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

Has your car broken down or gotten stuck in the mud? If so, a winch is the best tool for recovering the car. To do this, you need to wire your winch properly. We researched to show you how to do this.

You can wire a light, medium, or heavy-duty winch mounted at the front or rear hitch of the vehicle. You can use the vehicle's battery or an auxiliary battery, as indicated below.

How to wire a front-mounted winch using the vehicle’s battery:

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  1. Hook up the power wire to the positive post and the negative wire to the negative post of the winch.
  2. Connect each of these wires from the winch to the engine compartment.
  3. Attach the positive lead of the winch to the battery's positive terminal. 
  4. Attach the winch’s negative lead to the negative terminal of the vehicle’s battery.

How to wire a front-mounted winch using an auxiliary battery:

  1. Wire the auxiliary battery parallel to the vehicle’s battery. 
  2. Hook the power wire up to the positive post of the winch.
  3. Hook the negative wire up to the negative post of the winch.
  4. Connect these two wires to the engine compartment. 
  5. Attach the winch’s positive lead to the positive post of the auxiliary battery.
  6. Attach the winch’s negative lead to the negative post of the auxiliary battery. 

Keep reading to learn how to wire a hitch-mounted winch to a vehicle by using the vehicle’s battery or by using an auxiliary battery. Included are factors to consider when choosing a winch. We have also provided safety precautions for handling a winch. 

How Do You Wire A Hitch-Mounted Winch?

A hitch-mounted winch is the best bet for moving your vehicle when it can't run. You can wire a winch on a light, medium, or heavy-duty vehicle to move your car. 

Steel wire rope winch on car

In this post, we'll concentrate on how to wire a front hitch-mounted winch using the vehicle’s battery or an auxiliary battery.

One is mounted on a light to medium-duty vehicle using the vehicle’s battery. The other is mounted on a medium to heavy-duty vehicle using an auxiliary battery.

Wiring Front Hitch-Mounted Winch Using Vehicle’s Battery

Check out this electrical winch with steel cable on Amazon.

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to wire a front hitch-mounted winch on a light to a medium-duty vehicle using the vehicle's battery:

The battery should have at least 440 cold-cranking amps and a 60-amp alternator. 

  1. Hook the power wire up to the positive post of the winch.
  2. Hook the negative wire up to the negative post of the winch.
  3. Run these two wires from the winch to the engine compartment. Keep the wires away from areas of friction and heat. 
  4. Connect the positive lead of the winch to the positive terminal of the vehicle’s battery. If your winch has a circuit breaker, you can use it. 
  5. Connect the negative lead of the winch to the negative terminal of the vehicle’s battery.

Note that you can add quick disconnects so that you can easily remove the winch when you don't need it. To operate the winch, link the vehicle's side lead to the winch's side lead. 

Wiring Front Hitch-Mounted Winch On Vehicle Using Auxiliary Battery

Check out this quick disconnect winch power cable on Amazon.

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to wire a front hitch-mounted winch on a medium to heavy-duty vehicle using an auxiliary battery:

The auxiliary battery should have 440 to 660 cold-cranking amps and a 60-amp alternator.

  1. Wire the auxiliary battery of the vehicle. This is to allow the winch to receive power only from the auxiliary battery during operation to prevent draining the vehicle’s battery. 
  2. Connect the power wire to the positive post of the winch.
  3. Connect the negative wire to the negative post of the winch.
  4. Feed these two wires to the engine compartment. Keep the wires away from areas of friction and heat. 
  5. Connect the winch's positive lead to the auxiliary battery's positive post.
  6. Attach the winch's negative lead to the auxiliary battery's negative post. 

Note that it is imperative to fix quick disconnects so that they align with the power and ground wires that join the auxiliary battery.

To operate the winch, connect the vehicle's side lead to the winch's side lead. You can purchase quick disconnects compatible with the gauge of the wire being used. 

The video below shows how important a winch can be for pulling vehicles out of the mud:

Factors To Consider When Choosing A Winch

Detail photo of the car winch

Selecting the right winch is a must for those who off-road frequently in their vehicles. The following factors can help you to choose the best winch.

Types Of Winch

TYPES OF WINCH

There are hydraulic and electric winches. Hydraulic winches  use your vehicle's power steering pump to operate. Electric winches, on the other hand, use power from the vehicle’s battery. 

If you will be off-roading regularly, then a hydraulic winch is the best option. This is because using an electric winch for too long can cause it to overheat. The only problem with a hydraulic winch is that they are not widely available. 

Winch Capacity

The winch should be able to pull another vehicle that is at least 1.5 times heavier than your vehicle. Keep in mind that if the winch is too big, it can damage the frame of your vehicle. If it is too small, it may not work.

The best size for your winch is GVWR (Base Weight + Passengers / Cargo) x 1.5. This is the standard requirement, but you might be better off having a capacity slightly higher than this. 

Type Of Rope For Winch

The type of rope your winch uses is also of critical importance. A steel rope is durable and affordable. The only drawback with this rope is that it may be too heavy for your vehicle.

However, drivers who regularly travel on rough roads are better off with a steel rope. 

A synthetic rope is also good to use on a winch, but it can damaged by UV rays, chemicals, and heat. It also requires a lot of maintenance. You have to ensure you clean it regularly. 

Check out this synthetic winch rope on Amazon.

Safety Precautions When Using A Hitch-Mounted Winch

It’s important to be safe when using a hitch-mounted winch. You should observe the following precautions:

Keep A Safe Distance

4x4 SUV pulls itself out of the trap with a winch caught on a tree

Don't get too close to the winch. Maintaining a distance of two times the length of the cable is a good rule of thumb. 

Be Mindful Of The Winch's Capacity

Do not pull another vehicle with more capacity than your winch can handle, because the cable can break. If it doesn't break, it may not work. 

Ensure You Wrap Cable Around Winch Drum

Powerful winch with steel rope

Make sure you wrap the cable around the drum. This is because the cable can come out of the drum without warning, suddenly moving the weight of the load. If this happens, you could be seriously injured. You should wrap the cable around the drum at least eight times.

Avoid Water

A rusty old tow cable

Your off-road vehicle may be able to pass through water, but you should keep the winch dry when you are not using it. The wire cable may rust, and the lifespan of the winch can be reduced if exposed to moisture.

In Closing

A winch is the best tool for recovering your vehicle or another vehicle when it is stuck in the mud or broken down.

In this post, we have provided a step-by-step guide on how to wire a front hitch-mounted winch to the vehicle's battery or an auxiliary battery.

It’s also important to consider a few factors when choosing the right winch for your vehicle. Also, for your safety, there are a few precautions you should observe.

Check out our previous posts related to this topic:

How To Increase Towing Capacity F150

What Half Ton Trucks Have The Best Towing Capacity