How To Install A Winch – A Complete Guide

If you are an off-road enthusiast, getting a winch is probably the cheapest insurance you can get. A winch can get you out of sticky situations conveniently. Though there are circumstances that you can get out of an off-road situation by having a friend pull you out. Traveling alone is a different story, winches would be very convenient for self recovery if ever you find yourself stuck.

It mostly depends on your travel plans, the more complicated the terrain you get to, a winch becomes a must. A towing truck may be inaccessible in the terrain you have passed. There could also be no person to help you out in the wilderness. You have only yourself to help yourself, and a winch can be convenient when stuck.

What is a Winch?

A winch is a powerful machine with one or more drums on which to coil a rope, cable, or chain for hauling or hoisting. Winches have been in use since antiquity. They are used to raise heavy objects and hoist structural frames. They are still in use today and can be especially helpful when your vehicle is stuck.

A winch consists of several parts that work together. The primary winch components are:


  • Cable Wire: Winches always come with a chain or steel wire wrapped around the drum. The length of the wire can range from 9 meters to 36 meters in length. 
  • Drum: A drum is a horizontal cylinder that keeps the wire wrapped around it neatly and prevents entanglement. The drum rotates in a circular motion when winding the wire in and out.
  • Motor: The motor is what powers the entire winch. The motor can either be hydraulic or electric, it depends on which models. There are manual motors too, but they are slow.
  • Gear Casing and Gear Train: This part of the winch is what transforms the power taken from the motor into pulling movement. It gives the motions that deliver you out of a sticky situation quickly.

All these components are essential for a winch to work. Together they can work to pull a vehicle you plan on towing. 

Safety First

Before we get to installing a winch for your vehicle, put safety first in mind. Winches are powerful, and they are designed to pull thousands of pounds of force, so they should not be taken lightly. Here are some safety tips and precautions:


  • Do Not Install Winch Without Reading and Understanding The Operator’s Manual: Carefully read and understand what is written in the manual regarding the winch you are going to install. There might be some instructions there on how to handle the winch.
  • Take Your Time: There is nothing to hurry about; just take your time in installing the winch to avoid accidents.
  • Wear Gloves: You are currently dealing with metal wires, and they can have splinters. It’s best to wear gloves to protect your hand during the installation process.

For more detailed safety tips and precautions, please refer to this guide.

How To Install A Winch?

Now that you have learned what is a winch and the benefits of a winch. How do you get it installed in your vehicle? Hiring somebody to install it for you can be expensive, so it’s best to do it DIY. We can help you install a winch with this step by step guide.

Mounting Your Winch

  • The winch should be mounted into a suitable steel mounting frame using the four mounting configurations. 
  • Foot down: In this mounting configuration, the winch’s four mounting holes are at the bottom.
  • Foot forward: In this mounting configuration, the winch’s four mounting holes are facing forward.
  • Foot down OR foot forward: The winch can be mounted either in the foot down position or foot forward position.
  • Foot forward AND foot down: The winch is designed having four bolts that are used for foot forward mounting position, and two are used in the foot down position. These winches cannot be mounted in the foot down position only.
  • Before mounting the winch, be sure that the mounting plate is capable of withstanding the winch’s rated capacity.
  • Choose which Winch frames are best suited for your vehicle, and they should have at least 5mm thickness. Winch frames are shipped with installing instructions.
  • The winch should be secured tightly with dacromet coated bolts and spring washers. They should have at least grade 8.8.
  • Be sure to lubricate the winch with high temperature lithium grease during mounting.

Electrical Connection

Most winches that are being sold in the market are electric-powered, so this step is necessary. The most common way for installing a winch is to mount it in the front and run it using the car’s battery.  Here is a step by step guide to connecting the winch to your car’s battery.


  1. Connect the positive wire (+), usually color red, to the positive post (+) on the winch
  2. Connect the negative wire (-), usually color black or brown, to the ground post on the winch
  3. Move both wires from the front into the engine section.
  4. Keep the wires out any significant heat sources or wherever the wiring can rub or get pinched.
  5. Connect the positive wire (+) from the winch to the positive post (+) on the battery, and most winches include an in-line fuse.
  6. Connect the negative wire (-) from the winch to the negative ground (-) post on the battery.


It’s best to keep your engine on when operating the winch to avoid draining your battery.

Winch Recommendations

You need to consider that there are different types of winches.  Some winches are designed only to handle the weight of 500 pounds, while others can do more. So consider which type of winch you want your vehicle to have and what you will be using it for.

There are several heavy duty winches in the market, and one of those is a 12000 lb winch. As the name suggests, a 12000 lb winch is rated to withstand a weight of 12000 lbs. A 12,000-pound winch would be handy when it comes to pulling yourself or others when stuck during off roading.

Here are my picks for the top 3 12000 lb winch.

  1. Smittybilt X2O COMP – Waterproof Synthetic Rope Winch
  2. WARN 103254 VR EVO 12 Electric 12V DC Winch
  3. WARN 17801 M12000 Series Electric 12V Heavyweight Winch


Now that you have learned how to install a winch, what do you think? Which winch will you get? Did I miss something? Comment below.  We also offer some tips and guides as well, such as How to Replace a Winch Cable and 4 Tips on Buying Trailer Winches.