Are SmittyBilt Winches Good? Smittybilt Winches Review

When your vehicle gets stuck in a ditch, and you can’t roll it out, be it a four-wheeled ATV or a normal van, you need a winch. You might have seen Smittybilt winches in the vast catalog of manufacturers available in the market. But is a Smittybilt winch a good product, and can it serve as a winch for your specific vehicle? 

 

SmittyBilt winches are good products because they are durable, powerful, much more affordable than their competitors, and can be used for most four-wheelers. Although these winches run on electric motors that are less heavy-duty than hydraulic, it is sufficient for the average Joe. 

 

This article will precise all those confusing terms that you might have seen associated with a winch so that you can pick the best winch for you. Learning more about the terminology will also clear why Smittybilt winches are a good product, so keep reading to find out more. 

Why You Might Need a Winch

A winch, also known as a wire cable, is a device made for the hauling or lifting heavy objects. It does not matter if you fall under the category of someone who regularly drives their vehicle through a variety of difficult surfaces such as sand and mud, or if you are just the type of person who likes to be prepared for the worst-case scenario because a winch is a necessity for every vehicle. 

 

A winch will make sure that your car gets hauled out of that roadside ditch or pulled through hazardous surfaces so that the wheels do not get damaged. 

Winch Components 

Before deciding which type of winch you want to buy for your new van, you need to be familiar with the components and specifications of a winch so that you can make the best decision for your vehicle. 

 

An ordinary winch contains the following components:

 

  • A cable wire made from either synthetic fibers or metal – This material is wound tightly around a drum to prevent entanglement and is 30 to 120 meters in length. 
  • A drum – Circular in shape, it contains a spool, which is a device that ensures that the cable is wound evenly around the drum so that it doesn’t get entangled and cause problems. 
  • A motor This is the power source that powers a winch so that it can pull loads.
  • A gear train – Gear trains are a bunch of gears locked into place with one another rotating in tandem. They transform the power generated by the motor and transfer it to a functioning unit to provide the pulling power to lift heavy objects. 

The Most Important Part of a Winch: The Motor

It’s simple – having no motor on your winch means an unusable one. Although winches were operated by hand in the past, most modern uses calling for a winch need it for tasks that necessitate the exertion of a large amount of force that humans cannot accomplish. As such, winches use electric or hydraulic motors. 

Electric 

An electric motor uses the battery of the car to power the winch. If the battery is not charged before using the winch, it can drain your car’s life pretty quickly. However, winches powered by electric motors are easier to install and can be transferred from one vehicle to another with ease. Such winches are most commonly used by four-wheeler all-terrain vehicles (ATV). 

 

Being fuelled solely by the car battery also means that electric winches have a limited amount of energy to draw from. These are perfect for lifting light loads irregularly, like having to fish your car out of the sand. But if you’re gunning for regular use of heavy loads, you should use a hydraulic motor. 

Hydraulic 

Hydraulic motors work by using extremely pressurized fluid to generate a large amount of power. You might already be familiar with hydraulic motors because they are a key factor in ensuring that the brakes in your car work properly. 

 

A hydraulic motor also requires the installation of a hydraulic pump. Using a hydraulic motor means that you will load heavier loads more efficiently regularly without worrying about an energy limit. However, hydraulic motors are notably much more costly than an electric motor and are less convenient to install on vehicles. 

Types of Gear Trains

Depending on the type of winch that you possess, it could have different gearing mechanisms that impact the kind of vehicle that it should be used with. No matter the type of gear train that you have, gear trains possess the same function – lowering the high motor speed to a low speed while simultaneously increasing torque output. 

 

In simplified terms, torque refers to a force applied multiplied by the distance with which it is applied. Here are the three types of gear trains and their different capabilities. 

Planetary Gears

The most common type of gear used in a winch, planetary gears effectively reduce motor speed by utilizing a large number of small gears that have many engaged teeth. Planetary gearboxes are also very compact, which makes it a good solution for space-constrained applications. The high torque transmission also makes it a popular choice for manufacturers. 

 

However, planetary gears are also more expensive than other gear trains because the design itself is complicated and intricate. They can also wear and tear rather easily due to exposure to the sun gear and take a greater amount of time cooling down once they are in use.

