Common Warn Winch Problems & Solutions – Troubleshooting Guide

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Last Updated on September 29, 2022

Say you’re off on a trip with your family and the unthinkable happens; your vehicle gets stuck in a hole! Well, no problem since you have your winch and it won’t take you long to get your way again. 

Now with all this going on, imagine you get your trusted warn winch out, set it all up only to find yourself with a half-working winch because it encountered some technical problem.

In this article, we are going to talk about the Common Warn Winch Problems we will likely face with our warn winch and find suitable solutions to them. 

Common Warn Winch problems & Solutions

Troubleshooting Warn Winches: Quick Fix

1. Bad Contractor 

A contractor is a tiny black box that generally holds the relay switches that control the power when the winch is being operated. As a result, one of the most common issues in a winch is a terrible contractor. The controller box will be located on the rear side of one of the winch’s terminals or the cables.

In the case of Warn winches, they are known to seal the contractor to stop any water from getting inside the winch. This did not serve them well as they had to call several of their winches because of these faulty contractors as they could have started a fire even.

While one of the difficulties or threats was resolved, dirt and water would frequently get inside because of the non-sealed contractor. The contractors were killed as a result of this. Always keep a watch out for them, and if you do need to replace one, double-check that it fits your model.

2. Issues with free spooling of cable

A winch-free spooling is required for a variety of reasons. When it comes to free spooling, one of the most common problems is getting the cable back inside once you have finished.

There have been several complaints from operations about problems with free spooling. The cable or rope of the Warn winch, as one might expect after turning it on, would not return inside as smoothly or effortlessly as one might think.

One of the reasons could be the clutch not being disengaged. To ensure that isn’t the case, you should check whether the shifter knob of the clutch is pulled through all the to the “OUT” position. 

Once that suspect is eliminated, it could be something to do with the mounting of the winch, depending on the model of the winch. The end bearings might bind the drum if the winch was not installed squarely. 

Another model-dependent issue could be with the retainer cap screws on the ring gear. The issue will occur if they are too tightly installed. It will be necessary to disassemble the entire system to repair it. 

Remove the cover from the gear housing. Then pull out all of the gears that are within the gear housing as well. Use your hand to see if the ring gear rotates. At that point, keep the clutch disengaged. If it still won’t move, remove the cap screws slightly using a hex wrench. 

After that, carefully tighten them again, but this time in a criss-cross manner. Make sure they’re not too tight. Check if the ring revolves by hand once more, which it should this time. Reassemble everything in its proper location once it’s finished.

Another popular recommendation is to use synthetic rope instead of a steel cable. This is because synthetic ropes are much easier to unwind. 

Video: Warn Winch Won’t Spool In – Simple Fix

3. Motor runs only in one direction

Another problem people sometimes face is with the motor of the winch. There are times they would find that the motor is either stuck or is moving only in one direction. The most probable reason for this might be an issue with the solenoid. Either the solenoid is defective or is stuck. 

To check whether the solenoid is good or bad, you need to jar the solenoid free of any contact. So what you need to do is apply 12 volts of current to the coil terminal of the solenoid. And when it gets energized, it should make a “click” sound.

Another reason for this problem could be having defective switches in your winch’s remote. 

Disengage the winch clutch first to see if this is the case. Then take the remote control’s switch plug out of the socket. Remove the pins from the left and right sides. At that moment, the motor should start. Then, on top and bottom, leap the other two pins. The motor should start up at that point as well.

4. Motor running on very high temperature

If you run your winch for a long period, the motor is bound to get overheated. At that point, you would be running the risk of damaging the motor in the long run. To avoid this issue, you should give rest to your winch so that it cools off. 

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5. Motor running but either slowly or without enough power

You may find sometimes that the power you need for your operation is not sufficient enough or that the winch is working too slowly. There are three possible reasons for that: 

  • Battery  

The primary reason for insufficient power is probably that the battery does not have enough charge. To ensure that the battery is working, you will need to check the voltage of the battery when under load. 

If the reading shows that it’s less than 10 volts, you will need to replace it. An alternate option would be to get another battery connected parallel to the existing one. But we suggest just simply changing it. 

  • Bad connection

Another reason could be connectivity from the battery to the motor. Your winch may go to many places where it will be around water, mud, and whatnot. That could expose small particles to go inside the motor which could lead to corrosion in the cables. The solution is to clean the cables properly with grease.

  • Charging system

Your issue could also be related to the whole charging system of the motor. Meaning that the motor is not getting the right amount of energy. To fix this, you will be required to change the whole chagrin system.

6. Motor not working

There are 4 main reasons for which you may see that the motor of your winch is not working. You can refer back to the third point of this article to understand and work on two of the four reasons. Below we will tell you about the other two possible reasons and the probable fixes for them.

  • Defective Motor

So one possible reason would be defective motors in the winch. This would take the blame away from the solenoid and you will most likely need to get a new motor. To check whether the solenoid is good or not, check its voltage. If everything seems in order, replace the motor. 

