Do I Need A Winch And Is It Worth Fitting One On My Truck?

You might have noticed many 4 Wheel drives trucks cruising around with a winch-compatible bumper but without a winch. Why do think this is? Well, there are many factors to consider before purchasing a winch i.e price, weight, safety, the application, just to name a few. If you would like to know if a winch is really worth the trouble and money and if it is a worthwhile investment, continue reading…

When conditions get really challenging on off-road trails, a winch could mean the difference between doing serious damage to your vehicle or even not making it home at all. A winch can also help you or a fellow off-roader come unstuck. Electric winches can also be a handy tool to remove hazards from off the tracks, such as, fallen trees or boulders. If your truck has open differentials front and rear then you should strongly consider purchasing a winch at some point to get you out of those tricky situations.

But is a winch really worth the money? Let’s find out.

Is A Winch Really Worth It?

The cost of a winch depends on which size, make and model you opt for. Most vehicles are equipped with a 9 LBS (pound) winch, which is more than sufficient to recover your vehicle if you happened to find yourself in a temporary immobile situation. Other factors like rope vs cable (synthetic vs steel) will influence the cost by quite a bit. Synthetic ropes are a lot safer and much lighter but unfortunately comes with a higher price tag.

There are other factors you need to consider before running out and buying a winch.

You will need the following in place first before the winch can safely be installed.

  1. Upgraded front suspension to accommodate the additional weight.
  2. An upgraded winch-compatible steel front bumper to house the winch securely.
  3. You will definitely need a full recovery kit, including a tree-protector strap, minimum of two properly rated shackles, a snatch block, a winch-line damper, gloves, and a winch line extension if possible.
  4. It comes highly recommended to replace the steel cable that comes with the winch with a synthetic rope. These ropes are much lighter and safer but come at a price.
  5. Lastly, a heavy-duty battery and charging system in the vehicle—preferably a dual-battery system in case the primary battery fails.
  6. Installation costs

By now you probably realize that a winch is a costly investment and it’s not just a case of running out and purchasing one and off you go. With all the above upgrades added up, the total cost is about three times that of an intermediate winch. No wonder you don’t see many trucks with winches running around. Well, depending on which country you live that is.

Winches can range between $250 and $1000 on Amazon. I strongly recommend you steer clear of the cheaper knockoffs for your own safety.

Do I Need A Winch Plate?

Universal Winch Plate with mounting holes for easy fitment

Yes, in order to securely mount a winch, you will require a suitable winch plate. The more high-end heavy-duty steel bumpers are pre-installed with a winch plate, however, many aftermarket bumpers are not. You will need to purchase a universal winch plate to properly install the winch. Most commercial winch plates are 1/4″ steel and there is very little difference between them.

Universal winch mounting plates are fine for most brands of winches, provided the mounting orientation is correct and they have the standard 10″ x 4.5″ mounting pattern. Universal mounting plates are pretty straightforward to install without any complications since there are not many variations. If you do not find a vehicle-specific winch plate a universal plate can be modified to fit almost any truck.

Can you do a self-recovery without a winch?

In the soft sand or mud, chances are you will get stuck so you will need to look at alternatives if you do not have a winch. There are two alternative recovery options available for you to try and they are:

  1. Sand Tracks
  2. Track Grabbers

If you are in a temporary immobile state … aka stuck, you will need to follow the below guidelines to get out without a winch.

Sand Tracks

READ: How to drive a Jeep in Sand

  1. drop your tire pressure, if you have not already done so. I recommend around 16 psi for the self-recovery.
  2. Dig away some of the sand from the front of the wheels to clear a path for the vehicle and make it easier to drive out.
  3. Do the same for the rear wheels. Dig the sand away from the wheel. Clear as much sand away from the front of the rear wheels.
  4. Attempt the sand tracks first. This is a hard plastic track with many gripping points that will mimic a short solid road in front of the tires.
  5. Make sure the sand tracks are placed down straight and do not turn your wheels until you are safely out of trouble.


Track Grabbers

Track grabbers are a simple mechanism that consists of a thick heavy block and a ratchet strap that gets fixed around the tire. Follow the below steps.

  1. As mentioned before lower your tire pressure, if you haven’t already done so. I recommend around 16 psi for the self-recovery.
  2. Attache the block onto the tire and strap it through the rim securely with the buckle.
  3. If there is not enough clearance on the front wheels for the block to rotate you will need to just use them on the rears.
  4. Again, dig away some of the sand from the front of the wheels to clear the path for the vehicle and make it easier to drive out
  5. Simply drive out at a steady pace and allow the track grabbers to bite into the sand.

Do you need a winch on a 2WD truck?

Most 2WD truck owners would love to take their vehicles out into the unknown and explore more often but are concerned about getting stuck because they do not have the off-road capabilities of a 4WD with low range.

READ: 4×2 vs 4×4 Off-road Capabilities & Fuel Consumption

There are other modifications you could do first before you consider fitting a winch to your 2WD. Those mods are the following:

  1. Good All Terrain off-road tires with aggressive tread patterns
  2. Invest in a decent portable air compressor to allow you to safely air down your tires thus making the terrain easier to float over without digging in
  3. Invest in some sand tracks to assist when you get bogged down.
  4. Some good tire chains could be a worthwhile investment.
  5. Lastly, if you feel you want to explore a bit more remote places you should probably invest in a 4WD. The cost implications of a winch are huge and I personally do not think it would be a wise investment.
  6. Try and travel with a mate who has a 4WD to snatch you out if need be.
  7. If purchasing a 4WD is not an option then i would rather suggest spending some money on a decent rear locker.

Bottom line you have to realize that a 2WD has the capability to travel where a 4WD can with the same level of confidence and ease. A 2WD has off-road limitations and you need to try your best to stay within those limitations and you’ll be just fine.

READ: 2WD to 4WD – Adding 4WD to a 2WD truck


Having the right winch will mean you can execute many safe recoveries. There are various types of winches available on the market. Some of the options are hydraulic winches, electric winches, hand winches, engine-driven winches, twin motor, come-along, etc.

The most popular winches on 4WD are electric-powered winches with synthetic ropes. They have driven off a battery that gets charged by the alternator. Most 4WD owners opt for sizes between 9000 lbs and 12000 lbs winches. Synthetic ropes are much lighter and safer and they have the advantage that once they break, they can be tied together and the winch can continue. The disadvantage of a synthetic rope is that it is more prone to damage and abrasions and a bit more expensive to replace.

The second winch option is the steel cable winch. Steel cables are extremely strong and can resist abrasions from rocks easier. They are more dangerous and a lot heavier. If the cable snaps it becomes like a slingshot and can cause major damage and injury. Maintenance of the steel cable is imperative to ensure they are always in good condition.

Which-ever winch you decide to purchase make sure you get the correct one for your application and your requirements.

Happy 4 Wheeling and remember, Safety first!!!

Jade C.

4-Wheel drives and off-road driving techniques has been my passion for over 20 years. Here we strive to provide the most accurate, up-to-date, information about the functionality, common faults and latest technology built into most 4 Wheel Drives.

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