What type of winch do I need?

So you know you’re going to buy a winch. The next logical question is: What type of winch do I need? To choose the best fitting winch for your application, you first must know the basic types. Winches are categorized several ways: planetary vs. worm gear or electric vs. hydraulic. Let’s break down the types and discuss how they perform in various applications.




Electric: Runs DC or AC power

PRO: Affordable

CON: Duty cycles require rest


Hydraulic: Powered by a pump or PTO with a minimum of 2,000 PSI and 7GPM

PRO: Runs continuously 

CON: Expensive


Planetary Gear: Orbiting gears offering higher speeds but lesser pulling powers.  

PRO: fast line speeds

CON: no hold

Worm Gear: A screw-like part that reduces the rotational speed but allows for greater pulling power.

PRO: Greater line pulls

CON: Slower line speeds


What's the difference between a planetary and worm gear?


The main difference in the gearing systems is their transfer efficiency.


The worm gear has a low transfer efficiency. This causes the winch to be self-braking even under heavy loads. Worm gears have the most reduction, a load-holding ability and a much slower line speed. Planetary gear winches have higher efficencies, meaning they are not load-holding, and have the tendency to unspool when loaded, but have a much higher line speed. Planetary gears are usually the more popular purchase due to the faster line speed and lower price.


You always need to keep in mind the load-holding capability and make sure you have chosen the right winch for your application.


Industrial operators using trailers and wreckers should consider a hydraulic, worm gear. Self recovery applications are best matched with an electric, planetary gear. There are exceptions to these guidelines. For example, industrial winch owners on a budget or without hydraulics will find an electric, worm gear sufficient. Some industrial applications are compatible with the electric, planetary gear, especially if the winch is used periodically throughout the month.


Hopefully we have cleared up what type of winch you need.

"Chris_Claeys"More Questions?

Just call Chris, Pierce Winch Manager at 800-658-6301