ATV and UTV Winch Review

Shopping for a winch for an ATV or UTV…where do you start?

How much does my ATV/UTV weigh?

It’s important to get a winch with the right line pull rating for your application. If you’re trying to pull a full size Polaris Ranger with a dry weight of about 1,200 lbs, plus the weight of any additional equipment, plus the person operating the vehicle, you’d be looking at an easy 1,500 lbs. Industry tells us to take the overall weight of the machine and multiply it by 2 and that’s the rating you’ll need. So a loaded Ranger at 1,500 lbs. x2 needs a winch with at least a 3,000 lbs. line pull rating. But take this into consideration, if you’re the type that likes to find mud that sinks the quad up to the gas tank , I’d venture to say it’s going to be worth stepping up to the next strongest pull rating. Manufactures didn’t start pumping out 4,000 and 4,500 lb. winches for nothing, someone was demanding stronger equipment and it is always better to be safe than sorry.

How much should I spend?

Depends on how often you think you’re going to use it. If you’ve been riding for some time you have a feel for how much use you would get out of a winch. But if you’re new to riding, you have a different angle to consider.

We’ll cover the first scenario first. You ride a lot and it feels like you could have used a winch almost every time you went out last year. Either you were getting stuck or your buddies were always in a pinch. I’d say it sounds like you would make regular use out of winch and a top of the line winch is what you’re in the market for. If you rode all last year and needed a winch once or twice why drop a ton of cash on a top dollar model?

If you’re new to riding look at it this way. Do you plan on trail riding a couple times a month, are you’re going to use your ATV for plowing, winching out logs or other jobs that you would find it beneficial to have a winch for?  If so, steer towards a brand with a reputation for quality and a good warranty program. And if you just want to get a winch with your new quad because you think it’s a good idea, I would refer to your regular buying habits. If you feel better buying the economy brands, go for it. If you’re the type that likes to invest in name brands that have decades of history behind them, that’s what you should do.

In addition,  if you spend top dollar make sure you’re going to use it a lot. If you’re not going to use it a lot, don’t waste the money. For the last two years I never got myself into a situation where I needed a winch, so if I bought a new winch today I wouldn’t spring for the best one, unless I decided I really wanted to add a new snow plow later.

Which type of cable should I get? (most ATV & UTV riders prefer synthetic)

Steel Cable

  • What’s nice about steel cable is that it’s more resilient to abuse.
  • Most guys find it more suitable for plow use, it tends to hold up better after repeatedly lifting and lowering the plow.
  • It’s cheap to replace.
  • What’s bad about steel cable is it’s heavier, it splinters and when it snaps…LOOK OUT! Steel cable holds a lot of energy under tension, don’t let it hit you.
Synthetic Cable
  • It’s lighter, it floats, it’s easy on the hands and it don’t snap back if it breaks…it jut falls to the ground, no one gets hurt (unless the person on the quad falls back down a mountain).
  • Even if it breaks you can splice it back together (or some just tie a knot) and you’re back in action.
  • It is pricier and you have to be careful not to let it rub on rough surfaces while winching, it will start to chafe. A protective sleeve can slide to the abrasive area to protect the rope.
  • It can melt if you’re winching out under pressure, using the brake (there’s a brake in the winch) hard for long periods of time. The brake will get hot which makes the spool hot and it will start to melt the rope. The way to keep this from happening is to winch out in short runs and you’ll be fine.
  • More info on synthetic winch cable Here.

atv winch review statistics