Winch Tips for Your Boat and Trailer

The wrong winch can spell trouble for you at sea. So know how to pick the right one. The first one to check is:


Your boatís weight capacity determines the kind of winch you can install on your vessel. Most people think boat length has something to do with it. It doesnít. Thatís why itís crucial to know how much your boat weighs. In that case, you can do the math: add the weight of the winch along with the weight of the motor and everything else youíve got on board. If you canít get an accurate reading, round it up. The winch weight should be about ĺ of your vesselís total gross weight, says Boat Us. This isnít a set rule, however. Plenty of other factors can change this. If youíve got a trailer with bunks instead of rollers, then get a winch thatís closer to the actual weight of your vessel when itís fully loaded. Sloped ramps and rollers generate less resistance so you can make do with a winch thatís slightly on the smaller side.

Manual or Electric

When it comes to electric and manual winches, electric ones typically priced higher than manual ones. Manual offers you a low-cost option. If you can live with the amount of effort and time you need to put in to get that manual winch to work, then this one is a good deal for you. However, if you want convenience over cost, get an electric one instead.

Steel Cable, Nylon and Wire

For boat winches, youíve got a choice between nylon straps and steel cable. Nylon is basically as resilient as car seat belts. Itís easy on the hands and is often a good pick if youíre pulling along smaller boats. Cables, though, are much more suited to bigger loads. For trailer winches, though, you only have a wire rope to help you pull the trailer. You can improve its weight capacity, though, by installing a pulley block. Donít go for the longest cable you can find, though, especially if youíre using it with a manual winch. It takes too much time to round up the cable, which can decrease the weight capacity and pulling power of the winch. Donít forget to keep an eye out for signs that the cable, nylon or wire rope is already worn. Any frayed parts must be replaced. Donít try to fix it. A compromised rope or cable or nylon strap wonít be as effective, potentially causing a boatload of trouble.

So know your winch basics. For more on trailer winches, ask us at Hodges Marine.