Heading off the paved road and tackling the backcountry roads and trails
can be some of the most fun you can have on four wheels. However, the
off-road terrain can be packed with hazards that can cause all sorts of
trouble for your vehicle. Mud puddles, tall obstacles, large ruts, and
plenty of other terrain features could put your vehicle in a jam quickly.
Getting stuck can really put a damper on your off-roading day, leaving
you wondering how you got there and what you’re going to do to get
Fortunately, there is a way you can make sure you’ve never permanently
stuck and can get yourself out of nearly any jam: installing a winch on
your vehicle. Winches are extremely popular accessory options for serious
off-roaders because of their sheer versatility and ability to get your
vehicle out of even the toughest spots.
Choosing the Right Winch
Winches are extremely popular because they’re easy to get, can be
installed on almost any vehicle, and have so many uses. However, they’re
also an upgrade where the market has been flooded by sub-par products
that will leave you frustrated after a bad experience. There’s a
pretty easy way to tell what level of quality a winch is: cost. There
are loads of mass-produced Asian-made winches which start as low as around
$200. Generally, these winches are an off-brand and come with a steel
cable. American-made winches from trusted manufacturers usually start
at around $850 and come with a synthetic line.
When it comes to winches,
you get what you pay for. Skimping and saving a few hundred bucks may outfit you with a winch that
fails when you call it into action, and that just means wasted money in
the long run.
Synthetic or Steel Cable?
The next thing to consider is whether you want a steel cable or one made
of modern synthetic materials. Steel is generally popular because it’s
tough, inexpensive, and can winch you out of nearly any situation. But
it has downsides: steel builds up a ton of tension and should that tension
give way if the line were to snap, it could cause some serious damage
or injury, and possibly even kill someone if they’re standing in
the wrong spot. A winch line snapping is exceedingly rare when properly
used, but it can happen.
Synthetic materials are more expensive and do also have tremendous load-pulling
capabilities, but they’re not as well-suited to abrasive situations,
which means they require a little bit more thought. However, on the upside
they’re much lighter, easier to handle, and safer to use.
The next question is how big of a winch you’ll need. A good rule
of thumb to follow: your winch should be able to pull at least one and
a half times your vehicle’s gross weight. While going above that
doesn’t really hurt anything, keep in mind heavier-duty winches
are larger, heavier, and more expensive.
Lastly, there’s the question of mounting the winch. Winches are usually
mounted on the front of a vehicle, and there’s generally three options
for doing so.
Hitch-mounted winch plate: These setups essentially mount the winch on a plate which you then attach
to the front of your vehicle through a tow hitch point that’s welded
into the frame. This gives you the flexibility of being able to remove
the winch when you don’t want it or move it to the back of your vehicle.
Frame-mounted winch plate: Perhaps the cheapest option of the three, this is a fairly clean option
that involves mounting the winch behind your stock bumper or an OEM bumper
with a winch-hook slot built in. However, it may take some doing to install properly.
Winch-compatible metal bumpers: This involves completely replacing the front bumper on your vehicle with
a steel or aluminum replacement that has a winch plate built into it.
This is perhaps the strongest and most reliable option, but adds a lot
of weight as well as cost.
Learn more about upgrading your off-road vehicle by adding a winch.
Call the Houston off-road auto shop at HP Motorsports at (281) 281-9950 to request more information or receive a free estimate!