If you're purchasing a winch for the first time maybe because you got stuck on a track and want to feel more confident to take on something more difficult. Purchasing a winch is a good, actually a great idea! And better yet if you go 4wding without other vehicles its a bit of an insurance policy at best.
Firstly you have to decide how you are going to mount the winch to your vehicle. If you already have a winch ready bull bar, you are on your way, but if you don't you will need to select a mounting method of either a winch ready bull bar or a hidden winch mount that goes in behind your standard bumper. This new trend allows you to keep the look of your vehicle.
Now before you go out and purchase the biggest and baddest winch you will need to consider what your bull bar or mounting cradle is rated to - its usually on a plaque on the bull bar or check the manufacturers website for ratings. Some are rated to 9500 lbs some are rated to 12000 lbs and the bigger vehicles e.g Dodge RAM Ford F250 can utilize a 17000 lbs winch. But check first, you don't want to be playing the return game or buying two winches.
Right... now you have a mounting system and have worked out the winch rating required you need to start drilling down and ask yourself - whats my budget and what do I get for the money and foremost is it going to be reliable when i need it most.
There are many winches on the market ranging from $250 - $3000 you need to decide how often you will be needing the winch and how much you will be relying on it to perform. First and foremost check the warranty if it doesn't offer more than three years start wondering why they don't back their product and move on. Then start looking at social media, peoples reviews etc. this is not always a defining factor as you know what social media is like, but it can assist you with drilling down to a selection of winches.
Features.... there are so many - motor HP, 3 stage planetary gear boxes, synthetic rope vs steel cable- another conundrum worth considering - weight vs durability, IP67 water proof rating, motor breather, alloy or steel construction,winch braking systems(very important) the list goes on.
Once you have found your balance between price and reliability and before you hit the purchase button just double check the fitment drawing of the winch and see if it will fit in your bull bar/ cradle. This step is usually overlooked and can be costly with freight.
Another thing to check before you hit the fire button is to see if your battery is up to the challenge. Most reputable manufacturers will list the minimum required CCA - Cold Cranking Amps to operate the winch under load.a general rule of thumb is 650 CCA so if your battery isn't the correct CCA your winch won't perform up to its specifications.
So now you are on your way, you've ordered your winch and spoken to your mates about it, who are probably happy that they don't have to winch your sorry ass out of the bog hole anymore. And hopefully they have volunteered to help you to install the winch and sink a few beers.
A simple word of advise, don't skimp on an isolation switch this may save your vehicle from a fire, flat battery or a torn apart bull bar.
And don't forget to spool your winch before 4wding, this will pre-tension the rope onto the drum and prevent it bunching up and cutting into itself.
Happy 4wding and winching!!!