction manual included with your winch for more information.

Routing the Wiring

Do not route electrical wiring over sharp edges or in places where they will touch parts that become hot. If the wiring is allowed to chafe or melt, this could damage the insulation that protects the wiring and cause a short circuit. Ensure that the wiring harness does not interfere or come in contact with any hot or moving engine, suspension, steering, braking, or exhaust parts.

Avoid routing the wiring through or near moving parts. In the case of wiring a handlebar thumbswitch on an ATV, make sure there is enough room to fully turn the handlebars without stretching the wiring. Then cable tie the wiring to hard points on the handlebars and bike to secure it in place. Secure the switch and wiring to the handlebar with black electrical tape to prevent rotation.

Protect the Wires from Damage

Insulate and protect all exposed wiring. Use insulating terminal boots as needed to prevent shorting and reduce the risk of electrical hazards.


Winch wiring for ATV and UTV winches


When attaching wires to the winch motor or solenoid terminals, hold the inner nut with a wrench while tightening the outer nut with a second wrench. Do not allow the terminals to rotate in their housings. Rotation could cause internal wire damage or part misalignment.

Install all electrical wiring only after the winch is mounted on the vehicle. Do not attempt to install wiring when the battery is connected. After installing and securing all wiring, take a minute to ensure that your system is properly installed and free from restrictions. Then you may attach the wires to the positive and negative terminals of the battery.

Is Your Battery Up to Snuff?

Make sure that your battery or power supply meets the minimum requirements for the operation of your winch. A 12 volt DC battery is required for most electric winches. Even with sufficient battery power, you will need to make sure not to overload or overheat the winch. Electric winches are designed for intermittent use. For long pulls, stop winching periodically and allow the motor to cool before resuming operation. If the winch is under heavy use, we suggest installing an auxiliary battery and heavy-duty alternator to handle the load.

Winch Contactor Location

4 Post Winch Contactor

4 Post Winch Contactor

The contactor is mainly a safety component for your winch system. It separates the winch from the power source when not in use and prevents the motor from overheating. The contactors that come with ProMark Offroad winches are sealed, which prevents moisture from seeping into the contactor box.

Keeping It Clean and Dry

The winch contactor location may affect how long the contactor will last. Despite the fact that the contactor is sealed, we still recommend that the contactor be located in a clean, dry area to protect it from exposure to rain, water, and other elements that wear down the protective seal prematurely. Repeatedly submerging the contactor in water may compromise the waterproof seal. The more you can keep the contactor out of the water, the better.

Keeping It Close to the Power Source

The contactor should also be mounted close to the battery, if possible. The closer the contactor is to the source of power, the better. Also, the length and gauge of the wires supplied with the winch are designed to safely carry a certain amount of electrical load. If you swap out these wires for longer wires, make sure the new wires can handle the load.

Wire Length and Gauge

If the wires are not long enough to reach the battery, switch mounting point, and winch, you may need to increase the length and/or wire gauge of the wiring. If you choose to locate the winch or switch at a greater distance than the wires permit, it may also be necessary to purchase a heavier gauge wire to get the best performance from your winch. If the total length of the additional wire to be added exceeds 10 feet, use a heavier wire gauge.

Typical Mounting Locations

Typical locations for mounting the winch contactor include in or near the rear storage box and, on some models, under the seat. Other locations include under the front hood, in or near the battery compartment, and inside the tool box. The location options will vary depending on the make and model of your ATV. Make sure the location you choose allows sufficient clearance from all metal components, such as frame tubes.

Wiring the Contactor

Once you choose a location, drill mounting holes, but do not install the contactor yet, as it is easier to wire the contactor before mounting. Disconnect the vehicle ground and positive leads from the battery before connecting the wiring. Secure the wiring to hard points on the vehicle with cable ties and/or electrical tape. Make sure the wiring is not pinched (for example, by the seat) or pulled (such as when the handle bars are turned). Also make sure that the wiring does not interfere or come in contact with the engine, suspension, steering, braking, exhaust, or any sharp edges or moving parts.

Color Coded Winch Wiring

Never installed an electric winch before? No problem. PROMARK OFFROAD winches (formerly Gorilla Winches) come with color-coded wiring to make installation quick and easy. You don’t need a degree in electrical wiring to install one of our winches.

Just to make it foolproof, we’ve designed each of the wires to be a different color: red, blue, black, or yellow. Each wire attaches to the same color winch post (i.e. yellow wire to yellow winch post).

This is winch wiring for dummies at its best. See the pics below for proof.

Winch Wiring Diagram

Winch Wiring from the Contactor

Wiring to the ATV Winch (Trail Series)

Wiring to the ATV Winch (Trail Series)