PTO Winch Vs Electric Winch

PTO Winch Vs Electric Winch

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If you’re an enthusiast off-roader, then a winch is a tool that doesn’t need any formal introduction. Since your Jeep, SUV, or utility truck is likely to get stuck when driving in rough terrains, a winch is among the recovery tools you can rely on to haul or lift your vehicle. But, despite their massive contribution, one major preposition most people face is deciding between PTO winch vs. Electric winch.

Now, winches come in many different variations that make them usable in a wide range of industries. Whether it’s in the utilitarian industry, marine, construction, oil, or engineering, winches are used to pull or maneuver objects which normal humans can barely manage.

When it comes to the different variations, winches can be hydraulic, electric, or PTO (Power Take Off). Although they perform the same task of recovering a stuck vehicle, the mechanism employed in each winch varies greatly from the rest. For that reason, this guide will specifically focus on PTO and electric winches to uncover their major differences and perhaps identify which between the two is perfect.


What are PTO Winches?

PTO winches are some of the earliest types of vehicle-recovery tools that were used to recovery heavy-duty vehicles. These winches are very different from their electric counterparts especially when it comes to the power source and the operating mechanism. Although these winches are hard to find nowadays, they’re considered the safest and fastest forms of recovering stuck vehicles.


So, How Do PTO Winches Work?

Just as we mentioned earlier, PTO winches are some of the earliest types of winches and are very hard to find nowadays. Since most vehicles are technologically advanced in one way or another, PTO winches are hence found in most tractors, utility trucks, and off-road vehicles.

Now, PTO winches are not part of your car’s OEM parts meaning they don’t come when already pre-installed in your vehicle. For that reason, you have to procure them separately. Before ordering a PTO winch, you need to first verify that your vehicle has a PTO mounting option.

Secondly, you need to submit your vehicle’s specifications to the specific PTO manufacturer to ensure that you get the exact match for your auto. Lastly, the PTO winch will have to be mounted to your vehicle in a process that’s usually very delicate.

During the mounting process, your mechanic will connect the PTO winch to your vehicle’s gearbox using a PTO adapter. Next, hydraulic pumps will be connected to merge the PTO winch to your car’s hydraulic system.

So, with everything put in place, how does the PTO winch work? First, you’ll have to start the engine as the PTO winch is designed to use the engine’s RPM to operate. With the engine on, hydraulic fluid is distributed throughout the system including the hydraulic motor.

The hydraulic motor is then responsible for converting the mechanical force into rotational motion to drive the winch. Since the winch is also connected to the transfer case, your car’s shifting gears can be used to operate the PTO winch such as changing direction, speed, and torque.


How Powerful is the PTO Winch?

Since the PTO winch is bolted and connected to your vehicle’s transmission or the gearbox, the amount of power it generates highly depends on your engine’s power rating. So, if your engine has immense torque, then the PTO winch will definitely be powerful.


Pros and Cons of PTO Winch

Although the PTO winch is considered to be safe and very reliable, it doesn’t come without its fine share of pros and cons.


  • One of the greatest advantages of the PTO winch is the amount of power it pockets. Since it relies on your vehicle’s engine to turn, a powerful engine means that your winch will be powerful enough to pull your vehicle.


  • The second advantage with PTO winches is that they rely on your engine rather than the battery. This idea helps to preserve your battery’s power when pulling your vehicle in the wilderness.


  • On the negative side, one major disadvantage of PTO winches is that they’re very complex to connect. Since they must be connected with the car’s transmission and the hydraulic system, you’ll definitely have to hire an expert mechanic to accomplish the task.


  • Secondly, these winches rely on the engine to work. So, if you’re in a scenario where the engine is unable to start, then pulling your vehicle will be next to impossible.


What Are Electric Winches?

Electric winches, on the other hand, are common and very easy to find. While PTO winches rely on the engine’s RPM to function, electric winches rely on electricity, which comes in form of your vehicle’s battery.

According to most statistics, electric winches are considered less powerful as compared to their PTO counterparts. Also, some people argue that electric winches tend to drain a car’s battery much faster making them quite risky when recovering a car in the wilderness.

However, following the advancement in technology, newer batteries and alternators with higher power output have been developed to power the electric winch with sufficient juice to pull vehicles. With this huge advantage, electric winches are considered the best as they can recover a vehicle without having to turn the engine on.


How Does it Work?

The electric winch is one of the easiest to deal with. While the PTO winch demands to be connected to the engine and the hydraulic system, the electric winch only needs a source of power, which in our case is the vehicle’s battery.

Once connected to the battery, the electrical current flows to the motor where it provides it with sufficient power to turn the spool. The spool, on the other hand, is connected to a steel cable or synthetic rope that does the actual pulling of your vehicle.


How Powerful is the Electric Winch?

Unlike the PTO winch that depends on your engine’s power, the electric winch has its own rating. Therefore, when ordering an electric winch, you need to be very keen on its capacity rating. Some winches have a capacity rating of just 2,000lbs while others have up to 12,000lbs.


Pros and Cons of Electric Winches


  • The biggest advantage of electric winches is that they’re powered by the battery rather than the engine. This makes them reliable even when the engine is off.



  • The main disadvantage with electric winches is that they can’t be used for long pulls. Since they get power from the battery, longer pulls can risk draining or overheating the battery, which is dangerous if you’re in the wilderness.


  • The second con of using electric winches is that they’re less powerful making them unreliable when pulling heavy loads.



Following the advancement in modern auto technology, choosing between a PTO and an electric winch is very easy nowadays. Although the PTO winch boasts of packing ample power, the electric winch has enjoyed massive upgrades that have improved its performance massively.

Besides, the electric winch is easy to find almost anywhere. They’re also easy to install and easy to handle. This is quite different from PTO winches that are expensive, hard to find, and very complex to mount.

For that reason, the electric winch is the clear winner. However, if you can procure a new or maybe a second-hand PTO winch that’s in good condition, then this can be good news for you as these winches are very powerful.

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