How To Wire A Winch Without A Solenoid (Easy Steps) - Car, Truck And Vehicle How To Guides - Vehicle Freak (2023)

The winch solenoid is one of the main failing points of the winch system. Luckily they are relatively easy to circumvent in case you get stuck somewhere. On the other hand, running a winch entirely without a solenoid, while not impossible, is nothing but a recipe for disaster.

Wiring a winch without a solenoid involves using a winch switch. You will have four wires, a battery negative and a battery positive; the remaining two are power supplies for the winch. One of the two is for winch-in, and the other is for winch-out command. Lastly, you will have to bridge some terminals on the switch, but you need a wiring diagram to know which ones.

However, you really don’t want to run a winch without a solenoid, even if the switch you have has all the necessary wiring. Instead, you can read on to see how you can bypass the solenoid until you replace it.

How to Wire a Winch Switch Without a Solenoid

All winches are DC motors, and the good thing about them is that by reversing their polarity, you also change the rotational direction. With that, you don’t need extensive or complicated electronics to change the winch rotation; instead, you only need to reverse the positive and the negative cables.

Luckily, polarity switches are readily available for any application, including winches. The whole process is nearly impossible without the polarity switch and a solenoid. That’s because, with a standard switch, you would have to rewire it every time you want to change from winch-in to winch-out.

So, the real question is how to wire a winch switch directly to the power supply and the winch. And again, the wiring is exactly the same as it is on the winch solenoid. On the back of the switch, you will see four terminals: one for battery positive, one for ground, and the other two for winch polarities.

(Video) Rewiring and Troubleshooting a Warn M8000 Winch - Part 1

The two winch polarities are both positive or negative cables; only the attachment point on the winch is different. So, when you hit the switch for winch-in, one of the two cables gets power, and vice versa when you hit the winch-out button.

To figure out what the wiring does on the switch, you will ideally need a switch wiring diagram that’s included when you buy it. The terminal function for each switch is different, but if you don’t have a wiring diagram, most of them have a symbol next to the terminal.

As for the wiring color, it’s fairly standard across all winch systems. The red wire is the battery positive going to the solenoid or switch, black wire is negative, again going to the solenoid or switch. The remaining two, going from the solenoid/switch to the winch, are blue and yellow. Depending on what button you push, the blue and yellow wires will either be positive or negative.

Step-by-Step Guide:

  1. Locate the winch wiring, battery, switch, and winch.
  2. Connect the positive battery cable to the positive switch terminal
  3. Connect the negative battery cable to the negative switch terminal
  4. Run two cables from the winch to the switch and connect them to the remaining two terminals
  5. Now, you have to bridge the negative battery terminal to another terminal, and the two winch cable terminals, to another two.
  6. Check the switch wiring diagram to know which terminals you have to bridge.

Why Running a Winch Without a Solenoid Is Unsafe

The winch solenoid essentially serves as a giant, high-current switch, much like the one you have inside the vehicle. However, you will notice that the cables coming from the winch and the battery are sizeably thicker than the ones on the switch. There is a good reason for that. The current running through the cables and the winch is exceptionally high.

Besides that, the winch load is constantly changing as you use it. The vehicle will move smoothly and then, for example, go over a rock. When the vehicle runs into a rock, the winch needs to pull with more force, and more force equals a higher current. Since the fluctuation is significant and unpredictable, the winch solenoid also doubles as a surge protector.

Now, such a high current is enough to melt and burn even the most heavy-duty switches. And if you want a switch that can withstand such high current loads, you will eventually end up with a switch the size of a solenoid, thus, beating the purpose of trying to avoid it.

(Video) How to wire a 12V winch - Sherpa 4x4 "The Colt"

Moreover, no switch will protect against power surges or keep the winch motor from overheating. That’s why most people will find that their winch is fried soon after they bypass or remove the solenoid. And if that doesn’t happen soon enough, the switch will overheat and cause an electrical fire.

When Can You Run a Winch Without a Solenoid

Running a winch without a solenoid is never recommended. However, many people get away with winches without solenoids on smaller Powersports vehicles. A side-by-side or a quad bike doesn’t require such a high-power winch as a full-size SUV, and so the current passing through it isn’t as significant.

So, you can try running a winch without a solenoid on such a vehicle. Still, the problem is because they don’t have high-power winches, they don’t need high-power solenoids either. The point is a small solenoid for an ATV costs as little as $25. So, even then, it’s a much better idea to install a solenoid, if nothing, to protect your winch motor, which is likely much more expensive.

