How to wire a trailer winch

Written by john cagney nash
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How to wire a trailer winch
Trailer winches are easy to wire and have a great many uses. (Detail of a heavy duty industrial winch reel image by mrfotos_fotolia from

Trailer winches provide a much-varied functionality. They can be utilised for much more than simply loading cars, ATVs and mowers. Depending on the winch's capacity it can be used to load fallen tree limbs, even pull stumps out of the ground. If the trailer can be anchored with a sturdy connection to a heavy tow vehicle or strapped to a tree, the winch can pull stranded vehicles out of ditches or mud wallows. Once the winch is mounted on the trailer, wiring is a simple and straightforward process.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Dedicated battery (optional)
  • 2 Nut/bolt/washer assemblies
  • Circuit breaker
  • Crimping tool
  • 2 Push connectors
  • Wire strippers (optional)
  • Soldering kit (optional)
  • Shrink-wrap insulation kit (optional)

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  1. 1

    Install the dedicated battery recommended in the winch manufacturer's installation instructions. Bridge a 12-volt battery supply from the trailer brake's breakaway battery, or connect the positive battery terminal to the black 12-volt hot wire from terminal four of the hitch plug. Connect the negative battery terminal to ground, either by attaching it to a pre-existing screw or bolt on the chassis, or by connecting it directly to terminal one of the hitch plug.

  2. 2

    Route a black wire from the positive connection on the winch to the positive pole of the battery. Connect the wire by attaching it to the pole clamp with a nut/bolt/washer assembly.

  3. 3

    Install a circuit breaker between the battery and the winch. It is important to fit the correct circuit breaker size so that the winch is not subjected to either premature cut-out from too little power, or the truck is not damaged by too great a draw. The rating of the breaker should not be greater than the amperage rating of the wire. Industry standard for most types of winches is 30 amp on 10-gauge run of wire of less than 20 feet.

  4. 4

    Route a white wire from the winch's ground connection to the battery's negative pole. Connect the wire by attaching it to the pole clamp with a nut/bolt/washer assembly.

Tips and warnings

  • The connections on winches are usually made with simple push connections; if this is the case, use a crimping tool to install a matched push connector on the end of both the black and the white wires from the battery. If hard-wiring is required, use wire strippers to remove a 1/2-inch of insulation from all four wire ends, twist the colour-matched wires together, use a soldering kit to make the joins and then insulate them with a shrink-wrap kit.
  • Solar chargers are available from some auto supply stores that trickle-charge batteries, thus keeping them fully charged without any connection to the tow vehicle being necessary.

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