PULL POWER

BREAKAGES, SMOKE AND HUGE LOADS. THIS IS THE ULTIMATE WINCH SHOOT-OUT.

WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY MARK ALLEN

WINCH represents the epitome of self recovery. It’s the true essence of a ‘get out of jail free’ card for every genre of 4x4ing; whether it be remote travel, weekend rockhopping with your mates, competition use, or even with many school pick-up 4x4s – you know, the shiny ones that have every conceivable accessory bolted on like it’s a badge of honour.

A winch is the quintessential must-have accessory that screams to all who will listen that you are a fair-dinkum 4x4er, regardless of how often you’ll really need to use that lump of dead weight bolted to your bullbar.

For those who do use them, a winch provides a huge chunk of security, elevating your chances of getting out of the poo, almost, regardless of depth.

So, in true 4X4 Australia form, we have assembled seven of the best electric winches available off the shelves in Australia, for a no-holds tug-o-war.

We have enlisted a test method to ensure total fairness, and we’ve made

sure the environment used for each winch remains the same. We’ve taken a gaggle of measurements of each winch while working right up to and beyond their maximum loads, ensuring we could evaluate each winch by the data.

During our testing, we had a couple of minor failures, one smokin’ winch, plus uncovered a flaw many winches exhibit, which may encourage winch makers to redesign that key component.

Plus, of course, we are able to serve prospective customers the perfect information for when it comes time to choosing a winch.

THE CONTENDERS

WE settled on utilising 9500lb (4309kg), or as close as possible, electric winches fitted with synthetic rope from each supplier. This equates to a size winch that most family-orientated 4x4s would expect to use successfully. There are larger, heavier duty winches, but the size we’ve chosen opens up a range perfect for most 4x4s.

For this test, we compared the Sherpa Mustang 9500, TJM Torq Winch 9500, Thunder 9500, Bushranger Seal 9500, and Runva EWX 9500. Also included are the Warn Zeon 10,000 and Warn Magnum 10,000 winches, being the closest size winch available.

Opposite Lock declined, Opposite Lock declined, given it was on the verge of changing its complete winch line-up. Ironman 4x4 also declined to be included.

There are a number of emerging big brand names being imported from various countries, as well as the plethora of el-cheapos, but we simply weren’t interested in those for a number of reasons.

WARN ZEON

SHERPA

THUNDER

RUNVA EWX

WARN MAGNUM

TJM TORQ

BUSHRANGER SEAL

SCHEMING, SYSTEMS AND STRATEGIES THE

IN A test as complicated as this, we wanted to ensure the testing method was fair and equal across all products, regardless of how many pulls were required of the winch. Finding the right conditions was paramount. We had to cross off sand dunes because they differ considerably after every single pull. Likewise, with a mud pull and most other surfaces other than hard-packed dirt or gravel.

We trialled steep, dirt hills with constant and ever-changing slopes using my own winch fitted to my Troopy with the handbrake on, and we tried winching dead weights up those same hills. The problem was that the incline was either too easy or too hard, not to mention the many other technical reasons why it wasn’t an even playing field and therefore unsuitable to help us find the real winner of our test.

Enter the ‘sled’.

Anyone that has been to a rural agriculture show will have heard of a Tractor Pull. This is where tractors attempt to pull a sled the furthest distance along a flat, graded, dirt track. The trick to the sled is that as it moves forward along the ground, the weight advances (or slides) from the rear end to the front of the rails, making it harder and harder to slide along the ground as the tractor advances along the track.

I figured if we replaced the tractor with a winch, we’d get reliable results. All I had to do was source the sled.

Given I could alter the weight on the sled, both on the mechanically geared, moveable tray section as well as the front pad, it proved the ideal method to test the winches. It took half a day of trial runs to find the correct setting for the weights. Eventually we settled on a fixed weight of concrete at the front, combined with the sliding section set in place with two 1000-litre water containers.

Nothing would change across the testing for all seven winches in the test.

We tested the pulling force – weight of the concrete and the actual sled, combined with the friction on the ground and the slope we were winching up – and we came up with an overall pulled mass of approximately five tonne. That’s 5000kg pulled by 9500lb (4309kg) rated winches, which would put them to the test, hopefully without destroying the winch.

For dead weight or an anchor point, there was the option of winching from my Troopy and tethering it to a tree, but the risk of chassis damage from twisting or stretching was too much. Instead, we copped a 6.2- tonne telehandler to resist the pulling forces.

We hitched a removable winch cradle – to which each winch was bolted – to slide into a hitch receiver on the mammoth telehandler.

Then we chocked the wheels and jammed the hydraulic blade into mother earth, so it couldn’t move anywhere!

While some winch manufacturers provide a duty cycle, many don’t mention it or just provide the warning “do not exceed duty cycle” without actually saying what the cycle should be – a fat lot of help that is. No wonder many people have no idea they can’t just “keep winching ’til she’s out” and end up damaging the winch.

