I started reading the other day and this decision is not so simple, what winch should I go with and steel cable or synthetic? Think minimal use and Las Vegas heat. My jeep does have factory steel bumpers.
I just went through this and there’s really no perfect answer. Everyone is going to give different perspectives on which brand and capacity to get.
My advice is to get the best one you can afford. I looked at the usual suspects (Smittybilt and Warn). Both have their lovers and haters. Everyone I have seen on the trail, including the one that winched me out last week, was a SB. I bought a Warn VR10-S last week. I went with synthetic because of the weight savings (more important to me than the cost difference). I bought a Warn because they seemed to be the least criticized of the two brands and also several dealers I spoke with recommend it.
The rule for years has been to get a winch with a capacity that is twice the weight of the vehicle.
In our case, a stock JL weighs about 4,400 lbs, so a 9,000 lb winch should do the trick. If you allow for a few extras, like 35-inch tires, aftermarket wheels, steel bumpers, etc., most people end up going with a 10,000 lb winch.
In terms of steel cable vs synthetic rope, each has its pros and cons. Synthetic rope tends to add about $200 to the price of a winch, but reduces up to 20 lb of weight at the front of the vehicle, and has a much higher breaking point.
Where most people differ is in what brand to buy. Warn has the best reputation in the industry, but also the highest prices. From what I have seen over the years, other brands like Smittybilt, Quadratec, 4WD Hardware, etc., have been nibbling at Warn’s sales with decent quality, added features and strong value for money.
Warn. Synthetic, that is, if you know how to take care of and make it a priority to take care of synthetic rope. I’ve had both and I would never go back to wire rope. I buy Warn because I only want to buy one winch, hopefully, during the time I own my Jeep.
What kind of stuff do you do? You said minimal use so I would go steel line. If you are never going to pull line and just want it for looks steel will be fine. Heck if I knew the chances would be extremely rare I would ever use a winch I probably would forgo one all together. I have had great luck with Warn VR series winches and have had two.
BTW, many buy Warn for (1) its solid reputation and (2) because it is made in the USA. However, be aware that Warn’s VR line is made in China.
A few years back I bought a Warn VR10: it looks like a Zeon winch but because it’s made in China it sells for less than half the price. In any event, after a couple of weeks all the exterior bolts started rusting; the solenoid encasement, which is made of steel on a Zeon, is plastic on a VR, the switches looked and felt like leftovers from the 1970s, the mounting bolts were missing, etc. It was very disappointing.
In fairness to Warn, I called their Customer Service to express my dissatisfaction, and they gave me full credit towards a Zeon winch.
Like others here I went with Warn Zeon 10S due to Warn's reputation and the synthetic from a safety point of view.
You may never need the winch, but the one time you do you will want to know it's going to work. I've seen a cheap winch crap out when someone needed it, lucky for them several of us had working winches.
Start out with something affordable like the Smittybilt X20, I used one for several years with no issues. Then buy an old Warn 8274 and rebuild it, it’s an awesome Winch with real character and was a great project to do in the garage. There are many how to guides out there on it.
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