How to Install Winch on ATV | Hunt or Shred

Trying to figure out how to install a winch on your ATV? You’ve landed on the right article! Read on as we take you through the process.

Winches are often used with ATVs since they can help haul an object towards the ATV on which it is installed. They’re super helpful to have on hand, and often used to pull out vehicles that are stuck. You’ll need a wrench, ratchet, drill, voltage meter,  file, and screwdriver. These tools will allow you to install the mounting plate and contractor as well as correctly wire the control switches.

If it seems intimidating don’t worry. We make it simple step-by-step. Next time your riding buddy is stuck in mud that’s a little too deep it will be YOU coming to save him. Even though winches work with several vehicles, the installation procession is different when you’re installing them onto an ATV. I’m also going to take you through what you should avoid while using an ATV winch.

The information and processes mentioned in this article are backed by research and expert opinions on online forums. I’ve kept the process as simple as possible, and I’ve also minimized the number of tools I recommend for the job so that the process stays hassle-free. Follow the information written in this article to the bone, and you should have a robust winch on your ATV in no time!

Table of contents


Installing a Winch on An ATV

If you live in a snow area or find yourself off-roading a lot, I’m sure you know the pain of getting your car stuck in the snow or the mud. In most cases, it will happen at the worst possible time and the worst possible place. Leaving your car while it is stuck isn’t going to be an option (obviously) which is why you’ll have to think of a way to move it out, or you can wait for help.

The best solution to a scenario like this is an ATV with a winch. You can pull heavy objects with a winch installed on your ATV. This makes ATVs with winches an appropriate solution for such problems.

How to Install Winch On ATV

One of the most important things to remember throughout the process is that you can’t simply attach a winch to an ATV. You’ll have to follow the correct steps involved in the process and have access to the right tools. Before you start, make sure you have the following tools:

Step 1: Select a Mounting Plate

Before you install an ATV winch, you’ll have to look for a mounting plate. Most ATVs will not have a factory-designed mounting spot that holds the winch in one spot. That is why you’ll have to make some modifications. You can go for several mounting plates, and you’ll need to pick one that suits your ATV.

Consider the type of ATV you have, its built, and its model. The plate you choose must be firm enough to withstand the pulling force that it will go through while attached to the winch. You must also ensure that the plate you get is compatible with your car’s bumper and your ATV. Many winches will not work with those standard bumpers since they haven’t been created for that kind of force.

Many standard bumpers don’t even have the space for a winch, which is why installing a winch on a standard bumper is a different ball game. The website or shop from which you’re ordering your winch will have a parts catalog. Use it to find a bumper that is compatible with your winch. That said, some mindful manufacturers sell mounting systems and include a mounting disk and a bumper with it.

Step 2: Remove the Plastic

You may have to make a few changes to the frontal portion of your ATV if this is the first time you’re attaching an amount to it. For instance, you may have to remove the plastic covering your bumper from dirt and wear it to install the winch properly.

That said, it’s important to remember that every winch system is installed differently. They all have different methods, and while the general process is similar, some intricacies may seem confusing. Before you purchase a winch or mount, you must know how it’s going to attach to your ATV so that you can save yourself from problems in the long run.

Step 3: Attaching the Plate to the Vehicle

This step is simple. You’ll have to attach the plate to the ATV by bolting it onto the front bumper securely. Once that is done, you can mount the winch onto the plate and then secure it in one place. Even though the instructions pertaining to your ATV’s model can be different, it’s possible that you’ll first have to attach a roller fairlead to the mounting plate, and after this, you’re going to attach the mounting bracket to the ATV.

If you already have a bumper that can be fixed with your winch, you’ll only have to attach the bumper when you’re done mounting the plate. This process is much easier to complete since installing a winch can be time-consuming and tiring. This will also give you easier access to the winch if your ATV is covered in mud while you’re riding since you won’t be able to see it.

Step 4: Clear the Winch’s Line Path

Make sure that your winch has a clear path in front of it with nothing coming in its way. To ensure that the path is clear, you’ll have to remove the gear train and then pull the winch’s rope (it should be a few feet long). However, remember to engage it again when it’s time to use it.