As suggested by some suppliers, we settled on a duty cycle of 60 seconds constant winching, followed by 10 minutes cool down, 60 seconds constant winching, 10 minutes cool down. We repeated this process until each winch had pulled as close to 20 metres as possible.

At the start and end of each 60-second winching period, we recorded gearbox and motor temperatures with a non-contact thermal gun, minimum and maximum amperage draw with a clamp meter, as well as distance pulled with an electronic distance measurer – to aid in calculating winch speeds for each 60-second session as well as an overall speed in metres per minute. All of these measured figures allowed us to monitor winch performance in real time while keeping an ‘ear’ on the winches to know how close to stalling and how easy each was tackling the huge loads of the sled. With this method, there could be no denying which winch pulled fastest, furthest, consumed the most power, or got the hottest.

After we’d tested each winch for real-life pulling ability, we also looked at standard included accessories, specifications and ease of operation. Given stalling a 12-volt winch is generally a no-no, as is overly-extended winching times, it’d be reasonable to expect we would damage some part of each winch, so we didn’t. There is no reason to winch to destruction to test a winch; that is simply not how a winch should be treated in real life.

Setting up the correct weights to be hauled, with even, fair and repeatable conditions is the perfect way to test a winch and a great way to separate quality from crap.

SEE THE VIDEO!

TO SEE the video of how this test was conducted, hop on over to www.4x4australia. com.au

SAFETY

WINCHING is dangerous!

We’ll repeat that… winching is bloody dangerous.

While we always adhere to taking as many safety precautions as possible in a real-life winch situation, this testing posed additional safety threats given we needed to be close to the winch to take motor current draw and temperature readings.

I knocked up two walls of 12mm sheets of ply with relevant slots cut out to thread the winch rope through. The walls were angled such that if a rope broke and flicked back at us, it would be blocked and deflected up and away from us.

Instead of a simple air brake hanging over the winch rope, we’ve attached a dedicated, weighted sliding dampener close to the hook end and tied it back to the sled.

If anything were to break, the dampener would stop the heavy hook and arrest the dangerous rope re-coil. As a side note, synthetic rope is much safer than wire rope if it should snap under strain, but we weren’t taking any chances.

POWER

12-VOLT winches churn through a heap of power. Generally, your winch is hooked up to your main starter battery which is charged via your alternator while winching. If that battery is anything less than 100 per cent, a winch’s ability to pull is diminished.

Given we were attempting longer than usual winch pulls, as well as multiple pulls, there was no way a standard battery-in-vehicle set-up would cope. Having had past experience with a mob who (along with their father) manufacture the venerable Outback Battery Chargers via their company Christie Engineering, I figured they would be my saviour for battery charging. They kindly loaned us a topof- the-line 120amp petrol-powered battery charger. Australian manufacturer Century Batteries provided four 105amp deep-cycle AGM units, which were wired up in parallel with high grade battery cabling. This huge battery bank and wiring system remains a 12-volt system, but the Amp hours were bumped up to a huge 420amps (4x105amps) to ensure we had plenty of grunt in reserve. We ran the Outback Battery Charger during winching, as well as the 10-minute winch cool periods. This is one part of the test that is not ‘real life’ given we mostly only have one battery to run a winch from, but, given our want to test the winch to maximum capacity, we bulked up on the amperage power to be sure all went as planned.

SAME BUT DIFFERENT

LOOKING at the specs of each winch, there are only a few technical differences that can make a difference to a winch’s ability to perform: motor horsepower, final gear ratios, drum diameter and amperage draw.

Let’s get one thing straight, a fast winch is not necessarily the best winch! It may be fast in trying to extract your bogged 4x4 from danger in the beginning, but if it can’t maintain that speed due to high current draw (flattening your vehicle battery), cooks your winch thanks to high motor temps, or stalls the overloaded vehicle via high gearing, then what’s the point being fast for a short period?

You want a winch that gets the job done, even if it takes a bit more time. So for the purpose of this test, we’ve ignored that quoted-butuseless specification.

When it comes to the horsepower of the motor, generally, the higher the better. It’s like a larger cubic capacity vehicle engine develops more torque than a small capacity version – all else being equal. But, more torque doesn’t necessarily mean faster.

In gearing ratios, the lower the final gear ratio number (eg. 150:1 compared to 268:1) the faster the winch drum will spin resulting in a higher line speed. The motor (or gears) turn 150 times to turn the drum one full revolution, compared to the lower-geared version which has the motor turning 268 times to turn the drum once. So, the higher the number, the slower it works; and the lower the number, the faster it works.

However, the faster the ratio (the smaller the number), the harder the winch has to work and the more likely it is for the whole shebang to stall. Just like labouring your 10-speed pushie up a hill, if you leave it in the highest gear, your legs won’t be able to supply the power needed to keep the pedals moving, so you stop and flop. A lower winch gear ratio (higher number) is slower, but will get the job done easier… eventually. It’s the old story of the Tortoise and the Hare – we all know how that ended.

