boat trailer winchTrailer winches are essential bits of kit if you need to load heavy cargo onto a trailer. Widely used by auto breakdown recovery trucks, they effortlessly haul broken down cars on to the trailer.  They can also be used for loading boats and other vehicles as well as general cargo.

Trailer winches are usually attached to a winch stand on the front of your trailer and have a reel or spool containing up to 50ft of rope, cable or strap with a hook on the end to attach to your boat or vehicle. The operator is then able to either lower the boat slowly into the water for use, or lift the boat out of the water and back onto the trailer for transport home.

Manual or Electric Trailer Winches

Electric winches have an advantage over hand powered winches in that they operate off a battery rather than hand power which also means they can winch a lot faster than hand winches. As an electric winch begins to wind in, it starts to speed up, although the winching capacity beings to drop off at the same time. The use of snatch blocks and pulleys will boost your winch capacity and reduce the strain on the motor.

If you’re using an electric trailer winch to load and unload boats and other maritime vehicles, then you can get winches that are water proof or water resistant. As you will know, electricity and water don’t mix. And when doing heavy winches buy yourself, you can make the process safer buy using the remote control if your winch has one. Read our review of the top 12-volt electric boat trailer winches here.

Additional Considerations

  • Load Capacity – If you’re about to buy an electric winch, then you should make sure that the winch can comfortably handle 1.5 times the maximum weight you intend to pull. For example, a vehicle weighing 2 tonnes should be winched using a winch capable of handling 3.5 tonnes. This will ensure your winch doesn’t overheat or burn out before it’s due. If you’re hauling very heavy loads, the use of a snatch block will effectively double your winching capacity as well as reduce the level of current passing through the winch motor and in turn, give your winch a longer life.
  • Installation – Installing an electric trailer winch should be done by a qualified mechanic or engineer. Most retail outlets will offer mounting services when you buy your winch. Unless you know how to mount an electric winch, it’s best to let the guys that know what to do mount the winch for you. If you’re installing a winch onto the front end of a vehicle, some manufactures supply front bumper mounts that will be specifically designed for your vehicle making mounting much easier. The easiest way is to use an auto lift to get to the underside of your vehicle to complete any installation and wiring.

Single Or Dual Speed?

A dual or two speed trailer winch is suitable for light work and even heavy loads. Fast speed is when you need to accelerate and low speed is when you need to enjoy slow speed taking advantage of increased mechanical potential.

The new innovative shift lock design enables gears changing without shaft transfer of crank handle. Sliding of shaft into the desired gear position is done by just shifting the lock. Neutral, free-wheel position, allows quick line pay out without spinning the handle.

The ratchet pawl also has a convenient neutral position. Its design is very sleek and stylish, its grip ergonomic 4-position adjustable handle adjust from 6” to 9”. You should also be looking for features as shown below for the ideal dual speed trailer winch.

  • Center drive enclosed ratchet system
  • User-friendly pull-turn knob
  • 20’ heavy duty strap with hook
  • 3,200 lb capacity
  • Limited lifetime warranty.

To meet the toughest pulling demands, a full line of single winches were designed. These winches have high efficient gear ratios, full-length drum bearing, oil impregnated shaft and comfortable handle for ease of cranking. High carbon steel is used for longevity. Stamped carbon steel frames are provided for gear alignment rigidity and longer cycle life. Outclass corrosion resistance is achieved in all environment by superb zinc finish.

  • Gear Ratios – 12.2:1 low gear ratio is used for heavy load pulling, while 5.1:1 ratio upper gears are used for quick operation. Easy operation of line payout without spinning handle is achieved by free-wheeling neutral feature.

Built to handle tough use, these heavy duty winches also feature corrosion-resistant and also have one-piece solid steel gears and gear pawl. The ergonomic powerful grip handle is ideal for providing smooth turning operation.

Dual drive winches use two gears instead of one, which helps in distributing the load and thus eliminating frame torque. Industrial grade winches are equipped with ½ HP motor offering easy portable power for towing boats, vehicles in stuck positions and other heavy items without the aid of extension cords or using additional engines.

Single Speed Trailer Winch

A single speed trailer winch is useful for many different applications. They make lifting and loading far easier and allow you to handle cargo and vehicles far heavier than you could do on your own. From boats to jet skis to cars and just about anything else that you can think of.

Winches come in many different varieties. You can get manual, electric and hydraulic. Some have load capacities of only a few hundred kilograms, while some can handle 5-10 tonnes. No matter what you intend on using a winch for, you are guaranteed to find one suitable to your needs.

A single speed trailer winch is basically a manual winch. It is operated by hand and usually has a drum gear setup with a rotary handle. While not as fast as electric or hydraulic winches, it will provide plenty of torque for loading heavy loads. A basic winch will have a load capacity of around 1000lbs while more heavy duty winches will go up to around 3500lbs. A top of the range winch will also have a bearing system that uses lubricated for life bearings.

Mounting or Installing a Single Speed Trailer Winch

If you’re going to mount a single speed trailer winch buy yourself, it will usually come with instructions on how to do so, and can usually be accomplished with basic DIY tools and a little know how.

Working with Heavy Loads

If you’re going to be handling heavy loads, then by complementing your single speed trailer winch with snatch blocks and pulleys, you can in most cases double the capacity of the winch, provided the winch cable is of a sufficient grade.

Synthetic Rope or Steel Cable?

Synthetic rope is an alternative to steel cable which may be more suitable for marine uses, such as loading boats. The synthetic rope removes the effects of rust which can degrade a steel cable and lead to disastrous consequences such as the cable snapping.


Ideally, you should never operate a winch alone.  If possible, you should always have someone else with you in case there are any incidents which require medical treatment. If you are using an electric winch alone, then you should always operate it using the remote control if one is provided with it.