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Can You Power A Winch Through A Trailer Plug?

There is nothing worse than your trailer getting stuck in the mud at a campsite and having no way to get out. Fortunately, you can use a winch to get out of this sticky situation. We have researched if it's possible to power a winch through a trailer plug and here's what we found.

Yes, you can power a winch through a trailer plug. However, you may need to do some rewiring since the wiring in the trailer connector is not designed for this purpose. 

Trailer plugs don’t provide enough power to run a winch that is connected to them. We're going to get into the nitty-gritty details of this topic and help you rewire your trailer so you can run your winch. We will also explain the steps on how to run a winch off the trailer battery so keep reading!

Before you continue reading, let us say we hope you find the links here useful. If you purchase something through a link on this page, we may get a commission, so thank you!

Why Should You Rewire Your Existing Trailer Connector To Accommodate Your Winch?

Winch with a cable for self-hauling is installed on a truck or passenger car

The main purpose of an electric winch is to provide extra leverage when pulling a trailer. It works by using an electric motor to crank a drum that then turns a shaft attached to the rope. The torque from the motor creates a pull force on the rope.

Just by reading the description above, you can tell that it takes a lot of power to run the motor. Unfortunately, the power that comes with the trailer plug is not optimized for a winch, so you'll need to rewire your trailer connector so you can optimize the power output to run the winch. 

How To Rewire Your Trailer Connector For Your Winch

Ramsey winch system attached to the front end of an emergency vehicle, Can You Power A Winch Through A Trailer Plug?

Materials needed:

  • Winch rear wiring kit
  • Zip ties
  • Socket wrench

Jack up the trailer

You'll need enough space to work with since you'll be working with cables from underneath the trailer. Jack the trailer up until you achieve a good height clearance which you're comfortable working.

Check out this trailer jack on Amazon.

Zip-tie the plug 

Find a good spot where you can dangle the cables and the plug to the rear of your trailer. The sweet spot is usually in the centerline of the rear or in the hitch.

Use the zip ties to secure and hold the cables and the plug in place. The wiring kit comes with zip ties so you don't have to buy them separately. 

Locate where the battery of your trailer is

The most common places where a trailer truck battery can be found are either in the interior or exterior floor compartments, the entryway steps, and the engine compartment.

Run the cables

Once you have secured the cables and the plug to the trailer hitch, run the cables underneath the frame and the suspension up toward where the battery of your trailer is located. Use the zip ties as needed. 

Manage the cables

Wires and cables can get damaged due to mishandling. Cable management is important to prevent wires from getting tangled and keep them organized. Check if the cables are getting twisted and make sure they're not getting in the way of any of the moving parts of the trailer.

Connect the cables to the battery

Once you've found the location of the battery, connect the two ends of the cables to the battery terminal. It's pretty straightforward: red goes to red and black goes to black. Start with the black and proceed with the red next. 

The video below shows a different brand of wiring kit, but the rewiring procedure is still the same.

Check out this winch wiring kit on Amazon.

Can I Connect a Winch Directly to a Battery?

Yes, you can. In fact, winches are supposed to be hooked up this way. However, most winches do not come with cables that are long enough to connect directly to the battery.

For this reason, some third-party parts manufacturers provide the rewiring solution by manufacturing wiring kits. This allows the winch to be connected directly to the battery and provides an optimized connection despite the length of the cable. 

What Type of Car Battery is Best for Winching?

There are many factors that contribute to choosing a winch battery. The two most important ones are reserve capacity and the cranking amps.

Reserve capacity refers to how long a battery can sustain a voltage while cranking amps refer to how much amperage your battery can generate when starting your vehicle.

The higher the reserve capacity of your battery, the better. This is because your battery can sustain voltage longer. On the other hand, a battery with high-cranking amps means it can generate more amps per minute when you start your engine.

The higher the cranking amps, the faster you will be able to start your vehicle to run the winch, and the less strain it will be on the starter motor. The type of car battery that perfectly fits the bill is a true-rated, deep-cycle battery.  

Do I Need a Circuit Breaker for My Winch?