As far as amperage draw goes, the more electronic power that little 12-volt motor can consume, the faster it will perform, but the hotter it will get and the sooner it will melt or burn something beyond further use. Keeping motor and gearbox temperatures down can only be done via short winching times and long rest times – the correct duty cycle – or perhaps, to a lessor extent, fluting or heat soaks built into the winch casing to help dissipate heat. But once the whole casing gets overly hot, there’s little you can do to cool it all down, other than rest.

An often forgotten specification that directly leads to winch ability, or lack thereof, is the drum diameter. The larger the drum diameter, the faster the gearing (but more load will be placed on the winch). Conversely, the smaller the diameter, the slower the gearing, making winching easier.

It really is impossible for average humans (like me) to calculate the exact final pulling power of any winch when all variables are taken into account.

DRUM LAYERS, SURFACE RESISTANCE, DEPTH AND SLOPE

ONE of the common misconceptions regarding winches is that the maximum rated winch capacity is available any time the winch is hooked up. Unfortunately, this is false. Winch capacity is in fact determined by the number of layers of cable wrapped on the winch drum.

While line pull per layer is an often quoted specification, given an empty winch drum affords the smallest diameter and a full drum the largest, it’s easy to presume that as each layer of rope rolls onto the drum, the winching effort increases proportionally.

All winches are maximum rated with an empty drum, while their (mathematical) rating drops dramatically to almost half when full. Yep, a 9500lb winch is only rated at 9500lb when the drum is on its first layer, yet is only (mathematically) rated at about half that (about 4500 to 5500lb) with four or five rope layers rolled onto the drum.

Theoretically this is correct, but in reality it doesn’t exactly work like the pretty diagrams (that are bandied about with nice neat layers of rope) suggest.

Synthetic rope is somewhat flexible (can be distorted and flattened) and the rolls can never be totally pushed up hard against each other as the winch drum rolls in. We found the rope would either mesh into the previous roll, providing similar drum diameters (ratios); or would bunch up on one side for a few rolls, effectively raising drum diameter and ratios.

While you can, at times, help to guide the rope in for a neat roll by pulling the rope sideways from the winch body, you are putting yourself directly in the line of fire if something fails and flings back.

The neater the rope is kept while pulling in, and the straighter the pull is in line with the vehicle, the better the chances are of keeping an even drum roll.

Ideally, any winch pulling a stuck vehicle should be using the first or second roll on the drum to return the best load ratings and maximum pulling power.

Unfortunately, this is not always practical in real life; your tree or winch anchor point will (almost) never be perfectly positioned, so you’ve just gotta use what you have available, or use a double line pull to get more rope of the drum to start with.

Every winching exercise must also consider surface resistance, slope and depth.

Resistance of the ground you are stuck in; deep fluffy sand, gloopy wet mud and rocky ledges are all going to add higher winching resistances than a loose, gravelly track. So too will any gradient above dead level.

The depth of the poo you are stuck in will sky rocket your winch’s inability to do its job – the deeper the shit you’re stuck in, the more likely you are to remain stuck in said shit.

WIRELESS VERSES WIRED

SOME winches tested came with both wired and wireless remote controls. Wireless is a great option in the right predicament, which allows the user to stand or sit (almost) anywhere to control the winch, provided it’s safe to do so. In our experience, as great as wireless remotes are, they have a time delay or lag from when you start and stop the winching button or command.

So, when you button off the power, often the winch will run a little longer, which we find a little disconcerting if trying to winch precisely.

Wired winch controllers generally don’t exhibit this annoyance, tending to switch on and off much more precisely.

We used the wired options on all winches as tested.

THE WARN ZEON 10-S

WARN winches represent the best of the best in quality and design – and you pay for that!

The Zeon range is the most advanced ‘looking’ winch available, thanks to the moulded control box fitted atop the winch body and larger diameter motor and gearbox surrounds.

So large, in fact, it was the only winch that wouldn’t fit into our winch cradle without removing the cradle’s carrying arms. If you’re set on buying this winch, check first that it will fit into your chosen bullbar and check the control box will also fit as intended.

Warn have omitted horsepower specs from its winch line-up and, despite all requests, no official results are available. Warn just note that its winches are ‘series wound’ – which all others are, too.

The Warn Zeon’s unique way of attaching the rope is superior to all others. It negates rope damage and offers a strong purchase point, as well as attains a high load, without breaking. The drum isn’t painted or powdercoated as all others are, which affords a better grip on the rope to help avoid rope-slip under load. A long, red sheath on the drum-end helps to stop too much rope being pulled off, but it rolls more than a full drum and a half to help avoid slippage under load. The Zeon rope was the equal longest (with the Bushranger Seal) by a couple of metres on test, offering 30.5m in total.

