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How Many Amps Does a Winch Draw? How to Calculate?

Written by Edwin Jones / Fact checked by Andrew Wright

how many amps does a winch draw

Winches are popular off-road accessories for 4-wheel drives. They are a useful tool in a car’s recovery system and assist trucks and SUVs in the harshest of road conditions.

But winches can draw a lot of current from the battery. How many amps does a winch draw depends on the load on the device, but a winch can draw 60 amps to 480 amps.

Typical Amp Draw of Winches in Vehicles


1. Electric winches


The electric winch is the most common kind for SUVs and trucks for non-commercial use. It is easy to install and is directly powered by the car’s battery for winching, so it can run even if the engine is off.

Because it is a cheap, low maintenance accessory, it is a popular choice for occasional use.

An electric winch can draw at least 60 amps when it’s reeling without a load, and it will draw more current depending on the weight it’s handling. For example, a 4000-lb pull can draw 250 amps, while a 9000-lb pull can draw as much as 480 amps. This can easily drain the battery when used for extended periods.

However, in most cases, the huge winch amp draw will most likely run for only a short period of time. This makes electric winches useful for brief uses with usual breaks in between to allow the alternator to charge the battery.

2. Hydraulic winches


The hydraulic winch is the choice for heavier loads like mining industries, off-shore gas facilities, and towing businesses. It offers more power than electric winches without burning your battery.

Because it does not rely on the car’s battery, it’s slowly making its way into SUVs, trucks and other off-road vehicles.

A main drawback of a hydraulic car winch is the additional equipment needed. It will need a hydraulic system installed in the vehicle and may be quite expensive. Also, it requires more maintenance than an electric winch, especially with the added setup.

In the succeeding sections, we’ll focus more on electric winches, since they directly impact the battery.

Electric Winch Amp Draw Based on Capacity

Warn, for example, offers different winches based on their capacity. We’ve listed different Warn winches and their max amp draws below:

Model Name Capacity (pounds) Part Number Volt (volts) Current (amps)
2000 DC 12V 2000 92000 12 80
VRX 25-S 2500 101020 12 159
VRX 35 3500 101035 12 192
VRX 45 4500 101045 12 252
5000 DC Series 5000 99963 12 220
AXON 55 5500 101155 12 254
VR EVO 8 8000 103250 12 298
ZEON 8 8000 88980 12 413
M8-S 8000 87800 12 435
VR EVO 10 10000 103252 12 358
ZEON 10-S 10000 89611 12 409
VR EVO 12 12000 103254 12 396
ZEON 12 12000 89120 12 469
M12 12000 17801 12 440
M15 15000 47801 12 460

Electric winches generally have larger current draws when they have higher loads. Warn’s 2,000 lb winch can draw a maximum of 80 amps, while their 8,000-lb winch can draw up to 435 amps, depending on the model.

How to Estimate the Amp Draw of a Winch


We can estimate the amp draw of a winch if it’s not listed. We can look at the power and the voltage of the winch’s motor.

The estimated maximum current draw can be calculated using:

\[ I(\text{amps}) = \frac{{P(\text{horsepower}) \times 746}}{{V(\text{volts})}} \]

For example, a 10,000 lb winch from X-Bull uses a 5.6-hp motor. The estimated maximum current draw of this 12V winch would be:

\[ I(\text{amps}) = \frac{{P(\text{horsepower}) \times 746}}{{V(\text{volts})}} = \frac{{5.6 \, \text{hp} \times 746}}{{12 \, \text{V}}} = 348 \, \text{amps} \]

Factors Affecting Amp Draw of a Winch


  • Load

The electric winch will need more power to move a heavier load. Thus, it will draw more current.

  • Terrain and conditions

Winches work harder in certain conditions. It will draw more current on deep mud terrains or inclined areas.

  • Number of layers

The more layers the drum has while pulling the load, the less efficient the winch gets. The winch gets 10% less efficient with each additional layer.

  • Power of winch’s motor

A more powerful motor can draw more current. That’s why motors with more horsepower are used for heavier loads.

Electrical Considerations


  • Battery

Your stock battery may be enough if you plan to winch cars occasionally. However, if you want to winch often, you may want to upgrade your battery to a higher capacity, or even have dual batteries. A bigger battery can give you more juice to winch longer.

  • Alternator

Your alternator charges the battery. Your stock alternator is fine for occasional winching, but you may need to upgrade it if you winch often.

Choosing the Right Winch for Your Needs


The right winch for trucks and SUVs is easy to determine. Warn recommends that winches must be at least 1.5 times the gross weight of your vehicle.

For example, if you want to install a Warn winch to a Ford Bronco with a gross weight of 5920 lb, then the winch must be at least:

\[ 5920 \, \text{lbs} \times 1.5 = 8880 \, \text{lbs} \]

You can go with a 10,000-lb winch like Warn’s VR EVO 10 or the ZEON 10. A 2500 lb winch is definitely not suitable for this.

Tips for Managing Winch Power Consumption


  • Have breaks when winching.

Winching may draw a lot of current from your battery. It can also cause the winch to overheat during extended pulls. Make sure to have breaks to allow the alternator to charge the battery.

  • Longer lines have greater power.

Since fewer drum layers have more power, a longer line can thin the drum layers. Reel out more line length for greater power.

  • Maintain the battery

Always check the battery. If it has issues with capacity or charging, replace the battery.

  • Maintain the winch

Make sure your winch is clean every time it finishes its job. Keep your winch cable lubricated.

  • Keep your vehicle running.

Assist your winch by running the vehicle when you can. This keeps the alternator working and also allows you to press the accelerator to help push the car.

Common Mistakes to Avoid


  • Using your winch for active recovery

Winches are meant for static recovery – slow and steady winching with one end fixed. Using the winch for other purposes can damage it.

  • Forgetting safety precautions when winching

When winching, safety precautions should still be followed. Use gloves while winching, and don’t stand too close to a loaded winch.

Frequently Asked Questions


Can a winch drain the vehicle’s battery?

Yes, it can drain the battery when it is on. A winch can draw a huge amount of current, especially when the load is large. It does not drain the battery when it’s off.

How can I prevent overheating during extended winching?

The easiest way to prevent overheating is to take breaks. This will give the winch enough time to cool down a bit.


We looked at how many amps does a winch draw. A winch can have a huge amp draw, depending on the load it moves. The heavier the load, the higher the amp draw.

In spite of its large current requirement, the occasional use of electric winches can be manageable. Just remember the tips we mentioned and the things to avoid. These ensure that your winch can get your vehicle out of trouble without a problem.

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