What Is Winch? + Types Of Winch

Have you ever faced any situation when you needed an extra hand? Like when your vehicle gets stuck in sand, mud or water.

Or if you are working on a project which requires heavy lifting, pulling or suspending items, then you might appreciate how a winch can help you going forward.

Winches are being used by humans thousands of years ago. Historical records suggest that wooden winches were used during the Persian wars around 480 BC. They used winches made with lumber to tighten the cables of bridges.

As the age advanced to the modern era, winches went through huge transformations and became what they are today. The winches that are used today are tough, versatile, and have massive pulling power.

After reading this article, you’ll get a clear idea about winch and their different types. Let’s dive into the main section of our article.

You Can Also Read: 10 High-quality Winch For Pulling Trucks

What Is A Winch?

The winch is a mechanical device used to lift heavy objects. They work by either wind-up or wind out a rope/cable or adjusting the tension of the rope.

They are highly used to recover vehicles, raising sails, lifting elevators and snowboarding.

Off-roaders always carry an electric or hydraulic winch which is wound with a wire cable. If their vehicle loses traction and get stuck, the winch is used to unstuck their vehicle.

Winches are nothing but a simple cable or a rope that is spooled onto a drum by a crank. It utilizes mechanical principles that allows for a stronger and tougher pull. Of course, through technological innovations, that simple machinery has taken a more modern and complicated appearance.

The many different types of winches now available are meant for different kinds of purposes.

Types of Winches

Okay, now that you know what exactly a winch is, it is time to find out their different types. Knowing the different types of winches makes you more capable of choosing the best winch for your pulling needs.

Let’s discuss some of the common types of winches used in the project which require regular moving, lifting, pulling or suspending objects often.

There are different types of winches available. Some of the common types of winches are electrical winches, hybrid winches, portable winches, mechanical drum-style winches, mechanical hand-operated winches etc. They’re distinct from each other depending on their uses. They also have diferences in their parts. They can be used for multiple purposes.

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1. Electrical Winch

Electrical winches are operated by the battery of the vehicle or its independent battery. They use an electric motor and requires a power supply. This type of winch is used by people who don’t have to work with heavy items or for a longer period.

Electric winches are lightweight and easy to use. They’re widely available in the market. They can be used even if the engine is dead.

Electric winches use a lot of energy from the vehicle’s battery. So, a secondary battery is recommended. The winch motor can be affected when immersed in water.

One advantage of an electric winch is how easy to install they are. Because even an unskilled car owner can install them, they can also be easily transferred from one vehicle to another.

There are some top electrical winch manufacturers such as SmittybiltX-bull , Warn vr vs vr evo winchMile MarkerBadlandSuperwinchChampionEngokeeperBravexOffroadboarKFIIrontonRugcelSuperatvRough countryRunvaTuff stuffSpeedmaster , OrcishZesuperViper , WestinZeak etc. They offer top-quality electrical winches at a good price.

Let’s watch a video on how to properly select and use an electric winch.

2. Hydraulic Winch

The hydraulic winch is powered by the vehicle’s power steering pump. The hydraulic motor is powered by hydraulic pressure.

Basically, hydraulic winches use fluid power. They utilize the hydraulic systems and the motor pumps of the generator set.

They don’t need a powerful battery to work and can pull heavier objects for a longer time. They work underwater as well. They don’t overheat easily if used for a longer period. They generally have a longer lifespan.

If you need a very heavy duty winch that can work in a lot of situations, then a hydraulic winch is probably what you want. They are a lot more reliable and powerful than electrical winches.

Their downside is that they can’t run without an engine. If the winch is front-mounted, then they only pull forward. They stop working if the steering wheel is altered while winching.

3. Hand Winch

This type of winch is used for lifting or pulling heavy objects. They’re designed for use with a strap or cable. You should never use this winch to hoist, lift, transport or support people.

Hand winches are meant for lighter duty use compared to other types of winches. They basically amplify your own strength – so they are not exactly suited for tonnage transport.

Hand winches are usually used in remote locations where there are no power outlets, or in wet conditions. The greatest downside to a hand winch is that they require physical exertion from operators to work.

If you want to buy a hand winch, then you can read my reviews of best hand winches.

4. Car winch

This type of winch can be used to attach a smaller item to the car to drag it along or to help pull out a vehicle that is stuck. Car winches may operate with the help of the motor or the power supply from the car.

5. Mechanical Capstan Winch

They draw power from the engine through the crankshaft. They work when the engine is running. Dog clutch connects to the crankshaft’s pulley and then draws power.

Capstan winches have a vertical winch drum that pulls horizontally. Capstan winches are most commonly used for marine operations.

6. Mechanical Drum Winch

They receive power from running the engine. This type of winch is more powerful than electrical types. They’re able to work whenever the engine is running, whether the gear is engaged or not.

There are also drum winches that are great for anchoring use. They provide a fast drop and a quick retrieval of the load. Such winches are very easy to install and work well with almost all types of rope or chain.

7. Mechanical Portable Winch

This is a hand-made winch. They run independently of the vehicle to which they’re attached.

What’s great about these winches is that they can be used practically anywhere.

8. Air Winch

This type of winches is known as an air tugger and it is powered by air. People use it for lifting materials. In the gas oil and construction industries, air-powered winches are popular than other winch types because of their versatility, durability and safety.

We’ve also reviewed 5 top air-powered winches. Read this review if you ever plan to buy one.

Different types of winches are better suited for different types of jobs. So, before investing in a winch, it’s important to understand how does it work. And figure out which type of winches will be best for your job.

Let’s watch a video on air winch selection & use.

There are some other types of winches available such as mooring and wake-stake winches. But they’re not often used as those mentioned above.

But for your knowledge’s sake, let’s give them a brief overview.

A mooring winch is used to secure a ship to its berth. A wake-skate winch is used mostly for watersports like wakebarding.


A winch is an important tool in our day to day life. They’re used for a variety of applications. They are useful in everyday pulling applications. They are a great assistance in industrial applications. And they are absolutely necessary in vehicle recovery.

If you’re involved with heavy-lifting job, off-roading or work which requires regular movement or lifting of heavy materials, then it is well worth the time and effort and money to buy a winch. It is an investment in the long run.

If you still need to know anything about the winch, then leave a comment in the comment box below.

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