The Warn thimble is the only thimble (other than the Warn Magnum) to not crush during winching. It features an extra plate welded into the eye to prevent the loop from crushing during highload winching.

On the remote handpiece, an easily-understood pictorial explanation of winching in and out gets the message across clear and simple. So too are the pictorial instructions for engaging and disengaging the clutch via the dimpled lever. The rubber cover over the remote plug affords weatherproofing to keep dust and water out.

On paper, the Zeon had a slight advantage over the other winches, as it’s rated at 10,000lb instead of 9500lb, but it made little difference when hauling our sled.

It performed faultlessly and pulled fourth fastest overall while drawing moderate to high amperage and excellent low temperatures for both motor and gearbox.

The one drawback of the Zeon is the higher price. Many will argue, “you get what you pay for” or “buy once, cry once”, and while that may be true of buying the best quality winch available, on the day it didn’t perform notably better than many other winches. The only component we can’t test is longevity; perhaps it’ll be pulling strong in five, 10 or more years, while cheaper versions won’t – who knows?

INCLUDED

WIRED hand remote control; alloy hawse fairlead; open hook with springloaded safety catch and removable clevis pin; safety strap.

SPECS WARN ZEON 10-S

PRICE $2163 WARRANTY Limited lifetime mechanical / limited 7 year electrical LOAD RATING POUND / KG 10,000 / 4536 MOTOR HP N/A GEAR RATIO 216:1 GEAR TRAIN TYPE 3 stage planetary BRAKE TYPE Automatic mechanical cone SYNTHETIC ROPE SIZE (DIAMETER X LENGTH) 9.5mm x 30.5m

SOLENOID Contractor pack CLUTCH Rotating ring gear FAIRLEAD Aluminium hawse fairlead DRUM SIZE (DIAMETER X LENGTH) 80mm x 229mm

THE ZEON’S UNIQUE WAY OF ATTACHING THE ROPE IS SUPERIOR TO ALL THE OTHERS

THE WARN MAGNUM 10K-S

THE Warn Magnum series offers a more affordable Warn-badged winch than the top-of-the-line versions. The Magnum, with an ‘on-paper’ advantage rating of 10,000lb instead of 9500, returned no real-life extra pull and follows the same lack of information for horsepower ratings as the Zeon range – Warn simply don’t tell you.

The Magnum drew high amps, often more than 400, and returned the second slowest time overall. Slow isn’t a problem unless other components fail.

While the Magnum didn’t fail, it started smoking on the fifth pull, at which it was pulling 400-plus amps with motor temperature readings of 104 and gearbox at 97 degrees.

After its duty-cycle cool-down period of 10 minutes, and during the last part of its sixth pull, it started smoking even more with slightly higher temperatures. We called it quits for a seventh pull, leaving a total of about 17 metres of winching compared to all of the others which managed about 20. Would it have kept going?

Who knows, but there was simply no point destroying it just for the sake of it.

The Magnum winch also sports the strengthened thimble as per the Zeon; a simple design that saves the thimble from crushing under load, and one that all other manufacturers should heed.

This winch offers good protection sheaths at each end of the rope, while the drum end is red to signify how much rope is left on the drum, making it perfectly clear how much rope should not be pulled off.

Interestingly, the red portion is far more than the much bandied six, eight or 10 wraps suggested to keep on a drum; rather it takes up a full drum wrap plus some. The retaining bolt that secures the end of the rope to the drum is protected via a conical cover arrangement to loop the rope over, offering good rope protection from chaffing or cutting.

The Magnum control box is a step up in design from plonking a square box on top of a winch or bar work, but it is one step below the Zeon’s futuristic appearance.

A cast-aluminium tie-rod plate aids in rigidity of the whole winch body, helping to reduce flex during uneven winching.

A good rubber cover over the hand control plug should keep dirt and water out when it’s not in use. Hand control pictorial instructions are to the point and easy to understand.

Warnings and instructions of use are exceptional, as with most Warn products.

INCLUDED

WIRED hand remote control; alloy hawse fairlead; open hook with springloaded safety catch and removable clevis pin; safety strap; rope protector.

SPECS WARN MAGNUM 10K-S

PRICE $1490 WARRANTY Limited lifetime mechanical / limited 7 year electrical LOAD RATING POUND / KG 10,000 / 4536 MOTOR HP N/A GEAR RATIO 261:1 GEAR TRAIN TYPE 3 stage planetary BRAKE TYPE Automatic direct drive cone SYNTHETIC ROPE SIZE (DIAMETER X LENGTH) 9.5mm x 27.4m

SOLENOID Albright CLUTCH Sliding ring gear FAIRLEAD Aluminium hawse fairlead DRUM SIZE (DIAMETER X LENGTH) 64mm x 230mm

THE MAGNUM SPORTS THE STRENGTHENED THIMBLE DESIGN, WHICH SAVES IT FROM CRUSHING UNDER LOAD

THE SHERPA MUSTANG 9500

WHILE you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, the Sherpa Mustang looks to be the cheapest of the bunch, especially the squarish, non-ergonomic hand remote. It works fine, but it looks like a leftover from an industrial crane winch.

