Accessories

Everything You Need to Know When Shopping for 12000–Pound Winches

best 12000-pound winches

The winch is a vastly underrated tool. Aside from making your vehicle of choice look decidedly cooler, the aforementioned piece of equipment is also useful for heavy duty applications.

If you need help moving heavy items and packages, this is the exact type of automobile accessory you will want to have on hand. That previously strenuous task can be made significantly easier. Winches that can haul 12000 pounds are particularly helpful in that scenario.

On top of that, the winch will also end up proving its worth to you if you frequently take your truck or your jeep outdoors. In the off chance that your vehicle ends up stuck while you’re attempting to go through some rough terrain, the winch will help you recover from that rough spot.

You need to equip your vehicle properly before you subject it to the challenges of everyday work and the great outdoors and you can accomplish that through the addition of a winch.

In this article, we’ll talk about some of the top 12000-pound winches that are currently on the market and we’ll also hone in on the factors that make up a good one so that you can make the right purchase.

PhotoProductCableMotorGeartrain/Ratio:Price
Warn 89120 ZEON 12 and ZEON 12-SWarn 89120 ZEON 120.375-inch diameter, 80 feet6hp Series WoundThree-stage planetary/216:1Check Price
Warn 96820 VR 12 and VR 12-SWarn 96820 VR 120.375-inch diameter, 80 feet5.5hp Series WoundThree-stage planetary/216:1Check Price
Smittybit 97412 XRC WinchSmittybit 97412 XRC Winch0.375-inch diameter, 80 feet6.6hp Series WoundThree-stage planetary/193.2:1Check Price
Harbor Freight BadLand ZXR WinchHarbor Freight BadLand ZXR Winch0.375-inch diameter, 100 feet6hp Series WoundThree-stage planetary/265:1Check Price

Warn 89120 ZEON 12 Winch 

Warn 89120 ZEON 12 Specs
Model: ZEON 12
Motor: 12V DC, series wound
Duty cycle: Intermittent
Geartrain/Ratio: Three-stage planetary/216:1
Brake: Automatic Direct Drive Cone
Cable: 0.375-inch diameter, 80 feet
Dimensions: 24.25 L x 7.14” D x 10.52” H
Mounting Pattern: 10.0” x 4.5”
Weight: 98 lbs
Remote Type: Remote switch, 12’ (3.7m) Lead
Recommended Battery: 650CCA Minimum for winching

Let’s kick this set of reviews off with a product from Warn, arguably the biggest name in the winch industry.

With products like these, it’s often difficult to figure out if you’re about to get a great return on your significant financial investment or if you’re being asked to pay a high amount for name recognition alone. I’m here to make that call easier for you. In the case of Warn’s ZEON 12, you’re receiving a high-quality product.

Durability is the strong suit of this winch. There’s no reason whatsoever to be wary of using this winch in poor conditions. The satin black powder coating finish is not just for show. It’s a feature of this winch that discourages corrosion. The stainless steel fasteners help with that too. Similarly helpful to the cause of increasing this product’s durability level is the presence of the large aluminum winch drum. That part of the winch will work to effectively lengthen the life of the steel cable operating inside this item.

Warn 89120 ZEON aluminum winch drum

Notably, you can also choose to get the ZEON 12-S variant of this Warn offering. Instead of the steel cable, the ZEON 12-S makes use of a urethane-coated synthetic rope. From getting the chance to use both variants of the ZEON 12, I can say that the steel cable and synthetic rope were both able to maneuver heavy loads with ease, though I personally lean towards the rope due to it being easier to repair and respool.

The performance level is where you expect it to be for a premium winch. Both the cable and rope are able to draw back into the winch drum with relative ease and without causing much of a ruckus.

The only difficulties I ran into while using the ZEON 12 emerged during the installation process. A lack of familiarity with Warn products will most certainly have an adverse impact on how quickly you can have this winch mounted on your jeep or truck. Furthermore, you may need to make some adjustments that deviate from the included instructions to get it set up properly. The at times annoying installation process will be worth it once this winch is operational on the front of your vehicle though.

Key Features:

  • Satin black powder coated finish, stainless steel fasteners, improved winch sealing, and larger winch drum elevate the item’s durability
  • Cable and/or synthetic rope pull back into the drum quickly
  • Various mounting options available for you to use

Recommendation: It will cost a pretty penny, but the price is worth paying considering this winch’s high-end durability and reliable performance. 

