A winch may be the last thing you think you’re going to use on your 4WD but it is quite an important part of your vehicle recovery as it can help get you out of sticky situations. Since it’s mainly used as a last resort, it’s important that you get a winch that will serve your vehicle best. A popular option nowadays is the electrical winch since it’s more convenient than both the manual and the hydraulic one. But before we head straight into why electrical winches are an off roader’s primary choice, let’s take a look at how they actually work.
As you already know, there are two types of 4WD power winches: hydraulic and electric. This actually refers to the type of motor they use. This is also why these 4WD winches are called ‘power winches’ as you don’t need to operate them manually. What also makes them so convenient is the fact that they make use of a solenoid, which can be remote or integrated. A solenoid is a type of electromagnet which in this case controls the rotation of the winch drum that holds the rope.
All this is accompanied by an internal break, gear train, and a free spool clutch. The break is of course there to hold the rope in place, and the gear train helps convert the power from the motor into a pulling force. The free spool clutch is what integrates the two operations (spooling and winding out) seamlessly. While the synthetic rope is lightweight, strong and rot-resistant, the wire rope is not as easily flammable and it won’t cut to the bone when it’s rapidly moving in your hands. Synthetic rope can be reconnected by melting two ends and bringing them together.
Electric 4WD winches don’t need to use the engine, instead, they get their power from the vehicle’s battery and then from the alternator, which is why it’s a good idea to carry an extra battery. But although they only pull forward (if you mount them in the front) they are actually pretty lightweight and easy to use. Their limited operation speed hasn’t stopped people from using them, as they can work even if the vehicle’s engine is completely dead.
You won’t have to worry about the engine overheating when pulling your vehicle on a steep incline, instead, you should just have a big enough battery so it doesn’t drain quickly. Although the winch can be damaged if submerged in water, there are some that are waterproof. Unlike hydraulic winches, an electric winch won’t stop running in case the steering is being altered.