What Size Winch Do I Need? – 2021 Guide

| Last Updated: December 23, 2020

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There is no going back once your car gets stuck in a muddy road. Your vehicle will not move an inch, and you will definitely need help. 

Similarly, when you are driving on steep terrain, your car might get stuck. However, there is a solution to every problem. In this case, to get out of the muddy situation, all you need is a winch.

A winch is something that you should consider keeping in your car. However, with so many options, buying a winch can be a difficult task. Many factors need to be considered, including size, rope size, nature of the vehicle, etc. This guide will help you choose the correct winch that fits all your needs. 

How Do I Choose the Correct Winch Size?

This is indeed a complicated process, even more so than selecting the brand of the winch. There is no point in buying a winch without knowing the correct size. Not all models are compatible with all vehicles. Here are some factors that you need to observe before buying the correct size-winch.

Weight of the Vehicle

Before buying a winch, you need to look at the weight of the vehicle. If your vehicle is heavy and your winch is not of the correct size, it will break. There is no point in putting an 18,000lb winch onto a Suzuki Jiminy. It will not help you to get out of the mud. 

To choose the correct size, measure the total weight of your vehicle. It is recommended to use a winch that is two times heavier than your vehicle's loaded weight. So, if you have a vehicle weighing 3000 kg, you will need a winch with a rating of 6000kg. The key is not to overload the vehicle. 

Smittybilt X2O 17,500 lb.

Regular or Occasional Traveller

Now, this is also an important factor; if you are a regular traveler, you must carry a winch as a safety purpose. Also, as an average traveler, if you are looking to increase your winch's pulling power, you must buy a winch 1.5 times the weight of the vehicle. Besides, increasing the pressure slows down the recovery.

On the other hand, if you are an occasional traveler, look for the winch's line speed. Buy a larger winch with faster line speed and a big motor. You will not have to put in a lot of effort; you will only have to push the winch to get out of the tricky situation. 


The weight of the front end of your vehicle must be accurately known. If there are no springs in the front end, do not go for a heavy winch as it damages your vehicle. Buy a synthetic rope winch, which will weigh around 25 to 30kg, and you will not leave an impact. It is recommended not to go for a steel one, as it will add weight and might impact the front-end suspension's longevity. 

Winch Size Calculator

Yes, there is a proper process of calculating the winch size as per your vehicle. GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) is the method to measure the size. Your vehicle's maximum operating weight, including or excluding the modifications, can be easily found by using this calculator. 

According to a rule of thumb, double the weight of your vehicle, and buy the winch accordingly. 

For midsize pickups, use a 9000-pound capacity winch. For a full-size vehicle, a 12000-pound capacity winch will be sufficient enough. To get the accurate measurement, find the gross weight of your vehicle, and multiply it by 1.5. This is the industry-standard method and the most accurate one. You can also add 1500 lbs for hidden modifications and gears just to be on the safe side. 

What is a GVWR and How Do You Find Yours?

GVWR is the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. You might have heard this term a lot while buying an automobile part. This term represents the maximum amount of weight of your vehicle. 

It is quite easy to find out the GVWR of your vehicle; it is written on the placard at the driver's side door. Besides, you can also use the curb weight given by the manufacturer. Curb weight is the resting weight of the vehicle. You can always subtract the curb weight from the GVWR to find the extra weight. 

What Size Rope Spool Do I Need?

A winch is on full power with only one wrapper layer of winch line or rope spool. It’s a common misconception that the more the layer, the more the power. 

When you have a lot of rope on the drum, your winch is weaker. With one layer, your winch is on the maximum strength. With each additional wrap, it will lose 10% of the pulling capacity. A layer of rope spool will be around 70-80ft max, but it also depends on the model you go for. 

For example, with one layer, the pulling power will be 8000lbs without any power loss. With two layers, the pulling power will be 7040 lbs with a power loss of 12%. 

Moreover, it is essential to consider the rope type. The two most common variants include:

Steel Rope

A steel rope is affordable and easy to maintain, but it might be heavy for the vehicle's front-end. They are recommended to use for rough terrains. If you have a jeep, and often drive through muds and rocks, it must be the right choice. 

