How ATV Winches Work

Selecting an ATV Winch

You'll be happy you have a winch if this happens to you.
You'll be happy you have a winch if this happens to you.

When shopping for an ATV winch, you'll need to consider how much weight the winch will need to be able to pull. Winch manufacturers rate their products with a number called the rated line pull. This tells you how much weight the winch can safely haul. To determine how much line pull you'll need, you should measure your ATV's gross vehicle weight (GVW). In the United States, we express this number in pounds.

A vehicle's gross vehicle weight is the total weight of the vehicle plus any accessories, cargo and passengers. Once you've determined the GVW of your ATV, you should multiply the figure by 1.5 to determine the minimum line pull rating for your new winch. Why factor in a multiplier? Because even if your vehicle weighs 550 pounds (about 249.5 kilograms) and you weigh 160 pounds (about 72.6 kilograms), you could get stuck in a deep mud pit. The suction of the mud will resist efforts to pull the ATV out and your winch will have to work harder.

Once you've determined your minimum line pull rating, think about the kind of terrain you like to drive on. If there are a lot of marshy areas around, you'll probably want a winch with a line pull rating that's higher than the minimum you've calculated. If you avoid wet areas, your winch won't need to be quite as powerful. You can find ATV winches with line pull ratings ranging from 1,500 pounds (680.4 kilograms) to 4,500 pounds (2,041.2 kilograms). Most ATVs, however, won't need anything stronger than a 3,000-pound (1,361-kilogram) pull rating.

Consider the size of your ATV. Remember, you'll have to mount your new winch to your vehicle, so you'll want to choose a winch that will fit the front or back of your ATV. Keep in mind you'll also need an ATV mounting system. And don't forget to keep the weight of the winch itself in mind as well -- a heavy winch can dramatically change the way your vehicle handles.