On that point, it’s worth noting that the few people we had looking over the winches often pushed the wrong button to winch in, inadvertently winching out instead. It’s not totally clear, so perhaps a ‘re-sticker’ is in order.

However, it does positively lock into the plug point with no chance of it being pulled out. However, the rubber plug cover isn’t a great fit and we envision it falling out at times.

As with many of the winches, the Sherpa drum has a smooth finish, and we experienced the synthetic rope slipping under load. Even with more than the generally required wraps on, our retaining bolt snapped under load, forcing us to do a trackside repair to the rope and retaining method.

Unfortunately, given the rope is secured to the drum on the vertical walls (as opposed to the drum itself) and the aluminium crimp had been damaged, it did more damage to the drum when we continued to use it.

But this shouldn’t be seen as a strike against Sherpa. Many winches are of similar design, so we take responsibility for this, but it does show how much slip can be encountered with synthetic rope and the hassles you’ll have in real life to fix it.

One disconcerting point noted was when we buttoned off the winching, with high load on the rope, the drum often rolled back part of a turn. It didn’t roll back much, but it was evident and captured on film.

The Sherpa was the slowest of all winches, depicted (partially) by the final gear ratio of 246:1 – the second slowest after the Warn Magnum at 261:1.

However, the Sherpa shines when you consider it has some of the lowest current draws (at least half that of some others), as well as good low motor and gearbox temperatures; though, it did crack 100 degrees on its seventh pull.

The Sherpa was the only winch needing seven pulls to reach our 20-metre pull limit, but at least it did it without fuss.

All good things take time and, given it’s the second cheapest winch on test, that’s a pretty damn good outcome.

INCLUDED

WIRED hand remote control; alloy hawse fairlead; open hook with springloaded safety catch and removable clevis pin; safety strap.

SPECS SHERPA MUSTANG 9500

PRICE $999 WARRANTY 5 years LOAD RATING POUND / KG 9500 / 4309 MOTOR HP 6.0 GEAR RATIO 246:1 GEAR TRAIN TYPE 3 stage planetary BRAKE TYPE Automatic in gearbox SYNTHETIC ROPE SIZE (DIAMETER X LENGTH) 9mm x 28m SOLENOID Albright heavy duty 800amp CLUTCH Slide ring gear FAIRLEAD Aluminium hawse fairlead DRUM SIZE (DIAMETER X LENGTH) 64mm x 224mm

THE SHERPA SHINES, WHEN YOU CONSIDER IT HAS SOME OF THE LOWEST CURRENT DRAW

THE TJM TORQ WINCH 9500

WHEN we saw the TJM Torq’s low motor horsepower rating of 4.9, we doubted its ability, but we were left eating humble pie after watching it haul the sled all the way home without much fuss.

The TJM winch proves that bigger isn’t necessarily better, and you must take into account all facets of a winch to get a rough idea of how good it may be. The speed of the Torq Winch is made possible via the second fastest gearing ratio of 150:1, which saw it pull second in overall speeds as well as requiring the second lowest number of pulls (five).

Now for the trade-offs: the TJM winch drew quite high currents – the second and third highest on test, with very high motor temperatures of more than 100 degrees on the fourth and fifth pull. The gearbox temps stayed impressively low, though.

Notably, the motor end-cover features aluminium fluting to help dissipate that heat, whereas the gearbox end doesn’t.

The Torq Winch is impressively optioned with all the standard inclusions: a wireless hand-held remote control and separate wireless receiver; a rubber stopper to prevent the hook being wound into and damaging the aluminium fair lead; a manual isolation switch; excellent sheath protection for both ends of rope, which doubles as the warning limit at the drum end; and a red stripe part way along the sheath to ensure you don’t unfurl too much rope.

All electrical cables feature unique FRP sheath protection to help prevent scuffing or abrasion on sharp edges. While the colour of the rope neither helps nor hinders the workings of the winch, its bright yellow colour can be easily seen and drastically improves safety.

The thimble, as per most others on test, deformed under load around the clevis pin in the hook.

The hand remote is easy to use, as is the wireless version. There is a screw-in connection for the wired remote, instead of the usual push-in, giving it a positive engagement. The end of the cable of the remote even has a screw-on cover for when not in use, to prevent dirt ingress.

The Torq Winch was one of the easiest on test to free spool – not that we tested resistance, but it made pulling out the rope with no load fast and effortless.

Despite doing nothing for the actual workings of the winch, the mounting feet feature captive nuts to help during installation; all other winches rely on balancing the separate nuts in slots within the feet. Often, while positioning the winch in a cradle or a bullbar, the nuts fall out unless you’ve taped them in somehow. I’m sure fitters all over Australia are happy with this minor inclusion.

