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What Are the Basics of Winch Wiring?

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

The basics to winch wiring are simple, and the most important task of the wiring, other than to provide power to the winch, is to avoid electrical shorts. Using very good quality wire is a must when winch wiring, as is the use of plenty of plastic zip ties to keep the wiring from moving around. Moving wire leads to chaffed wire, which leads to shorts. All winch wiring should be connected to the top post of the vehicle's battery with no exceptions, ever. The final must when wiring any winch is to be sure to run the ground wire from the winch back to the ground terminal of the battery.

Wiring a winch takes some careful planning and the diligence to follow a few simple rules. The first rule in winch wiring is to use very high-quality wire. Some wire is less expensive because it is an inferior product. Good wire is uniformly covered with high-quality insulation and the wire strands are very tough. While the best wire is more expensive, it could save not only a winch but a vehicle by lessening the risk of electrical fire. The second most important fact to remember when winch wiring is to not install a fuse in the winch power lead.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Most electrical wiring basics insist on placing a fuse in the power line, however, the enormous amount of power used when powering a winch will typically burn out any fuse on the market. The elimination of a fuse when winch wiring requires all aspects of the wiring job to be spot-on since there is no fuse to protect against shorts in the system. It is imperative that all wiring is connected to the top post of the battery. Batteries that have both the top post and the side post commonly use a smaller strip of lead to connect the side post location to the top post feed. This can result in the small strip burning through under the enormous strain of using the winch.

It is also imperative that many plastic zip ties be used to prevent the wiring from moving around in the engine compartment. Moving wires will eventually lead to chaffing and shorting. This wire damage could result in a damaged winch or a vehicle fire.

Perhaps the most crucial point in winch wiring is to always run the ground wire back to the battery. When winch wiring, the wire that is run from the winch to the frame may be heavier than the wire from the battery ground to the frame. This will result in the wire from the battery to the frame burning in two under the load of winching. Running the ground wire from the winch wiring to the battery will eliminate this potential problem.

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