It’s not a matter of if it will happen, it is a matter of when. If you’re out wheeling in your UTV, there will come a time when you’re stuck. No matter how good your equipment is or how big your tires are, it’s going to happen eventually. Whether you are stuck in slick southern mud, wedged on a gnarly rock trail or lost momentum climbing a steep hill, a good quality winch is something that everyone should have.
The standard rule of thumb over the years has been your winch size should be equal to 1.5 to double the capacity of your vehicle’s weight. While this still seems to hold true in the world of full size rigs, we’ve found that UTVs are better served with higher rated capacity winches. With the Polaris RzR, Can-Am Maverick X3, Honda Talons and Wildcat XX all coming in somewhere between 1,500 and 1,800 pounds in their stock configuration, we’ve found that 4,500 lbs plus winches are best suited for modern top of the line UTVs.
We are also strong advocates of using synthetic line instead of steel cable. The pros and cons are best saved for another article, but the bottom line is that synthetic line is generally stronger and safer than steel cable. Additionally, if you ever plan to race, steel cable is not allowed by any of the major race sanctioning bodies.
1. Warn Axon 45-S
The Warn Axon 45-S is the most expensive winch on this list, but in our opinion it is also the best. Warn has been the premier name in electric winch recovery for many years and continues to innovate. When the Axon was first introduced, it brought several firsts to the market along with it. First, it saves both time and space with it’s exclusive digital contactor, called the Motactor. Other powersports winches on the market have a contactor that is installed elsewhere on the vehicle. Having this integrated makes installation as simple as running a positive and ground to your battery, hooking up the switch and you’re done.
The Axon features an all metal construction, boasts an IP68 water and dust-proof rating and has an advanced digital controller than monitors speed, load and motor temperature. The built in load limiter prevents damage to the winch and will shut down the winch before damaging the device. Also exclusive to the Axon is a whole new clutch design which is based on the tried and true Warn 4WD locking hubs. Warn offers a three year electrical warranty and lifetime mechanical warranty on all of their Axon winches.
2. Superwinch Terra 45 SR
The Superwinch Terra has gained a strong reputation over the years for being one of the toughest and most reliable winches on the market. The low amp draw and comparably fast line speeds also makes it one of the most efficient winches available.
Superwinch uses larger planetary gears than most other winch manufacturers and also uses larger wiring on their motors. Superwinch also uses a unique reinforced drum that is made with synthetic line in mind to provide one of the strongest winches on the market today. The Terra 45 SR is backed by a one year electrical, lifetime mechanical warranty.
3. Viper Elite 4500
If fast no load line speeds is what you’re looking for, then the Viper Elite may be the winch for you. A blistering fast speed of 26 feet per minute is achieved with its 136:1 gear set and 1.8 HP motor. Using the taller gears makes this the fastest no load UTV winch on the market, however that comes with a cost with the motor really pushing at its max load rating and only pulling at three feet per minute and pulls the most amps out of any winch on our list at 318A at 4,500 lbs.
The Viper Elite also tops our list of winches with 65′ of line on the wide spool version. Another nice feature that the Viper offers is several different color lines to match most color schemes available on your UTV. The Viper Elite has a one year electrical, lifetime mechanical warranty.
4. SuperATV 4500 Black Ops
SuperATV’s winches have quickly gained a solid reputation among UTV enthusiasts for their reliability and value for the money with the most affordable winch that was able to make our list. This winch also offers added value in including a wireless winch controller for even more convenient operation.
While having slower no load line speeds than other winches on this list at 11.6 ft/min, the winch from SuperATV is built for being reliable while not taxing your electrical system. No load amp draw is the lowest among all winches we reviewed at only 20 amps. It is slightly larger than other winches reviewed and its rugged design and features weatherproof seals to keep the elements out in the harshest of conditions. SuperATV offers a one year warranty on their winch.
5. KFI SE45-R2 Stealth
This newer offering from KFI improves on the previous Stealth design and also includes a dash rocker switch so that you can winch from inside your UTV without having to deal with bulky remotes or buy additional switches.
Line speeds are solid with 12.8 ft/min unloaded and 4.6 ft/min at full capacity. The KFI also boasts weather resistant seals and is backed by a one year warranty on both electrical and mechanical components.