When one thinks of aftermarket off-road accessories, a quality recovery winch is often the first thing that comes to mind. This, of course, is for good reason. A recovery winch serves an absolutely essential purpose when attempting to conquer all that the trail throws your way.

As its name would suggest, a recovery winch is intended to “recover” a vehicle from the midst of a perilous, or otherwise unfavorable circumstance. This can be as mundane as simply being stuck in the mud, or as harrowing as teetering at the edge of a sheer rock face. No matter the situation that you might find yourself in, the use of a recovery winch provides you with the best possible chance at a favorable outcome.

In the world of winches, few names carry as much weight as Warn Industries. Warn has been a leader in recovery winch design and development for decades and serves as “the standard” for what a winch can and should be.

The Immeasurable Value of a Winch

If you were to study the accessories featured on the vehicles of various off-road enthusiasts, the popularity of the modern recovery winch would become quite evident. This is for good reason. A winch is a utilitarian device that can quite literally make or break one’s day on the trail.

In a perfect world, every adventure would go off without a hitch, and misfortune of any type would be of no issue. However, as any avid off-road enthusiast is all too aware, this is simply not the case. Whether forging your own path or blazing down backroads, misadventure is sure to take place from time to time.

Recent rains can leave a vehicle buried up to its fenders in mud, or an inadvertent skid can send one barreling into a ditch. Issues of this nature tend to be commonplace yet strike when least expected. In any event, plans for a recovery must be made. However, putting such a plan into action is virtually impossible without the use of a winch.

A quality recovery winch is the ultimate form of insurance for an off-roader and often serves as the only way to avoid calling for help or hoofing it to the nearest trailhead in order to flag down help. In essence, a winch is the most valuable tool at an off-road enthusiast's disposal.

If you have never found yourself in need of a winch, consider yourself lucky. However, be aware that forgoing the use of a winch is comparative in nature to driving without a spare tire. You will never understand a recovery winch’s true value until you find yourself in desperate need.

Luckily, there is no shortage of quality recovery winches in today’s market. In fact, there has never been a better time to be in the market for such a device, as the recovery winch industry is currently booming with high-end products from an ever-growing number of manufacturers. However, few manufacturers carry as much weight within the industry as Warn Industries.

A Legacy of Quality

Warn is a name that needs no introduction in the world of winches and winch manufacturing. Ironically enough, the illustrious winch manufacturer did not actually get its initial start in the winch manufacturing industry. Warn Industries was founded in 1948 by Arthur and Sadie Warn. The pair formerly owned and operated a Willey’s dealership in Southpark, Washington, and took a keen interest in repurposing surplus WWII era Jeeps into useful, on-road vehicles. Therefore, it was only natural that Warn Industries serve as the epicenter of these efforts.

With time, Arthur, who was a masterful inventor, began designing his own components for use in the company's subsequent projects. Of these designs, that of a specialty locking hub began to gain traction much quicker than the rest. Demand poured in, and Warn Industries ramped up production to build these hubs in sufficient numbers, In time, Warn became the OE supplier of hubs for several auto manufacturers such as Chrysler, Ford, GM, Kia, and Nissan.

However, Arthur had also begun to experiment with another idea around the same time. By 1959, Warn had begun manufacturing and marketing electric winches. Arthur felt that the company’s latest mainstay would provide immense value. The bulk of winches prior to this point had been PTO derived, making it necessary for a vehicle to be running in order to facilitate operation. Arthur’s hunch proved spot-on, and by the 1970s Warn winch sales were booming.

Today, Warn stands among the top winch manufacturers in the world and offers products to meet nearly any winching need. Warn’s product line spans the gamut and includes winches in every load capacity and line pull range. Consumers can also choose between models of varying line speeds and gear ratios. Warn offers both steel cable and synthetic rope-equipped winches, with the company’s ultra-durable synthetic Spydura cable among the most popular options with many consumers.

Of the models offered in Warn’s lineup, the Zeon series winch remains in high demand and for good reason. Winches offered within the Zeon series feature wireless remote-control operation, roller fairleads, and aircraft-grade steel wire rope. Additionally, all Zeon winches are completely waterproof, providing superior protection against water ingress.

Other favorites within the Warn product line include the company’s VR EVO, Heavyweight, AXON, and VRX series winches. Any such winch is sure to provide years of reliable service when properly maintained and used as intended.

The Warn Advantage

The number of reasons to choose Warn as the brand of choice for your next winch purchase are almost limitless. However, the following are several of the most noteworthy of these reasons.