Circuit breakers are crucial components in winch systems. They ensure that all winches operate safely and reliably. Circuit breakers are switches that interrupt the flow of electrical current/voltage when a predetermined current/voltage level is exceeded. 

What happens if winches don’t have a circuit breaker?

This can cause serious damage to the whole winch system. The components will be overloaded or may even explode. When looking for a winch to buy, always look for one that has a built-in circuit breaker. Some winches are sold without circuit breakers but you can make one though.

 A man is helping to climb an obstacle a jeep with the vehicle winch.

Can I Plug My Winch Into a Cigarette Lighter Outlet?

You might find this surprising, but you actually can use a cigarette lighter outlet to power your winch. However, the lifting power is limited to 89 lbs. only, and automotive winches don't lift objects off the ground but drag them.

The original lifting power of 89 lbs. doesn't consider the friction from dragging. With friction in the equation, the maximum dragging power of the cigarette lighter-powered winch would be much less.

Despite being possible, it's not a recommendable idea to use the cigarette lighter outlet as a power source. The risks outweigh the benefits, and you might face something worse than a blown fuse as a consequence.

How Many Amps Do Winches Draw?

When you measure the amperage draw of a winch, you’ll find that the heavier the object, the more amps it will take to pull. Typically, winches draw 70 amps at maximum without load, reeling it in and out freely. Always check your specific winch amp draw in the user's manual for accurate information. 

Winches on the bumper car, for towing with a sling when an accident

What is the Voltage Requirement To Run a Winch?

Most 12V batteries used in the automotive industry are designed to power winches and similar motorized equipment. They are able to provide the power needed to raise and drag your vehicle out of a ditch or off of a mountain road.

The amount of power that is available depends on how much the battery is loaded, the voltage of the battery, and how fast you want to pull your vehicle out of the ditch or up the mountain. In most cases, you will find that a 12V car battery will provide enough power for the task at hand. 

Which Direction Should a Winch Hook Go? 

Ideally, winch hooks should face upwards when operating winches. This is more of a safety concern than a strategy to maximize the efficiency of the hook. You can remember this by the phrase "hook up" that's commonly used to describe attaching something to a winch.

The reason for this is that in the case of the winch cable snapping, there is a greater chance of the hook catching on the ground instead of flying into the air and landing on someone else's head or other objects. This would cause serious injury or property damage.

Winch used rescue to pull a 4x4 vehicle stuck in mud or any situation

Synthetic Rope or Steel Cable on a Winch: What's Better?

While steel cables are stronger and cheaper than synthetic ropes, they will rust over time. They can be a maintenance liability, whereas synthetic ropes are not.

Steel cables are heavier than synthetic ropes and can't be used in places where synthetic ropes can. This is due to the fact that they're more difficult to handle than synthetic ropes.

In addition, synthetic ropes have greater stretch capacity than steel cables. They don't store as much energy as steel cables do. Synthetic ropes can also absorb more shock than steel cables with less chance of breaking.

Safety Tips When Using a Winch

When you are using a winch, you should always follow safety precautions to avoid accidents. Here are some safety tips that will keep you safe when using a winch:

  • Make sure that the winch is in good working order before you use it.
  • Do not run the winch without checking for slack. 
  • Ensure that the hook is securely attached and correctly positioned.
  • You should never exceed the rated limit. Do not attempt to pull more weight than the winch was designed to pull.
  • Advise onlookers to stay out of the way. The last thing you want to see is when the steel cable snaps and someone gets hurt. 

In Closing

You can indeed power a winch with a trailer plug. However, you will need to wire your trailer differently. You may need to cut into your trailer and drill holes in the floor so you can run the cables through. 

The process of rewiring is similar to any other type of electrical work. Make sure you understand the requirements and know the dangers before starting the job. Always read the instructions in the wiring kit and be careful when working with electricity. 

You might also like:

How To Wire A Hitch Mounted Winch [Step By Step Guide]

What Are The Different Ways To Mount A Winch?

Can You Mount A Winch On A Brush Guard? [And How To]