ATV winches are powerful, reliable, compact little units that can pull a substantial load. The most common mounting position is at the front of the vehicle at knee height. But there may be times when alternative mounting positions or winch orientations would suit your specific need better.
This post explores alternative winch mounting positions such as up-side-down, on the cargo racks, or rear-mounted on the hitch receiver.
The compact and powerful features of ATV winches also make them appealing alternatives when you need some do-it-yourself pulling power for your truck bed.
Can You Mount a Winch Upside Down?
Sometimes you may be unable to find a suitable mounting spot for the winch in its standard orientation. But then you notice that if you turn the winch upside down, it fits perfectly. This leaves the question: Can an ATV winch be mounted upside down?
Most ATV and UTV winches can be mounted upside down as long as you make sure the rope or cable still spools in on the side of the drum closest to the base of the winch.
However, there are exceptions where the winch manufacturers do not recommend mounting the winch upside down. Refer to the installation manual or ask the manufacturer to ensure your specific model can be mounted in the desired orientation.
Since there is no universal answer to this question, I asked some of the major winch brands if their ATV and UTV winches can be mounted upside down and if there are any special considerations you need to consider for a successful installation.
Mounting Warn ATV and Utv Winches Upside Down
According to Warn, most of their ATV and UTV winches can be mounted upside down if needed.
The gears and brake mechanism will work fine regardless of which way the winch is oriented.
Warn offers mounting plates designed specifically for various ATV and UTV models. Some of these plates do mount the winch upside down.
Warn truck winches mounts either with the foot facing down or the foot facing forward. In both cases, the cable should spool in from the bottom of the drum.
This does not necessarily mean a truck winch cannot be mounted upside down, but you should refer to Warn for advice on your specific model.
Mounting Superwinch ATV Winches Upside Down
According to Superwinch, you should not mount any of their ATV winches upside down. They did not specify why they provided this recommendation.
Mounting a Smittybilt ATV Winch Upside Down
According to Smittybilt, you can mount their ATV winches upside down, provided you ensure the winch operates in the same direction and rotation as it would if mounted right side up.
Mounting a Winchmax ATV Winch Upside Down
For ATV owners based in Europe, I find that UK-based WinchMax provides the best deal if you’re in the market for a budget-friendly alternative to Warn.
I asked Winchmax, and they replied that there is no problem with mounting the winch upside down as long as the rope is fed onto the winch drum in the same way as when mounted in the normal orientation – under the drum.
Things to Consider When Mounting a Winch Upside Down
Here are a few things to consider for a successful winch install if you plan on installing your winch upside down.
Make Sure the Rope or Cable Spools Correctly
The most crucial aspect of installing a winch upside down is ensuring the winch rope or cable spools according to the user manual’s directions.
Always spool the rope or cable to the drum from the drum’s side closest to the base of the winch.
In normal orientation, this would be from the bottom of the drum. When the winch is mounted upside down, the rope or cable should spool from the drum’s top.
To achieve this without changing winching direction, flip the winch sideways with the motor facing the opposite side.
If you install the winch so that the cable spools are on the wrong side of the drum, you introduce excess forces that the winch and mounting bracket were not designed to handle.
Some Winches Have Drain Holes to Drain Water
The winch solenoid or motor housing may have drain holes to drain out any water that may enter. Some Warn-winches have drainage slots built into the drum support.
When you flip the winch upside down, the drainage will end up at the top of the winch, where it will do no good.
Consider making new drain holes or relocating the solenoid to remain in the correct orientation.
Is Your Winch a Worm Gear Winch or a Planetary Gear Winch?
Electric winches use one of two gear styles to transfer the motor’s power to the winch drum; planetary gears or worm gear.
Planetary-style winches use grease to keep the gears lubricated. The grease will stay on the gears regardless of the winch orientation.
Worm gear winches, however, use oil to keep the gears lubed. When you turn this style of winch upside down, the oil may no longer be able to reach the gears, causing them to wear fast.
You could also get oil leaks, as the gearbox is only designed for a specific orientation.
Note: Some winches are designed to operate feet forward, while others are designed to operate feet down. Refer to your user manual to determine if your winch must be mounted in a specific orientation to work correctly.