Built to Last

As most who have owned one of the company’s products in the past can attest, Warn winches are designed to be extremely durable and stand the test of time. Warn rigorously tests each winch before allowing it to reach production, thereby ensuring that any shortcomings are adequately addressed.

In a bid to maintain a high level of quality, Warn only fits their winches with premium components, which have been engineered for longevity. Any components that do not comply with these stringent standards are relegated to the proverbial scrap bin and do not see use in actual production.

A combination of these factors is largely responsible for the imperceivable lengthy service lives experienced by many Warn Products. Numerous reports exist regarding Warn Winches that have logged countless years on the trail without so much as a minor issue or failure of any type. In the eyes of many, the purchase of a winch is an investment, and they have chosen to protect this investment by entrusting the use of a Warn Winch.

Manufactured in the USA

As Americans, we tend to take pride in any product that has origins right here on United States soil. To many, an American made product embodies superior quality. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to locate products that are manufactured or assembled primarily in the United States. This is a point that rings true, even within the recovery winch market.

Warn can quite easily be considered one of the most American of all winch manufacturers. Warn Industries is headquartered in Clackamas, Oregon, where the company also bases its product assembly operation. The only exception to this is Warn’s VR-series winches, which are manufactured and assembled solely in China.

Although it is true that Warn utilizes parts that have been sourced from outside of the United States, a significant number of individual components used in the production of the company’s winches are still of American origin as well. In the world of ever more frequent manufacturing-related outsourcing, Warn’s products tend to be far more American made than most.

A History of Excellence

Rome was not built in a day, nor was the perfect winch designed on a whim. Countless years of testing and refinement go into the perfection of a single winch design, making it difficult for relative newcomers to produce products as innately reliable as industry mainstays such as Warn.

Warn Industries has proven itself to be a driving force behind recovery winch development and has even served as one of the forerunners of electric winch technology. For more than 50 years, Warn has turned out one iconic model of winch after another, much to the delight of awaiting consumers. Simply put, Warn knows what it takes to build a premium winch and does so with uncanny consistency.

Even today, Warn continues to set the bar by which all other winches are judges and blazes a path all its own. In fact, many of the winch designs, features, and functions that consumers have come to appreciate can be directly traced back to earlier Warn product offerings.

An Option for Every Need

Many consumers turn to Warn Industries when selecting a winch because of the unparalleled variety of products that the company offers. From ATV/UTV and Powersports winches to heavy duty industrial winches, Warn offers a product to meet the needs of every consumer. One could spend the better part of an afternoon browsing through the company’s vast selection of Jeep, SUV, and truck winches.

Warn also offers many different variants of their most popular winch lines in order to better accommodate the needs of all who are in the market for such a product. The company manufactures self-recovery winches of nearly every conceivable load rating as well as those of multiple control configurations. Both standard corded and cordless control 12v dc (volt) models are available.

Consumers can select the ideal Warn winch for their particular application by thoroughly considering their needs. Making such a determination is seldom as difficult as one might think and is as simple as making an honest assessment of several key factors. Each of these considerations is discussed in greater detail in the following section.

Top-Notch Warranty

There are no two ways about it. Winches are not cheap, and quality often commands a substantial monetary expenditure. This often leads to apprehension among first time buyers who are attempting to locate the perfect winch for their particular application. However, many consumers gain assurance regarding such a purchase, knowing that a certain product of interest is covered under an extensive warranty of one type or another.

Few companies within the recovery winch industry can boast of such a comprehensive warranty as Warn Industries. Warn is so confident in the performance of their products that they back each with an industry-leading warranty.

The details surrounding this warranty policy are as follows, per the company’s website.

“Warn Industries, Inc. (WARN), with an address of 12900 SE Capps Rd., Clackamas, OR 97015, warrants to the original purchaser that (a) the mechanical components of the WARN® Branded Winch Product (Product) will be free of defects in material and workmanship for the lifetime of the winch, and (b) the electrical components of the Product will be free of defects in material and workmanship for a period of seven (7) years from the original date of purchase. This Limited Warranty is only available to the original purchaser of the Product and is not transferable.

Pound for Pound Power

When you find yourself in a situation where the use of a winch is deemed necessary, confidence is of the essence. One should know that their winch is capable of delivering them from precarious circumstances instead of being left to wonder. When speaking of a portable winch, few factors impart as much confidence as an ample supply of power.

This is yet another point of popularity surrounding Warn Winches. Warn Industries has garnered quite the reputation for producing some of the most robust winches on the market, which come equipped with highly powerful motors and rugged internals. The company also offers some of the highest capacity-rated winches currently available, most notably with some individual products rated in excess of 30,000 pounds.

