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Winches are one of the most common 4X4 upgrades for serious users. Indeed, for many a winch can be an absolute necessity. But what winch is right for you

It’s worth noting that not all winches will be useful in all situations and not all winches will fit all bumpers. That means the first consideration to make is not only what you’re going to be using your winch for but what winch will fit on your vehicle. This will, of course, depend on the specifics of your winch bumper or hidden winch mount.

Many 4X4 winches come with basic cables and other fitting hardware, but some will require extended wiring and some bumpers will require winch installation kits and fairlead spacers.

Once you’ve been able to ascertain what kind of winch you can actually use, there are several other factors to consider.

Reliability – Winches are often very much ‘do or die’ tools that can be the difference between your vehicle being trapped in a dangerous situation and being able to pull itself to safety. 

So, when you need to use it, you want to be sure that it will work. This is why you’ll probably want to steer clear of unrecognised budget brands in this instance.

Performance – Your 4X4 is a heavy vehicle that requires a powerful winching system and the heavier your load, the greater motor power and pulling capacity you’ll need. Particularly if you’re planning to traverse difficult terrain. 

The key metric to consider here is the load rating, which states the rough amount of load the winch will reliably be able to pull. The higher the rating, the less the winch will have to work, regardless of how much weight you’re pulling. 

Generally speaking, you’ll want a winch that can pull at least the weight of your vehicle and a lot of owners tend to add 50% of the weight onto it.

Remote controls – With most winches, wired controls will be included as standard but it’s far more practical to have a wireless winch remote installed. 

It’s not only more convenient but a lot safer, as it will allow you to control your winch from a safe distance.

Waterproofing – If you think you might be driving through water, it’s worth noting that water in the motor casing will rust the brush holders, seize bearings and short out when in use. Water in the gearbox will also pit and corrode the gears, ultimately leading to their failure. 

This is why the water ingress level of your winch is something certain drivers might want to seriously consider, though note that winches with a greater level of waterproofing will often be more expensive.

The rope – Arguably the most important piece of the puzzle, the winch rope itself is a major point of contention. The two main choices here are synthetic or steel, with steel rope being more common and durable, with synthetic rope being lighter and safer. They both have their place and which you choose will depend on what you intend on using your winch for. 

Synthetic rope won’t last as long but it won’t recoil and cause potential damage or injury when snapped. 

Steel, meanwhile, is a lot tougher but will also add a lot of weight to your vehicle and can be dangerous if snapped. 

For most users, we’d recommend synthetic winch rope but steel still has its place for heavy-duty users.

Maintenance – Finally, a winch is not something you can just install and forget about. It’s an electrical and mechanical device that demands regular maintenance and that means testing it before every trip or every few months, ensuring that it’s nicely greased and spinning freely.

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