 

These systems also tend to free spool when in use. Hence, a braking system could come in handy so that you don’t need to deal with any mishaps when using your winch. 

 

Overall, planetary gears have a transfer efficiency of 65% of energy generated from the motor onto the unit. 

Worm Gear

A worm gear is made up of a worm, or gear in the shape of a screw, and normal gear. Due to the worm gear’s sliding action when it has a high reduction ratio, the efficiency of the transferral of energy from the motor to the pulling unit is reduced between 30% to 50%

 

Despite the decrease in efficiency, worm gears are known for having quieter operations and absorbing shock loads such as those found in crushing machines. They also have a torque multiplication that corresponds with their high reduction ratio. 

 

Unlike planetary gears, they are also self-braking and will not back drive and release spool freely. They offer a higher reduction ratio than planetary gear, high reliability with strong durability, and slower loading speed than planetary gear. 

Spur Gear

A spur gear system is the easiest type of gear system to manufacture because it is relatively straightforward. These gears have a great speed reduction ratio and torque multiplication, but they also produce a great deal of noise. If you have a washing machine or a food blender, you can attest to the spur gear system’s loudness. 

 

These systems have an efficiency of 75%, but they also have no self-braking tendencies like the planetary systems. 

 

Overall, the best type of gear system depends on who is using it. If you’re somebody who is bothered by loud noise, it would be best to find a winch that uses worm gears fully or primarily. 

 

If you’re the kind of person who only cares about getting the job done as soon as possible, a mixture of a spur and planetary gear system would be your best bet to increase the percentage of energy transferred from the motor to the pulling unit to decrease net time. 

Drum Diameter and Width

The larger the drum diameter, the more the amount of wire cable that it can store for a specific width. However, a larger drum diameter also increases the drum radius and the torque for a certain load. 

 

On the other hand, the greater the drum’s width, the lower the cable pulling power due to the wire spooling up faster. 

How to Pick a Winch for Your Vehicle

Winch Capacity (Rated Line Pull)

The higher the winch capacity, the better. However, if you’re not rich enough to splurge on the most decadent capacity winch available in the market and need to find a winch capacity to your car’s specifications, follow this simple formula:

 

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating(GVWR) x 1.5 = Best Winch Rating

 

It is important to keep in mind that this formula only gives you the minimum winch capacity for your vehicle. If possible, you should be buying a slightly more powerful winch than the rating given to you by this formula because a winch will not be operating at its maximum capacity. 

 

The GVWR refers to the maximum weight of a vehicle. You can find it on the door pillar of the driver’s side of the vehicle. If you cannot spot it there, try consulting the papers that came with the vehicle when you bought it. 

 

The winch capacity is also known as the line pull rating, a combination of the mechanical capacity and the line’s tensile strength on the drum. Rated capacity is based on the first layer of the winch cable, closest to the drum. The first layer will have a higher pulling power than subsequent layers. 

How to Use a Winch

The cable wire needs to be pulled out and attached to the object that you want to move to operate a winch. Then, the electronic motor is turned on and pulls the cable along with the attached object towards the winch with the cable getting a wrap neatly around the drum in the process. 

 

Not all winches are built equal. Some winches can only handle lighter cars, while others can handle heavier ones. You need to find the appropriate one for your vehicle while considering other considerations such as price, durability, and the purpose of using your winch. 

Are SmittyBilt Winches Worth Buying? 

Now that you’re up to speed on all the technical terms relating to a winch, it is time to tackle the question of is it worth it to buy a SmittyBilt Winch? Here are the facts about SmittyBilt Winches, and after going through the rest of this article, you will certainly want to buy one. 

 

SmittyBilt Winches come in two models: the X20 and XRC brands. Of these two, each one has a new and improved version denoted by the COMP at the end, like the X20 COMP and XRC COMP. 

 

The XRC models are a bit more basic than the X20 ones. The X20 models come with wireless remote control activation and a dynamic braking system.

 

Recently, Smittybilt has come up with a new line of winches known as the Gen 3 XRC winch. This is a new and improved version of the XRC winch possessing a more powerful motor and new features that cannot be found on a Gen 2 XRC winch. 

 

Here’s a quick model to compare all the SmittyBilt models that are not for ATV users:

 

Model 

X20

X20 COMP

XRC 

XRC COMP

XRC Gen3

Motor HP

6.6

6.6

6.6

6.6

7.0

3-Stage Planetary Gear System

Upgraded Pulling Power

Upgraded Line Speed

Larger Clutch Lever

Stainless Steel Hardware

Oversized Aluminum Crossbar

Load Indicator System 

Controller Flashlight

Detachable Body Armor

Wireless Remote Control

Dynamic Braking System

Fairlead

4-Way Roller

Competition Aluminum

4-Way Roller

Competition Aluminum

4-Way Roller

Cable/Rope Type

Steel Cable

Synthetic Rope

Steel Cable

Synthetic Rope

Synthetic Rope

Solenoid Mounting Options

2

2

3

3

Waterproof Rating

IP68

IP68

IP67

IP67

IP67

Mechanical Warranty

Lifetime Warranty

Lifetime

Lifetime Warranty

Lifetime Warranty

Lifetime Warranty

Electrical Warranty

5-Year Warranty

5-Year Warranty

3-Year Warranty

3-Year Warranty

5-Year Warranty

The System of the SmittyBilt Winch: Good or Not?  

Gear Type

SmittyBilt Winches use a 3-stage planetary gear system made from spur gears in a specific orientation. This makes it very efficient in transferring energy from the motor to the pulling unit. Other brands use a comparable gear type, although the gear ratios might be different. 

 

The three-stage planetary gear system falls under the type known as a multi-stage gearbox. When too many stages are added to a multi-stage gearbox, it can reduce efficiency and functionality. However, Smittybilt has found a way to use this system without compromising the function. 

Motor 

Smittybilt uses electric motors with 6.6 HP. The merits of electric motors to hydraulic motors have already been discussed in the section above, but Smittybilt electric motors are some of the best in the market. 

 

Winch power is measured in terms of a unit called horsepower (HP). The greater the HP, the more powerful and faster the winch is. Most electrically-powered winches have a limit to their horsepower because otherwise, it can drain the battery too much. 

 

Smittybilt winches have an optimum HP so that the winch operates quickly, with a lot of pulling power, without draining the car battery too much. 

Line Length

Most SmittyBilt winches have a line length of 98.5′ x Diameter of ⅜ or 3/16. Longer line lengths can be a good thing because it allows you to reach for a longer distance and will ensure that the overall maximum rated pull of a winch is greater. However, one of the cons of having a long line length is that it is easier for the line on your drum to get tangled and kinked up. 

 

Fortunately, Smittybilt winches come with a self-braking mechanism that prevents free spooling the resultant mess that comes with it. 

Cable Types 

Smittybilt understands that different owners have different priorities. Therefore, the models come in two types of cable, namely, synthetic rope and steel cable. 

 

Here’s the difference between the two so that you can judge for yourself which one meets your needs better. 

Synthetic 

Synthetic rope is a relatively new invention compared to the rest of its compatriots. It is very light, weighing only a few pounds, and is often stronger than equivalent diameter wire rope. It floats, so you can easily see if you want to anchor your winch to something in a water body. 

 

However, it also comes with a few disadvantages. It is also more susceptible to fraying and abrasions than wire rope. The high initial cost might put off many would-be owners initially, but it more than makes up for the expenses with its great durability and superior quality in the long run. 

 

One of the more serious disadvantages would be a breakdown in the presence of heat. Planetary Gears are notorious for their potential to overheat, resulting in deterioration of the rope layers that could go unnoticed. To avoid this, it is a good practice to lower your vehicle under a load in short 20 foot increments with long cooling periods in between. 

 

Alternatively, you can also look for a larger diameter of synthetic rope so that the tensile strength is maintained, and heat does not result in such a quick degeneration of the rope.

Steel

Steel rope is heavier than synthetic rope and can develop sharp burrs or rust in the presence of water and air due to oxidation. It is also imperative to handle steel wires with gloves because otherwise, the sharp and thin wires can cut into your skin and cause you to bleed and potentially develop infections. 

 

Despite all of these factors, steel wire is also extremely durable, resistant to abrasions. It will not be worn down by any external damage like UV rays, which negatively impact synthetic rope. 

 

Eventually, no matter which type of rope you choose, there will be drawbacks and advantages to each one. If you’re one to handle a winch in rain or mud conditions frequently, a synthetic rope would be your best bet. However, when you want a low maintenance rope, it could be better to choose the steel wires.

Added Features

Durable

Smittybilt winches are built to be durable. These devices come with an IP67 or an IP68 rating, one of the highest ratings in the International Protection(IP) Rating Scheme. The first digit 6 means that the winch is dust-resistant and that the presence of dust will never interfere with any of the winch’s mechanical operations. 

 

The second digit, which is either seven or eight, refers to the degree of which the winch is waterproof. Seven means that the winch can be immersed in water up to 1 meter under specific conditions.

 

The eight offers greater protection, where the winch can be continually submerged underwater, possessing a depth of more than one meter. Even if some water does enter the winch, it will not affect the mechanical operations. 

Long Warranty Period

Although there might be a limited warranty ranging from three to five years for the electric motor, Smittybilt winches have a lifetime warranty for any mechanical aspects related to the winch. 

 

This goes to show the confidence of the manufacturers that their product will last because it is not viable for a company selling quality products that continuously break down to offer a lifelong warranty for them and still make a profit. 

 

Unlike its competitors, Smittybilt winches offer a much longer warranty period for their electric motor. Badland winches only have a 90-day electrical and mechanical warranty, while Warm winches only have a 1-year electrical warranty. 

Load Indicator System

The XRC Gen3 Smittybilt Winch has created a new, exclusive feature that cannot be found anywhere else in the industry, a load indicator system. This system was designed to prevent over-taxation on the motor and the line, resulting in damage from overload. 

 

The remote control to start up the winch will have the following LED lights on it:

 

  • Ready to use
  • Loading
  • Max load
  • Overload 

 

When the winches are in operation, the appropriate LED light will light up when the load is being pulled. This will let you preserve your winch long after the warranty for the electric motor has expired. 

Applicable to Most Vehicles

Smittybilt winches don’t just come in one size. There are several specifications for every type of winch model. Here are the specifications for the rated line pulls:

 

  • 9500lb
  • 10000lb
  • 12000lb
  • 15500lb
  • 17500lb

 

You should be able to find the specification for your vehicle with ease. Along with this, SmittyBilt winches are known for being the most affordable in the market. It ranges for only $200 – $600 for a winch. This is in sharp contrast to other brands that can charge up to $900, like this Gen 2 XRC 9500lb Smittybilt Winch, for example.

Wireless Remote Control

A winch usually has a corded controller, but some models of the Smittybilt winches feature the use of wireless remote control that lets you use your winch from wherever is the most convenient for you. 

Detachable Body Armor

Unlike most other brands, Smittybilt’s Gen 3 XRC has detachable, customizable body armor that can be specially painted to match your vehicle’s color. This creates the put-together image that you want others to see whenever they look at your car. 

Additional Comments

Battery

To use Smittybilt winches, you need to use a battery with a minimum of 650CC and have an up-to-date suspension system. Buying a heavier winch then your suspension system can deal with will result in a faulty suspension system. Depending on the type of winch you buy, specifications might be different, so be sure to check the manufacturer’s notes for the battery type.  

Clutch Issues

You might face a few minor issues with the clutch gears getting stuck or the mounting boxes’ dislodgement if you buy the older models. However, these challenges can be surmounted if you choose to buy the newer models, or decide to take your winch back to the shop to be repaired because it has an unlimited mechanical warranty. 

Warranty

SmittyBilt only offers customer service help in the form of a phone and fax hotline. If you want to renew your mechanical warranty, it might take some time and be slightly inconvenient for you. 

Manufacture

SmittyBilt Winches are not produced locally but in China. This outsourcing reduces overall costs keeping the winches affordable enough for you to buy. Products manufactured in factories in China undergo stringent quality assurance ensuring that the products are well-made, so you can quieten any concerns you have about an inferior product because they are as if they had still been made in the USA. 

Conclusion

Overall, Smittybilt winches are solid products. These winches are insanely cheap, durable, have a high pulling force and horsepower, and a ton of added functionality to ensure that your experience using a winch is smooth. 

 

Certain individuals might be disappointed by how Smittybilt has failed to incorporate the use of contactors into their upgraded product designs. With the continued use of solenoid technology, there is no question that Smittybilt winches remain amongst some of the best winches in the market.  

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