PTO Winch Vs Electric Winch

PTO Winch Vs. Electric Winch

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Have you ever been in a situation where you needed an extra pair of hands to recover your stuck vehicle from mud, sand, or water? Well, if you’re the one I’m speaking to, then you’re aware of how important a winch can be. But, regardless of how crucial this tool is to your daily off-road expeditions, choosing between PTO winch vs. electric winch can be somewhat overwhelming, especially if you’re less acquitted with this niche.

You see, the winch has been around for thousands of years. In fact, historical records argue that the winch was a well-respected machine in around 480 BC where it was used by the Persians to tighten cables when building bridges.

But, as time advanced, technology has transformed the winch from its humble begins to something completely new. Today, winches are used in a wide range of engineering fields to perform tough and highly sophisticated tasks.


PTO Winch Vs. Electric Winch: An Ultimate Guide


From construction to engineering, marine to oil and gas mining, the number of uses for the winch has increased tremendously. For that reason, different types of winches are now available to perform various tasks.

Two of the most popular winches that are heavily considered in the automotive niche are the PTO and the electric winches. In today’s discussion, we’re going to break down these two winch categories to understand them from the inside out.


PTO Winches: What are They?


PTO winches have run out of flavor in recent times. They are considered the earliest types of winches that reined over electric winches. Although PTO winches are still being manufactured, finding one for recreational use, such as recovering a vehicle, is quite challenging.

That’s because most people have now turned to electric and hydraulic winches. However, if you happen to find a second-hand PTO winch, then you’ll have to find an appropriate adapter. With that said, what is a PTO winch?

Also known as a Power Take-Off winch, a PTO winch operates in a completely different mechanism from that of an electric and a hydraulic winch. While the latter two winches rely on battery power and hydraulic fluid, the PTO winch relies on the car’s gearbox transmission.

So, what this means is that, for the PTO to function, your car’s engine will have to be turned on. Although we’ll discuss that later, the operating principle of PTO winches has one major pro and con. The good side of it is that these winches are faster, stronger, and efficient. On the other hand, the main setback with this working principle is that your vehicle’s engine will have to stay on for this winch to work.


So, How Does a PTO Winch Work?


Just as we mentioned earlier, PTO winches are very rare to find nowadays. So, if you’re looking for one to use on your tractor or off-road vehicle, you have to sweat a lot to find one. In case you happen to find one, you’ll have to submit your vehicle’s specifications to the manufacturer to check whether there’s one in their inventory that fits your car’s specific specs.

After you’ve bought the PTO winch, the next challenging task is to mount it. Unlike mounting an electric winch, mounting a PTO winch offers a whole new challenge that demands the help of a professional mechanic. Now, screwing the PTO winch to your car’s chassis is easy.

The difficult part comes in when connecting the PTO to the hydraulic system and the gearbox transmission. To do this, your mechanic will first connect the PTO hydraulic pumps to your car’s hydraulic system. Next, he’ll inspect your car’s gearbox transmission to see whether it has a PTO port. Some examples of PTO ports include T-18, Dana 18, and SM-465.

So, with everything ready, here’s how a PTO winch works. First, you’ll have to power the PTO by turning on the engine. Once the engine is on, the winch will be driven by a small drive shaft. The driveshaft is driven by the PTO adapter that’s connected to a PTO port located on the transfer case or the gearbox transmission.

Once the engine is on, hydraulic fluid will flow throughout the vehicle. In the process, the hydraulic motor will receive mechanical force, which will be converted to rotational force. This rotational force is what is used to rotate the PTO winch. With the adapter connected to the PTO port on the transfer case, you’ll use the engine’s RPM and the gear shift to change the line’s speed, torque, and direction.


Main Pros and Cons of PTO Winches


  • The main advantage of a PTO winch is that it’s immensely powerful. While electric winches rely on one speed, PTO winches have several speeds thanks to the shifting gears. Since they rely on engine RPM, their operating power is equal to your engine’s performance power.
  • Secondly, PTO winches rely on the engine rather than the battery. This prevents them from draining your battery’s juice in case you’re engaged in an extreme recovery process.


  • Now, one of the major setbacks with PTO winches is that they rely on the engine to work. So, in case the engine turns off due to overheating or lack of enough fuel, then you’ll have to find another way to recover your vehicle.
  • Secondly, these winches are very complex to mount. Since you’ll have to connect them to the gearbox transmission and the hydraulic system, you’ll have to find a licensed mechanic to do the installation for you.


Electric Winches: What are They?


Electric winches, on the other hand, are very common among most off-roaders as they’re easy to deal with. They’re easy to mount at the front or rear bumper and are easy to connect to the car’s electrical system.

Now, PTO winches rely on the engine’s RPM to function. Electric winches, on their side, rely on the car’s battery. So, when using this type of winch, you won’t have to worry about keeping the engine on just for the winch to work. As a result, this will lower the amount of fuel used on your vehicle, which is a huge plus if you’re looking to economize the rate of fuel consumption during an expedition.

Now, following their low operating costs, electric winches are used in a wide range of applications such as commercial, towing, and recovery applications. In recovery applications, electric winches are mounted on the bumper of your SUV or 4X4 vehicle.


So, How Does an Electric Winch Work?


First and foremost, you’ll have to mount the winch to your car’s bumper. Next, connect the winch’s motor to the battery or the car’s electrical system. Once you’re through, turn the power on to allow an electric current to flow to the motor.

Once there’s a flow of electric current in the motor, magnetic interference is created that spins a magnet inside the motor. This magnet turns the drum, which then spools the steel cable to recovery your vehicle.

Now, one of the greatest arguments against electric winches is draining battery power. Thankfully, this issue has been resolved thanks to noticeable improvements made on the battery and alternator technologies. Today’s batteries are more powerful while alternators have a higher output that’s enough to provide sufficient power for long pulls.


Main Pros and Cons of Electric Winches


  • One of the main pros of electric winches is the easy installation process. Since they rely on battery power to work, all you need is to mount them then connect them to the respective power source.
  • Two, electric winches rely on the battery to work rather than the engine. Since modern batteries are equipped with better technologies, draining them up during long pulls will be quite impossible. This helps to save fuel costs, which is a major issue if you had the engine running.


  • The main setback with electric winches is their limited pulling power. Since they rely on the battery, they only have one speed, which is barely enough to recover a heavy off-road vehicle.
  • Since they’re powered by a motor, electric winches have limitations on how long they can be used. When using this type of winch, you’ll face various limitations such as power restrictions and overheating issues. So, to solve this problem, you have to take breaks between pulls to avoid overheating the motor.


Conclusion: Which is Better?


Although the topic regarding PTO winch vs. electric winch has continued to heat up in recent times, the answer to which one is best between them will hugely depend on the specific situation you’re in. For instance, if you’re in a situation that demands a tremendous amount of power to recover a stuck vehicle, a PTO winch is the perfect candidate.

Although these winches have not seen any development in the last couple of years, they remain to be the most powerful as they rely on the engine’s RPM to work. On the other hand, if your situation demands a moderate amount of power, then an electric winch is a worthy contender.

The best thing about these winches is that they’re easy to find and easy to install. They also come in plenty of options meaning you’ll have the chance to pick a specific model that suits your needs and demands.

So, with that said, we believe that this guide has offered some value regarding PTO and electric winches. In case you have any questions, suggestions, or an experience you’d like to share, please don’t fail to share it in the comments sections.

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