Best winch for your Jeep: why I think it’s Warn

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One of the main points I raised in my full guide to Jeep bumpers was the fact that you should consider a winch plate on your front bumper.

And an actual winch for your Wrangler too.

It’s not mandatory, no. But think of it as a form of insurance. You never know when it’ll come in handy, but you’d be taking a risk by not having one.

A common issue I’ve seen with some beginner Jeep owners is them shooting for unknown brands participating in a race to the cheapest prices.

Don’t be like that – quality matters, as it guarantees your safety. A reputable brand like Warn manufactures their M8000-s winch in the US and has a proven reputation among Jeep owners.

This model’s higher grade synthetic rope will take care of you and your Jeep, saving you in those sticky off road situations.

If you want something more affordable, get a Smittybilt XRC or one of Warn’s VR series. Both are well-balanced winches for the money, though the VR is better.

Why exactly Warn?

There are a limited number of proper winch manufacturers, with Warn and Smittybilt being the most popular for mid-range products.

I will include some Smittybilt options too, don’t worry. However, go on any serious Jeep owner community – WranglerForum, JeepForum, you name it.

You’ll see that 90% of the people there have a Warn. There are a few good reasons for that, including the fact I mentioned: Warn produce locally. No outsourcing in China.

Let me go through 4 best winches for Jeeps, before I talk a bit on synthetic ropes, winch pull load and other points.

Important note: If you plan on intense winch usage or wilder off-road adventures, consider going with a 10K+ winch! 

Top pick
WarnM8000small
  • Warn M8000-s
  • Best for:
    Overall quality: heavy duty, lightweight, fully manufactured in the US. Extra long synthetic rope.
  • Winch pull:
    8000 lbs.
  • Rope material:
    3/8" synthetic spydura cable, 100 feet long
  • Weight:
    74 lbs

    ★★★★★
  • Motor power:
    4.8HP / 12V

    ★★★★½
Balanced
WarnVR10000
  • Warn VR10000
  • Best for:
    Value for money, for beginners who want reasonably priced Warn quality. 10,000 lbs pull with 3/8" steel rope.
  • Winch pull:
    10000 lbs.
  • Rope material:
    3/8" steel rope, 80 feet long
  • Weight:
    89 lbs

    ★★★★
  • Motor power:
    4.8HP / 12V

    ★★★★½
Budget
SmittybiltXRCSmall
  • Smittybilt XRC
  • Best for:
    Most popular Smittybilt winch. A budget pick with good performance of 9500 lbs and a 6.6HP motor.
  • Winch pull:
    9500 lbs.
  • Rope material:
    5/16" thicker steel rope, 94 feet long
  • Weight:
    78 lbs

    ★★★★
  • Motor power:
    6.6HP / 12V

    ★★★★★
Waterproof
SmittybiltX20Small
  • Smittybilt X20
  • Best for:
    Fully waterproof winch with synthetic rope and 10 000 lbs pulling power. Smittybilt's finest.
  • Winch pull:
    10000 lbs.
  • Rope material:
    3/8" synthetic rope, 98.5 feet long
  • Weight:
    67 lbs

    ★★★★★
  • Motor power:
    6.6HP / 12V

    ★★★★★

4 best winches for any Jeep

1. Absolute best winch for Jeep:
Warn M8000-s [Synthetic]

The best Warn winch for any Jeep is the synthetic M8000-s series. Lightweight, strong, pulls at 8000 lbs.

I know, on first glance, the M8000-s seems like quite the investment. And it is – but it’ll last you for years to come.

The simple most important distinction here is the 3/8″ synthetic spydura cable that’s 100 feet long. It’s flexible, lightweight and will float in both mud or water for any extreme off road scenarios. It’s also way thinner than the normal steel ropes.

So while the standard M8000 weighs 74 lbs and has a 5/16″, bulky steel rope, the M8000-s weighs only 55 lbs with its 3/8″ synthetic.

In terms of pulling capacity, you’re getting 8000 pounds. For an extra customized, total offroad beast, a 10 000 lbs winch might be better.

But for probably 95% of Jeep owners, the M8000-s will offer the pulling power they have dreamed of. Some people even decide to have some fun testing its pull weight with logs:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMmLgw4mWfs

Note that the series wound motor is 12V and comes with a good 4.8HP. The high quality 3-stage planetary gearing only adds the final touch to a sturdy, powerful and reliable Wrangler winch.

Unlike many other winches, the Warn M8000 series – both steel or synthetic, has all of its parts manufactured locally. It’s reassuring to know that, as plenty of Chinese-built winches are known to cause issues when put under heavier strain.

Keep in mind that if you have your stock front bumper, you’ll need to also get a winch plate. Otherwise you won’t have the space to put the M8000-s.

2. Best Warn winch for the money:
Warn VR 10 000 lbs

The VR series are the best Warn Wrangler winch for the money, considering their price and performance.

The VR series are Warn’s entry level winches, but they still perform spectacularly. If you want a mix of the power of a 10,000 lbs winch and an affordable price tag, this is your best bet.

The VR series come with a low-profile design that fits neatly in any winch plate. The manufactured Warn winch plates actually provide increased protection, so you might consider pairing the two.

There are two main differences between the entry-level VR series and the higher-grade Warn winches.

First, here the rope is only 80 feet (instead of 100.) With the particular 10 000 lbs pulling power winch, it’s made of 3/8″ steel, standard roller fairlead.

