PTO Winch Vs. Electric Winch – Which One to Choose (Pros & Cons)
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A couple of decades ago, off-road enthusiasts used to argue about which winch was better, an electric winch or a PTO winch. Online forums were filled with discussions on the same. But off late, there isn’t too much fuss about comparing these two. It’s difficult for some people to get their hands on PTO winches.
Over the years, the demand for electric winches grew exponentially, and the supply followed. Today, electric winches are on sale at physical shops and eCommerce platforms. With a click of a button, you can have an electric winch delivered to your doorstep. As for a PTO winch, you have to be determined enough to scour the internet for one that’s worth it.
But while they’re rarer now than they were, you shouldn’t dismiss PTO winches yet. PTO winches offer many benefits but are they enough to get you to prefer them over their electric counterparts? To help you decide, we’ve listed the advantages of both winches.
What is a PTO Winch?
PTO (Power-Take-Off) winch isn’t a regular car recovery winch. Its design and operation differ compared to modern winches. Today, electric and hydraulic winches are the most common. But instead of relying on electric and hydraulic pressure, PTO winches rely on vehicle transmission. Provided the engine is running, the PTO winch will get you out of any sticky situation. Moreover, they are efficient and reliable. In most situations, they are faster than electric winches.
How Does a PTO Winch Work?
Many of the PTO winches you’ll come across today are mounted on heavy-duty off-road vehicles, tractors, or trucks. This is because these vehicles often have room to point to PTO winches. Like other winches, PTO winches don’t come with your vehicle. Instead, you’ll have to look for one, a task that isn’t easy in this day and age. Not only are they rare, but you also need to ensure your pick is compatible with your vehicle.
Most PTO winch brands require buyers to submit vehicle specifications before completing the purchase. The manufacturer checks if they have winches in stock matching the vehicle’s needs. Once you jump over this hurdle, the next step is learning how to install a PTO winch. Since the winch will rely on your engine’s transmission, you need to connect it to the gearbox indirectly.
Great, so how does a PTO winch work?
PTO winches come with hydraulic pumps which transmit mechanical forces through the vehicle’s hydraulic fluid system. During this transmission, a hydraulic motor receives the mechanical force and converts it into rotational motion.
PTO winches are powered by vehicle gearboxes but aren’t directly connected to them. There’s a hydraulic system between the gearbox and the winch. The hydraulic system has tubes full of hydraulic fluids. Think of these tubes like electrical wires, but instead of copper running through them, it’s hydraulic fluids.
How Powerful Are PTO Winches?
As we’ve pointed out, PTO winches rely on a car’s gearbox to wind and unwind. As such, how powerful a PTO depends on how powerful the engine is. Generally, provided you get a PTO winch compatible with your vehicle’s engine, it’s powerful enough to pull your car. After all, it leverages the same force that helps move the vehicle.
What is an Electric Winch?
These are by far the most common winches around. Different electric winches have different weight capacities. As such, there are boatloads of options. Even better, electric winches are far easier to install than PTO winches.
How Do Electric Winches Work?
As you’ve gathered from the name, electric winches have electric motors connected to batteries – in this case, your vehicle’s battery.
While this is convenient, there’s a downside. Car batteries are designed to start the car and not wind winches.
As such, you may find you need to keep the car’s engine running when winching to avoid draining the battery. And even then, you should be careful not to overheat the battery. So when you pull, take some breaks between the pulls.
On the bright side, using an electric winch means you can winch even when the car’s engine is dead. You’ll be shocked how many times off-road enthusiasts have found themselves in such situations. To keep your battery from draining or overheating, you can purchase a more powerful battery or always carry an extra battery.
How Powerful Are Electric Winches?
How powerful an electric winch is dependent on the type you purchase. Some winches can only pull 2,000 lbs, and others can pull as much as 12,000 lbs. you should pick an electric winch that matches your car’s weight plus extra weight you may be carrying or towing.
PTO Winch Vs. Electric Winch – Which Should You Choose?
Electric winches are in high demand nowadays. Unlike past years, they’ve come a long way in design. Manufacturers improved their reliability, and as such, they aren’t prone to overheating. They are in good supply in local and online stores, so it should be easy to find one. Moreover, they are super easy to install and maintain.
On the flip side, PTO winches haven’t developed too much over the years. If anything, their design is similar to what they were a couple of decades back. Today, they are difficult to fund and can be challenging to install.
If you manage to get one, they are often more expensive compared to electric winches. You are more likely to come across a second-hand winch than a new one. While they are reliable, their supply is limited, and maintenance can be a problem. However, it’s doable if you follow expert tutorials on the same.
Can Electric Winches Be Used Manually?
Yes, you can use a handle to operate your electric winch manually. All you have to do is insert the winch handle into an unloaded winch to automatically disconnect the electric motor and give you access to the first and second speeds. This is important if you’ve lost power.
Can I Use an Electric Winch for Lifting?
No. electric winches weren’t designed to lift weights off the ground safely. If you use it to hoist objects, there’s a high chance the load will drop, causing a bad accident.
What Kind of Motors Do Winches Use?
Most winches feature two types of DC motors – Series Wound Motors and Permanent Magnet Motors. Electric DC winch motors have a set of coils known as an armature within another set of coils known as a stator.
From the guide above, electric winches are better. They are user-friendly, readily available, and perform great. The only benefit PTO winches have over electric winches is that they don’t need a battery to operate and are often more powerful.
I’m Ruiru Kibet, an avid writer and techie that has taken a keen interest in offroading. As I explore nature and troubleshoot with different offroad products and techniques, I’ll share them with you. The goal is dumb it down and help you experience the best of nature.