How to Pick a Winch for Your 4×4

No longer want to be stuck in mud or snow for very long hours just like last time, and have decided to invest in a good winch that’s right for your 4×4? Choosing the necessary winch should be able to properly pull you out of difficult spots. But how will you know if it’s the real thing?

In this article, we’ll help you solve most of your mind-boggling concerns, when it comes to selecting a winch and evaluate them, based on what fits your preferences.

Average Weights for Common Vehicles

Type Average Weight
Mid-sized SUVs 3,700-5,000 lbs
Large-sized SUVs 5,000-7,100 lbs
ATVs 350-400 lbs
Jeeps 2,500-4,000 lbs
Common Pick-up Trucks 6,000 lbs
Half-a-ton Pick-up Trucks Less than 8,500 lbs
Modern Trucks 5,000-9,900 lbs
Three-quarter-ton Trucks 8,500-9,900 lbs
One-ton Trucks More than 9,900

1. Pulling Capacity

Pulling capacity is arguably the important role in picking a 4×4 winch.. This is due to the fact that it refers to how much weight it can handle and move to safety. There are a wide variety of winches with pulling capacities from 2,000 to 18,000 lbs, depending on your vehicle’s size.

The weight of your vehicle isn’t the only thing you need to consider, though. You must also consider the passenger weight, parts and accessories weight, and the modifications you’ve made on your vehicle.

As a rule of thumb, you need a winch with a pull rating that’s at least 1.5 times your 4×4’s overall weight. What’s your 4×4’s overall weight? Vehicle gross weight = vehicle curb’s weight + weight of supplies and equipment you will typically carry.

But then again, it’s only the minimum pull rating. If you want to make sure you’ll safely pull your entire vehicle out of awkward and dangerous situations, it’s better to get a winch with a double pull rating of 2.0.

2. Which Type of Rope – Synthetic or Cable?

Another thing you should be concerned about is whether the winch comes with synthetic rope or wire cable. Wire cable is strong against surface tension or abrasion, which means it doesn’t easily break when it rubs against rocks or other similar kinds. Wire cable can also be prickly on the hands and is more difficult to handle than synthetic rope.

On the other hand, when you go for a synthetic rope, it generally has a much higher breaking strength than a wire cable. And because it’s light and floats on water, carrying it around is a breeze minus the trouble of it accidentally sinking into a mud bog.

It also has a less recoil tendency when it snaps. Bear in mind though, a synthetic rope is susceptible to UV light and other elements, which might force you to have it replaced more than once.

Synthetic rope is normally a premium option with winches and will cost slightly more money.

3. Integrated Solenoid or Non-Integrated Solenoid

integrated winch solenoid

Winches either include an integrated solenoid or a non-integrated solenoid.

Winches with integrated solenoids are often bulkier (meaning that mounting to some bumpers can be a problem) but are also better waterproofed.

Winches with non-integrated solenoids are more flexible in terms of mounting positions but are not as waterproof.

Integrated Solenoid

  • Parts are very secure.
  • Power line run time is short.
  • Can accommodate more winch line.

  • Hard to repair.
  • Takes time to install.
  • Usually expensive.
Non-integrated Solenoid

  • Easy to repair.
  • Easy to install.
  • Affordable.

  • Parts aren’t very secure.
  • Power line run time is long.
  • Limited winch line capacity.

4. Quality

It’s also important to note that quality is synonymous with durability, which you’ll often get on 4×4 winch brands that have already made a mark. This is understandable because you don’t want to entrust your life on newbies that don’t have clear, proven results yet.

On the contrary, be very careful when comparing branded winches and new winches together because their value still depends on their user’s preferences, level of necessity, and purpose of usage, which kind of validates the saying, don’t judge a book by its cover.

But if you really want the popular ones, you’re always free to give them a try. If you need to use a winch that packs a punch without draining your pockets dry, you’ll never go wrong with Smittybilt Winches.

WARN Winches is also famous for their legendary pulling capacities. In fact, they can go for more than 12,000 lbs, depending on your vehicle’s specifications. Although they can be a bit pricey compared to Smittybilt.

5. Mounting

After you’ve set your eyes on your preferred 4×4 winch, you need a proper place for it in your vehicle. If it’s hard for you to let go of your current stock bumper, you could simply look for a winch mounting plate that’s compatible with your winch.

However, if you don’t mind giving your auto a revamp once in a while, you could get a new bumper that’s already equipped with a winch mount support.

But these aren’t the only things you should keep in mind. A standard recommendation for a winch mount is it has to be made from a flat, steel plate which measures about 1/4-inch.

Its design should also include a four-bolt structure that’s 4 1/2 inches. Through it, you’ll be able to securely install your winch and prevent any accident.

6. Kind of Winch

When it comes to choosing a 4×4 winch, you should determine the kind that you need. Even though there are different kinds of winches, the most popular ones are the electric and the manual.

If pulling your vehicle out of the mud or other sticky surfaces requires a lot of effort, you need an electric winch that’ll help you do it fast yet safely. On the contrary, if you only perform light pulling tasks that aren’t necessarily risky, then you could use a manual winch, instead.

The good thing about a manual winch is you don’t need a professional training to learn how to operate it. Plus, it can pull a few thousand pounds, with minimal effort and doesn’t require a power supply or electricity. Whereas, an electric winch is its exact opposite.

7. Budget

Last but not the least is consider your budget. Are you after a 4×4 winch that’s inexpensive? There are winches that are reasonably priced at $200 to $500. But there are also those which start at $800 going up. Be careful though because underspending can compromise your safety while overspending can only eat up most of your savings, in a short span of time.

If you don’t prefer following too much installation instructions for fear of getting a headache or losing your temper, brands like Bulldog and Black Mountain Winches are some of the easiest to install.

If you’re after an affordable winch that performs like a top-notch beast in the battlefield, the Mile Marker Winches will leave you in awe.


Picking a winch for your 4×4 can be usually dragging. As matter of fact, this is one of the reasons why you sometimes think it’s okay to settle for the second best. But by considering the following factors above, you’ll realize that choosing the right winch is worth all the effort, as long as it keeps your vehicle in good, running condition, after it gets stuck, and that you’re still in one piece.   

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