A winch switch is a device used to control a winch. Whether it be a vehicle-mounted winch or a heavy-duty shop model, the typical winch switch is designed to allow easy and safe operation of the winch by an operator. Usually equipped with forward, reverse and high and low range controls, a winch switch can be a wireless unit that uses radio waves to send the signals to the winch, or it can be attached to a long cable. Either version will commonly allow the operator to stand free and clear of the winch cable as it is connected to and lifts a heavy object.
On large overhead winches such as the type used in manufacturing facilities, the winch switch will often be hung below the winch and accessible from the floor by an operator. Occasionally, the winch switch will have a certain amount of the switch cable wound onto a recoiling mechanism; this will allow the user to pull a length of control cable out of the mechanism and allow a safe distance of operation away from under the winch. Once the user is finished using the winch, the winch switch is simply allowed to retract back into the recoil mechanism until once again needed.
On ceiling-mounted winches at larger shops, the winch switch may also contain a warning horn switch that allows the user to sound the horn to alert co-workers that an overhead danger is passing by. This feature is often available on trolley-mounted winches that are used to move large components from one area of a shop to another. This same version of winch will commonly have a high and low range or high and slow speed switch to enable the winch to move quickly over long distances when not carrying a load. For safety reasons, only slow speeds should be used when carrying a load on a winch.
It is not uncommon for a wireless winch switch to include a safety key that must be placed into the switch panel and turned to activate the switches. This prevents an unauthorized user from endangering workers or damaging the winch or shop. The common winch that is used on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) is controlled by a switch mounted on the handlebars. This eliminates tangled and damaged cables from a remote switch that may become tangled around other components. Most vehicle winches use a winch switch that can be unplugged and stored inside of the vehicle until needed.