What Size Winch Do I Need?

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Last Updated on June 24, 2022

Realizing the importance of carefully pondering what size winch should you buy, often hits when you out of nowhere get stuck in the middle of a trail with your ATV or UTV. Having a wrong-sized winch or even worse, no winch at all can force you to spend the night in twists and turns.

Clearly, that takes away the pleasure of the ride that you could have concluded with a happy ending of warm cozy sleep. So, to be truly prepared, for whatever comes down the road, you must not skip getting a proper winch. Especially the one with the right size that you’re ride would need.

Today, we will be discussing how you can determine that size factor along with some other equally crucial matters. So, make sure you stick till the end.

What Size Winch Do You Need

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating – The Most Important Factor for Winch Size Selection

If you have not heard about this term, then better start by familiarizing yourself with it. Because this would play an important role in what we are discussing today.

Basically, the GVWR refers to the operational weight of a 4×4, at maximum. And this would consist of every modification done to it, gears, the fuel, passenger as well as driver.

To find it out, you don’t follow any formula but check the rig part. Usually, that’s where the manufacturer-designated GVWR is provided. Most of the time, it’s given on door jamb at driver’s side. You can also discover it right beneath the hood with a sticker. Or at least, it would be given in the owner’s manual.

Once you find out the GVWR of your vehicle, then you can proceed to determine the winch capacity you need.

Winch Rating VS Vehicle Weight – Understand How They Relate To Each Other

With more weight of your vehicle, the more powerful winch rating it would need. In easy words, the heavier your vehicle is, the better capability to pull that weight should be present in your chosen winch. And that’s the core ideology you should keep in mind for picking a proper winch size.

How To Calculate Winch Capacity – Use This Simple Formula

Having a clear idea of the capacity factor is definitely important if you are willing to get the right size winch. And it takes into account, the weight of your vehicle. The golden rule is considering double of that weight for determining the capacity.

To find out what size winch should you buy try this really easy formula given below.

(GVWR of your vehicle)x(1.5 or 2.0) = The Ideal Winch Size.

Let’s assume that your vehicle weighs 5000 lbs. And, in that case, the ideal winch capacity would be between 7500 to 10000 lbs.

Ensuring The Accuracy of Winch Capacity Rating

Let’s take a case scenario into account. Consider that you have a winch capacity rating at 12,000 lbs. for the purpose. However, the winch manufacturer probably measured the static load by taking a single layer of wire rope in the drum.

And this would mean, every time there’s another new wrapped layer, the winch capacity that you considered would fall or drop at 12% to 26%. This brings us to the thought that,

More Layers = Less Power for Pulling

This could be an issue for you to experience less winch capacity despite the advertised rating. The best solution to avoid such a problem would be to consider the curb weight of your vehicle. You should find it in the owner manual. Then include the weight of all the tools that you would have in and on it.

And then you’ll get the idea of Gross Vehicle Weight to apply the 1.5 multiplication rule for acquiring the minimum capacity required for winch.

For Your Information – The standard way of multiplying 1.5 or 2 times can be sidestepped if you want to get a more capacity winch for the vehicle. But you must not go beneath what the industry standard refers through this equation as that would be taking risks.

So Now the Big Question – How to Determine Winch Size That’ll Be Best for Your Vehicle?

Apart from the standard 1.5 or double multiplication thingy, you also need to take into account a few more factors. That basically will make you go for not the general but the best suitable winch size for your vehicle.

And one such factor would be the terrain that the vehicle will ride on. This surely plays a certain role in making the job of winch extra demanding.

Let’s take the example of mud. We all know that it has a great suction force. And it makes it quite hard for the vehicle once it gets stuck. In such scenarios, the rule of thumb that asks for going with a 1.5 times more capable winch, becomes quite insufficient.

People who are already stuck with a winch with minimum capacity go for alternative moves. Such as getting snatch block and similar solutions offering winch accessories. However, in your case of buying a new one, it’s best to consider a better capable winch rather than sticking to minimum fulfilling options. Don’t you think so?

Also, keep in mind that traveling through steep hills could also be a case. Not to mention the need for frequent winching. All of that might not be achievable for a winch with normal capacity. But the one that goes beyond that normal range.

So, before you multiply your vehicle’s GRVM to 1.5, and choose to go for the minimum size winch, give this some thought.

What Size Winch Do I Need For Truck?

Best Truck Winch

The next step is narrowing down your options and let’s start it by analyzing a few vehicles as well as their required pulling strength. The first one, well, is a truck. The pickup trucks such as Nissan Frontier would require winch capacity ideally between 9 to 9.5 thousand pounds. The same goes for Toyota Tacoma.

Now if you consider a full-size one, it should be around 12 to 12.5 thousand pounds. Great examples would be the Chevy 1500 and Ford F-150.

With even bigger trucks, winches with 16.5-to-18-thousand-pound capacity would fit best. And the list includes diesel consisting of a huge number of accessories as well as huge wheels.

Don’t forget to check our truck winch reviews if you need to buy one.

What Size Winch Do I Need For Jeep?

Winch for Jeep

Coming to the question, what size winch should you buy when it’s about a Jeep? Well, go for one that serves a capacity of at least 9 thousand pounds.

Taking an example of 2019 JL, consider the amount of the add-ons and it would weigh 5 to 5.8 thousand pounds. So that would mean a winch rated at 8.7 to 9 thousand pounds minimum would be mandatory.

Now do keep in mind, with installed bumpers, huge tires, and hefty skit plates, the case would be different than what we talked till now. The best thing to do if such concerns are included would be going beyond what you seem to need. Means go for bigger capacity of the winch.

Check our Jeep winch review if you want to buy a winch for your jeep.

What Size Winch Do I Need For Car Trailer?

Car Trailer Winch

For most tilt trailers as well as car haulers, going for a 9500 pounds winch capacity would be better. In case of heavy tilt trailers, pintle, or gooseneck ones, 12,000 – 17,000 pounds winches would play best.

Overestimating Your Need Is Better Than Underestimating!

We understand that winch might not be something one would typically use very frequently. In fact, some of you might feel it’s not that essential. However, despite that fact, winch is one of those items that fall under the “bigger would be better” category.

This means when you are buying a winch, even if you know what size or capacity, your vehicle would work with, go beyond that. And purchase the next size up of what you think the vehicle need.

This would allow the winch to have less stress. Something that could prevent incidents such as solenoid burnout. It happens when the winch tends to draw excessive current for a pretty extended period of time. But if you invest in a larger winch, then the usable winch time would be lengthier. And this would lessen any chances of overheating.

So even if the cost would slightly increase, eventually you’ll be paying less in the long run. Not to mention the performance boost as well as better winch lifespan.

Wrap Up 

Hopefully, the matter of what size winch should you buy seems clear enough to you now. And we tried to include all the crucial aspects that could help you with making a decent enough choice for winch.

But if you still feel confused on any matter, don’t hesitate to contact an automobile expert and get a more solid specific suggestion. Once everything seems right, don’t wait and get that suitable winch to make sure your rides are complete, pleasant, and free of any nuisance. Good Luck!

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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.

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