What is a Trailer Winch?

boat trailer winchesTrailer winches are used to haul things that are huge or very heavy such as a boat. A trailer winch allows a person to lower or raise the boat easily in the water. These winches have cables that can make loading and unloading boats easier. By using a quality trailer winch, a boat can also be saved from being damaged. Thus, using a trailer winch extends the life of the boat and reduces the maintenance and repair costs.

A winch can be mounted on a stand which can be located on the tongue of the trailer. A reel or spool is used to wind cable with a hook at its end. The cable is normally 20 to 50 feet in length. The hook is then attached to the boat via the bow, which is then used to lower or raise the boat.

Types of Trailer Winches

A boat trailer winch can be either manually operated or electrically operated. Both types of trailer winches have benefits as you can see below:

Manual Trailer Winch

Manual trailer winches are cheap and do the job for small boats.

A manual winch allows you to control the amount of force that is to be applied on the cable. Though the amount of force can be controlled, it can be a hard job, because a lot of strength is needed to operate a manual trailer.

There are crack turned manual winches as well that multiply the applied force and make it easier for you to pull a heavy boat without applying too much physical strength.

Quality manual winches are equipped with a ratchet that allows you to hold the boat from different points on the trailer, which stops the boat from sliding into the water. Even if you’re an average-strength person, you can use a 12-inch long lever to easily pull a boat weighing more than 2000 lbs.

These days, manual winches have variable speeds for extra power and can increase the pull strength too.

Electric Trailer Winch

Electric trailer winches allow you to manage bigger boats safely.

If you are worried about handling a manual trailer winch, you can try the electric trailer winch. This type of winch is equipped with a powerful DC motor that can pull the boat with a cable. They are very easy to operate as there is no strength required, and you can raise or lower a boat with the touch of a single button. Batteries are also included, and they normally have a reduced-stretch steel cable which pulls the boat. Electric trailer winches can pull weights from 1500 pounds to even 5 tons for the most advanced models. Read our review of the top 12-volt electric boat trailer winches here.

Factors to Consider Before Using a Trailer Winch

If you’re going to buy a new trailer winch, you must choose one wisely. This is because there are a lot of factors that should be considered so that you can get the one that is right for you and goes well with your boat. Below are some factors that should be taken into account before choosing a trailer winch:

Load Capacity

Trailer winches are differentiated by the weight they can carry. The weight capacity determines the strength of a trailer winch and thus, it is one of the most important factors to consider. If you have a boat, you must first properly measure it. You should know the total weight and dimensions of your boat so that you can choose a winch wisely.

The longer and heavier the boat is, the longer the cable and the more powerful the winch you need to raise or lower it. To choose a suitable winch for your boat, you should choose a trailer winch that has a rating of at least ¾ of the total weight of your boat.

Operating Environment

Choosing the right winch also depends on the operating environment, that is, the water in which you’re boating. For saltwater, you should choose a winch that can tolerate the hours of exposure because of a long sea voyage. You do not spend as much time on a river or lake and the water is still compared to the sea.

Salt water may also corrode the winch and thus, aluminum-plated equipment is preferred. There are different types of winches some are zinc plated, powder coated, aluminum plated, or galvanized.

Single or Dual-Speed

Gear ratio is important to consider before choosing the right trailer. The single- or dual-speed level will indicate how many times you will have to turn the crank to rotate the drum once. Different gear ratios which indicate whether you’ll face a lot of cranking resistance while pulling the boat. There are manual crank winches with gear ratios of 3:1, 4:1, or 5:1 that can be used for lighter boats such as catamarans, inflatables, or dinghies.

A dual-speed winch is needed for heavy-duty work. These may have gear ratios of around 5:1, which allows you to pull the boat quickly with an extra mechanical advantage. Some trailer winches can go as low as 15:1 to allow you to pull maximum weight. The larger models will give you a dual speed and an extra mechanical advantage to pull the boat. If you have a very heavy boat, you can use the variable speed winches that are powerful enough to pull a boat easily.

Launching Position

The area where you’re going to launch your boat should also be taken into account because it will affect your choice of trailer winch. If the ramp is overly steep, it will affect the winch load and it will get a bit difficult to handle the boat. The inclined position creates more friction, necessitating the need for winches with higher capacities to handle the boat properly. Similarly, carpet-covered wood bunks also cause issues as compared to rollers on the trailer.

Cable, Strap or Rope

cable strap or ropeIf you want to go for the strongest pulling option, choose a steel cable because it is the toughest. Most electric winches are equipped with steel cables, and they have a level winding mechanism too, to prevent snarling. Adding a pulley block between the boat and cable winch can also increase the load capacity of the winch.

If you have a lightweight and small boat, you can use a winch with polypropylene rope or nylon straps. Most manual winches are equipped with ropes and straps instead of steel cables.

Additional Controls

If you have a large and heavy boat, you’ll need to have more control over it when you’re lowering it in water. Furthermore, if the launch is steep, it will require even more control for lowering the boat. In such situations, an electric winch with a power out function is very handy. Rather than using a free winch spool or gravity, using the power out feature improves the performance of the winch. Some winches also include a clutch so that you can do gravity-free spooling.

Additional Factors to Consider for an Electric Winch

An electric winch is a very efficient and powerful, and offers a convenient way to pull a boat. It is equipped with a battery that provides power, and the unit draws current to pull up the boat. Most electric winch manufacturers include a wiring harness that can be easily installed, but one has to be careful because incorrect installation can damage the wiring. If you’re not a pro, you can seek the help of an electrician or mechanic to do the task.

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