ATV Gear: Winch Wiring Tips

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As we head deeper into spring there will invariably be rain in the forecast. This means the chance of getting stuck in muddy situations are high. Having a quality winch on your machine is important, but more importantly, you need to make sure it is installed correctly or it may not work when you need it. Or worse, it could destroy the wiring system on your ATV. If you are installing a brand-new winch, be sure to read the manufacturer’s directions and warnings carefully before you start. Here are a few tips to keep your winch’s electrical components in safe working order.

1. Winch Solenoid: The winch solenoid is the single most important safety component in the power delivery from the battery to the winch. It’s the only power disconnect between your winch and the power source. Most winch solenoids should be mounted as close to the battery as possible and in a location that will remain somewhat dry. Also, the solenoid needs to be mounted away from any metal parts that could bounce around and grind against the electrical contacts.

2. Wire Routing: Connecting the wires from your winch solenoid to the winch, as well as running wires to the winch from the battery, requires some finesse. Keeping the wires off of rusted metal or sharp edges is a must. What many may not realize is that wire insulation can be worn down on smooth metal once dirt and mud are introduced. Be sure you don’t tighten winch wiring against any part that could eventually rub or cut into the wire.

3. Connections: Making the correct connections is also important when wiring a winch. Most winches will have color-coded lugs to help limit the possibility of a mistake. Lugs on a typical winch solenoid do not require a lot of torque to keep them fastened tightly, since most use a lock washer to help hold the nut on. Overtighening these lugs will result in a broken circuit in the solenoid and a useless winch. Adding a small amount of silicone to the lug after installing the wire and retaining nut will, in most cases, prevent the nut from backing off.

One last tip for winch owners: Remember that short pulls with the winch are better than trying to drag a machine out all at once. Holding the winch on for extended periods will heat up the winch and eventually burn it out.