With so much at stake, there is little question regarding the reason behind Warn’s continued popularity and success. When pulling yourself from a sticky situation or towing a fellow off-road enthusiast out of a bind, there is little substitute for the innate power provided by a Warn winch.

Selecting the Perfect Warn Winch

As previously mentioned, Warn Industries offers a wide range of winches, which provides many individual options for each consumer to choose from. However, selecting the perfect Warn Winch for your particular application is far more involved than simply making a choice at random. There are several key factors that must be evaluated prior to making your ultimate selection.

The following are several considerations which one should take stock of when attempting to select the best Warn Winch for their vehicle.

Which Type of Winch: Electric or Hydraulic?

The next consideration worthy of attention is that of which type of winch you wish to purchase? Recovery winches come in two operational forms, electric and hydraulic. Each of these two forms have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages, and any prospective winch owner must decide which particular form is best able to fulfill their needs.

  • Electric Winch: Electric winches, in most cases, are far simpler to install than hydraulic winches as they require no running of high-pressure lines. This style of winch also requires little to no maintenance and upkeep, saving you time and effort along the way. However, most electric winches impart a significant load on your truck’s electrical system and can rapidly overheat when run continuously for any lengthy period of time.
  • Hydraulic Winch: A hydraulic winch operates off of your truck’s power steering system and utilizes high-system pressure to create the force necessary for winch operation. This means that a hydraulic winch can be used continuously without stoppage as long as your truck’s engine is running. On the other side of the equation, hydraulic winch systems typically take much longer to install and require a notable level of upkeep in order to maximize longevity.

Operational Winch Capacity

Once you have made a determination regarding a prospective winch’s mounting arrangement, form, and dimensions, you must now decide what level of operational capacity will be required. Every winch on the market today carries a load capacity designation, which specifies the maximum amount of weight which it reliably pulls.

In order to determine which winch size is best suited for your particular application, you must first take stock of your truck’s GVWR. Every vehicle on the road today is assigned a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, which denotes the anticipated weight of a vehicle in its operational state and with a fully occupied cabin.

A vehicle’s GVWR can be found several different ways. The most common of which is by consulting the data placard contained within a vehicle’s driver-front door jamb, studying the vehicle owner’s manual, and visiting the vehicle manufacturer’s website. When this designation is located, record the value in a way that allows it to be quickly referenced.

The simplest way to determine the size of the winch that is needed for a particular vehicle is to multiply the vehicle’s GVWR by 1.5. This ensures that any winch which is purchased will have ample power to pull your truck from any number of unanticipated predicaments.

Prior to making such a determination, one must also take stock of any additional upgrades which have been made to any truck which is to be fitted with a winch. Non-OEM components such as aftermarket bumpers, push bars, bed covers, camper shells, and custom wheels all add additional heft to your truck, which tallies up much faster than most would figure. This weight must also be factored in when determining the size of the winch that will be required.

At times, it can be nearly impossible to accurately account for the weight of such aftermarket upgrades, especially when a truck has been heavily modified from its original form. However, there is a simple way to estimate for the total sum of this additional weight, which will provide you with a ballpark figure from which to operate.

This can be done by estimating the weight of these accessories at an additional 30 percent of your vehicle’s total gross weight. This weight can then be added to the vehicle’s manufacturer-designated stock GVWR to provide a rough estimate of your truck’s post-modification weight. Although this figure will not be an exact representation of the cumulative weight of these accessories, it will be close enough to ensure that you are not left without enough winch to cover your bases.

The following two equations will assist you in determining the best size of winch needed for your particular application.

GVWR X 1.5 = Optimal Winch Size for Stock Vehicles


GVWR+(.30)GVWR X 1.5 = Optimal Winch Size For Heavily Modified Vehicles

To provide a real-world example, consider the 2020 Ram 1500, which has a base GVWR of 6,800 pounds. The following equation would provide an adequate estimate of the optimum winch size for this particular model of truck.

6,800 X 1.5 = 10,200 LBS (For Stock Vehicle)


6,800+(.30)6,800 X 1.5 = 13,260 LBS (For Heavily Modified Vehicle)

While some might be tempted to make do with a smaller winch than that specified by the product of this equation, doing so can prove to be inhibitive when you find yourself in a particular situation where the use of a winch becomes necessary. Nobody wants to be in the midst of winching their way out of trouble, only to find that they are ill-equipped for the job.

Gear Train

Winches also vary in the form of gear trains used to facilitate motion transfer. Both worm gear-driven and planetary gear train-equipped models are available. Each winch configuration offers its own distinct advantages, as well as those attributes which tend to be somewhat less favorable.

