A boat trailer winch is designed to ease your boat into the water during launch and assist your boat onto your trailer during recovery. You don’t really need to think too hard about winches until your old one gives up the ghost. We look at the various aspects of boat trailer winches that you need to consider when the time comes.
There are two types of winches commonly used on boat trailers: manual (or hand-powered), and 12V electric.
Manual boat trailer winches
The most common type of boat trailer winch is the hand-cranked manual winch. These boat trailer winches are very simple – they feature a crank, a drum that stores the line, a capstan, vertical-axled rotating machine, that maintains tension, a ratcheted lock to prevent slipping and a basic gearbox.
The gearbox allows for winching at different ratios, or speeds. The fastest speed is a 1:1 ratio – this is just for winding up the line once the boat is launched. A ratio of 3:1 is used for lighter loads or for the initial winching of a heavier boat onto the trailer. Ratios of 5:1 and higher are used for heavier loads, especially once the boat is completely out of the water.
Electric boat trailer winches
An electric winch adds power and simplicity as much as it adds expense. Where a manual boat winch might have a line-pulling capacity range of 250kg to 1,200kg, electric winches could go as high as 7,000kg or more.
Obviously, an electric winch is necessary for large boats. They’re also good for less able boat towers who don’t have the strength for a manual winch. They also cost significantly more than manual winches.
Boat trailer winch specifications
As with any equipment involved with marine towing, you have to consider the key specifications of the marine winch you need.
- Line pull capacity: This is the maximum load, in kilograms, that the winch can exert on the line.
- Gear ratio: This indicates the speed of the winch. The ratio represents hand cranks to drum rotations. So a 10:1 ratio means 10 hand cranks to every one turn of the line drum. Heavier loads require higher ratios.
- Line length: Essentially, the longer the boat, the longer the trailer, therefore the longer the line required to reach past the trailer to the boat.
- Line type: web/strap or cable: The web line is a nylon strap just like a seatbelt. Its advantages are that it winds onto the drum more evenly than cable and doesn’t deform when wound. However, web lines may have a lower pulling capacity than cable. Wire cable is usually stronger, but it rarely winds onto the drum evenly and can form kinks when tightly wound.
Choosing between a manual or electric boat trailer winch is a matter of budget and personal preference. Once you’ve made that call, know your boat so that you can make the right choice.
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