Lets hear your suggestions for a winch for a car trailer.


Kern Dog

Build your car to handle.
FABO Gold Member
May 23, 2010
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Granite Bay CA
I got a car trailer last year. So far, I've dragged one running and 4 dead vehicles up on it using a hand ratcheting "come-along" and a chain.

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The heaviest was a 5000 lb Saturn SUV. That sucked!


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I want to look into a medium duty winch to make this easier. I want something reasonably light that I can mount as needed, then stow out of sight after it has done the job. I plan to fab up some sort of square plug like a towing receiver hitch to attach the winch. I'd do some sort of reinforcement to the framework of the plug...


I'm guessing these are simple 12V operated so I'd have a charged battery and short cables to attach to power it up.
The trailer is rated to 5500 lbs so I don't think I'd need some super huge winch to do the job. I've towed home some lighter cars...

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The Charger (Jigsaw) runs and drives but had to be brought to DMV for a VIN verification.
What winch model did you go with or would you recommend ?

Tractor Supply has this:


It seems that if the dead vehicle still rolls, the rating of the winch might not matter as much? I wonder what they mean? Would 4500 lb mean it could lift 4500 lbs if it were dangling in the air? Pulling a car that rolls isn't nearly the same.
Right, that winch should be able to dead lift 4500#. A car that rolls is a lot less, unless you’re dragging it with no wheels/tires, brakes/transmission locked up, frame on the ground, etc.
I did exactly what you are thinking, and I wish I'd gotten a MUCH bigger winch. You will also be dragging stuff uphill so gravity adds to the workload.
I was thinking I’d want a 6000# winch minimum on a car trailer. Kern Dog was discussing a 4500# winch and that’s what I was commenting on.
Where did you learn to read minds?
I have this on my car trailer...............

I have a battery box mounted on the front near the winch. Hook it up and use my wireless controller and easy to load by yourself.
I have this on my car trailer...............


I have a battery box mounted on the front near the winch. Hook it up and use my wireless controller and easy to load by yourself.

I was just looking at the Horrible Freight winches on Saturday. They have mounting plates and brackets that make it easy to mount and/or move. One mounting solution has a hitch receiver solution.
They have a 9500 lb and a 12000 lb truck winch. I would stay away from a UTV winch. We use those at work and have had problems but I know the truck winches are of better quality.
Some of their winches only come with a wired remote but some come with a wireless remote. There is also a wireless remote add-on that works with any of their 5-pin chorded remotes.
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Winches are like floor jacks and jack stands, do yourself a favor and size up a notch or two. Larger capacity is much better. Don't cheap out.
I've got the old version of harbor freights 12,000lb winch and it does great, it's pulled anything from trucks to an 8n ford tractor.
I strongly suggest you get a remote control winch. Makes it real nice to be able to steer the car as you are pulling. I have am older Harbor Freight 1500 lb winch on my trailer. At the time I paid around $29.00 on sale, I use it "double" line. I have short ramps so a fairly steep upward pull, and have no trouble pulling up a 88 diplomat.
But I do suggest upgrading to something larger, especially if using it on a regular basis. I just use mine once in a while.
I also have a 8 gauge wire running from the battery in my truck with a, circuit breaker, back to the trailer connector, and back to the winch. That way I don't need a separate battery.
Pretty much have the same set up as most, I use a HF winch and snatch block, double line. The handy remote is a plus, its nice to able to steer the car while pulling at the same time. If I had to do the set up again, I would buy a nice trailer tongue box and set my winch in the box with adequate bracing for the box and winch. Using pinch rollers mounted in the trailer's headboard run the winch cable through the toolbox and rollers, clean set up. Out of the weather, lockable box and convenient, and be able to store all of gear and battery. If you have use a seven-pin trailer connector, you could use the feed wire to charge the winch battery as you drive.


Although I am not the world's premier winch expert, here's a few considerations:

1. Rated pull of the winch is the maximum pull when the rope/cable is all the way out. As it winds onto the drum, the actual pull force goes down quite a bit.

2. Do you want a steel cable or synthetic rope? Steel cables are cheaper but store energy like a spring. So if it ever breaks under load, watch out! Bad things can happen. The synthetic rope winches cost a bit more but you don't have to worry about being harmed if one breaks. Just a consideration.

3. As others have said, you have the vehicle weight to consider, the ramp angle (pulling uphill), and then does the vehicle roll or skid or ?? All of these would add to the needed pull force required.

Ok, all that being said, what did I do? When I got an enclosed trailer last year and wanted a winch "just in case," I opted for a 9500# Rough Country Pro Series winch with a synthetic rope. Works great so far!

I also wire mine with these type of cable connectors. (Use the female part on the positive side of the battery end.) Makes it quick and simple to connect/disconnect the battery. $15 at Home Depot online. (I also have used one of these in the ground cable on one of my cars to be able to quickly disconnect the battery. They work great!)
I have 9500LB winch mounted on a receiver hitch on front of trailer w/ battery box & toolbox with a shelf welded in it for chains, ratchet straps etc. Use the large battery out of our RV & also bring along a good HD set of long jumper cables to jump off the truck if need be...yes... had to do that a few times on some stubborn pulls. Its nice to have winch on receiver hitch set up... pull a pin & remove winch... get it out of the weather when not being used. I've got several D Rings around the trailer so can tie down most anything anywhere on the trailer. Also built sides & ends on trailer using 1"x12" rough cut wood using the stake pockets... nice to get a load of mulch for the Mrs. & they are light enough that one person can install or remove them.
Here's my addition to a thread from a few months ago.

I welded a trailer stake pocket, center front, and made a bracket for the winch that "curled" over and fit into the pocket .
It was secure by the curl over the end, into pocket, pin to hold it in.
It was removable to keep outta weather, and could be used in any stake pocket, making it versatile with a snatch block.
Cheers .
I have had a warn M8000 on my trailer for about 17 years now, and it still works great.
I have mine mounted to a harbor freight winch plate, and a marine battery is mounted beside it, with a solar trickle charger to keep the battery topped off.

I would not even consider using a cheap winch.
Harbor Freight had this:




That just seems unusually cheap.
Tractor Supply Company had this, I posted it earlier:



Then for almost double, they had this:


Why so much more for just another 1500 lb rating? Is it because of the synthetic rope?


I’m conflicted. I rarely ever default to the cheapest of anything but at the same time, I wonder how often I’d use whatever I buy. I try to consider where else I might use the winch to justify the expense.
I’m thinking that if a winch craps out on me on a retrieval, I could fall back to the Come Along.
Still, if I have some cash not set aside for anything else, why not step up?

My trailer has the 9000 badlands remote winch and in the bed of my truck I have the badlands remote 2500 atv winch. Both have been installed and working every time I need them for many (6-8) years.
Just an idea here. For those of you who have winches permanently mounted, get a box fabricated for over the winch, which can be pinned in place with a few hairpins. Keeps the winch out of the weather when you aren't using it, and keeps debris out of it if you also haul other items (slabwood comes to mind). When you are going to go haul a vehicle, pull 4 pins and set the box off before you leave home.
10K Ramsey gear reduction that is about 40 years old sunk into the bed of the trailer with a glad hand setup.
Welding lead to dual batteries on Dodge 3/4 ton to receiver hitch.

Always plenty of power.

You just need to run one power lead to truck batteries and the negative can go to your frame in the rear by the winch.

If you can not afford or find a deal on a big winch, look into a good snatch block set up.

I have been using this setup for 25 years on the same trailer and my power leads have been used on three different trucks.