Warn 96820 VR 12 Winch 

Warn 96820 VR 12 Specs
Model: Warn 96820 VR 12
Motor: 12V DC, Series Wound
Duty cycle: Intermittent
Geartrain/Ratio: Three-stage planetary/216:1
Brake: Automatic Direct Drive Cone
Cable: 0.375-inch diameter, 80 feet
Cable nominal strength:  
Dimensions: 21.80” L x 6.3” D x 9.8” H
Mounting Pattern: 10.0” x 4.5” (254mm x 114.3mm)
Weight: 76 lbs
Remote Type: Remote switch, 12” (3.7m) Lead
Recommended Battery: 650CCA Minimum for winching

The worst thing you can call any winch is unreliable. These machines are often called upon to work during emergencies and in situations wherein no other item is capable of completing the job.

When you turn to your winch for assistance, you need to know that it will be able to work as expected. The internal components of the winch greatly impact how reliable it is. Fortunately for many consumers, reliability is the main selling point of Warn’s VR 12 Winch.

Instead of relying on solenoids, the VR 12 makes use of an Albright contractor. The difference that design choice makes in terms of power regulation is noticeable.  It allows user to be more precise with the movements of the winch while simultaneously serving as a more reliable internal component of the machine.

The typical issue with using a contractor instead of solenoids is that the former is prone to sustaining damage as a result of foreign elements getting through. The waterproof feature of the Albright contractor helps significantly minimize that threat.

The cast iron brace installed on this item is useful for strengthening the winch and providing users with improved control over the machine. The included clutch lever then works to make operating this winch an easier undertaking.

Similar to the ZEON 12, you can get the VR 12 that comes equipped with a steel cable or the synthetic rope. I still prefer the synthetic rope in this scenario, but the steel cable may prove to be a better option if you require something sturdier.

This winch’s performance is more than acceptable. It can handle the 12000 pounds as advertised and the rope and cable both retract into the drum with no problem.

Warn-96820-VR-12-in-use

It’s harder to blend this winch into the façade of your vehicle however. The connector cables are impossible to hide and they can turn into real eyesores.

The folks at Warn have delivered another quality product in the VR 12, but it’s certainly a machine that can be improved upon.

Key Features:

  • Albright contractor is capable of working at all times and will not easily succumb to the elements
  • Strong motor installed allows for quicker draw of the extended rope or cable
  • Tile plate choice provides this winch with additional strength needed for moving heavier loads

Recommendation: Warn’s VR 12 will prove helpful to the nature lover who cannot be without a functioning winch.

Smittybilt 97412 XRC Winch

Smittybilt 97412 XRC Winch Specs
Motor: 6.6hp Series Wound
Geartrain/Ratio: Three-stage planetary/193.2:1
Brake: Automatic In-Drum
Cable: 0.375-inch diameter, 94 feet
Dimensions: 22.3″ x 6.4″ x 9.4″
Mounting Pattern: 10.0″ x 4.50″
Weight: 83.0Lbs
Remote Type: Remote switch, 12” (3.7m) Lead
Recommended Battery: 650CCA Minimum for winching

The winches they require must be capable of working fast and efficiently, with malfunctions few and far in between or preferably, non-existent.Many winch owners prefer to use that aforementioned machine not necessarily for outdoor expeditions, but more as helpful assistants for their day job.

The XRC Winch from Smittybit is a desirable item precisely because of the way it can work efficiently and quickly. Use the large hook included with this winch to grab hold of the target and activate it to quickly pull the item it in.

The 6.6 horsepower motor supplies more than enough juice to immediately haul in sizable pieces of cargo. The steel cable reacts and retracts remarkably fast as well. You’ll be able to get a ton of work done in a hurry by relying on this winch.

Make use of the wireless remote to work more efficiently

It’s also possible to continue working in poor conditions with the help of this winch. The IP67 waterproof rating is an indicator of what you can expect.

Getting this winch from the package to the front of your vehicle can be somewhat of a challenge especially if you’re new to the task. Customizations may end up being necessary.

The bigger gripe I have is that the folks at Smittybit could have used better materials to make this winch. Plastic is present all throughout this winch and while it doesn’t break or crack easily, the material is noticeably more susceptible to dents and scratches. Forms of damage like that can pile up and they can turn a previously reliable winch into one that looks bad on the front of your truck.

Key Features:

  • Hook for the winch is well-sized and will be able to grab hold of bulkier loads
  • Steel cable retracts quickly and quietly into the drum
  • Waterproof body preserves the internal components of this machine

Recommendation: Go with this winch if you plan to use it for everyday tasks, but look for something else if you want a machine that will last for an extended period of time.

