A truck winch is a component usually mounted at the front of a truck, either on a reinforced bumper or on the truck's frame itself, for use in pulling the truck forward should it get stuck or pulling other vehicles that are stuck or otherwise disabled. Sometimes a truck winch is mounted at the rear of the vehicle to accomplish the same tasks, or on a truck's flatbed to help haul vehicles or other heavy items onto the bed. Most winches used in this way are motorized for greater strength and ease of use.
Off-road drivers often mount a truck winch onto the front of the vehicle for use in case the vehicle gets bogged down in mud or snow. The truck winch can also be used to help pull the vehicle across a particularly treacherous stretch of terrain. When this occurs, the cable of the winch system can be fed out, secured around a boulder or tree, and retracted, pulling the stuck vehicle forward. The cable is wrapped around a pulley wheel, which is in turn mounted to an axle. A motor can turn the pulley wheel, thereby feeding out cable or retracting it as necessary.
The user of the truck winch usually stands outside of the vehicle for better visibility of the winching process. A handheld controller is used, which is usually hardwired to the motor, though some remote control systems are available as well. The controller usually features a kill switch that will shut down the system in an emergency, as well as controls to turn the pulley in either direction, feeding out cable or retracting it. The size of the cable and the motor will dictate how much weight capacity the winch can accommodate. This will affect which winch systems will work best with trucks of various sizes.
Another type of truck winch mounts behind the driver's cab, and it is used to haul vehicles or other items into the truck bed. Wrecker tow trucks commonly use this system to haul disabled vehicles onto the bed of the truck, and the winch system is used in conjunction with a bed lift that can tilt the truck bed downward toward the ground. The wrecker will be positioned in front of the disabled vehicle, the winch hook will be secured to the frame, and then the vehicle will be hauled onto the bed of the truck as it is gradually tilted to the horizontal position.