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10 Types Of Truck Winches Explained (With Photos)

truck with winch

Winches on trucks are useful for various tasks, activities, and functions. Several types of winches, including mounting differences and operating mechanisms, have been created to meet the needs of specific applications.

Truck winches come in different types and models and have varying capacity ratings depending on their intended purpose. We will discuss the various truck winch types to understand the differences and the available choices.

1. Electric Truck Winch

WARN 103253 VR EVO 10-S Electric 12V DC Winch with Synthetic Rope: 3/8" Diameter x 90' Length, 5 Ton (10,000 lb) Pulling Capacity

The winch power source is an important aspect of choosing a winch. The power source will determine the winch’s pulling capacity and the motor’s durability.

An electric winch is powered by an electric motor, which drives a set of gears that rotate the spool cylinder and wind or release the pulling cable n the winch.

The electric motor on these winches is powered by your vehicle’s battery or alternator if the engine is running.

An electric winch draws a lot of power from the vehicle, or battery, making it vital to size the winch to the battery and vehicle capacity or upgrade the battery to handle the additional load of the winch.

If the winch is not matched to the vehicle and battery correctly, you may experience excessive battery drain, which will damage the battery, or the battery will not be able to power the winch.

Where the electric winch is mismatched to the vehicle’s components, the winch may stop working or lose power when you switch on the vehicle’s headlights.

Electric winches are available in various sizes, depending on the work the winch is intended to perform. Larger electric motors can haul greater weights but will have a greater draw on the vehicle’s battery.

While it is possible to run an electric winch without the vehicle’s engine running, if the load being hauled is large, the battery will drain quickly.

Light hauling, such as hauling an ATV out of the mud, can generally be done with battery power alone, but a self-rescue, hauling your own vehicle out of the mud, will require the engine to be running.

Electric winches are the most common winch types for trucks, but they are intended for light-duty rather than heavy-duty hauling.

2. Hydraulic Truck Winch

Truck winches powered by hydraulics are typically more powerful than electric winches and are used where regular heavy-duty hauling is required.

Hydraulic fluid can develop a huge amount of pressure, which the winch gears can translate into greater hauling power.

The power source for hydraulic winches is generally the power steering pump on the truck. The winch has hydraulic pistons and pipes filled with specialized hydraulic fluid connected to the vehicle’s power steering pump.

In contrast to the electric winch, the vehicle’s engine must be running to power a hydraulic winch. The power steering pump, which delivers the power to the winch, is only activated when the engine is running.

Hydraulic winches are usually reserved for heavy-duty applications such as specialized vehicle recovery. Hydraulic winches are usually more expensive than electric winches and more complicated to install on a vehicle, making them a less common choice for recreational use.

Hydraulic winches are not only more powerful than electric winches, but they are also more durable, making them the ideal choice for regular heavy-duty hauling.

3. Front-Mounted Truck Winch

front mounted truck winch

A front-mounted truck winch is installed at the lower front end of the truck, at the front bumper. Depending on the mounting points on the truck and the bumper design, the bumper may need to be removed, customized, or replaced with a modified version.

The winch is mounted directly to cross members of the vehicle chassis to provide a strong securing point that won’t rip off the vehicle when heavy loads are hauled.

A front-mounted winch has several advantages, making this position the preferred mounting for off-road enthusiasts.

There is a better line of sight during the operation of a front-mounted winch, allowing the driver or operator to control the winching operation better and direct the vehicle as needed.

This aspect is especially useful when performing a self-rescue on your own vehicle; you can look forward while maneuvering the vehicle rather than watching your rearview mirrors or twisting your head around to look out of the rear window.

4. Rear-Mounted Truck Winch

Rear-mounted winches can be installed in two places at the back of the truck. One position is at the vehicle’s rear bumper, either in place of or alongside the tow hitch.

This installation location may require the modification of the bumper to accommodate the winch and the mounting points.

A winch in this position is useful for vehicle rescues or winching boats out of the water onto a trailer.

The second rear-mounted option is to mount the winch in the truck’s load bed against the back of the cab. This winch position is ideal for hauling items into the truck’s load bed, which is not possible with a rear bumper-mounted winch.

In both rear-mounted locations, it is often beneficial to operate and control the winch from outside the vehicle to gain a better perspective of the winching operation.

5. Off-Road Truck Winch

OFF ROAD BOAR 13000-lb. Load Capacity Electric Winch Kit, 12V Steel Cable Winch with Roller Fairlead, Waterproof IP67 Towing Winches with Both Wireless Handheld Remote and Corded Control

Off-roading is a popular recreational activity that often sees vehicles stuck or bogged down in difficult terrain.

