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ATV winches are electric, meaning they attach to your ATV battery for power. Some full-size winches use hydraulic power, but these are designed for huge loads and extreme conditions. An electric winch is sufficient for your ATV or UTV, assuming your battery is in good shape.
The efficiency of your ATV winch motor is an important issue. An inefficient winch combined with a weak battery sets you up for disaster. You don’t want to get your ATV out of a jam, only to be left with a dead battery. The factors to compare are the amp draw and the type of motor.
ATV winches can have either series-wound or permanent-magnet motors. Permanent-magnet motors are more energy-efficient than their series-wound counterparts. The downside is that a permanent-magnet motor will overheat more easily.
ATV winches are generally sold according to load capacity. If you have a heavy ATV or plan to use your winch for dragging big items, you’d buy a winch with a higher load capacity. The ideal load capacity is significantly more than the weight of your load, because you need to compensate for any resistance.
ATV winches typically have either dynamic brakes or mechanical brakes. Dynamic brakes use the gear system to keep the winch drum from moving. A mechanical brake actually locks the drum. Either system should be sufficient for an ATV winching operation, although mechanical brakes are less likely to slip when holding a load.
Weight, like line speed, is mainly matter of convenience. A lighter ATV winch is more portable than a heavier ATV winch. It creates less drag on your vehicle when you’re driving and is less difficult to take on or off your ATV. Heavy-duty ATV winches usually weigh more than lower-capacity winches. Ideally, you’d like to find a balance among strength, durability, and weight.