How to Test a Winch Motor – (Detailed Procedure)

A winch is a very important accessory to have if you love adventures and take your vehicle for off-roading and trips through rugged terrains once in a while. It helps you out in situations of emergency and gives peace of mind while you are at such trips so that you do not get stuck somewhere.

Electric winches come with a motor which helps to power the winch and generate the pulling force to get the vehicle or any other object out of trouble and back to safety. Therefore motor is a very essential component of an electric winch as it is responsible for carrying out the whole operation. It is a good idea to test the winch motor before buying a winch, and even if you have brought one, testing ensures that it is appropriate for use.

There are two methods of testing a winch motor which we will be discussing in detail within this article. After going through them, you’ll surely be able to perform the test on your own and that too without removing it from your vehicle.    

The Jumper Cable Test

To perform the jumper cable test, you will first have to disconnect the winch wires from your vehicle after which you will need a battery source. This could be pulled out of your vehicle or preferably a well-charged spare one. Secondly, you will be using jump leads to connect the winch and the battery together. Make sure to connect the terminals correctly i.e. red cable to the positive terminal and black one to the negative terminal.

After making the connections with the battery, you will then connect the free end of the black cable to one terminal of your winch and then tap the free end of the red cable to the other terminal of the winch. This will instantly result in an electric response from your winch. A perfectly working motor should then result in the winch drum starting to move. If it is not the case, then there is certainly a problem with your winch which you will need to diagnose in order to fix it.

If the winch drum shows proper movement, then you should connect the red cable to the terminal of the winch. This causes the winch drum to rotate continuously in a single direction. If you connect cables to the terminals the other way round, it will result in rotation of the drum in another direction. This was the simplest method to test a winch motor which requires basic equipment and there is no rocket science behind it.

The Voltage Drop Test

Another method which you can employ to test the motor of your winch is the voltage drop test. You can perform this test if you are sure that the problem in your winch lies in its electrical components rather than the mechanical ones. To carry out this test, you will require a multimeter and preferably a digital one for reduced errors. You will set the multimeter in the VDC setting. After that you will connect one probe from the multimeter to the grounding of the winch and the other probe to the blue or yellow cable of the winch. After that you will activate your winch as well as the multimeter by turning the switch on. You will then note the reading on the multimeter.

If the voltage reading is found to be close to the running voltage of the winch then the electrics of the winch are working fine. However, if the voltage reading offsets much from the running voltage of the winch, then there is surely a problem with any of the electrical components of the winch and its operation is not normal.

Bench Testing Method

In order to carry out a thorough test of your winch, you will bench test your winch motor. In order to do so, you will have to remove and disconnect your winch from your ATV or truck and then connect it to a bench. After making sure that your winch is well secured to the bench, then connect an earth cable to the earth of the motor. It is usually a bolt located at the bottom of the winch motor.

After that you will connect a cable from the terminal F1 and the terminal A and you will test this polarity by connecting a live cable to the F2 terminal. The other polarity will be tested by connecting a cable through terminal F2 and terminal A and the live cable with terminal F1. This ensures that the electrics of your winch motor are operating correctly.

Safety Precautions

Tasks that deal with electricity can always be risky if you do not take the necessary precautions. Therefore, there are some points which you should take care of while testing your winch motor.

First you should possess the basic knowledge of electrical components and circuits, and how they operate. This will keep you from doing anything insane during the work. You should be wearing the right safety equipment such as proper gloves, safety goggles as well as rubber shoes, so that you are safe from any kind of sparks and are properly insulated.

Avoid keeping anything flammable near your workplace because you would never want to deal with fire and electricity combined. Make sure that the surfaces are not wet and keep away any sources of water. Still if you find yourself confused at any stage, do not hesitate in seeking help from a professional rather than experimenting by yourself. This will help you understand your winch motor better and avoid unfortunate incidents. Also ensure that you have gone through the operators manual which comes with the winch for better knowledge about your device.


After going through this article, we expect that you will be able to test your winch motor properly on your own which is very important before going on trips, so you can make yourself sure that your winch will provide the necessary backup that you bought it for and would not disappoint at times of emergency.

However, the safety precautions are also equally important to consider, otherwise the consequences can prove to be fatal, as dealing with electricity and electrical components is something which should be taken seriously. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What type of motor is used in a winch?

Winches usually use two types of motors. These include permanent magnet motors and series wound motors. DC winch motors consist of one set of coils which are called an armature which is enclosed within a set of permanent magnets.

  1. How does a winch get power?

In order to operate properly, electric winches require power from a battery which can be a vehicle battery or a spare auxiliary battery which powers the winch only.

  1. Can you run a winch with jumper cables?

Winches can surely be run using a pair of jumper cables but they are only good for short and easy pulls. For sustained and heavy winching, you should opt for big cables and good battery terminals for reliable connection.

Leave a Comment