Winch Question


Well-Known Member
Looking for a winch (NOT A WENCH, get your minds out of the gutter guys ;)) to add to my car hauler. Electric, of course. Question is: Which winch is which? This is not something that will be in regular/heavy use. I'm not looking for something to drag a stuck 4WD out of the mud. I'm just looking for an economical (read cheap) winch to possibly help load the trailer by myself with at most a non-running vehicle. Every winch I see rated for cars start at about 9,000 lbs. with a price to match. Everything 3,500 to 5,000 pounds or states it is only for atvs, golf carts, etc. To me seems like it should be plenty enough to pull a car up on a trailer after all it should only be the rolling resistance it should have to overcome and not the whole weight of the vehicle. How big (or small) of a winch do I really need?


Well-Known Member
Staff member
You definitely don't need a 9k lb winch. I would stick with a 3500-5000 lb winch. Rolling weight is a whole lot different than something stuck in the mud. Also, is this going on an open or in enclosed trailer?

The real question is how much do you really want to spend. The cheap ones are noisy and have a short duty cycle and need to cool off. The top guys are Superwinch and Warn or you can get a HF one,

My trailers use the Superwinch S-Series winches with the handheld remote controllers. The S-Series winches are trailer winches. The enclosed trailer has a S5000 and the open has a S4000 (I think).

Billy T.


You're very kind. Some day it will get you killed.
Harbor freight 12000lb is on sale with a super coupon for $300. You can use the 25% off coupon today only for the mount. Small winches are slow and the cable is short. Go big, you never know what or how you need to pull a car. I set a receiver in thr floor of my garage so I could pull my car into it while mi engine was out. My driveway is uphill. Worked great.

Chuck Leeper

8/10's of a century!
Staff member
^^^ Correcto!!
Obviously, the force required to move a rolling load, when pulling a vehicle up loading ramps, increases significantly. Considering the ramp angle, it can get to be a "no go, fuse blow" situation. {do the math.}
Case in point: My Texas rollback is 20', and goes to a load angle, low enough, to load a Vette w/ long ft overhang, and no "step up" planks, or jacking the tongue up. My 5000# Warn winch, {NOT a cheapo}, had to be set up w/ a snatch block, to lower the amp draw on the motor enough, to keep 40A fuses alive. {YES, it's properly wired.}
Any winch, of insufficient capacity, and 6' ramps, or a rear door, onto a bed hgt of say 20", is not going to get the job done. I'm betting it's a 3500# Buick.;)
The downside to a snatch block is the speed reduction.
ANY new winch I may buy, will have the wireless controller w/ it. Mine has a plug in cable, that's ok, but wireless is the better deal.
Any winch I've installed, has wiring directly to the battery, fused @ the batt, and terminated at the trlr w/ a small lift truck batt plug.
The ground side is also cabled, and does not rely on the hitch for a ground.

Your choice, either step up, or plan on having some help, to push.

Back under my 55 Chevy....:D
I use a 3500lb winch with the 50' synthetic rope made by KFI. These are under $300 winches and proven very reliable. If my days bad enough that I have to winch my broken car into the trailer, last thing I want is to screw around with a P.O.S. winch.

KFI 3500.jpg
In my 24' enclosed trailer you have plenty of length to get the job done.
It has a nice mechanical brake on it too, I've been lazy before and just thrown a strap on the back of the car and pulled it down tight with the winch and rolled out - car didn't budge. Some of the cheaper winches do not have a brake.
It pulls the cars into the trailer with ease. I've bought cars with flats and it doesn't faze it at all. I've also pulled cars uphill into the trailer with zero issues.
I'm a huge fan of the synthetic rope - sold a ton of winches to customers with ATV/UTV's with zero issues. No more bleeding on frayed cables or having an issue winding the rope back in and binding.

You have to be careful on Harbor Freight & similar winches. I've had customers bring then in for install and they are usually just a step up from garbage.

And if you don't have an electric trailer jack - get one. You will be mad at yourself for not doing it a long time ago!
Consider mounting the winch higher up also. It helps keep the cable from grinding on the ramp transition while pulling up somewhat which is helpful vs pulling straight into the deck.
Unless you are going to be using the winch a lot, have you considered a mechanical(hand operated) one? Just takes a little bit of effort with little to go wrong.


Well-Known Member
Thanks for the replies. Like I said this will be only a rare/emergency use thing when the car can't pull up on it's own. I understand the effort to pull up a ramp is greater than just rolling on a flat and I know that there is some rolling resistance but (provided the car does still roll) I don't see how a car that weighs 3500 pounds could come close to exceeding that weight on a shallow incline. The car would only weigh 3500 pounds if it was lifted straight up. I know that with enough math it could be figured out exactly but I don't know enough math. W=m x d/a2 < (I-h%) =???IDK!!! :unsure:

regan j, I did think about a manual crank but the trailer I have has had an electric before. The mount is already there along with a battery and the wiring. Seems like a shame to let all that go to waste. :)


You're very kind. Some day it will get you killed.
I strongly suggest spending a little more and get the biggest winch you can go for. Don't bring a knife to a gunfight.