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Buddy, we're glad you're here. Installing a winch is one of the essential skills you'll need if you truly want to be considered an outdoor enthusiast. Any UTV should come with an integrated winch mechanism, if you ask us, for the simple reason that this item is imperative given the context of vehicular off-roading.


Anyway, that's why we're here today: to help you install a winch on a UTV. The process isn't necessarily simple, but it isn't all that complex either. So, kick back, relax, and read through our detailed guide on how to install a winch on a UTV.


How does a winch work?

By using cables or ropes, a winch exerts pressure to pull an object towards it. Any UTV or ATV should have a winch, as it is the main means by which you can pull your vehicle out of a muddy (both figuratively and literally) situation.


Since no ATV or UTV (at least not currently) comes with a winch kit built-in, you'll have to install one yourself manually. The good news is that you can find lots of options on our website. These popular winches have many options, such as different cables options, model-specific mounting plates, and more! Now let's look at how you can install one.


How to Mount a Winch on a UTV or ATV

Unfortunately, you can't just attach a winch to your vehicle and be done with it. Instead, you'll have to go through a mounting process which can take quite some time. However, as long as you have the correct tools at your disposal, the process shouldn't get overly complicated.


Here is the complete list of tools that you'll need to install a winch on your UTV:

  • voltage meter
  • screwdriver
  • ratchet
  • wrench
  • drill
  • file


You can find a few of these things on our website. As for the others, we're pretty sure you can get them in just about any hardware store in your area. So now, let's get to the first steps using things that you can find right here on Rad Parts.


Start By Using a Mount Plate

If you've already browsed the winch category on our website, you might have noticed that we have lots of mount plates for a multitude of popular UTV models. Check their compatibility to see if they fit your side-by-side by simply contacting us.


Otherwise, your UTV might already have a mounting plate installed by default. But, again, you can find out more about this detail by contacting us. We'll be more than happy to assist you.


Remove the Plastic Fascia

If this is your first time installing a modular piece of equipment to your UTV, you might need to remove the plastic fascia located on the bumper. Fair warning: always check how a particular winch will go on your UTV or ATV before installing it. You might not need to remove any bits whatsoever.


Attach the Plate

Now you'll need to bolt the plate securely in its place. Afterward, simply mount the winch onto the plate and secure it however the instruction manual tells you to.


While the instructions can differ from one UTV to another, in most cases, you'll likely need first to attach the roller fairlead to the mounting bracket and then attach the bracket to the vehicle. If you're really lucky, then you'll have a winch-ready bumper, which gives you the luxury of only having the attach the winch to the bumper easy-peasy.


Even though fairly rare, it's preferable that your UTV has a winch-ready bumper not only because it is easier to install it this way, but it also stands out in muddy situations, so you'll have an easier time attaching the winch to a tree or another stationary object so you can pull your UTV out of the mud.


off-road utv with winch detail


Clear the Winch Line Path

Next, you'll need to test if the winch line has a clear path with nothing in its way when mounted in its proper position. Performing this step will also help you practice how to use the winch in case you ever find yourself in a scenario where it will be necessary to do so.


To ensure this is the case, you need to disengage the gear train and pull the line a few feet long. First, however, make sure you don't forget to engage it again.


Install the Winch Contactor

A contactor is the main central wiring point for the winch. By far the most common practice on both UTVs and ATVs is to place the contactors underneath the driver's seat because it will be both safe and relatively easy to access in case it will need replacing.


You'll probably need a drill and file for this process, and you'll have to run the wires from the winch to the contact points as stated in the winch's installation manual. For this step, we recommend getting help from an electrician if you're not feeling confident doing this alone.


Connect the Winch Control Switches

Now comes the truly fun part. It's that part that you need to make sure goes exactly as planned both for convenience's sake and because of some winch regulations.


In an ideal scenario, you should place the control switches near the steering wheel to ensure optimum usability in rough scenarios. While some people prefer connecting their winch to the UTV's ignition, we recommend avoiding doing so because you'll then be limited to only using your winch if your UTV is turned on. And, as you've probably guessed, you might not have that luxury in a situation when you'll actually need to use it.


To clarify, you should follow these steps:


  1. Mount the solenoid in an easy-to-access location. We recommend somewhere under your UTV's hood. Make sure you'll have easy access to all the wires running from the winch and the battery.
  2. Using the provided black and red wires, connect them to the positive and negative terminals on the winch. The red wire will be connected to the positive red terminal, and the black wire will be connected to the negative black terminal.
  3. Connect the yellow wire from the winch to the yellow post on the solenoid. Then connect the blue wire from the winch to the blue post. Make sure to tighten all the connections, but do not overtighten.
  4. Now connect the male end of the rocker switch to the female plug coming from the solenoid. Make sure to tighten the connectors by using the cap screw on the metal ends.
  5. Locate your UTV's 12V key on the power source. This should be in the busbar under the hood. Next, splice the red 12V switch wire to the UTV's keyed power source using the provided connectors and wire.
  6. Finally, connect the other end of the red and black wires to the UTV's battery.


Once all that is said and done, you can install the fairlead. Doing so will allow your synthetic rope to spool in and out easily, help clean off excess debris, and save your rope from wear.


How Much Weight Can You Pull Using Your UTV's Winch?

This is a tricky question, as the answer depends on your UTV model's torque, horsepower, and the winch you have chosen to install. However, most UTV winches can easily pull 3000 pounds on flat ground as a rule of thumb.


Do note that the weight they can pull goes down significantly on rocky terrain. Furthermore, your winch needs to be compatible with your UTV for maximum efficiency. Otherwise, you’ll only be able to pull a fraction of the winch and the UTV’s maximum towing capacity.


For example, if your UTV’s engine is around 400cc, you’ll want to install a winch that can handle between 2000 and 2500 pounds. Anything more than that is overkill, and anything less means that you’re simply throwing money away.


Frequently Asked Questions

How long will a winch work in a given situation?

Typically speaking, you can use a winch for five minutes straight or for about 30 minutes with intermittent use. The reason for this is simple: the winch draws power from your UTV’s battery, and it can quickly deplete it if you’re not paying attention. Wear and tear on your battery is one of the last things you’ll ever want. And, please, always make sure that your battery is fully charged before hitting the great outdoors.


What kind of ropes or cables do winches use?

Synthetic ropes and steel cables often go well with winches. And while these ropes can wear much faster than steel cables, they’re still a good option if you want something slightly cheaper. Speaking of steel cables, make sure to wear gloves when operating a winch of this type because the cable can splinter without you realizing it. And, trust us, you don’t want steel splinters anywhere inside you.


Should I just call an expert?

Mounting a winch on a UTV isn’t too difficult, but if you’re still not confident regarding the process, then by all means, call an expert and let them handle this task.


Final Thoughts

We hope that you’ve found our little guide to be useful. Feel free to contact us for further inquiries, especially if you are not sure which winch is best-suited for your UTV model. You can also leave feedback by contacting us. We want all of our clients and readers to have a seamless experience on our website.