How Does A PTO Winch Work?

Winches have come a long way since their first inception thousands of years ago. Despite being such a simple and old machine, its applications still reach far and wide in modern society. Winches are still in use in applications such as sailing, vehicle recovery, mining, or manufacturing.

For any task that needs lifting or pulling, a winch will come in handy. Winches are now more sophisticated than ever before, and they now come in different varieties. You can find electrical winches, hydraulic winches, portable winches, and hand-operated winches. Each has its specific design for specific tasks, but in principle, they all work the same.

For the common consumer, the most recognizable winches are winches used for vehicle recovery. Like many winches, the market for vehicle recovery winches is also extensive. You can find manufacturers offering electric to hand-operated winches.

There is another winch-type that I haven’t mentioned yet. It has its own peculiar features that make it stand out compared to others. In fact, this winch has a strong following and community built around it. I am, of course, talking none other than PTO winches.

PTO Winches

PTO winch or Power Take-Off winch is not your typical vehicle-recovery winch. In fact, it is much more than that.

PTO winches are different from electric and hydraulic winches because of their power source.  Rather than using hydraulic pressure or electrical motors, the PTO winch power source comes from the gearbox transmission.  PTO winches work the same way as other winches, but they tend to be faster and more efficient.

How PTO Winch Works

Most PTO winches that are in use are in tractors and trucks. Truck transmissions have one or more areas that allow for PTO winch mounting. PTO winches do not come with purchasing a vehicle, and you will need to find a PTO winch yourself.  Not only that, but it has to be compatible also.

Manufacturers will require you to submit data of your vehicle’s specifications. They need to check if any winch in their inventory fits in the vehicle you currently have. For the installment of the PTO winch, you need to be knowledgeable. Remember that you are going to use your gearbox for this winch.

You can Engage or Disengage the PTO winch using the clutch and the remote control. Different PTO winch manufacturers have different manuals on how to use the winch. Please refer to that manual.

The majority of PTO winches are directly connected to a hydraulic pump. This allows the distribution of mechanical force through the hydraulic fluid system throughout the vehicle. During the distribution, a hydraulic motor will receive the mechanical force and convert it to rotational motion.

While it is true that what powers a PTO winch is the gearbox, it isn’t directly connected to it. Rather, a hydraulic system stands in between the winch and the gearbox. Hydraulic systems are just a bunch of tubes filled with hydraulic liquids. Think of it as sort of a wire, but unlike wires, hydraulics are running through it.

PTO winches source its movement through the gearbox, so the engine needs to be on to use it.

PTO Winch Weight Capacity.

So how powerful is a PTO winch? It depends on how powerful your vehicle is. As previously mentioned, the motion comes from the gearbox. So how powerful a winch is depended on how powerful the engine is.

But rest assured, a PTO winch can certainly pull your car along. After all, the same force that moves your car along the road is instead applied to the winch.

How To Use A PTO WInch

Using the PTO winch is the same as using any other winch for vehicle recovery. If you want to learn more about it, check out our article How to Use a Winch (in Baby Steps)


PTO winches are just one of many winches in the market. But what makes it different is its power source. Plus, it is faster and more efficient since you are using the gear transmission. You are not using an electric motor, which can drain your battery and is slower than PTO

Hopefully, this answers the question of how does a PTO winch work. Do you have any further thoughts on this subject? Or do you have any questions perhaps? If so, feel free to comment on them below. Also, check out our other reviews and guides such as: