The Cherokee XJ is an undeniable classic. Even 20 years after they were discontinued, Cherokee XJs can still fetch up to $10,000. But what are the best winches for an XJ?
One of the best winches for Jeep Cherokee XJ is the Zeon Platinum from Warn if you have a big budget. If you’re looking for something cheaper, Smittybilt and Superwinch make great contenders for much less money than Warn. The most important things to consider are cost, durability, and load capacity.
In this post, we’ll be looking at six different options for winches in detail to find out how they compare. There are loads of great options for a Jeep Cherokee when it comes to winches, which means there are loads to talk about in this article. We’d better get started then!
About the Cherokee XJ
Jeep is a deeply beloved brand, and there is an argument to be made for the Cherokee XJ, which came out of a partnership with French company Renault, being the most beloved of all their vehicles. In around 2007, a joke post on a forum went viral, which claimed, among (many) other things, that the XJ was hewn from a solid block of granite by lightning bolts.
The running joke became so widespread that the price of XJs actually started to climb again despite them being very numerous. Of course, the joke was not the only reason for this. Cherokee XJs were a breakthrough vehicle for several reasons.
You could even say that they were the pioneer that paved the way for modern SUVs. There is a good reason people are still driving Cherokee XJs today—it was simply a great vehicle.
What Is the Purpose of a Winch?
A winch is a mod that is added to SUVs, Jeeps, and other off-road vehicles. The two main purposes are to pull your Jeep out of a bad situation or to pull an obstacle like a fallen tree out of your path. Mostly they are used to pull the vehicle out of mud or up an incline.
A winch consists of a long cable, steel or synthetic, attached to a motor, which can be electrical, hydraulic, or mechanical. For doing serious off-roading, a winch is absolutely vital.
These days, almost all winches are either electric or hydraulic. For off-roading in a Cherokee XJ, electric should do just fine. As mentioned above, they are not as heavy as you might think.
Hydraulic winches generally have a higher load capacity, meaning they can pull heavier objects, but you can get ample load capacity for an XJ using an electric winch. Hydraulic winches are generally only used for things like big trucks and construction equipment.
What to Consider When Buying a Winch for Jeep Cherokee XJ
There are a few different specs you should look at before committing to a winch. Different people will need different winches depending on their needs, so it is good to think about what you want to get out of your winch.
It is also good to set a budget for yourself before you start looking around since this will make you less likely to impulse buy an expensive winch. Here are a few of the top things to consider:
How much weight your winch needs to be able to pull depends on a lot of things. The most important is your Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). You can find this on a sticker on the driver side door jamb of your Jeep. XJs are actually surprisingly light vehicles.
Depending on the year of production, your GVWR should be around 5,000 pounds (2,268 kgs). The GVWR is the vehicle’s total weight plus the total weight of everything inside it when at max capacity.
When deciding on a winch, the rule of thumb is that the pulling strength should be between 1.5 and 2 times the GVWR. So, if your gross weight is 5,000 pounds (2268 kgs), you should look for a winch that can pull between 7,500 and 10,000 pounds (3,402 and 4,536 kgs). It is probably a good idea to go for the higher end of this range.
You will probably not regret having too much pulling strength, but when you are in a bind, you might well regret having too little.
There is a pretty huge range of prices out there for winches. Right at the top of the range are Warn, a brand that sets the gold standard for the industry. Often with winches, you will get what you paid for, with more expensive brands being of higher quality.
However, there are plenty of cheap options out there that punch above their weight, so it is worth looking into reviews of the cheaper winches. That is especially true if you are a casual hobbyist.
It is good to read reviews of a winch before purchase to ensure there are no obvious durability issues. Usually, the more expensive winches will also be more durable, but there are always exceptions.
Still, if you are looking for a durable, reliable winch, and money is not really an issue, it is tough to beat Warn. Make sure to check out the warranty before you buy. Even the most durable winches can break down from time to time.
Winch speed should not be one of your main considerations since there is a minimal upside to having a super-fast winch. In fact, there is an argument to be made for slower speed being better.
If the winch pulls the cable in too fast, you might see a problem but not have enough time to turn the winch off before it gets damaged. It is doubtful that you would be in a huge hurry to get out of the mud. It is always better to be slow and safe than speedy and sorry.