This JK winch is also quite heavy at 89 lbs, way more than the relatively lightweight elite series. Keep that in mind, especially if you’re doing a lot of extreme off-road trips on tough terrain. Added weight has a tremendous impact.

The planetary gear and motor stay the same, however: 3-stage gears and a 12V, 4.8HP series wound motor beast once again.

What I like is that you also get the 12-feet distance weather resistant remote control for the winch. Not having to worry about extreme weather conditions messing with your pulling is a godsent.

All in all, not the most premium treatment, but the VR series feature one of the best off road winches for the money.

3. Most popular Jeep Wrangler winch:
Smittybilt XRC

Smittybilt also have nice JK winches, with this one being great at 9500 pull, but somewhat weighty build.

Smittybilt are quite popular due to their attractive prices and reasonable quality. Personally, I think they can’t be compared to Warn, but that’s just my opinion.

What I can’t dispute, however, is that the XRC comes packed in with some very nice features for its price.

The first thing is the motor – this is a more powerful 6.6HP series wound motor, which upgrades on Warn’s 4.8HP. Way more power that’s once again supplemented by 3-stage planetary gear.

The winch line pull leans on the heavy duty side with its 9500 lbs capacity. Considering the price point, this is a crazy bargain. Especially adding the fact that you have an IP67 waterproof rating too.

If you plan on taking the Wrangler beast out for a rainy walk, you’ll love the XRC winch for Jeeps.

That said, once again you don’t have a synthetic rope here, which shoots the weight to 78 lbs. That’s quite a bit – but at least you’ve got a longer 94 feet cord to compensate.

The downside is that Smittybilt winches are made in China, so you don’t get that local manufacture a lot of Jeep owners love. Honestly, it makes sense – if it was locally sourced, the XRC would be probably double the price.

4. Best waterproof JK winch:
Smittybilt X20 Synthetic

If you want a strong (10 000 lbs), fully waterproof winch for Wranglers, the X20 Smittybilt is best suited for this.

Fully waterproof and synthetic? Now this is something any Jeep owner can stand behind!

The X20 takes everything the XRC did right and does a marvelous upgrade. Despite my usual Smittybilt scepticism, I’m impressed.

In short, you’re getting both 10 000 lbs of winch pulling power, paired with the 6.6HP wound motor parts.

And a juicy 3/8“ synthetic rope for some cutting edge wire action. Lightweight, flexible, and quite durable.

The big deal, however, is the IP68 rating which allows Smittybilt to boast that this is fully waterproof. A huge plus for any of you who you find yourself crossing lakes, rivers and other basins.

Considering the fact that the synthetic rope also floats on water, this is the best winch of this type of off road fun.

The weight clocks at around 67 lbs according to Smittybilt, which is quite acceptable for the heavy-duty, tough X20.

Note that you want at least a 650CCA Jeep battery to set things in motion here. Also, as always – make sure your front bumper has the proper-fitting winch guard!

Winch ropes: Steel (Wire) vs Synthetic

As you saw, I gave you two steel rope choices, and two synthetic rope winches. It’s obvious that the synthetic ones are more expensive.

What gives?

Synthetic ropes are newer technology, basically. As I’ve mentioned before, some of their benefits include:

  • Less weight on your bumper

  • No energy storage

  • Floating in water or mud

  • Thinner diameter (3/8“ compared to 5/16“ steel)

  • More strength

  • Greater flexibility

The downside is that you need a protection sleeve, or they should be coated – otherwise the UV rays can harm them. In fact, if you mess with them around sources of higher heat, they could melt!

Steel ropes for Wrangler winches were the standard, and there are still plenty of models using them. The good things about steel wires are:

  • Better ability to drag on rocks

  • Resistance to abrasions and harsher treatment

  • More affordable price

  • No problem with UV rays, no protection needed

  • Better overall durability

That said, these things weigh, and they weigh a lot. Also, they store some of the energy, which can be a hazard if the winch breaks due to more serious impacts.

For those of you who are near water sources, the fact that steel ropes don’t float can be a significant drawback too. The lack of flexibility is an important factor as well, steel is, of course, rigid.

Still, make no mistake. A quality steel rope winch is always better than a cheap one with synthetics. Focus on overall quality, not only the rope!

How to pick the right winch for your Jeep

Winches range from 4000 lbs, up to 12 000 (or even more.) Most models focus on either 8000 or 10 000 lbs, as these are the standard pulling weights for the average JK or TJ.

Opinions differ, but the general consensus is that your winch should pull 1.5 to 2 times the weight of your ride.

It’s safe to say that a 8000 lbs will be the right pull for the majority of Jeeps. Unless, of course, you’ve done some really heavy modifications on your vehicle!

Note on winching and Jeep batteries

I’ve talked about this in my post comparing Odyssey and Optima batteries, but I’ll write it again:

Winching comes hand in hand with your battery. If you have a weak battery, the winch will put your electrical system to sleep. And that’s the last thing you want out there in the wild.

A less-than-650CCA battery with a more powerful winch is asking to trouble.

Consider going for cold cranking at 850CCA or above, depending on how heavy-duty your Jeep winch will be. If you go with a 12 000 lbs monster, get something that goes beyond 1150 CCA.

Once again, alternators play a significant role too. The alternator-battery-winch triangle should be paid close attention to. Make the math, depending on your specific case, and ensure there will be enough power to run these three smoothly!

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