  • Worm Gear - Worm gear-equipped winches are rich in outright pulling power but typically feature sluggish line speeds. This style of winch also produces less heat than planetary models and can be relatively simple to maintain. Worm gear winches are often said to be superior in the event that a long, hard pull becomes necessary.
  • Planetary Gear - Planetary gear winches are the most popular variety of winches on the market today. These winches feature a much faster line pull speed than worm gear-equipped models, though they typically offer a slightly reduced pulling capacity and have the propensity to build significant heat. Multi-stage planetary gear system-equipped winches are also able to switch between gear ratios with the selection of different settings.

Cable Composition

Today’s utility winch cables typically come in one of two forms, synthetic rope or stainless-steel cable. Both synthetic and steel wire/rope have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, all of which a consumer is wise to consider before making any winch purchase.

  • Steel Rope - Steel wire rope or cable offers users the advantage of being easy to maintain and rugged beyond compare. When properly guided upon a winch’s drum by the fairlead, steel rope seldom becomes damaged to any degree of note. However, steel rope can be quite heavy to work with and also adds significant weight to the front end of your vehicle.
  • Synthetic Cable - Synthetic cable or rope is substantially lighter in most cases than steel rope, making it easier to handle. They are also flexible by nature, making them easier to deploy at certain angles. However, synthetic rope is outwardly affected by UV and chemical exposure, which can lead to degradation in time. To increase longevity, a synthetic rope winch cable should be regularly washed free of contaminants.

Cable Length

Yet another factor worthy of consideration when purchasing a winch is the length of cable with which a particular unit comes spooled. Unbeknownst to many, this consideration is of significance for more reasons than one. While many feel that a longer cable is always better, this is simply not the case.

Winch manufacturers rate their units’ operational capacities based upon what is achievable with a single wrap of cable around the winch’s drum. This is when pulling capacity is at its peak. Upon spooling a winch’s cable, this force decreases and continues to do so with each additional wrap of line.

This stems from the fact that a winch drum’s outer diameter grows continually larger with every successive wrap. As this diameter increases, so does the amount of power required to rotate the loaded drum. Therefore, this expenditure of power reduces that which remains in order to recover a vehicle.

As a general rule, you ideally want no longer a rope or cable than what is necessary to reach a solid point of anchor. This can vary from one situation to the next as landscape features differ from region to region. In heavily wooded areas, a cable of only 60-80 feet is likely sufficient. However, in areas of open terrain, many favor cables as long as 150 feet. In order to achieve a happy medium, a cable that is 90-100 feet will accommodate most needs.

Weather and Element Protection

When on the trail, your winch will face a barrage of environmental factors which have the potential to render a recovery unit inoperable if not up to the task at hand. These threats come in multiple forms, and even a minor amount of moisture or solid particle intrusion can be the cause of a winch’s undoing.

Luckily, consumers are provided with a standard metric that can be used to determine how resistant any particular winch is to the elements.

A winch’s IP (Ingress Protection) rating denotes its level of built-in protection from environmental factors such as water, dust, and mud. The first number listed within an IP rating correlates to a particular winch’s resistance to solid particle intrusion. The number six is the highest rating on this given scale and specifies a winch as being dust tight.

The second number contained within the IP rating scale specifies a winch’s resistance to water intrusion. This scale operates on a 1-8 rating threshold, with the highest designation of eight denoting a winch’s ability to operate indefinitely in water up to 3 meters in depth.

Much of a unit’s dust or waterproof characteristics, or lack thereof, are a product of how well its solenoids, contacts, and other electrical components are protected. The more protected these components are, the higher the unit’s IP rating climbs.

Controller Configurations

Today’s winches come standard with a handheld remote control, which allows an operator to continuously operate their winch while positioning themselves to gain a better vantage point of the recovery efforts that are taking place. These controllers come in two forms, wireless and wired.

The use of each type of controller comes with its own share of high and low points, which leaves consumers to ponder which style of remote will offer them the capabilities that they seek.

  • Wireless Remote Control: A wireless controller can offer a substantial benefit to those wishing to have the freedom of mobility while attempting to place their truck back on solid ground. With the use of a wireless controller, operators can actuate their winch from a distance, while simultaneously working multiple winch accessories as needed. However, this style of remote requires regular charging to maintain viability, which can be difficult to remember for some.
  • Wired Control: A wired controller maintains an operational connection through the use of a water-resistant cord. These cords vary in length from one model to the next but require a constant connection in order to facilitate winch operation. This effectively limits an operator’s freedom to move about during the recovery process, as they are constantly tethered to their work. This form of a controller does eliminate the need for frequent remote charging or battery replacement.