Step 5: Install the Contractor of the Winch

Your winch will have a contractor, which is essential since this is also its central wiring point. The contractor is also going to power up the winch. Some people can also install their contractors beneath their car’s driver seat. This is an excellent idea since it makes the contractor easily accessible. To do this, you’ll have to run the wires from the winch to the contact points located beneath the contractor.

Your drill and file are going to be handy here. They will enable you to reach all the correct points with ease.

Step 6: Attach the Control Switches of the Winch

These switches need to be placed near the steering wheel. That is because many winches use switches that connect the contractor to the winch. This is then connected to the ATV’s ignition.

However, it would help if you remember that you’re connecting your ATV’s ignition to the winch. This means that you’ll only be able to use the winch when your ATV is on. Next, take the voltage meter and use that to find a warm lead on your ignition. This will be the lead you’ll use to attach to the winch switch. The second wire is going to be connected to the contractor. Once you’ve connected the switch wire, you can connect the winch to the battery. Now take the battery’s cover off and disconnect it.

That’s it! You’re all ready to start using your new winch.

Wiring the Winch: Some Tips

The Winch’s Solenoid

The solenoid is an essential element since it plays the role of a safety component in the whole setup. Its primary job is to deliver power from the battery to the winch. This will be the disconnect that’s going to be between the winch and the power source. You’ll have to place the solenoid as close as possible to the battery but in a particular place where it stays dry all the time.

You’ll also have to make sure that you place it as far as possible from any metal components since they can grind against the electrical contacts.

Routing the Wires

You’ll have to be careful when you’re connecting the wires between the winch and the winch’s solenoid and when you’re running the wires through the winch towards the battery. Ensure that you keep the rope away from the rusted metal and the sharp edges. It’s relatively easy for the wire’s insulation to wear down through the smooth steel if you factor in the mud and dirt.

Winch Connections

Deciding on the right connections is just as essential. Several winches have color-marked lugs that speed up the process and reduce the chances of error. Standard winches don’t need to be tightened firmly because they also have lock washers that secure them into place. It would help if you did not consider over-tightening them because you break a circuit, which will make you end up with a winch you can’t use.

You can also use a little adhesive to keep the nuts from pulling away.

Pre tensioning the Wire

Finally, you’ll also have to ensure that the wire is wrapped tightly on the drum. Some winches will have a cable wrapped on the drum, while others may not. If your winch already had a wire wrapped on the drum when you purchased it, you should unspool a small part of it. Attach the rope to a sturdy object, then turn on the winch. When it starts rolling, the wire corrects itself on its own.

If you received the winch without the rope wrapped on the drum, then you should attach it and follow the steps we’ve mentioned above. Repeat this process until you’re sure the cable has stretched out.

Things You Should NOT Do While Using a Winch

Don’t Hold the Rope with Your Hands

Whenever you’re winching, wear a pair of thick gloves. Don’t let the cable slide through your hands, even if you’re wearing gloves. The wire can tear the gloves and hurt your hand.

Never Wrap the Rope Around a Tree

If you’re hung on a trail, and the trees around you look like an excellent point to tow, don’t wrap the cable around the trees. Pack a three-inch wide strap instead. This will save the tree and you from damage.

Never Winch in a Long Burst

By winching in minor instances, you’re going to stop the electronic devices from overheating, which will also prolong the life of the winch. Remember, short pulls that last a minute will save your winch. Make sure the ATV is on, too. The winch will put in a lot of power, killing your ATV’s battery pretty quickly. This way, you’re going to be out of the hole but will be stuck in the woods.

If you love having frequent off-road adventures with your ATV in which you blow off stress, investing in a winch is a smart idea. Luckily, installing one onto your ATV isn’t too complicated. Even if you’re not a fan of DIY, you’re still going to find the task relatively easy.

Good luck!




45 years old. I'm in business marketing. I write for Hunt or Shred on the side. I love hiking, camping, and everything outdoors with my family. I have 6 years of experience working at an ATV shop selling, fixing, and test driving all brands and models.

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