Steel or Synthetic Cable: Which One Is Better?
There has been a debate raging in the winching community for quite some time as to whether the new synthetic cable holds up to the traditional steel. There are pros and cons to each type, so it is worth looking at the debate in detail before moving on to the winches themselves.
For many years, steel was the standard material for a winch cable. Tried and tested, many off-roaders stick by the steel option even as synthetics get better and better. Even now, there are several factors that make steel cable an attractive choice. Here are some of the pros and cons of steel cables:
- Durable: Steel cables are very low-maintenance and are extremely unlikely to break due to improper care or wearing down over time.
- Cheap: Synthetic cables are far more expensive than steel.
- Thin: Synthetic cables are thicker, which means you can fit more steel cable into a drum than synthetic.
- Weak: Steel ropes tend to have a lower breaking point than synthetics.
- Kinks: Steel cable kinks and can have a ‘memory.’
- Heavy: Steel cables are generally about four times heavier than synthetics. That’s not great when it comes to fuel economy.
- Safety: Steel cables store the pull’s energy, so when they break, they act as a whip and can cause serious injury.
While much newer than steel, synthetic cables have grown massively in popularity in recent years for several reasons. Most would agree that they are a better choice, but they will be more expensive and require cleaning. Here are some of the pros and cons of synthetic rope:
- Strong: Synthetic rope has a much higher breaking point than steel.
- Light: It is significantly lighter than steel.
- Safety: It does not act as a whip when it snaps (safer break).
- No kinks: It is easier to spool, and no kinks will form.
- Requires maintenance: You must regularly spool out and clean synthetic rope to remove sand and dirt.
- Expensive: It is significantly more expensive than steel cables.
- Thick: It can fit slightly less into a drum due to thickness.
Okay, now that we have gone over some winch basics, it is time to look in more detail at which winches are best-suited to life on an XJ. Since this Jeep has been out of production for quite some time, some winch brands will not still be releasing winches specifically designed to sit on an XJ.
However, there are many ways to get around this, like buying a winch mount plate and installing it on your Jeep. Here are six of the best winches for your Cherokee XJ:
If you are looking for the best winch around, and you don’t care how much it costs, then the Zeon Platinum might be the way to go. Reliable, powerful, and absolutely packed with extra features, this is one of the best winches money can buy.
However, the price can be a real drawback, with this model coming in at between $1,600 – $2,000 on Amazon (depending on which size you get). It must be said that you really do get your money’s worth.
Moab Jeeper carried out a trial in which seven winches from different major brands were put through a series of grueling challenges called ‘Winches in Hell.’ No one was surprised when Warn took the top spot on the podium.
With an IP68 waterproof rating, a pull rating of 10,000 – 12,000 lbs (4,536 – 5,443 kgs), and a wireless remote that can read the motor temperature as well as control two other accessories, this really is one of the most advanced and durable winches money can buy.
With a load capacity of 9,500 pounds (4,309 kgs), this winch should be more than powerful enough to deal with your Cherokee XJ, no matter what cargo you are carrying. Plus, there is the option to go all the way up to 17,500 lbs (7,938 kgs).
Not only does it have an amphibious 6.6 horsepower motor and planetary gear system, but this winch is also pretty cheap, coming in at just around $250. This winch is operated with a remote connected by a 12-foot (3.7-meter) lead.
It also comes with a considerable warranty, with limited repairs for five years or 100,000 miles (160,934 km)—whichever comes first. The GEN 2 XRC has an IP67 waterproof rating, which means that the winch can be fully submerged in a meter of water for 30 minutes.
This winch was voted best for under $500 by Winch Mania, which is impressive considering it is only under $300. If you are not willing to pay for a premium winch like a Warn Zeon, this might be your best option.
Mile Marker has only arrived relatively recently on the commercial winching scene, but they are already strong contenders. Before focusing more on commercial winches, Mile Marker has supplied the US military with winches for their Hummers for years.
This winch is a great option if you are looking to go hydraulic. One benefit of hydraulic winches is that they can withstand being underwater better than their electric counterparts.