Harbor Freight BadLand ZXR Winch

Harbor Freight BadLand ZXR Winch Specs
Motor: 6hp series-wound motor (12VDC)
Duty cycle rating: 5 percent (45 sec @ max-rated load)
Geartrain/Ratio: Three-stage planetary/265:1
Brake: Auto load-holding 8.8 x 2.5-inch drum
Cable: 0.375-inch diameter, 100 feet
Cable nominal strength: 14,400 pounds
Dimensions: 20.9 x 6.4 x 8.3 in
Mounting Pattern: 10.0 x 4.5 in
Weight: 86.8 pounds (complete with steel cable)

Getting great value out of a winch is a goal for many and I’m guessing that holds true for you as well. What constitutes a good value proposition when it comes to winches depends a lot on your preferences and spending capabilities.

A valuable winch could cost a lot of money but perform well enough and offer enough durability to make that elevated price tag worth it. If price is an important consideration for you, then what you’ll see as a good value proposition may depend on whether you prefer better performance or durability in a winch.

The BadLand ZXR Winch from Harbor Freight is not the fastest machine you’ll see. The six horsepower motor imposes some noticeable limitations on the winch. The line retracts well enough, but it won’t fly back into the drum. I wouldn’t say that this winch performs poorly, but it’s a notch or two below some of the high-end options on the market.

All that said, once you’re able to mount this winch on your car, you can expect it to stay there for a very long time. The frame of this winch is remarkably durable and its internal components are adequately protected. Whether you decide to use it for off-roading or for chores, it will hold up well.

The cable is a bit shorter than what you’ll see on many winches and that can be annoying. Thankfully, the hook is still suitably sized and you won’t have trouble grabbing on to your targets.

Harbor-Freight-BadLand-ZXR-Winch

Don’t expect a perfect item if you decide to purchase the ZXR Winch from Harbor Freight, but go ahead and count on it to remain useful well after the time you first bought it.

Key Features:

  • Decent power and speed for winch in the middle of the pack in terms of price
  • Hook is big enough to be used easily on many targets
  • It will not clutter up the front portion of your vehicle

Recommendation: If you’re willing to sacrifice premium performance for a more affordable price tag and exceptional durability, you’ll be pleased with the BadLand ZXR Winch from Harbor Freight.

Buyer’s Guide

Buying a winch means taking into account factors such as capacity, the type of connector used, and the fit on your vehicle among many other things. This buyer’s guide will help shed some light on what winch you should look for based on your needs and preferences.

What Do I Need in Terms of Capacity?

The winches we discussed above are ones designed to pull 12000 pounds of weight. In all likelihood, you will not be lugging around anything that weighs that much.

Even so, it is better to get a winch that is capable of pulling plenty of weight if you can. Remember that winches are also used for towing vehicles that have gotten stuck. That means the winch needs to be able to hold the weight of the vehicle as well as all the added force required to move it.

Try to look for a winch that features a carrying capacity that is around twice of your vehicle’s weight. By doing that, you won’t have to worry about getting stuck in the wilderness because your winch isn’t strong enough.

Should I Go with the Synthetic Rope or the Steel Cable?

If you’re just taking into consideration their performance, synthetic rope and steel cable are pretty close to one another. However, if you don’t mind paying a bit extra, go ahead and get the synthetic rope.

The synthetic rope is simply easier to work with. Once you’re done using the winch, it’s easier to respool the rope compared to the cable. Plus, you can tie synthetic rope back together should it snap. The same cannot be said for steel cable.

Do I Need to Be Concerned about the Size of the Winch?

You certainly don’t want your winch to stand out like a sore thumb on the front of your vehicle. Because of that, I tend to like the smaller winches more. They’re easier to fit on most vehicles and installing them is often a less troublesome endeavor as well.

What Protective Features Should I Look for?

Make it a point to check if the winch you’re eyeing is waterproof or, at the very least, water-resistant. I would also take a closer look at the housing of the winch to see if the motor is way too exposed.

Winches will have sometimes have to work in harsh conditions and you don’t want them to malfunction in those scenarios because they are not adequately prepared for the outdoors.

Conclusion

Winches can prove to be incredibly useful additions to your vehicle, but only if you take the time to search for one that is able to meet your needs and preferences. With the right type of winch mounted on your vehicle, traveling off the beaten path will be a much safer undertaking and labor-intensive everyday tasks will also be easier to complete.

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