Informational Guide

How To Wire A Winch

Master the common and difficult problem of how to wire a winch. Successfully set up for winching with our complete installation guide.

Whether you are stuck in the mud during an off-road adventure or want an easier way to load vehicles onto your trailer, the winch is a great tool to have. 

Still, you must know more than how to use a winch, but you must also familiarize yourself with how to wire a winch. We cover all the bases so you can get started.

Before you understand how to wire a 12 volt winch, you must first comprehend what parts are included.

Starting with the motor, you have two DC options; either a permanent magnet motor or a series wound motor. With the permanent magnet variety, the stator utilizes permanent magnets, plus there are no field coils. On the other hand, with the series wound motor you find the field coils connected in series with the armature coil.

You also have the gear train to understand, which could consist of planetary gears, a worm gear, or spur gear. Finally, there is a solenoid or electromagnetic switches. Power gets sent to the solenoid through the remote switch, which then causes the circuit to activate the winch motor.

winch parts

Why it is Important to Correctly Wire a Winch

Whether you want to know how to wire a winch without a solenoid or how to wire a winch with a toggle switch, it’s supremely important that you get the process right. You are dealing with heavy equipment that could cause serious injury if not installed properly.

This is just a general guide, so we can only supply basic information. To get the wiring chart for your winch and vehicle type, it’s important that you consult the manufacturer.

Factors That Affect Winch Wiring

As you investigate how to wire a 12v winch, you will find the process is different based on several factors. First, where do you plan to mount the winch?

Learning how to wire a hitch mounted winch is completely different than figuring out how to wire a winch switch on an ATV. 

Second, what type of winching is required? Will you be performing light-, medium- or heavy-duty jobs? Finally, it would be best if you determined how often you plan to use the winch. If you are using it daily, the wiring might look different than if you needed access to a winch occasionally.

How To Safely Wire a Winch

Wiring a winch with a toggle switch

It isn’t difficult to figure out how to wire a winch to a toggle switch. You want to run the motor wires from your winch to the solenoid. Make sure you properly fasten the wires to the terminals and secure the ring connectors.

Next, you will connect the battery wires to the terminals of the solenoid, paying careful attention to polarity. Run the solenoid battery wires to the vehicle battery and fasten them completely. From here, you should be ready to connect in the toggle switch.

Wiring a hitch-mounted winch

Do you know how to wire up a Badland winch to your hitch? Attach the power wire to the winch’s positive post and do the same with the negative side.

Run both of your wires from the winch into the engine compartment of the vehicle.

Attach the winch’s positive lead to the post on the battery and do the same with the negative side. It’s recommended to install quick disconnects at this point.

Wiring a winch switch on an ATV

ATV winches aren’t difficult to setup. Disconnect the battery first. Mount your rocker switch in-line with the factory wiring. Run the positive and negative lines to the solenoid and then to the battery. Make sure you test the winch before using it in the real world.

Wiring a 12-volt winch

You will need to mount and wire your control box. With most winches, everything is color-coded for a simple installation, but you should always reference the owner’s manual and diagram. For the most part, everything on the winch should be wired to the control box, which then gets connected to the battery.

Wiring a winch without solenoid

Most people learn how to wire a winch solenoid because this part is vital to a safe operation. However, there are times you might need to use the winch without the solenoid. In those cases, you must put the winch in free spool mode, disconnect the terminals, and connect a jumper wire.

Wiring a Warn winch

Warn makes some of the best winches, but you must know how to wire up a Warn winch. While most of the directions will be the same as if you were learning how to wire a Traveller winch, you want to consult the diagram that came with your product. It should show you where to connect the leads and how to wire a Warn winch remote control.

Wiring a winch to a trailer

Learning how to wire a winch to a trailer isn’t much different than what’s already been discussed. Start at the rear of your vehicle and mount the winch with quick disconnects. Connect the power wire from the rear to the positive post of the battery. Make sure you ground the battery to a metal surface on the frame of the vehicle.

Wiring a winch to a truck

Do you know how to wire a winch to a truck? Truck winches are similar in nature to every other style, requiring that you run power to a solenoid and the battery. Just like when you install a Jeep winch, you want to follow the directions and diagram given to you by the manufacturer.

city truck

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How much weight can a winch pull?

It depends on what you are using the winch for. A UTV winch is going to have different weight ratings than the average boat trailer winch. Determine what you need to pull and what your vehicle can handle before purchasing a new winch.

Can you power a winch through trailer plug?

As you examine a how to wire a winch solenoid diagram, you will see that trailer connectors aren’t recommended. Electric winches need a direct battery connection, where the 7-way adapter doesn’t have a heavy enough gauge to power your winch.

Do I need a mounting plate for my winch?

Before you learn how to wire a Badland winch, you must first mount it, which does require a mounting plate for your vehicle.

Are all winch mounts universal?

There are some winch mounts that are considered universal, but you should always verify that it is meant to fit your vehicle.

How can I hook up a wireless winch remote?

Consult the directions that came with your equipment to determine how to wire a wireless winch remote. It’s likely you will need to program the remote for operation with your specific winch.

What safety precautions should one consider when winching anything?

 Once you know how to wire a Harbor Freight winch, you are ready to use it. However, there are some safety procedures to follow. Always stand as far back from the winch as possible. You also shouldn’t attempt to move anything too heavy with your winch. If the equipment looks damaged in any way, refrain from using the winch until you get a replacement.


Now that you understand how to wire a winch switch, it’s time to get to work. You can use your winch off-road to get out of stuck positions or allow it to make loading vehicles on your car trailer easier than ever. Always follow the instructions from the manufacturer as you wire your winch.