Again, this is a pretty expensive winch, although still much cheaper than the Warn Zeon at just above $1,000 on Amazon. The H-Series has the capacity to pull 10,500 pounds (4,763 kgs) of weight and includes all the required mounting hardware.
Unfortunately, installation does require a vehicle-specific 34-Series valve adapter kit. While there is one available for Jeep Cherokees, it will cost an extra $570. With that money, you could nearly afford the Zeon.
This is another great option if you are working with a limited budget. For just around $300, you will get a steel cable electric winch with a 12,000 lbs (5,443 kgs) load capacity.
Unlike many other budget winches, you will also get a wireless remote with the X-Bull. That is a particularly good thing to have when you are using steel cable. The further back you can stand, the better since a snapped steel cable can be hazardous.
This winch has an automatic load-holding brake to ensure safety and great torque for fast winching and cable spooling. You will definitely get more than you paid for with this one. While there are some bad customer reviews (as always), they do not really have anything in common, suggesting that there aren’t any serious underlying issues with the winch.
Again, if you are working with a tight budget, this is a fantastic choice.
Okay, maybe you have decided that you want the reliability and durability of a Warn, but you can’t afford anything like the Zeon Platinum. In that case, the M8000 might well be the winch for you.
At just around $600, this one is significantly cheaper than the Zeon but still has that Warn guarantee of great performance and long life. They are so durable, in fact, that Jeep enthusiasts are still using M8000s that were sold up to 20 years ago to this day.
Unfortunately, this one does not come with a wireless remote but has a remote with a 12-foot (3.7-meter) cable. You should not need more than 8,000 lbs (3,629 kgs) pulling capacity on a Jeep Cherokee, but some off-roaders like to air on the side of caution.
It is better to have too much power and not need it than to need more power and not have it. Still, unless you plan on winching a pretty large vehicle up a hill, 8,000 lbs (3,629 kgs) should be plenty for most uses.
The final entry is another winch that punches way above its weight. For just under $370, you will get a winch with an 8,500 lbs (3,856 kgs) pull rating, 94′ (28.7 m) of steel cable, and a handheld remote with 15′ (4.6 m) of cable.
Superwinch is known to be reliable and sturdy, especially given their low prices. In the ‘Winches in Hell’ challenge described earlier, a Superwinch was the only other brand that came anywhere close to beating the Warn.
If you are looking for a more powerful winch, you can also get this winch with a 10,000 lbs (4,536 kgs) load capacity for under $400. Again, it must be said that it is improbable that you will need more than 8,500 lbs (3,856 kgs) pull capacity for your Jeep Cherokee XJ.
This winch also has load holding braking, which is a big plus for a winch that only comes with steel cable for safety reasons. This is a reliable, durable winch at a great price point.
There are loads of great options when it comes to buying a winch for your Jeep Cherokee XJ. While Warn is still considered the gold standard in the industry, they remain significantly more expensive than many of their competitors.
Brands like Smittybiilt and Superwinch make great winches that will suit most off-roaders’ needs for half the price of a Warn or less. Make sure to read lots of reviews before buying a winch. It’s a pretty big investment, and you do not want it to break down on your first outing.
Good luck finding the right winch for your Cherokee!
- Bumper Only: How To Install A Winch And Why Do You Need One
- Cherokee Forum: What is a Good Winch?
- Cherokee Talk: Best Winch Bumpers
- Classic Cars For Sale: Jeep Cherokee Review
- Jeep Forum: Weight of XJ?
- Jeep Forum: Warn Winch vs. Mile Marker – What’s Better?
- Moab Jeeper: Jeep Articles / General (Winches In Hell)
- Mozaw: Best Winch for Jeep in 2020: Jeep Winch Reviews & Guide
- Road and Track: I’m the Reason Why Old Jeep Cherokees Are So Expensive Today
- The Drive: Best Jeep Winches: Add More Power to Your Offroad Journeys
- Winch Mania: Best Smittybilt Winch Review [Updated 2020]
- Winch Mania: Best X Bull Winch Review [Updated 2020]
- Winch Mania: Best Winch For The Money to Buy in 2020
- Winch Mania: Synthetic Rope VS. Steel Cable – Which One Is Better?
- Winch Mania: Best Winch Under $500: Reliable Winch That Meets Your Budget