A direct current (DC) winch is a device that consists of a 12 or 24 volt motor that is connected by gears to a spool of cable. These devices are designed to be operated by automotive electrical systems and can be useful during off road driving. The pulling power offered by a DC winch can be used to haul the vehicle it is connected to out of an impassable situation or pull another vehicle back onto the road. A DC winch can be mounted permanently to the frame of a vehicle or installed into a receiver hitch, allowing for a great deal of flexibility. These winches are also available with different duty ratings according to the strength of the motor, gears, and cable.
The three main types of automobile winches are mechanical, hydraulic, and electric. Mechanical winches are directly operated by the drive train or engine of a vehicle, so not every truck can make use of them. Hydraulic winches use fluid pressure to operate, which can also result in a fairly complex installation process. Since DC winches are operated by the electrical systems of the vehicles they are fitted to, the installation process can be comparatively simple.
Some vehicles come equipped with DC winches, though it is possible to install these devices on any automobile that has the correct mounting surfaces. The easiest type of DC winch to install makes use of a hitch receiver. Many trucks come equipped with these receivers because they are necessary for a vehicle to tow a trailer. Instead of installing a hitch in one of these receivers, a DC winch can be slid into place. If a vehicle has receivers on both the front and back, it is possible to move one winch unit in between the two as needed.
It is also possible to permanently install a DC winch. Some vehicles have a designated location on the frame in the front or rear of the vehicle where a winch should be installed, though in other cases a professional should examine the frame and make the decision. It is also sometimes possible to install a winch to a brush guard or other similar component that is connected solidly to the frame.
Each DC winch has a different duty rating, which refers to the types of loads it can be used to haul. These ratings can be determined by a number of different factors, such as the gear ratio of a winch and the strength of a motor. If a winch is used to haul a load that is outside its weight range, the motor or gears can become damaged. It is also possible for a cable to break under an excessively heavy load, so it is important to pay attention to duty ratings when purchasing or using a winch.