  • Loose Connections

Another cause could be with the wire connections in and out of the motor. To fix this, you will need to check and tighten any wirings underneath the hood. And also tighten the wires on the motor. 

7. Motor damaged by water

If by any chance, the motor of your warn winch had to go underwater or was in a place exposed to high-pressure water or even rain, it could get damaged. 

To avoid these types of issues, you should always let your winch drain out completely after the operation is done. And let it dry thoroughly. Once that is done, run the engine in short bursts without any load for further drying. 

8. Defective Drum

We have seen the issue where the motor is not running properly or is stuck, but what if the motor is running but you are still not getting the needed outcome? This happens when the clutch of the winch is stuck. 

That would make the drum not work at its best or is stuck itself. Even with the clutch engaged, if the drum does not move, you will need to disassemble the whole winch to repair the issue.

9. Frayed rope or cable

It makes no difference whether you have a steel or synthetic cable; your Warn winch’s rope will fray at some point. This is primarily because they are used.

However, keep an eye on the rope because it may spool too close to the winch’s housing. This could lead the rope to come into contact with metal, hastening the fraying process.

Wrapping the cable with something before putting it around any sharp material is one solution. If you want advice, we recommend that you get your garden hose and turn it on. Then wrap it around the cable as a safety wrap.

You need to be careful around the frayed rope as that can trigger a dangerous snap.

Learn the proper method of installing synthetic rope on Warn winch.

10. Dead Remote

There are times when you will find that your winch is not working at all! This would be an alarming situation for you. But before you stress yourself out and check for the problems in the winch, you should first check on the outer components of your machine. 

Sometimes, it’s not the winch that is dead, it could simply be the remote control that is not working properly. It is very common for the remote control of your winch to stop working.

So that would mean that your problem is not particularly serious. And we all know how well the Warn winch performs when it comes to quickly replace the winch’s dead parts.

If you need to replace it yourself, look for replacement Warn winch remote controls.

11. Electroconductive Shavings

This issue arises primarily when your synthetic rope wears out. When the cable wears out, it becomes thinner, allowing it to penetrate the electric motor. How do you ask? This is due to the process we call electroconductive shavings of the rope.

It allows the rope to pass through the gap between the motor’s cheek and the revolving drum flange, allowing the rope to reach within. A short circuit is created between the brush and the winding as a result of this. This is especially harmful since it might cause the engine to burn.

As a result, you’ll need to make sure that the cable’s turn does not get too close to the drum’s cheek when winding. It’s a good idea to keep a few extra solenoids on hand. This is in case the motor breaks, which could happen if the engine becomes too hot or if the solenoid fails. 

Because it will be difficult to determine which solenoid is burned out, you will most likely have to replace the entire block. If that’s the case, the spares will be required.

12. Power pulling is not as effective as it was before

You might discover that your winch’s pulling capacity isn’t as high as it once was. This could happen for a variety of reasons. It could be a problem with the battery. Instead, you may have been unable to secure the electrical grounding wire to the motor casing.

It’s also possible that there’s a problem with the motor’s installation or that it’s overheating. The remedy to all of the difficulties listed above is to thoroughly clean the batteries as well as the wire connections. You’ll also need to replenish the battery and replace the brush set as well as the motor.

13. Troubleshooting Solenoid

As a bonus, we will tell you about troubleshooting your solenoid so that you may not have to go through all the inspection procedures above. 

A winch solenoid can be tested using a bypass test to see if the fault is with the solenoid or the switch. By using a lead wire, jump from the battery to +12V so that you contact the solenoid’s green wire. Use a 12 gauge wire lead for this.

The winch should only pull in one direction at a time. Once you do that, then connect the +12V wire to the solenoid’s black wire. If the winch does not function in the opposite direction, you can tell that the solenoid is malfunctioning.

The two solenoid connections that are connected to the 12-volt power source are primarily responsible for the winch’s direction. It makes no difference whether the winch is moving in or out.

 If you notice that the winch is only moving in one direction, examine the solenoid connections. Check the solenoid for corrosion to ensure that it can make excellent contact.

Now, for testing the motor, connect the +12 volt wire to both terminals. If the motor is in good working order, it should be able to rotate in both directions. This should indicate that the issue stems from the switch or solenoid.


These are all the potential issues you may come up with while using your Warn winch. If you keep a careful eye on these, you should be able to fix your issues without having to hire a professional or even buy a new winch. 

About the Author: Brian Silvestro

Brian Silvestro is the founder and chief editor of OffroadersArena. He spends his free time tending to his BMW iX SUV and explaining its merits to anyone who'll listen.

1 thought on “Common Warn Winch Problems & Solutions – Troubleshooting Guide”

  1. Why would the winch slowly release and allow the plow to fall back towards the ground over a few minutes of raising it all the way to the top?


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