INCLUDED

WIRED hand remote; alloy hawse fairlead; open hook with springloaded safety catch and removable clevis pin; safety strap; wireless hand remote control and wireless receiver; rubber stopper; manual isolation switch; sheath protection for both ends of rope; FRP sheath protection on electrical cables.

SPECS TJM TORQ WINCH

PRICE $1153 WARRANTY 2 years LOAD RATING POUND / KG 9500 / 4309 MOTOR HP 4.9 GEAR RATIO 150:1 GEAR TRAIN TYPE 3 stage planetary BRAKE TYPE Automatic load holding SYNTHETIC ROPE SIZE (DIAMETER X LENGTH) 9.5mm x 28m SOLENOID 500 amp contactor solenoid IP67 rated CLUTCH Sliding ring gear FAIRLEAD Aluminium hawse fairlead DRUM SIZE (DIAMETER X LENGTH) 63mm x 238mm

THE TJM WINCH PROVES THAT BIGGER ISN’T NECESSARILY BETTER

THE THUNDER 9500

THE Thunder 9500 sports a macho-looking textured coating, and the blue rope makes it a great-looking bit of kit. A fluted motor end-cap allows extra heat dissipation, while extra tie-rod covers hint at a stiffer, more rigid body structure. It also includes a wireless remote control and separate wireless receiver, making it a good all-round package.

The wired remote features easy to understand ‘in’ and ‘out’ instructions, while the wireless version features arrows that are a little confusing as to which way winches in and which way winches out – depending if you are facing toward or away from the winch.

The hook-end of the rope, which at 26m is the shortest on test, includes a protective sheath, while the drum-end has no warnings or markings regarding amount of line left on the drum, so users must take extra care. Interestingly, the Thunder drum is the only one on test to feature a knurled face of the drum, presumably to help prevent rope slip. While that is a great idea, unfortunately it doesn’t work given the loads experienced – we had the end of the rope pull free from the aluminium-crimped fitting where it’s attached to the drum, even though we had more than two full layers of rope on the drum. This isn’t the only rope this happened to, so it shouldn’t be seen as a negative.

Another downside was the positioning of the rope’s retaining bolt in the vertical face of the drum. From new, the rope can clearly be seen to deviate around the alloy-crimped end. Without load this isn’t a problem, but it can’t be healthy for the rope to be rubbing on while under strain, potentially chaffing the rope.

Some other winches have the rope mounted similarly, so expect the same problem there.

The thimble around the clevis pin of the hook deformed (which we reckon is an industry-wide design problem) in exactly the same manner as most on test.

The Thunder incorporates a thunderous – second largest on test – 6.8 horsepower motor with mid-range (compared to those on test) final gearing ratios.

The drum diameter is the second largest, which also reflects on gearing, loads and winch speeds. This winch returned moderate to high amperage draw and exceptionally low motor and gearbox temperatures – the best on test, and a great asset.

No doubt the fluted, heatsink- style of the motor end-cap, combined with the gearbox cover design and internal workings, assist in reducing heat creation and retention.

Overall, winch speeds were pretty much middle of the pack, making the Thunder a good allround winch in this company.

INCLUDED

ALLOY hawse fairlead; open hook with springloaded safety catch and removable clevis pin; safety strap; wireless handheld remote control and separate wireless receiver; sheath protection for hook-end of rope.

SPECS THUNDER 9500

PRICE $1299 WARRANTY 1 year LOAD RATING POUND / KG 9500 / 4309 MOTOR HP 6.8 GEAR RATIO 212:1 GEAR TRAIN TYPE 3 stage planetary BRAKE TYPE Automatic in drum SYNTHETIC ROPE SIZE (DIAMETER X LENGTH) 9.5mm x 26m SOLENOID Custom-designed copper buzz bar plate, continuous duty cycle CLUTCH Sliding ring gear FAIRLEAD Aluminium hawse fairlead DRUM SIZE (DIAMETER X LENGTH) 76 x 224

THE THUNDER RETURNED EXCEPTIONALLY LOW MOTOR AND GEARBOX TEMPERATURES – THE BEST ON TEST

THE BUSHRANGER SEAL 9.5TH

THE Bushranger Seal 9.5TH offers the second lowest horsepower motor, slightly higher than the TJM Torq Winch unit.

Given its higher speed final ratios, it sits about midfield with the final overall speeds of 3.45 metres per minute, taking six pulls of 60 seconds to complete the 20m sled pull task.

The constant distance recording for each pull remained very steady at three metres (give or take a bit), suggesting it is a well-balanced winch when it comes to power outputs, gearing and current usage.

Moderate to high-end amperage draw and good low temperatures (up until pull number five) put the Seal in good stead. However, pull number six saw motor temperatures shoot up to 101 degrees, albeit the gearbox remained low at a comfortable 34.

