How To Check if Winch Works or Not–Possible Causes & Fixes?

Disclaimer: We may earn a small commission from sponsored links in this article at no additional cost to you.

Last Updated on June 27, 2022

Perhaps you want to buy a used old winch but before that, you need to just check if the winch works or not. 

Or maybe you simply feel like the winch is behaving oddly. And just want to make sure there are no faulty areas hiding a possible failure in a few days.

No matter what your scene is, here’s how to check if winch works or not. Along with a few possible reasons why it may not. 

And of course, some pointers on the solution you should be focusing on next. Keep Reading…

So How to Check If Winch Works or Not

How To Check if Winch Works or Not

1. Try the Jumper Cable Test to Inspect the Motor First

Those who know how to tell if a winch motor is bad will usually suggest going for the jumper cable test. This test will bring the winch motor out of question. It’s simply finding whether the motor (the most probable to a fault) is having any issue or not. 

If you can’t tell how to test a winch with jumper cables then simply follow the steps beneath:

  • Get all the cables disconnected and bring the battery out of the vehicle.
  • To test the winch next you have to bring jumpers cables and connect them with the battery. The negative terminal will have black and the positive one should connect to red.
  • Then you want to connect the negative cable to the winch’s terminal.
  • Softly tab on the opposite terminal with positive cable. If you can see a spark, then components are working fine. A slight movement of the drum will also be there. If it does not move, you can leave the test.
  • In case the drum moves, have the terminal connected with a positive cable next. The motor of the winch should move in a direction at this point.
  • Now try reversing the connection. And this shall make the drum move in the opposite direction.

This is basically how to test a winch motor with jumper cables. Let’s move into talking about the issues that you discovered, the reasons behind them, and possible fixes.

2. If You Have Negative Result with The Jumper Cables Test

  1. The motor of the winch only works one way – The solenoid is stuck or damaged. Remote control switches can also be defective.
  2. Extremely heated running of motor – Sometimes due to long-term operation, this can happen. You need to cool it down or overheating can completely damage the winch.
  3. Low speed running of motor or poor power performance – This could be because of bad connection as well as not sufficient battery. The charging system can be insufficient too.
  4. The drum does not run but the motor runs fine –Not engaged clutch can be the reason.
  5. Inoperative motor – Again it could be a case of a problematic remote-control switch or solenoid. A loose connection can also be the scene. Or perhaps the motor is completely damaged and needs replacement.
  6. Water damage to the motor – Due to a car wash with high pressure, this could be the result. Water submerging usually causes the issue. Thorough drying and draining is necessary.
  7. Hardly or not free spooling cable drum – Disengaged clutch or unsquared mount of winch could be the causes. Tight caps screws of ring gear retainer can also be the reason.

3. Blown Fuse, Tripped Breaker, Short Circuit & Improper Wiring

A winch that is drawing too much power might have a blown fuse. And in that case, you must replace the fuse. It can also be due to a tripped circuit breaker. Resetting shall help here.

A short circuit can also be the reason for red cable contacting metal parts. You want to test if the winch works after resetting the breaker or replacing the fuse. And if there’s a trip or blow instantly after that. This is an indication of shortness. And then you must change any damaged wiring.

With some newly installed winch, improper wiring can sometimes cause it to not work. So, make sure you check the wiring and confirm it is done right. In the case of the old winch, there could be corrosion with wire. You can use sandpaper and get the terminals shiny again to fit this inside.

4. No Results from Jump Cable Test but Winch Still Not Working

It could be because the winch is having issues within. You can use a voltage drop test to find which electrical component is having a problem. Set VDC with a multimeter and have one probe touch the ground while the other touching yellow or blue cable.

Activating both winch and multimeter should bring some reading. And if it is not close to the winch’s running voltage, the doubt was right. The electrical components are having issues.

Solutions to this could be:

Cleaning the winch motor. Dirt penetrating in the housing could be causing a short. You need to disconnect the battery, disassemble the motor and basically go through it with a toothbrush and a brake cleaning liquid spray. You should have the housing cleaned as well. Don’t forget to dry before putting things back together.

5. Still No Results After Cleaning – Burnt Coil or Motor Short

Overheating and improper wiring could cause this. If this is the reason, you must contact a specialist for a motor rebuild. Or go for a whole motor replacement.

6. Contractor of Winch Clicking but Not Working 

If your winch is dead basically but the contactor still clicks, then these could be the issues:

  • The battery is not fully charged to power your winch.
  • The motor is dirty or not working due to short or another reason and needs repair or replacement.
  • The solenoid of the contactor is firing up but not connecting. So, the contractor is damaged from overheating or corrosion.

Wrapping Up

And that’s how to check if winch works or not as well as the underlying causes. Hope it helps you to figure out the problem and take a necessary step afterward. 

See you on some other similar topic, bye!

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.

Leave a Comment