Most off-road enthusiasts see a winch as must-have equipment for this activity, especially when off-roading solo.

The most common winch for this activity is an electric, front-mounted winch. The winch’s capacity is important for effectively pulling heavy 4×4 vehicles out of sticky situations.

The winch must be able to haul the truck’s weight at minimum to effect self-rescues when solo off-roading.

The front-mounted option is the most popular for off-roading since the line-of-sight vision is better, and the winch can be operated from within the vehicle.

6. Steel Cable Winch

Smittybilt X2O GEN2 17.5K Waterproof Wireless Winch with Steel Cable - 97517

Steel cable is one of the choices to use with a winch, but it has implications for the winch, the operator, and bystanders during the winching process.

Steel cables were the original winching method, but the winch must be designed to handle the steel cable. Steel cable is heavy, adding weight to the vehicle and causing the winch to work harder to reel in the cable.

Steel cables are more abrasive than synthetic cables, requiring more robust gears, drums, cable guides (hawse and rollers), and braking systems to withstand the weight and abrasive qualities of the steel cable.

Steel cables store a lot of energy when a load is placed on them, making them more dangerous should the cable break. The stored energy can cause the snapped cable to whip back with a significant velocity that can kill or injure bystanders.

Steel cable winches are appropriate for conditions such as mud or sand, which can be very abrasive for synthetic cables.

Although steel cable winches are common and the more traditional option and require less maintenance, many off-roading enthusiasts and off-roading clubs are changing to synthetic cable winches for safety reasons.

7. Synthetic Cable Winch

Smittybilt X2O GEN2 10K Waterproof Wireless Winch with Synthetic Rope - 98510

Synthetic cable winches are gaining popularity for truck winches because of the reduced risk of accidents when hauling heavy loads.

Many modern synthetic cables for winches are stronger than their steel counterparts, but the disadvantage of synthetic cables is the cost.

These cables are more expensive than steel cable and wear faster than steel, requiring more frequent replacement of the synthetic cable.

Synthetic cables are lighter and less abrasive than steel cables, producing less wear and tear on the winch and its components.

8. Foot-Forward Winches

The winch’s footing is the winch’s mounting plate, which determines how the winch is mounted to the vehicle.

This aspect of the winch affects the amount of strain it can handle without ripping it from its mountings.

A foot-forward winch is a winch that has a vertical mounting plate that is perpendicular to the ground, and the mounting bolts are fitted in the same direction as the cables, parallel to the ground.

This mounting method means that the pulling power places strain on the mounting bolts and their threads rather than the thickness of the bolts. The force of the winch is constantly trying to pull the bolts out of the mounting surface.

This mounting orientation should not be used for heavy-duty winches, as the bolts can fail when too much strain is placed on the threads.

9. Foot Down Winches

Foot-down winches have a mounting plate parallel to the ground, and the mounting bolts are fitted top-down or perpendicular to the ground.

This mounting method places less strain on the bolt threads and relies on the thickness and sheering strength of the bolt. Foot-down winches are a more robust mounting option than foot-forward winches.

Foot-down winches can be more powerful and haul heavier weights because the mounting method is stronger and can handle the additional load.

10. Crane Winch

RUGCEL WINCH New 1100lb Folding Truck-Mounted Crane, with Electric Winch 3500 lb 12V, Painted Steel Pickup Truck Jib Cranes 360 Swivel (1100 lb)

A crane winch is sometimes installed on trucks to lift cargo from the ground, hoist it to a height that can clear the truck bed, swivel the load and lower it on the truck bed for transportation.

A crane winch can be installed in the truck’s load bed at the back of the cab, with a swivel boom and pulleys directing the cable to manage the load.

Lifting a load from the ground to a height that it can be loaded on the truck’s load bed places a lot of strain on the winch. The winch and its mountings must be rated for this type of operation, meaning stronger winches are required for this task.

The crane winch is a frequent accessory installed on trucks used on farms for easy loading and offloading of farming equipment or hay and feed for livestock.

The crane winch allows one person to perform these tasks, enabling faster, more efficient, and less labor-intensive loading.


Truck winches are a useful addition to trucks used as workhorses or trucks used for recreation. Choosing the right winch will ensure your truck and winch are up to the task when you need to use this equipment.

The capacity of the winch, the cable type, the mounting position, and the mounting method are all important considerations wheel selecting a winch for your truck.

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