Types of Winches

by Justin Mitchell
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When operating a truck or sports utility vehicle in an outdoor setting, winches come in handy in many different ways. Winches come in seven major types: electrical winches, mechanical drum-style winches, mechanical capstan-style winches, hydraulic winches, mechanical hand-operated winches, mechanical portable winches and hybrid winches.

Electrical Winch

Electrical winches are powered by both the battery of the vehicle to which it is attached and another battery that can operate independently of the car battery. This way, operating the winch will not affect how any of the systems in your vehicle run.

Mechanical Drum Winch

This style of winch receives power from running the engine. The turning of the gears in the gearbox transmits power to the winch through use of a turning shaft. These winches are more powerful than electrical winches and can work whenever the engine is running, whether the gear is engaged or not. These winches get their name from the shape of the winch assembly, with the rope wrapped around a spool-like holder.

Mechanical Capstan Winch

These winches draw power from the engine through the crankshaft. A device called a dog clutch connects to the crankshaft's pulley and draws power. Like mechanical drum winches, mechanical capstan winches work when the engine is running. These winches are similar to mechanical drum winches except for the style of the winch assembly itself, which consists of one extended piece around which the rope is wrapped as opposed to the spool-like construction of drum winches.

Hydraulic Drum Winch

A hydraulic winch is connected to the engine of the vehicle through a hydraulic pump that, in turn, powers a hydraulic motor. These winches have a great deal of power, and like the mechanical winches, they can run whenever the engine is running. An added bonus with this type of winch is that it can run even when completely submerged in water.

Mechanical Hand-Operated Winch

This type of winch consists of a wire rope caught and released by a series of clamps. It is operated by one person, with no connection at all to the vehicle's engine.

Mechanical Portable Winch

This type of winch is hand-made, consisting of a drum winch hooked up to a chainsaw motor to provide motive force. The winch runs independently of the vehicle to which it is attached.

Hybrid Winch

Hybrid winches are built from spare parts. The vehicle owner finds an old winch and connects it to the vehicle, then uses a hydraulic pump and motor as a drive for the winch. This type of winch is cheap, strong and very efficient.

Winch Motors

Winches come with one of two major types of motors: permanent magnet motors or series wound motors. All winch motors have a set of coils inside them called an armature. Inside this armature is either another set of field coils or a set of permanent magnets. Permanent magnet motors use magnets to rotate the armature and run the engine. Permanent magnet motors cause very little strain on the car battery, but they overheat easily, which causes the motor to slow down; therefore they can't be used for very heavy winching jobs. Series wound motors have another set of coils inside the armature, called the field coils. These field coils are connected to the armature and cause it to spin. When the field coils spin, the magnetic field is created gradually, and the armature spins. Because of this extra effort, series wound motors use more current than permanent magnet motors. But they do not heat up as easily as permanent magnet motors.

Winch Gear Types

Winches also come in three different types of gear systems: planetary gears, worm gears and spur gears. Planetary gearing systems have one central gear called the sun gear. It turns, which causes three other gears arranged around it to turn. This actions creates the motive power. This system is the most common and has a power transfer efficiency of 65 percent. Worm gears consist of two parts: a round wheel-like gear is motivated by a bar-shaped gear running on top of it. These gears are not as strong or efficient as planetary gears, running at about 35 to 40 percent efficiency. Spur gears consist of two wheel-shaped gears, a large one and a smaller one. The smaller one is connected to the motor and causes the larger gear to turn. This system has a power transfer efficiency of 75 percent.

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