Originally Posted by y0diggity
I have a 2006 TJ and while I'm NOT a major off-roader or a rock crawler or anything, I do spend a good amount of time on back-roads and out in the country because I shoot a lot at ranges located there. Occasionally these can get pretty hairy with rains, etc.
I'd like to get a winch just for "self-recovery"; just in case. I look through the lists of products available and I see tons of options, but I have no idea what I should be looking at. I don't expect to be doing anything real heavy; just maybe getting a little extra "oomph" when I'm stuck in the mud.
Your MINIMUM winch size should be able to pull 1.5x the weight of your vehicle. That's if you're gonna use it for very light duty. Pulling yourself (or someone else) out of deep mud, up an incline, etc, may require a larger size.
Not sure about TJ's, but for JK's, the lowest size I'd recommend would be an 8000-lb winch.
There are a bunch of things you need to consider before buying a winch. One is line speed, or how fast the winch can let out or take up cable. Winches with faster line speeds are generally more expensive.
Another factor is the type of motor a winch has. Permanent magnet motors generally have a lower battery draw, overheat easier, and are best for lighter-duty winches. Series wound motors are more heavy duty, and usually more expensive.
Buying a winch with synthetic cable will save weight. It's also safer than cable, since it's not as dangerous as wire cable if it snaps and whiplashes back at you. Any winch you look at should come with a remote, so you can stand off to the side (much safer) while operating it. You should also use a damper on the line (coat, blanket, etc) to keep it from whipping back if it breaks, regardless of whether you have synthetic or wire cable.
Most winches stand up pretty well to the elements...you shouldn't need a waterproof version unless you regularly ford streams with the thing.
Here are some links to winch info, and a couple of winch reviews:
Winch Tech - The Guide to choosing a Winch
Winch Reviews - JeepReviews.com
Massive Multi-Winch Shootout - Four Wheeler Magazine
Synthetic rope vs. Steel cable