DT Roundup

Winches Be Pullin’

Published in the August 2014 Issue August 2014 News Jeffrey V. Shirts

Diesel truck owners are not all like. Most owners simply want a dependable vehicle they know will be capable for years to come and will continue to provide strong, reliable service. Other diesel owners want to modify and upgrade their diesel truck and turn them into behemoths of horsepower and torque, capable of hitting impossible speeds and massive acceleration. Some people are drawn to the power of diesel trucks as an answer for their towing and hauling needs, already knowing that a simple gas engine is incapable of producing the power needed. And others are most interested in the varied and diverse abilities and capabilities of their truck. They want to drive their truck off-road, through the dirt, through the mud and through the snow.  

For the first time since the recession started in 2007, automotive sales are seeing an increase and one of the most important and key selling points has been that of vehicles that operate on and off-road. With this new love of vehicles that can be driven off-road, diesel trucks have seen a spike in sales. With new off-road capable vehicles comes new off-road modifications and upgrades to these vehicles.

One of the most important investments an owner of a diesel truck designed, built and modified to travel off-road, is that of a dependable winch. There are several makes and models of winches that are all designed for more or less the same purpose, but rated differently and installed on the truck differently and therefore it is vitally important as a diesel truck owner to know what winches are capable of what, and which winch is right for your purposes. With that in mind, the following is a roundup of different winches available on the market, all designed and tested for diesel use.

Electric Versus Hydraulic

The first and most important question that should be asked is whether to purchase an electric or a hydraulic winch. Between the two types there are several differences, including—perhaps most importantly—how they are powered. 

The most common type of winch is the electrical winch. Electrical winches are powered through a vehicle’s engine and are known to wind faster than hydraulic winches. Electrical winches are also known to be easier to install than hydraulic ones. Another perk of an electrical winch is that it can be remote controlled, which opens the possibility of one person being able to secure the hook and operate the winch at the same time, as compared to a hydraulic winch, which typically requires two people. When installing an electric winch, it is important to know the amperage required to operate the winch to ensure that the truck can handle the power drain.

Hydraulic winches are installed into a vehicle’s power steering pump that winds the winch. Because hydraulic winches do not require the engine’s battery power, they are generally considered more reliable than electric winches. Because a hydraulic winch is coupled to the power steering line, it is necessary that the engine be running while in use and is more labor and mechanically intensive to install.

Synthetic Versus Steel

Another consideration is the cable material. Currently most winch manufacturers offer either synthetic or steel cables. Steel cables are more common and are typically more reliable than synthetic ones, but there are advantages to both.

For the most part steel cables are the preferred cable of choice. Unlike synthetic cables, they won’t snap if they are constantly rubbed against abrasive surfaces, which is always likely considering the use of most winches. Be aware, however, that under the wrong circumstances a steel cable can break, and it can cause damage or injury if anything or anyone is struck by the snapped cord. 

Synthetic cable is lighter and typically more durable than steel cable. Another advantage of synthetic cables is that they don’t snap when they break, minimizing the risk of damage and harm. Synthetic cables do require observation, however, as they are more liable to break if the integrity of the cable is compromised.

Remember that regardless of the material of the cable, it is important to inspect the cable before use to ensure the overall safety to the vehicle and anyone in the vicinity of the winch.



Champion offers only one truck winch, rated 10,000 pounds, and it is a beast of a winch.  With a two-year limited warranty and a 3/8-inch galvanized super-duty aircraft cable, this electric winch can be remote controlled and features an automatic brake. (877-338-0999/www.championpowerequipment.com)


Mile Marker

Mile Marker prides itself on being an exclusive winch manufacturer. Offering a wide variety of different types of winches, Mile Marker manufactures electric, hydraulic, ATY/UTV winches and several necessary parts and components, including accessories, replacement parts, drivetrain products, wince mounts, and towing and recovery products. Mile Marker electric and hydraulic winches are capable of pulling 8,000 to 9,500 pounds on trucks, and 12,000 to 15,000 pounds on heavy trucks. (800-886-8647/www.milemarker.com)



Founded in 1956, SmittyBilt began as a machine shop developing custom parts for trucks and small SUVs. Since then, SmittyBilt has built a reputation on its dependable products and love and enthusiasm for all things off-road. SmittyBilt currently offers nearly 20 different winches, designed to handle different strengths and produced from different materials. The options offered by SmittyBilt grant great flexibility and versatility to the avid off-roader looking to add a winch to his truck, including steel or synthetic cables and electric or hydraulic winches. (310-762-9944/www.smittybilt.com)


Super Winch

Super Winch began in 1970 with a determination to manufacture the most reliable and high performing electric winch products available, and while today Super Winch does produce numerous hydraulic winches, they remain dedicated to the electric winch market.  Super Winch manufactures a full line of off-road, utility, industrial and tow winches.  Popular Super Winch lines include the Talon, Husky and Tiger Shark series. (860-928-7787/www.superwinch.com)


Tuff Stuff

Starting with only one winch, Tuff Stuff channeled its passion into its work to produce the best winches that they could engineer and manufacture. Tuff Stuff currently offers seven different electric winches and one full winch kit, along with numerous accessories to ensure they have the product that consumers want in an electric winch. (866-220-0171/www.tuffstuff4x4x.com)



Vortex is a relative newcomer in the winch industry with a little over nine years of experience. Since that time however, they have grown into a reputable winch manufacturing company, offering a variety of different winches for off-road trucks, ATV and utility and accessories. All Vortex winches are electric and rated for different weights of trucks, which means they can handle any size diesel, but it is important to know exactly what the needs of the winch will be before purchasing. (800-309-5190/www.vortexdirect.com)



Warn manufactures a wide variety of winches, including specialty winches for Jeeps, trucks, SUVs, ATVs, motorcycles, tow truck and industrial winches, and even portable winches. Founded in 1948, Warn winches have been a leader and a mainstay in the winch industry. With several different series of winches to consider, Warn manufactures over 30 different winches—both electric and hydraulic based—that can be mounted onto a diesel truck. When it comes to winches, Warn produces something to fit any budget and for any application. (800-910-1122/www.warn.com)

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