Winches are mechanical devices that can be used for a variety of things, such as pulling a vehicle onto a tow truck, loading, or unloading heavy cargo, or getting a vehicle unstuck. Anyone who spends time off-roading, or lives in an area that sees a lot of mud and snow knows how useful they can be. If you are in the market for a winch, chances are that you will come across a Smittybilt, but are Smittybilt winches good?
Although some models are better than others, Smittybilt winches are a sound investment for someone who wants a powerful, durable, and affordable winch with a large load capacity.
Continue reading to find out more about Smittybilt winches and whether they are the right brand for you.
What Is a Winch?
Winches are mechanical devices that use a rope, cable, or chain to lift, pull or lower things that are too heavy to lift or pull by hand. Although winches can take several forms, most winches today are motorized and are most commonly found on tow trucks and off-road vehicles.
How Does It Work?
The best way to explain how a winch works is to explain each component and the part it plays in the overall design.
Cable or Rope
Although winches commonly used ropes in the past, most winches today use steel cables or synthetic wire, which is wrapped on a drum to prevent it from becoming tangled. The length of the cable will depend on the winch you purchase, but most cables are between 40 to 100 feet in length.
The drum is a circular piece that looks a lot like the spool that thread commonly comes on. Driven by the drive train and motor, this piece spools the cable so that it will not become tangled.
Most winches are powered by electricity which comes from the vehicle they are mounted onto. The motor powers the gear train, which turns the drum and winds/unwinds the cable.
This is the part of the winch which converts power from the motor into pulling power. The reduction gear increases the pulling power of the motor.
The braking system is found inside the winch drum and stops the drum when the motor is stopped. This keeps the drum from rotating while also keeping it locked in place.
What Should You Look for In a Winch?
The first thing you need to consider is size. It is recommended that people buy a winch that is rated one and a half times higher than the weight of their vehicle to ensure it can haul their car and because the pulling power will decrease as the drum wraps the cable.
Once you know what size to look for, you will need to make sure you buy a model that fits within your budget. Price may vary depending on the brand and features of each winch. However, it is important to note that many of those extra features can be added later. Smittybilt offers many assorted sizes in a variety of price ranges, so people are sure to find something that fits their budget.
Although it seems as though all winches would be waterproof, some are more than others. If you live in an area that sees a lot of rain or snow, or you plan to spend a lot of time in wetter off-road environments, it will be a good idea for you to consider a waterproof model.
Just as important as size is installation because even the best winch will prove useless if it is not installed correctly. When shopping for a winch, it is important to consider installation to make sure your vehicle will be able to accommodate the model. You will want to make sure the cable is not rubbing on anything sharp once the device is installed. Additionally, you do not want the entire thing to come off while trying to pull your vehicle free.
Another important thing to consider is pulling power. Two winches may have the same motor and weight ratings but work much differently because of the difference in pulling power. However, there are components that may be added after installation that can alter a winch’s pulling power.
Why Are Smittybilt Winches So Popular?
You cannot have a conversation about recovery winches without Smittybilt being mentioned, and there are many reasons for this. Let’s take a closer look at some of the features that make Smittybilt so popular among consumers.
Many of Smittybilt’s newer models feature wireless controls, which allow users to run the winch while standing at a safe distance. Many customers, especially those who are not very experienced with winches, really like the added safety and comfort this feature provides.
Speed and Efficiency
While some winches claim to have a high weight rating, they do not perform well at those weight levels. Smittybilt has a reputation for performing at its tested top speed, even when it is pulling close to its weight rating.
Solenoid Mounting Options
Many customers have praised the fact that Smittybilt offers so many solenoid mounting options because it reduces the chance of having to alter the vehicle to fit the winch onto it.
Smittybilt offers a wide selection of models that range in their load ability, and many of their models have higher than average weight ratings. This variety allows Smittybilt to service a wider range of customers.
When it comes to investing in large purchases, such as a winch, it helps to know that if anything goes wrong, you will be covered. Smittybilt understands this, which is why many of their models are covered under their mechanical lifetime warranty.
Although not everyone needs the same level of waterproofing protection, and each model differs in the extent of its protection, almost all of Smittybilt’s models offer some degree of water resistance.
3-Stage Planetary Gear System
Smittybilt’s 3-stage planetary gear system has earned it a great reputation among consumers. This gear system ensures that your winch will continue to provide greater winching capabilities even when hauling its full weight ability.
Although it may seem insignificant, customers often rave about how accessible the levels are. Smittybilt understands that their customers will be using their winches under many different conditions and have purposefully made it easy to operate the machine while using gloves or in slippery conditions.
Perhaps the best feature of the Smittybilt company is their focus on safety and this is reflected in their dynamic braking system. Customers can rest assured that both their vehicle and load will stay safely in place.
Top Three Smittybilt Winches in 2021
1. Smittybilt 97695 XRC GEN3 9500 Winch
This model features many new upgrades, including:
- New 7.0 HP motor making this powerful little winch even stronger.
- New forged steel gears allow this model to pull more load faster without sacrificing durability.
- The re-engineered internal rotor provides more efficient electrical throughput, giving the winch more power while drawing lower amperage.
- The newer model has a new IP67 rating, which means it can withstand dirt, water, dust, and mud much better.
- The XRC GEN3 has an exclusive system which provides information about winch load via a series of LEDs on the remote. This can help prevent motor and line damage from overloading.
- The new redesigned remote features a flashlight and dual magnet mount.
- All new detachable customizable body armor allows users to customize their vehicle with ease.
Rating: This model from Smittybilt has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars.
Price: This model starts at $449.99 (2021).
2. Smittybilt 98510 X20 Winch Review
This model includes several excellent features, such as:
- The IP68 waterproof rating prevents water from entering the gear casing, motor, or electronics, while also protecting it from other elements.
- The compact design allows users to fit this model into tighter spaces.
- The 6.6 HP Amphibious Motor ensures the highest grade of torque, while its gear system allows for faster line speed.
- Its 98.5 feet of synthetic rope is safer than other steel versions because if it does snap under pressure, it will simply fall to the ground.
- Covered under a lifetime mechanical warranty and a five-year electrical warranty.
- Heavy-duty crossbars add rigidity to its frame.
- The wire loom isolator allows for a much cleaner installation.
- Wireless or wired options.
Rating: This winch has a rating of 5out of 5 stars.
Price: This model starts at $549.99 (2021).
3. Smittybilt 97495 XRC GEN2 Winch Review
This model includes many features, including:
- A 9,500 lb. load capacity.
- Easy installation makes this a fan favorite.
- Its price range makes it one of the most affordable, high-capacity winches on the market.
- Quieter than most models.
- Remote wire length allows users to stand up to 12 feet away while operating the winch.
- You can mount the solenoid in three distinct locations.
- IP67 rating protects against damaging elements such as rain, dust, and mud.
- 6.6 HP motor ensures a greater performance.
Rating: This model has a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.
Price: This model starts at $305.99 (2021).
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.