What Are 6 Different Types of Winches?

Winches help move or retrieve heavy objects or vehicles bogged down in mud, sand, or snow. They are also used by vehicle recovery companies and may be mounted on the back of a tow truck or a trailer. There are many types of winches you need to know before you can choose the right one.

For example, you might get boggled by so many options between air winch, snubbing winch, lever winch, wakeskate winch, glider winch, capstan winch, and many more. So, which type of which you should be going for?

Let’s give you a rundown on all the winch types and help you choose the right one depending on your purpose.

Why Do You Need a Winch?

A winch is a mechanical device you can use to pull in, let out, or adjust the tension of a weighted object hooked to a wire or cable. Most of the winches you see boast of a spool and an attached hand crank. They are versatile and reliable when it comes to carrying out their primary duty.

What Does a Winch Do

A winch is a must-have accessory if you’re planning on embarking on any rugged off-road adventures. With the right winch, your ATV, UTV, or side-by-side can get unstuck and out of nearly any scenario.

If you have ever been stuck in the wilderness or in a muddy off-road situation, you know why a winch is important. A winch can make the difference between making it back to civilization and getting stuck waiting for help.

Winches come in many types, shapes, and sizes, but the main thing to consider is how much weight you need the winch to pull. If you have a Jeep or another heavy duty 4WD off-roading vehicle, you want something that can handle more than usual.

Other things to consider are what type of cable rope will work best and whether or not you want wireless remote capabilities.

What Are 6 Different Types of Winches?

There are different winches that you can consider, and below are the main types you need to know:

1. Lever winch

Lever Winch, also known as a manual winch lift, loads relatively light, usually up to several tons. A lever winch is light, reliable, and easy to use. It consists of a crank with a handle (usually one, but some models offer two), a rope wound on a drum, a hook or anchor, and a ratchet mechanism.

Lever winch

Also, lever winches are simple mechanical devices that allow you to haul manually. They are available in various dimensions to allow you to lift weights of different dimensions. However, they have a shortcoming too. For example, they require considerable effort on the user’s part and thus will not be adequate for heavy lifting.

2. Air winch

Air Winch works with pneumatic force. They are designed to provide efficiency, durability, and performance in any industry and operation where specific needs require them. They feature power-in/power-out breaking action, freewheeling and full load effort.

Air winch

Also, the air winch is easy to install, operate, and maintain, and it is widely used for ship launching and landing. It has manual and pneumatic modes that can work with dry or oil lubrication. If you are in search for a winch with 5000 lb capacity, it is one you should consider.

In addition, air winch is widely used in underwater operations such as offshore pile driving, underwater rock drilling, underwater construction, underwater salvaging, etc. Like electric winches, air-powered winches can be used to lift and pull heavy payloads.

3. Mooring winch

A Mooring winch is a powerful and crucial piece of equipment installed on the front or rear deck of the ship to handle mooring lines used for ship berthing and un-berthing. There are two types of mooring winches: horizontal and vertical.

Mooring winch

Horizontal winches have a drum above deck, whereas vertical mooring winch has a motor-driven drum below deck, which includes a double gypsy head spooling device.

The winch is used to pull the mooring rope into the ship with a single or double drum motor. With a double drum motor, two ropes can be pulled in, doubled with one another, and attached to a bollard. The winches are also equipped with brakes, tensioners, and emergency stops.

4. Snubbing Winch

A Snubbing Winch is a winch friction type used for light-duty work. The Snubbing Winch has a simple drum, and the winch line is wrapped around it.

Snubbing Winch

When you are in a situation with the need to straddle a load that needs to be lifted and can’t be moved, snubbing winches are for you. The range of a powerful snubbing winch comes with the necessary safety features to keep your team and equipment safe.

5. Capstan winch

Capstan winches are generally driven by powerful internal combustion engines, electric motors, or even hydraulically powered ones. It is a vertical-axis winch designed to apply large amounts of pulling force. As a result, it has a wide drum and low gear ratio.

Capstan winch

Their operation is similar to that of a windlass, but capstan winches are designed to hold a load while stationary, whereas a windlass is geared to lower and raise it. They are frequently installed on ships or docks to pull in heavy ropes or cables.

Power take-off (PTO) on tank trucks can drive a capstan. The crew can control the load by applying the brakes. Often these winches have been powered by hydraulics from the truck PTO, though hand operation can also be used on many models.

If you are in a situation of so-called anchoring, where your boat is drifting, and you need to go against the current, the first thing that occurs to you is to use the anchor. So you try to do that, but it doesn’t work completely. It is then when a capstan starts playing a very important role.

6. Glider Winch

Glider winches are the easiest and cheapest variety of winches we’ve talked about above. They are used to pull a glider back up into the sky so that it can make a long flight. These gliders do not have any engines and use the wind and currents to move through the air.

One of the most common winches that many people need to know about is glider winches. These are often used in aeronautics, though they can be used for other purposes. Glider winches will transport an aircraft, typically a glider into the air in a very short time, allowing it to achieve a faster speed and maintain altitude for longer periods.


The winch could be stationed on a car or truck, but they are often integrated into a trailer hooked up to a car or truck. There are different types of winches available, and it can get confusing when deciding what the best winch is and if you need one.

With the types discussed above, now you can make up your mind on one type that works for your use case. If you’re planning on getting one, be sure to know the safe usage practices that will keep your hands and body safe.

Jason Pastor

Jason spent half of his life in ship loading, and after 25 years working in this sector, he took his retirement. Now in his free time, he loves to do research and write about things that he has expertise in. Offroadbuster is the result of that. He created this site to guide people with different types of winch for their profession.

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