Synthetic Rope

Synthetic ropes are lighter and flexible than steel cables. They are ideal for trails and recoveries. However, such ropes demand attention, care, and maintenance. You have to wash it every time you use it in muddy situations. 

How Does a Winch Work?

Winches are indeed lifesavers. They help you out in tricky and difficult situations. It is always advised to keep one in your car to get out of muddy situations. 

If you ever get stuck in a mud hole or steep terrain, you need to engage it in free spool mode. Simply attach the clasp to your car and attach it to a stationary object.

Place the winch in gear with the help of the lever. Moreover, in case of an electronic motor, plug in a remote, and start the recovery process. 

Types of Winches

WARN 88980 ZEON 8

Winches are extremely handy, especially when you are stuck somewhere. There are different variants according to the type of vehicles. Even if you are driving a big full-size truck, there is an industrial winch that can help pull you out of the mud. Some different types include:

Electrical Winch

Electrical winches run on their own battery and also with the battery of the vehicle. Another battery is attached that takes the load from the vehicle's battery and provides it to the winch.  

Hybrid Winch

The winch, which is built from spare parts, is known as a hybrid winch. If you have an old winch, you can easily connect it to the vehicle, and by using a hydraulic pump, you can provide pressure to the winch. Such winches are not only cheap, but they are strong and efficient too. 

Mechanical Portable Winch

Such winches are handmade out of a drum hooked to a chainsaw motor that provides motive force. It offers independent pressure for the vehicle. 

Hydraulic Winch

A hydraulic winch connects to the engine of the vehicle via a hydraulic pump. The pump generates power, which pushes the winch to produce the pull. They are similar to mechanical winches; as long as the engine is working, they can run too. 


Winches are simple devices that help you in getting out of tricky situations. However, with the advancement in technology, there are now modern units as well. By now, you must have gained an understanding of winches and other important details. We hope this article has covered all the necessary information to help you choose the right size of winch for your vehicle. 

People Also Ask

There are always certain queries that are left unattended that create trouble for the user. This section of the article will cover the common questions related to winches.

What Size Winch For Jeep?

A jeep is a mid-size vehicle. Once you know the GVWR of the vehicle, only then can you buy a winch. Ideally, a jeep weighs around 11000-12000lbs. Based on the weight, you must buy a 18000lbs winch.

What Size Winch For a Car Trailer?

It depends upon the overall weight of the car trailer. The overall weight includes gross vehicle weight rating as well as the curb weight. A 3500 lbs winch can also pull the car trailer out in a difficult situation. However, it is recommended to use a winch with a capacity of around 6000-9000lbs.

What Size Winch For a Truck?

A truck is a full-size vehicle, and it requires a lot of pressure to get out a mud hole. Ideally, a winch for trucks should be around 12000lbs. to 12500 lbs. For example, if you have F-150, you will definitely need a 12500lbs capacity winch. 

What Size Winch Do I Need For My Boat?

For a boat, you must know at least 3/4th of the boat's combined weight, which includes the motor, fuel, and gear. Generally, a 3200lbs capacity winch will be sufficient enough for a boat. 

What Size Winch For UTV?

For a UTV, you must be extremely cautious about the size. However, it is always better to get a bigger winch for a UTV. A 3500 lbs winch will work for a standard UTV. Moreover, it is recommended to have an idea about the accurate weight.

What Size Winch For ATV?

ATVs are flexible when it comes to pulling them out of a difficult situation. For example, A 400cc ATV will need a 1000cc winch. Moreover, a winch with a capacity of 2500-3500lbs will work amazingly for all ATVs.

I used to work in construction and landscaping, so I've seen my fair share of ratchet straps, winches, and similar rigging gear. I started Winch Central because I've seen some nasty accidents due to crappy rigging or poor practice. I wanted to be able to recommend good equipment that's SAFE and also provide resources for how its used. I handle the research side of things here as well as product selection for gear reviews.