At one time, the options for ATV winches were limited to a single brand name: WARN. Today, several other manufacturers have joined the fray, raising the standards with new features and new technologies. As a result, the process of evaluating ATV winches is no longer a simple one. To help you sort through the options, here’s a list of features to research when you’re shopping for ATV winches.
Power source and efficiency
ATV winches are electric, meaning they attach to your ATV’s battery for power. Some full-size winches use hydraulic power, but these are designed for huge loads and extreme conditions. An electric winch is sufficient for your ATV or UTV, assuming your battery is in good shape.
The efficiency of your ATV winch motor is an important issue. An inefficient winch combined with a weak battery sets you up for disaster. You don’t want to get your ATV out of a jam, only to be left with a dead battery. The factors to compare are the amp draw and the type of motor.
ATV winches can have either series-wound or permanent-magnet motors. Permanent-magnet motors are more energy-efficient than their series-wound counterparts. The downside is that a permanent-magnet motor will overheat more easily. Given that your ATV winch is designed for lighter loads (relative to a truck winch), this trade-off is often worth it.
ATV winches are generally sold according to load capacity. If you have a heavy ATV or plan to use your winch for dragging big items, you’d buy a winch with a higher load capacity. The ideal load capacity is significantly more than the weight of your load, because you need to compensate for any resistance.
WARN ATV winches are available with load ratings ranging from 1,500 lbs. to 4,000 lbs.
ATV winch brakes
ATV winches typically have either dynamic brakes or mechanical brakes. Dynamic brakes use the gear system to keep the winch drum from moving. A mechanical brake actually locks the drum. Either system should be sufficient for an ATV winching operation, although mechanical brakes are less likely to slip when holding a load.
Line speed on ATV winches
Line speed may not initially seem like a crucial factor when you are comparing ATV winches. Once you get stuck, though, that winch drum just won’t turn fast enough. If you compare line speeds among the main ATV winch manufacturers, you’ll find that the numbers vary dramatically. For example, a WARN RT30 can pull a full load at 4 feet per minute, but a ProMark LD3000 pulls 2.6 feet per minute.
Weight of your ATV winch
Weight, like line speed, is mainly matter of convenience. A lighter ATV winch is more portable than a heavier ATV winch. It creates less drag on your vehicle when you’re driving and is less difficult to take on or off your ATV. Heavy-duty ATV winches usually weigh more than lower-capacity winches. Ideally, you’d like to find a balance among strength, durability, and weight.