Make Sure You Have Proper Access to the Engagement Lever
The engagement lever or knob is usually placed for optimal access when the winch is oriented with the drum on top. When you flip the winch, you may find the lever in an awkward position, making it hard to operate.
It May Become Harder to Monitor the Winch Rope as You Spool Back In
With the drum at the bottom of the winch, it may become harder to visually ensure the winch rope spools back nicely onto the drum and not on one side, possibly causing a jam. Here are six ways to untangle a stuck or jammed-up winch.
Can you Reverse Winch Polarity?
Some wonder whether you can reverse polarity to make the winch turn in the opposite direction.
Technically you can make the electric DC motor in your winch turn in the opposite direction by reversing the polarity, but that does not mean you should.
The Automatic Winch Brakes Will Not Work and May Become Damaged
The winch has an automatic brake to hold back when spooling out under load and hold the load when the winch motor is not activated.
The brakes on all planetary gear and some worm drive winches are designed to work in only one direction.
If you switch direction, the brake can no longer hold back as you winch out.
Also, when you winch in, you will overpower the brake that keeps trying to stop the drum from turning. This will cause the brake to wear fast or fail.
Note that some worm drive winches have brakes that can be reversed to operate the winch in a different orientation. Refer to your user manual to learn if your winch has this feature.
The Winch Cable May Come Loose
The winch drum cable retainer is designed to retain the cable in only one direction.
Installing the cable in the opposite direction may cause a loose cable and possibly damage it, causing it to break.
The Gears May Be Designed to Pull Only in One Direction
The gears in most winches are optimized to handle higher stress loads in only one direction as you pull in. If you switch the motor’s direction, you will stress the gears in which direction they are designed to free spool outwards.
It May Damage the Winch Motor Brushes
The brushes are designed to pull in a specific direction on some but not all winch motors. If you reverse polarity, the engine may still work, but it will not perform optimally.
Can You Switch Winching Direction?
Can you switch the winch direction by using “in” as “out” and “out” as “in”?
Winding the drum in the opposite direction would fix the issue of the rope being at the drum’s top.
But this should be avoided as it will cause many of the same issues as hardwiring the winch motor to run in the opposite direction. The most critical issue is brake failure.
Most winch user manuals include a clear warning against switching winching direction.
Check this article to learn how to properly install a winch rope or cable to the winch drum.
Can You Mount an ATV Winch on the Hitch Receiver?
Mounting your ATV winch to the hitch receiver can be a good option if you’re looking for a solid yet detachable rear mounting position for the winch.
Many manufacturers offer brackets that will fit your winch and attach to your ATV’s two-inch receiver.
Make sure to get some extra same gauge cable like the one that came with your winch, along with some heavy-duty quick connect plugs. By using plugs, you can remove the winch when not in use quickly.
Can You Mount a Winch to Your ATV’s Cargo Racks?
Generally, I would advise against mounting a winch on the cargo racks since most cargo racks aren’t designed to withstand the load from winch pulling.
The hitch receiver makes a much better mounting position if you’re not looking to install the winch permanently.
However, some manufacturers offer brackets for specific models, such as this one for a Yamaha Grizzly.
Can You Mount an ATV Winch to Your Truck Bed?
An ATV winch can be an excellent accessory to pull, let’s say, an ATV onto your truck’s truck bed. However, it will require some mechanical know-how, as you must fabricate a bracket to hold the winch in place.
Make sure you make the bracket strong enough to handle the rated pulling power of the winch. This video will give you some ideas on approaching a project like this.
Can You Mount an ATV Winch on a Truck?
There should be no issues using an ATV winch on a truck as long as the truck is not too heavy for the winch-rated towing capacity.
A small ATV winch on a large truck will not work, while a larger one on a small or medium-sized winch may be a good alternative.
Check out this post to learn what size winch you should get for various vehicle sizes.
As we wrap up, remember that the key to successful ATV winch installation, regardless of the mounting position or orientation, is careful planning and understanding your specific winch’s technical specifications.
Always prioritize safety and refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines when unsure.