Picking a winch for your 4×4 can be confusing. There’s often a HUGE gap between prices of something like a Warn winch and a SmittyBilt winch. But is the price difference worth it?
In this article I’ll discuss the top winches and what to look for when selecting one.
Smittybilt x20 12,000 lbs Winch
When it comes to usefulness and longevity, the Smittybilt X20 Waterproof Winch takes the trophy, especially if you’re using it on a Jeep as it’s one of the most popular choices for Jeep owners.
The X20 is one of the most affordable 12k winches on the market and also one of the best looking. Its powdered coated casing might not help you winch out of a mud pit any quicker but it does look cool!
The X20 is also waterproof with an IP68 rating. This means it won’t get damaged, even if it’s submerged in water.
The x20 also comes with a fairly respectable warranty. It has a lifetime mechanical warranty and a 5 year electrical warranty. For the electrical warranty, it pertains to your protection against product defect costs (like faulty wiring, electrical malfunction, etc.) which entitles you to a free product repair or replacement.
Smittybilt 4×4 Winch Pros & Cons
WARN 4×4 Winch
The WARN VR12 Winch is is WARN’s entry level 12,000 lbs winch.
If you’re a fan of WARN you’ll love the VR12. The VR12 has a couple of nice features of SmittyBilt’s X2O including:
- Direct drive cone brake system which has the the ability to hold full rated loads
- Moveable solenoid
If you are mounting your winch in a location without enough room for a bulky integrated solenoid the Vr12 may be one of your few good options.
The direct drive cone brake system and moveable solenoid are great features but it’s going to cost you over $200 more than the X20. If these aren’t important to you, go with the X20.
WARN 4×4 Winch Pros & Cons
CHAMPION POWER EQUIPMENT 4×4 Winch
Champion’s 12,000 lbs winch wins the award of having the most swag with it.
With Champion’s 12,000 lbs winch you’ll get:
- Wireless remote
- Winch Cover
- Snatch Block
- Mounting Cradles
All of these accessories can cost hundreds of dollars extra and the Champion winch is already fairly affordably priced.
Now with that being said, Champion doesn’t have the greatest reputation in the 4x4ing community and the reputation on this winch isn’t amazing (just two years compared to WARN and SmittyBilt which have lifetime warranties). Still, if it’s lots of extras your after, you can’t go wrong with the Champion 12,000 lbs winch.
CHAMPION POWER EQUIPMENT 4×4 Winch Pros & Cons
OFF ROAD BOAR 4×4 Winch
If you want to quickly learn the basics of winching, then the OFF ROAD BOAR Waterproof Winch will help you think on your toes.
This 4×4 winch is user-friendly because of its color-coded terminals. The terminals tell what to put where and for what purpose, which can be very convenient, especially if you’re a beginner in using a winch in a 4×4 recovery.
In terms of pulling strength, it boasts of 12,000 lbs that surely gets you out of a tough situation. When it comes to waterproof rating, it comes next to its smittybilt variant.
OFF ROAD BOAR 4×4 Winch Pros & Cons
WARN ZEON 4×4 Winch
When it comes to pulling capacity and lightness, the WARN ZEON 10-S Winch makes it on top of the list.
This 4×4 winch won’t be left behind with a 10,000 lbs pulling strength. As a result, it can stand up to heavy loads effortlessly. But don’t be fooled because despite such a pulling power, its aluminum winch drum is easy to carry around.
This 4×4 winch is made from a powder-coated material for an elegant finish and a long-lasting function. It comes with an aluminum hawse fairlead.
WARN ZEON 4×4 Winch Pros & Cons
How Much Winch Pulling Power Do You Need?
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.
Most trucks and SUVs are going to be somewhere around 4000-6000 lbs and that’s why 12,000 lbs pulling capacity winches tend to be the most popular for these types of vehicles.
|Mid-sized SUVs||3,700-5,000 lbs|
|Large-sized SUVs||5,000-7,100 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|
Synthetic Rope vs Wire 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.
Synthetic rope 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.
Integrated Solenoid or Non-Integrated 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.
Depending on your mounting position, you may also need to move the solenoid and mounting it off of the winch.
Mounting Options for Your Winch
After you’ve set your eyes on your preferred 4×4 winch, you need a proper place for it on your vehicle. Depending on where you’re mounting your winch, these are popular mounting options:
- On a bumper already with an equipped winch mount
- On a bull bar
- On a trailer mounted cradle
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size fits all equation we can tell you so you’ll have to check the dimensions of your desired winch against your mounting location to see if it’ll fit. The good news is that almost all winches have the same mounting hole pattern so that will never be an issue for you.
How Much Do You Want to Pay for a Winch?
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.
More expensive winches like Warn typically come with a reputable brand name and reasonable parts and support. If something dies on your winch, you can count on being able to find replacement parts. Cheaper winches typically come from less well-known brands. Generally the motors are fairly comparable to more well known brands but there may be limited after-purchase support. You choose.
Getting stuck in an awkward spot is a hassle and even life-threatening, at times. But don’t let panic takeover your system. As long as you have the correct 4×4 winch, with due consideration to its pulling capacity, rope type, and installation level, you can easily and safely get yourself out of any uncomfortable situation. What kind of winch do you have on your 4×4? Let me know in the comments below.