A unique aluminium control box sets the Bushranger apart from the field, as does the one-of-a-kind remote-wired hand control. It features a pair of thermal overload warning LEDs that run green during normal winch use and red when overloaded or overheated. We kept a keen eye on the LEDs while monitoring both motor and gearbox temps and, during the fourth pull, they switched to red.

Interestingly, we only measured temperatures of 45 and 33 degrees for motor and gearbox.

Even after we waited the standard 10-minute cool-down period and recorded a slightly lower 40 and 27 degrees at the start of the next pull, the lights remained red.

We pushed on regardless.

The LEDs stayed red for the remainder of the test; although, the winch showed no sign of stalling or untoward electrical or mechanical problems.

The handpiece symbols are simple, with both directional arrows and “in/out” wording to make it obvious which way you should push the toggle-style button.

As opposed to most clutchengaging levers, the Bushranger opts for a T-piece grip over the common L-shape – neither here nor there, just different.

Bushranger is one of the few to offer a duty-cycle winch time and rest time, while most others glossed over the actual numbers and only suggested users “do not exceed duty cycle” in the warnings.

The hook-end of the black rope includes a protection sheath, while the drum-end is coloured red as a warning for minimum rope rolls left on the drum.

As per most other thimbles around the clevis pin of the hook, it deformed under load in the same manner.

INCLUDED

WIRED hand remote control; alloy hawse fairlead; open hook with springloaded safety catch and removable clevis pin; safety strap; overload warning LED lights on handpiece; sheath protection for hook-end of rope.

SPECS BUSHRANGER SEAL 9.5TH

PRICE $1485 WARRANTY 1 year electrical / lifetime mechanical LOAD RATING POUND / KG 9500 / 4309 MOTOR HP 5 GEAR RATIO 159:1 GEAR TRAIN TYPE 3 stage planetary BRAKE TYPE Automatic full load cone brake SYNTHETIC ROPE SIZE (DIAMETER X LENGTH) 10 x 30.5 SOLENOID Contactor CLUTCH Free spool rotating ring gear FAIRLEAD Aluminium hawse fairlead DRUM SIZE (DIAMETER X LENGTH) 63.5 x 228

A UNIQUE ALUMINIUM CONTROL BOX SETS THE BUSHRANGER APART FROM THE FIELD

THE RUNVA EWX 9500-Q

YOU can’t help but be impressed with the Runva EWX’s huge horsepower rating of 8.6. That’s a clear winner amongst this field.

The Runva winch also has the fastest final gearing ratios, combined with the highest current draw. This is a good example of high motor power (and torque) combined with a fast winching speed, but it uses a lot of power to do it – over 400amps sucked from our battery bank, which is above our ammeter limit. It’s all well and good being this fast, but if you don’t have the battery capacity to feed the hungry winch, it’ll all stop with a buggered battery. Winching sensibly with plenty of rests will get you out of trouble faster than all of the other winches.

Impressively, motor and gearbox temperatures stayed very low, suggesting this winch did the job fast and with ease. It only needed four pulls to drag the sled 20 metres – that’s one pull less than its nearest competitor, and up to three pulls less than the slowest winch on test.

It must be noted that Runva has a huge range of winches and, indeed, has other versions of 9500 pounders with lower horsepower motors somewhat similar to other brands tested here. However, given this winch is the cheapest winch of the seven on test, it returns huge pulling power for your buck.

A unique rope-securing method sees the start of the rope pass through the body of the drum, while a flush-mounted grub screw secures the rope-end within. There are no sharp, protruding edges or crimps, and there’s no chance of the rope being damaged by the securing system. It isn’t designed to withhold high loads, so the standard minimal wraps of rope on the drum must be adhered to.

The rope pulled out of the end at the retaining bolt, even though there were many wraps and more than two layers of rope on the drum at the time. The rope must have been slightly and slowly unfurling under the load of the sled, given the slipperiness of the synthetic rope. Most suffered from the same – we had three ropes slip and break their mount on this test.

A protective sheath is fitted to the hook-end of the rope but not to the drum end, thereby needing more caution while unspooling.

It comes with both the aforementioned wired hand control, plus a wireless version.

The advantage over all the others is the wireless receiver is inbuilt within the control box, so it doesn’t needed to be wired separately.

A separate manual isolation switch is included to mount under the bonnet, to prevent thieves from operating your winch.

Looking for any negatives with this winch, perhaps the second shortest rope at 26.5m is the only thing worth mentioning.

INCLUDED

WIRED handheld remote control; alloy hawse fairlead; open hook with springloaded safety catch and removable clevis pin; safety strap; wireless remote control with integral wireless receiver; sheath protection for hook-end of rope; manual isolation switch.

