Winch Contactor Vs Solenoid: Differences and Comparison

Last Updated on January 5, 2023 by Automobile Note

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Sometimes, it's too confusing to pick up a specific one between solenoid and contractor. Both are pretty much efficient when it comes to operating a winch. But the fact is, these are designed for different applications and purposes.

Let's say if you get your hands on the solenoid instead of contractors for your heavy truck's motor, you won't get the result that you desire for. It's like you're bringing a knife to a gunfight!

So, the writing on winch contactor vs solenoid will show you everything to let you know which one is ideal for your winch. To see the battle of these two switches, sight tight and stick with us till the end.

Contractor or Solenoid?

First off, you should know each of the candidates' strengths and weaknesses. While doing so, you need to know about them very deeply and after that, you can come to a final decision.

Basically, contactors and solenoids are electro-mechanical or solid-state switches, which are used for a variety of different applications. But, before going to contactors and solenoids, at first, you need to know about another switch that is called “Relay.”

Features of Relays

Relay is the most used electro-mechanical device or switches in a vehicle for controlling a higher power circuit using a minimal power signal (usually 40-100 amps). This single signal can control several circuits as well.

From electromagnetic relays to solid-state, relays are the most commonly considered host of designs. In electromagnetic relays, the magnet is used to open or close a switch for generating a signal, current, or voltage. But in solid-state relays, the power flow is controlled by using a semiconductor.

Different Sizes of Relays

Now let’s talk about some of the most common footprint sizes of relays that are available in the market for better quality information.

Micro Relays

It includes a micro-sized plug-in design that is attached to a standard quality pattern mostly used in the automotive industry. A wide variety of vehicles use the micro relays for switching operations in which up to 35 amperes of currents are allowed for rated switching.

Mini ISO Relays

Without a doubt, it’s the first choice of many industries for being a standard footprint. From starting or lighting to heating or cooling, these relays meet all the needs of most of the electrical applications in the vehicles.

Maxi Relays

The next one is the maxi relay also known as a “power mini relay.” It’s perfect for car alarms, cooling fans, energy management, engine control, fuel pumps, and blower fan applications.

Besides, it’s engineered to have a heavy-duty contact, and it's rated up to 80 amperes to use for a longer period.

ISO 280 Mini, Ultra, and Micro Relays

These are the compact version (usually smaller) amongst all the other relays we’ve mentioned earlier.

Designed to work in power distribution holders and units, also in ATM fuse boxes, these ISO 280 footprint is widely used for the pin size, also for improving the level of performance by providing rough and equivalent arrangements.


It’s a type of relays designed to switch a heavier current in the best way possible. The usual range of the current is between 85 to 200 amperes.

When it comes to the “winch solenoid,” basically it’s a switch that activates the motor of a vehicle-mounted winch. It plays a significant role in supplying the required current without doing any damage to the winch motor.

By pressing the activation switch, the current is directed towards the solenoid from the battery and thus the winch is activated. After the activation, the current is sent to the motor with the assistance of the solenoid to start running the winch motor. A typical winch has two separated solenoids for reversing and forwarding.


For a high voltage DC power system, the contactors are used to support heavier loads of the current, typically 100 to 600 amperes. Usually, it’s light in weight, cost-efficient, and safe solution for DC voltage.

The contractors are mostly used in buses, emergency vehicles, hybrid/electric vehicles, and heavy truck’s electric motor that requires too much power in order to move something efficiently.

Usually, the contractor equips a specific integrated coil economizer to minimize the strength required in order to hold contacts. It plays a significant role in improving system reliability and flexibility as well.

Considerations before choosing one between solenoid and contractor

It’s a must to consider several matters before choosing a specific one between solenoid and contractor. Let’s see.

Form and Current Factor

When we talk about load capacity, the solenoids are at the bottom, and then the contactor switches are at the highest point.

While contractors can handle enough current to heavy power equipment, these also cost a pretty penny and take up most of the space. On the other hand, solenoids require little space and these are as cheap as chips!

Considering the form factor to determine which of these switch products is right for your design. The higher the load capacity, the larger the size equates, so consider how much space you have available to make sure the equipment you need will fit.

If there is a conflict, it's time to think again about the design or scale of the electrical system.

Ratings of Intermittent vs. Continuous

The thing to be noted, contactors and solenoids are designed for intermittent or continuous usage. Intermittent indicates the applications which include a short activation time interspersed with a huge resting time, for example,“a starter switch.”

Whereas evolving products with continuous evaluation are able to support applications that require continuous run time, let’s say a winch.

There is a common question - can a continuous solenoid be used instead of an intermittent solenoid? Well, we always suggest getting yourself a component designed for the task, it’s technically possible to use a continuous duty solenoid valve, but it goes beyond what is necessary.

However, an intermittent solenoid cannot be used under any circumstances when a continuous solenoid is needed since it’s not packed to meet continuous demand.


While choosing a switch unit, ensure to consider the environment in which the unit resides.

It’s necessary to have a sealed product when protection against elements such as moisture, immersion, dust, and vibrations is required. View the IP ratings to determine the particular protection offered.

Another critical point is the operating temperature. The motor and surrounding components might generate temperatures of up to 175 ° F, so all adjacent equipment should be rated in an appropriate way.

Verdict of Experts

Choosing between the solenoid valve and contactor highly depends on the current-carrying capacity required. Also, it’s necessary to consider how well the form factor matches the design footprint.

Once you find out what types of conversion products meet your needs, don’t forget to take some of the critical requirements into consideration, such as - environmental demands and operating temperatures. These will help you identify the right one without breaking your back!

Final Thoughts

In the winch contactor vs solenoid battle, we’ve found it actually depends on the requirement of the user that what they exactly need. Both of them have different characteristics and usage.

In a nutshell, for heavy use or something that needs more power, we consider using the contractors instead of other choices.

On the flip side, with lesser loads, or if you’re wondering about getting yourself the one without paying top dollars, you can pick up the solenoids. Again, the ball is in your court!

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