Winches are valuable and desirable tools on the farm, on the hunt and on the trail, making them a popular accessory for ATVs and utility vehicles. Having a service shop that can do a quality winch install is a good way to bring in cash for both the service and parts departments.
Almost all winch installs involve the same three major components. The winch motor with cable must be securely mounted to the vehicle. The solenoid switch delivers power to the winch motor when activated by the winch control switch. The winch control switch tells the solenoid switch to apply power to the motor to move the cable out or pull it in.
Along with the three major components, there will be specialized mounting hardware and wires to fit the winch to a particular model. The first and most important step in a winch install is to make sure you have the right components. If you don’t have the right adapter components for the model, it will make the job much more difficult if not impossible.
The control switch needs to be connected to a wire that’s hot only when the ignition switch is on. A test light will work well for this procedure. If the vehicle has a 12-volt accessory plug that turns on with the ignition switch, this is a good place to start. If this is connected to the wrong wire, it can cause current leakage resulting in a dead battery. The control switch must also connect with the solenoid switch.
Pay close attention when connecting wires to the solenoid switch. If these wires are installed improperly, the winch will not function correctly and a dangerous condition may result. Wires from the positive and negative battery terminals must connect directly to the solenoid switch. These wires will be large in diameter, usually around six-gauge. Also, wires from the solenoid switch must connect to the positive and negative terminals of the winch motor.
Connecting and routing the wires is often the hardest part of the install. The wires must be routed so they cannot be damaged by moving parts, sharp edges and hot components. The wires must be tucked away for safety and a professional appearance. This may require clipping long wires to size and re-crimping them.
Many newer utility models are designed with winch installs in mind. Oftentimes, the power wires from the battery to solenoid mounting location will be installed from the factory. Inspect the vehicle prior to diving into this installation.
If your shop frequently performs winch installations, keep a log of the details on the install of each model. Important items to note are: solenoid mounting location, preferred wire routing and optimum control switch position. Having notes will allow technicians to share what they have learned from past installations and make future installs quick and consistent.