Top Warn Industries Winches

Warn offers a near-endless array of winches to suit virtually every need imaginable. No matter the application, Warn manufactures and furnishes winches of numerous sizes, load capacities, gear-train compositions, and cable arrangements. Each individual winch is designed to provide reliable service within the application for which it was intended.

The following are several of Warn’s most renowned offerings, all of which are sure to provide consumers with the reliable service that they have grown to expect.

Warn Zeon 10-S Platinum (10,000 LBS)

Warn Winch takes recovery to the next level with its Zeon Platinum 10-S model. This 10,000 pound winch features an IP-68 ingress rating, which means that it can operate unabated in the face of whatever mother nature throws its way. The Zeon also comes fitted with 100’ of ⅜” Spydura rope and a matte aluminum hawse fairlead. The addition of an all-new, high-speed motor provides a 20 percent increase in inline speed, making quick work of even the most complicated recoveries.

Another well-received feature of the Zeon 10-S Platinum is its use of a wireless remote control, which can simultaneously control winch functions as well as two winch accessories. This places convenience and functionality at your fingertips, allowing you to focus more on the recovery and less on an aggravating power cord. The Zeon’s remote also displays data pertaining to the vehicle battery charge, winch motor temperatures, and operational modes.

Additional popular Zeon Platinum models include the Zeon 8 and Zeon 12, which are rated at 8,000 and 12,000 pounds, respectively.

VR EVO 10 Winch (10,000 LBS)

The VR EVO 10 offers stellar performance at a more than reasonable price. This winch features a powerful series wound motor and planetary gear train, which allows it to operate in an extremely efficient manner. The EVO 10 also features a high-performance Albright contactor for superior reliability and one-piece cast-aluminum tie-plate for increased rigidity. At maximum operating capacity, the EVO 10 is capable of manhandling up to 10,000 LBS.

Another key point of interest regarding the VR EVO 10 is the unit’s two-in-one remote concept. The EVO 10’s controller can be used in both a wired and wireless configuration for maximum versatility. Additionally, the EVO 10 carries an IP68 rating, which denotes its largely waterproof characteristics. 

Heavyweight Series Winch Warn 16.5TI-S (16,500 LBS)

The Warn 16.5TI-S is the perfect winch for owners of ¾-ton or ton vehicles who know time is of the essence and do not wish to wait for a wrecker should trouble arise. This heavy-duty winch is just as technologically advanced as it is robust. The 16.5TI-S includes an integrated thermometric indicator, which provides motor temperature feedback to the unit’s controller in real-time. This winch also features extreme duty sealing and a metal control box, providing adequate protection from the elements.

Additional features include the use of a class-leading cone break, which is capable of holding the winch’s full-rated load, as well as a contactor control for enhanced durability and reliability. This winch is also available with lightweight Spydura Pro synthetic rope. The Warn 16.5TI-S is backed by a limited lifetime mechanical warranty as well as a 7-year warranty on all electrical components.

AXON-35 Winch (3,500 LBS)

The Warn Axon-35 is the perfect winch for most powersport recovery needs. This winch is rated to pull 3,500 pounds and is equipped with 50’ of 7/32” steel cable as well as a roller fairlead. The Axon-35 also features a single-piece tie plate, as opposed to tie bars, for increased strength and structural integrity. This unit is also inherently corrosion-resistant, thanks to its black powder coat finish and use of stainless-steel fasteners.

Many off-roaders will also appreciate the Axon’s numerous user-friendly features. The unit’s control interface displays multiple forms of data, including that regarding load and temperature info. This provides users with a greater degree of insight into various aspects of their winch’s performance. The Axon is also capable of weathering all that the trail throws its way, including wet operating conditions as the unit possesses an IP68 ingress rating.

VRX-35 Winch (3,500 LBS)

The Warn VRX-35 winch is the ideal option for anyone looking to enhance their UTV’s trail capabilities. This winch carries an operating capacity of 3,500 LBS and consists of a durable, all-metal construction. The VRX-35 comes spooled with 50’ of resilient steel cable and is equipped with a roller fairlead as well as a zinc-plated hook. One can also rest assured that the VRX is impervious to all that mother nature can dish out, thanks to its IP68 ingress rating, powder-coated finish, and stainless-steel hardware.

There is also much to be excited about when discussing the VRX-35’s gear train and drive assembly. This unit’s clutch design is based on that of Warn’s classic 4WD hub-lock system and offers seamless operation on every front. Another key point of interest lies in the VRX’s three-stage planetary gear train, which is engineered to perform flawlessly under any load, up to the unit’s maximum-rated operating capacity.


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