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What are Electric Winches?

Shannon Kietzman
Shannon Kietzman

Electric winches are most commonly used to pull an automobile, boat, crane, truck, or other piece of equipment from a problematic area. If a car goes off the road and down into a ravine, for example, trucks with these types of winches are used to hook the car and pull it back to the road. They can also be used to tug boats to safety. There have even been rare instances in which they have helped save large animals from tricky holes and pits.

Electric winches come in different shapes and sizes. Typically, they include a two-speed engine. A cable is attached to a spool, which is attached to the motor. A gear lever turns the spool in order to release the cable.


Once the cables of an electric winch are extended to the vehicle or object in need of towing, the gear levers are pushed in the opposite direction of the object. This causes the spool to wind up. As the spool winds, the cables are pulled back in. This causes the object to be pulled safely to where it belongs.

Electric winches are usually capable of handling loads of 500 pounds (267 kg)to two tons. The cables and motors of these winches are created specifically to to handle different weight loads. Winches capable of handling larger load capacities are more expensive. Those capable of handling 12,000-pound (5,448 kg) loads, for example, cost well in excess of 700 US Dollars (USD). A typical 9,000-pound (4,086 kg) winch costs between 300 and 600 USD.

The standard length of the cables on an electric winch is 100 feet (30.5 m). These winches also come standard with an automatic brake and a handheld remote control. They can deliver engine performance of one-third horsepower to over 50 horsepower. They can be easily installed to the back of a truck, boat, or solid surface. When buying electric winches, however, it is important to research each product and to read consumer reviews because many models make promises on which they cannot deliver.

The largest electric winch in the world is rigged to a platform in a deepwater construction vessel called the Balder, which can handle loads of 275 metric tons. The Balder can hold 350 workers and is used to save sinking oilrigs, to assist in the installation of underwater oil lines, and to install oil platforms.

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