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01 smittybilt gen3 x20 lead photo

Smittybilt Gen3 X20 Winch

The 411 on Gen3

Prices seem to be going through the roof for everything these days, but fortunately there are still some things that are a good value.  Things like the new Smittybilt Gen3 X20 winch.  Note that we didn’t say “cheap”, which has negative connotations associated with questionable quality.  The new Gen3 X20 winch is not cheap, but it is packed with features and components found on winches costing twice as much.  This winch will supersede the previous Gen2 X20 winch and includes a host of improvements, starting with the 7-horsepower series wound motor (compared to the 6.6-horsepower motor on the outgoing Gen2 winch).  

02 smittybilt gen3 x20 motor

The new motor is not only more powerful, but more efficient as well.  That accounts for faster line speeds even with the same gearing.   How much faster?  Smittybilt claims a 25% increase in line speed with no load and a 9% increase under load when compared to the Gen2.

New and Improved 

The Gen3 winches are available in a 10,000- or 12,000-pound rating and come with synthetic winch cable, a forged hook, and an aluminum hawse fairlead. Both the 10k and the 12k winches use the same 7-horsepower motor, just with different gearing (1:85:1 gearing on the 10k and 216:1 gearing on the 12k). In addition to being more powerful, the motor used on the Gen3 features forged gears for increased strength. Smittybilt is so confident in the product that they back the Gen3 winches with a lifetime mechanical warranty and five-year warranty on the electronics. 

03 smittybilt gen3 x20 control box

The Gen3 winches have an IP68 rating and the motor is completely sealed. The X2O line also features a completely waterproof 500 AMP control box that can be mounted in two different locations. If you go wheeling in the mud, snow, or water crossings you can be confident your Smittybilt winch will work when you need it most.

The remote has an innovative load indicator system via a series of LEDs that represent when the winch is ready to use, at max load, and overloaded, when you should consider rerigging your recovery with a snatch block or a second winch to increase pulling power.  Detachable body armor is another first in the winch market, allowing you to not only protect your winch from the elements but also customize the appearance as well.  Speaking of appearance, Smittybilt increased the size of the clutch lever to make it more visible and easier to use with gloved hands when out on the trail. 

04 smittybilt gen3 x20 fairlead

The Gen3 X20 winches come with 3/8-inch synthetic winch line and an aluminum hawse fairlead.  These fairleads are lighter than a traditional roller fairlead and also allow for a better approach angle.  A roller fairlead is not required with synthetic winch cable since it has less surface friction and is also less likely to leave you with bloody hands from a frayed strand of wire.

05 smittybilt bumper recovery points

The Smittybilt XRC Rock Crawler front bumper is robotically welded to exact specifications and includes two recovery points that accept common 3/4-inch d-ring shackles. There are also slots in the bumper for limiting points that accommodate the foot of a Hi-Lift jack. An optional front bull bar is also available and has two light tabs that can accommodate up to 9-inch diameter lights.

Mounting The Winch

All the specs on the new Smittybilt Gen3 X20 winch are great on paper, but we wanted to see how it actually works in the real world. We mounted the new Gen3 winch on our 1986 Jeep Cherokee.  Like the new winch, these vehicles offer a lot of bang for the buck and can often be found hurting the fragile egos of drivers of far more expensive vehicles.  We mounted the winch in a Smittybilt XRC Rock Crawler front bumper.  Constructed of 3/16-inch cold rolled steel, the XRC bumper not only accepted the new winch without modification but includes features like raised corners for increased ground clearance and a textured black powder coat finish for long lasting good looks.

06 smittybilt gen3 x20 winch controller

The all-new wireless controller has USB connectivity that can be wired to the winch or unplugged for trouble-free wireless operation. It has illuminated buttons and a built-in LED flashlight for night time use.  You can charge your devices using the USB port, or charge up the wireless remote via the port.

Putting It To The Test

After getting the bumper and winch mounted and wired we hit the trail on a mission to get stuck. We found some sloppy mud and sugar snow that fit the bill, sinking the Cherokee up to the axles.  The new remote was easy to use even with gloves on, as was the large, high visibility clutch lever.  Once firing up the winch the first thing we noticed was how quiet and smooth it was, and the unloaded line speed allowed us to hook up quickly.  The Smittybilt Gen3 X20 winch comes with the cable pre-spooled so we didn’t even need to worry about that, but we did bunch all of the synthetic cable up on one side of the drum during our recovery.  Once back to firmer ground we unspooled the cable to put it evenly back on the drum and stored the controller under the driver seat, ready for the next adventure on the trail.

07 smittybilt gen3 x20 winch instructions

The detailed instructions make installation a breeze.  It only took us a couple of hours to install the Smittybilt bumper on our Cherokee and add the Smittybilt Gen3 X20 winch, and that was stopping to take photos along the way.  The only power tool we needed was a drill, everything else was installed with basic hand tools.

08 smittybilt bumper install

The Smittybilt XRC Rock Crawler bumper uses plate to reinforce the unibody of the Cherokee and distribute the load over a wider area.  On the driver side, these plates tie into the steering box mount to strengthen that point as well.  Some minor drilling was required but otherwise the bumper installation was very straightforward.

09 smittybilt gen3 x20 winch boxes

All of the components included with the Gen3 X20 winch come in labeled boxes, making it easy to find what you are looking for.  Little details like this make unpacking and installation much easier, whether you are performing the installation yourself or paying a professional to perform the install.

10 smittybilt gen3 x20 winch installation

Some winches require you to mount the winch in the bumper first prior to installing the complete assembly on the front of the vehicle.  This obviously makes for a heavy combination, and it is more challenging to reach the winch to wire it or respool the cable.  The winch sits right on top of the Smittybilt XRC bumper though, so it can be installed after the bumper is on.

11 smittybilt gen3 x20 winch cable

All Gen3 X20 winches come with 98.5 feet of 3/8-inch thick synthetic winch rope.  The rope also includes a sheath to cover the winch line to prevent abrasion when dragging it over rocks and through dirt.  The last 12 1/2 feet of the winch line is red instead of gray, providing a visual indication when to stop spooling out the cable so there is enough left on the drum to perform a safe pull.

12 smittybilt gen3 x20 winch lever

The oversized lever on the new Gen3 X20 winch is easy to operate with gloves on and labeled to easily tell if the winch motor is engaged or free spooling.  This is helpful in wet and muddy conditions when you are in a hurry to get moving on the trail.

Products we used in this article