SPECS RUNVA EWX 9500-Q

PRICE $815 WARRANTY Limited lifetime LOAD RATING POUND / KG 9500 / 4309 MOTOR HP 8.6 GEAR RATIO 110:1 GEAR TRAIN TYPE 3 stage planetary BRAKE TYPE Automatic load-holding screw cone SYNTHETIC ROPE SIZE (DIAMETER X LENGTH) 10mm x 26.5m

SOLENOID 600amp competition grade CLUTCH Sliding ring gear FAIRLEAD Aluminium hawse fairlead DRUM SIZE (DIAMETER X LENGTH) 62mm x 223mm

THE RUNVA HAS THE FASTEST FINAL GEARING RATIOS, COMBINED WITH THE HIGHEST CURRENT DRAW

WHICH WINCH?

EVERYONE wants to know a single winner, but while we’re happy to give the thumbs up to one winch here, there’s nothing to suggest all the other winches won’t do the job intended.

It’s great to see that every winch on test passed our rigorous test procedure, which is a testament to the quality that’s available if you buy known brands of equipment. While the overall winner combines the data we recorded with price, inclusions, motor horsepower rating and gearing ratios, the second place recipient sees very different specifications combined with vastly different recorded readings to achieve a similar end result. This proves how different two winches can be, while still offering an excellent outcome at the end of the day.

Also, given both the winner and runner-up suck awful high currents, you’d need to be sure your battery system is in good condition. Wading through the collected data table, you’ll find some other winches consumed far less amps, so perhaps one of these winches would better suit your set-up.

So, drum roll please… the winner of our ultimate ‘Pull Power’ winch test is the Runva EWX 9500 winch, while the TJM Torq Winch takes out a very close second place. We’d be happy to bolt either of these winches to our bullbars, and we’re positive both would get us out of strife in almost any off-road situation.

Congratulations to both brands and thanks to all who have participated in this world-first 12-volt winch shoot-out.

THANKS

THERE is absolutely no way we could have completed this test without a few sets of willing hands to help with time, expertise and equipment. Special thanks must go out to: Todd from Momentum 4x4 in Wauchope, NSW, for lending us a hand and bringing your 4x4 knowledge; the team at Maitland Steam & Antique Machinery Association, for their willingness to supply people, the sled and other machinery; Century Batteries, for supplying four deepcycle 105ah batteries to form our huge battery bank of power; Christie Engineering, for the loan of its 120amp petrol-powered battery charger to keep our battery bank in tiptop condition; and a huge thanks to the manufacturers and suppliers of the winches.

WARN ZEON

RATING LB/KG 10,000 / 4536 HP/FINAL GEAR RATIO NA / 216:1 PRICE $2163 OVERALL DISTANCE PULLED 20.10 NO OF MINUTES / PULLS TO ACHIEVE 6 OVERALL SPEED METRES PER MINUTE 3.35

WARN MAGNUM

RATING LB/KG 10,000 / 4536 HP/FINAL GEAR RATIO NA/261:1 PRICE $1490 OVERALL DISTANCE PULLED 17.715 NO OF MINUTES / PULLS TO ACHIEVE 6 OVERALL SPEED METRES PER MINUTE 2.95

SHERPA MUSTANG

RATING LB/KG 9500 / 4309 HP/FINAL GEAR RATIO 6.0 / 246:1 PRICE $999 OVERALL DISTANCE PULLED 20.23 NO OF MINUTES / PULLS TO ACHIEVE 7 OVERALL SPEED METRES PER MINUTE 2.89

TJM TORQ WINCH Winch Test RUNNER-UP

RATING LB/KG 9500 / 4309 HP/FINAL GEAR RATIO 4.9 / 150:1 PRICE $1153 OVERALL DISTANCE PULLED 21.266 NO OF MINUTES / PULLS TO ACHIEVE 5 OVERALL SPEED METRES PER MINUTE 4.25

THUNDER

RATING LB/KG 9500 / 4309 HP/FINAL GEAR RATIO 6.8/212:1 PRICE $1299 OVERALL DISTANCE PULLED 19.55 NO OF MINUTES / PULLS TO ACHIEVE 6 OVERALL SPEED METRES PER MINUTE 3.25

BUSHRANGER SEAL

RATING LB/KG 9500 / 4309 HP/FINAL GEAR RATIO 5.0 / 159:1 PRICE $1485 OVERALL DISTANCE PULLED 20.69 NO OF MINUTES / PULLS TO ACHIEVE 6 OVERALL SPEED METRES PER MINUTE 3.45

RUNVA EWX Winch Te WINNER

RATING LB/KG 9500 / 4309 HP/FINAL GEAR RATIO 8.6 / 110:1 PRICE $815 OVERALL DISTANCE PULLED 19.11 NO OF MINUTES / PULLS TO ACHIEVE 4 OVERALL SPEED METRES PER MINUTE 4.78

THE NUMBERS TELL THE STORY

IF YOU STUDY THEM ENOUGH