Different Parts of A Winch Explained for Beginners

Last Updated on September 21, 2022 by Automobile Note

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A winch is only as good as the components within. It means, all the parts of a winch define the overall quality of a winch. Whether it’s good or bad, fast or slow, Every part plays the role of the major determinant. Eventually, that affects the price which then changes the prospect of the value you will get.

That’s not all, good knowledge on winch parts also lets you make the best decision respective of your budget. This happens only if you have prior experience. So, what a beginner should do if this is his first winch buy?

Well, that’s what we are here for. We will take apart all the important winch parts, and explain them one by one in detail. Don’t worry if you are a complete beginner, as we always try to convey our message effectively.

A winch has 3 major components that run the winching operation perfectly. Such as the motor, solenoid, and gears. But to run effectively and efficiently, winch requires more than just 3 components. Here is a complete list of the parts:

1. Control panel
2. Solenoid or contactor
3. Electric Motor
4. Winch drum
5. Gear Train
6. Clutch
7. Cable feeder
8. Remote
9. Winch String
10. Braking System
11. Winch Fairlead

Next, we will discuss what each part does in winching environment and possible variants available in the market. This will also enrich your knowledge about winch in general.

Control panel

This is where most of the electric circuit boards are. In most models winches, it's an isolated part so the heat from the motor or rainwater can't get in. The control panel also houses the radio transmitter for wireless remote, fuses, and socket for a wired remote.

Solenoid or contactor

This is far the most critical component of a winch. It's basically an electromagnetic switch for your precious winch. The solenoid helps deliver a very precise amount of power with the right polarity to the winch motor. Thus, the winch can run effectively without burning out the coil.

Now, there are tons of winch replacement solenoids in the market. What you need to know is how many contact points do you need for your winch. The two-point solenoids are the most affordable but they lack in the reliability department. Due to the sheer size, 2 point solenoid tends to be heavy. So keep in mind when shopping for 2 point solenoid.

Winch Replacement Contractor
Winch Contractor
Winch Solenoid

On the other hand, a high-end winch always comes with a 4 point solenoid. Compared to the other variations, this is the most reliable one. With the precise mechanical triggering and power supply, your winch motor will run smoothly for a long time.

The installation of winch solenoids sometimes can be tricky. Most manufacturers do put color codes on them to find the right contact point. You can also check the package or diagram to make a proper connection with your winch.

Electric Motor

The motor is the heart of the vehicle winch or any electrical winch for that matter. Although, some hydraulic winches don't use an electric motor which you can see only in the military field. The electric motor runs off of a car battery or in some cases both the battery and the alternator.

Typically, you will see 2 types of winch motors. The most popular among them is the permanent magnet motor. As the name suggests, it has fixed magnets in it. The reason it’s so popular is because of the low power requirement and able to pull decent weight. They also come with an affordable price tag.

WARN 74756 Winch Motor

Next, we have the series wound motors which are not so popular for their price tag, rather for the raw power. In this type of motor, instead of single-coil formation, you will see a series of coil inline. This is what gives that motor a massive pull in winching. You will see these on the heavy-duty winch and other winch systems that need high pull.

Winch Drum

The winch drum is just a cylindrical shape tube that helps to winch in or winch-out the rope simply by rotating. It can go both directions and can stop when needed. Technically the winch drum is not connected with the motor directly.

It has a shaft in the middle that goes to the other side of the drum where the gearbox is. The motor rotates the axle, then the axle turns the gears, and at last, the drum rotates. Besides, the drum also acts as the wrapper for winch cables.

Warn Winch Drum

Gear Train

The gear train is not only a tool part but a mechanism in itself. There need two gears in winching mechanism – the reduction gear that takes power from the motor and the other gear attached with the winch spool. The reduction gear starts moving powered by the motor that makes the other gear convert this power into heavy pulling force to roll the drum that winds and rewinds the winch line tied to it.

Thus the winch can pull heavyweight loads and this pulling power varies by the motor - the power is coming from. 


Winch clutch is a small lever that lets you put your winch in a free spool mode. You can also use this lever to brake or completely disconnect the drum from the motor. Some winch comes with 3 stage clutch and others come with only 2 stage clutch. Either way, both are effective and convenient for winching operations.

Cable Feeder

The thick frame or bars you see before the drum is the cable feeder. It helps to guide the cable in and out of the winch. In most affordable winches, the cable feeder you see is a manual one. It means the feeder will only guide the rope passively.

If you got the auto feeder, it will work automatically and actively managing the wraps. This is very helpful in re-cabling the rope back into the drum quickly and properly.


Remote control is also a modern inclusion and plays a very crucial part though winch recovery is possible even if you don’t have one at the moment. However, having one ensures safety and convenience as you can operate the winch to get into action from safe distance or inside the car. You have two alternatives to choose from – Wireless remote and wired remote- and having one is synonymous to avail premium winching service.

Winch String

Winch line is a string made of either by braided metal or synthetic rope anchored on distant and firm point to drag the vehicle to a flat or safer place. It keeps wrapped evenly around the circular drum and unleashed at needed length when a winch recovery is urgent. The length and width of a winch line is determined by the type and capacity of the winch. 

People tend to go for longer winch string as anchor points may be further than usual winch string length but you can keep inactive part of the string wrapped when you need a shorter winch string length.

Braking System

This is a system in the winch that gets into action at the turning off of the motor and disengages at the switching on of the motor. When the winch line becomes heavy either by tension or load on it, the braking system goes into action. The braking system ensures the winch line to stop rolling out when not needed.

Winch Fairlead

Whereas a winch fairlead doesn’t play a pivotal role like other parts of the winch mechanism, it is crucial to keep winching at an angle you need and want. It guides the winch line by letting it pass through a path and the path is sometimes circular and sometimes rectangular. It is introduced to reduce the damage to the winch line and keep the winching properly guided.

Fairleads are of two types – roller fairlead and hawse fairlead. The Roller fairlead consists of four rollers framed in a way that creates a rectangular passage for the winch line to pass through.

Final Thoughts

It's safe to say, we have covered all the vital parts of a winch and how they actually work. Reading until now sure is an overwhelming feeling to absorb all this information. For what it's worth, it becomes easy as time goes by. Remember to follow the safety rules and you will be fine.

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