How to Bypass a Winch Solenoid

Bypassing a winch solenoid is probably what most people will want to know after all. Again, since the winch solenoid serves to protect the winch motor, among other things, it’s likely the main failing point of the whole system. Meaning if your winch has quit working, the solenoid should be the first in line to test.

There are several ways to test a winch solenoid, including a multimeter test. That said, bypassing it will help you both determine if it has failed and get you out of a sticky situation. So, here is how to do it.

Step-by-Step Guide:

For this job, you need two cables. Jumper cables, for example, will be the easiest to use.

(Video) WARN Winch wiring & mounting

  1. On the winch motor, you will find your external terminals/posts. The one on the side is ground, so leave that one connected.
  2. On the motor, next to the cable, there are thee posts. Two of the posts sit in line, while the third is off to the side.
  3. Now, connect one jumper cable to the positive battery terminal and its other end to one of the in-line terminals.
  4. Use the other jumper cable to connect the terminal sitting to the side and the other terminal in line. The winch will either start spooling in or out.
  5. If you want to change the winch direction, attach the positive battery cable to the other terminal in line. And lastly, connect the terminal to the side with the free one in line (the one where you previously attached the positive battery cable before the winch started turning).

If you find my explanation confusing, this video will make the process crystal clear.

What Size Wire Do I Need for a Winch?

A 2 to 4-gauge wire is usually sufficient for a winch, depending on its power. A smaller gauge wire will overheat and likely cause a fire, so it’s always best to check with the winch manufacturer what gauge wire it needs. However, if that’s not an option, you can’t go wrong with a thicker wire.

Can You Wire a Winch Directly to a Battery?

Yes, you can wire a winch directly to the battery by using the guide in this article or watching the video. However, wiring the winch to the battery is only recommended when you have to bypass the winch solenoid. Otherwise, it’s unsafe.

What Size Alternator Do I Need for a Winch?

If you don’t use your winch too often, a 60-amp alternator will likely be sufficient. However, if you use the winch more often, go with a 90-amp alternator, as it’s an easy swap from a 60. That said, most off-road SUVs and trucks come with a 90-amp alternator from the factory, so make sure to first check what your vehicle has.

Is a Cable or Synthetic Better for a Winch?

A synthetic cable is a better option for a winch. Steel cables are a much bigger safety hazard if they break, and because of that, using synthetic cables has become mandatory in many off-road events. A synthetic cable is also lighter, making it easier to handle.

Can You Run a Winch off a Lithium Battery?

Technically, yes, you can run a winch off a lithium battery, and it will likely be better because a lithium battery will give you more power before it drains. However, combining winches and lithium batteries should only be done by a professional because it requires additional circuits and devices to avoid damage.

(Video) 8000LB 12V Winch Solenoid Problems/Showing Internal Components

Do You Need a Separate Battery for a Winch?

No, you don’t need a separate battery for a winch. However, you can install one or carry a spare one with you. That’s always a good idea, as it’s impossible to predict when you will need the winch, for how long, and what kind of load it will be under.

Can I Power a Winch From a Trailer Plug?

No, you can’t power a winch from a trailer plug mainly because the wires are too thin and don’t have enough current flow to power the winch to its full power. So, not only will your winch not work properly, but it’s also a serious fire hazard.


Unfortunately, powering a winch without a solenoid is not only unsafe and close to impossible, but you will ultimately end up where you started. That’s because you need a switch that can handle the high current, which will in be the same size and shape as a solenoid. Moreover, running a winch without a solenoid will eventually destroy your winch motor.

That said, you can run a winch without a solenoid on smaller utility and Powersports vehicles, and you can use our wiring guide to see how you can bypass a winch solenoid using jumper cables.

Here are some articles that might interest you:

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How do you run a winch without a solenoid? ›

The winch solenoid diagram step should be the first to map the terminals. Then, to bypass a solenoid switch, you connect a jumper cable to the three posts, A, F1 and F2, by interchanging them and connecting them to the power source, which is your battery.

Can you wire a winch directly to a battery? ›

Winch manufacturers do not include a fuse or switch and most advise to wire straight to the battery.

Do all winches need a solenoid? ›

Is a Solenoid Required for a Winch? A solenoid is required on a winch to protect the winch engine. However, replacing a solenoid is far less expensive when compared to replacing a motor. Therefore, even though the winch motor can operate without a solenoid, it should be approached with caution.

Can you run a winch off truck battery? ›

Expert Reply: Yes, you can wire your winch to run off of the truck battery.

Do I need a fuse between battery and winch? ›

The battery would essentially short circuit and get extremely hot. The insulation would likely melt from the cable and a fire could start. For this reason, it is always recommended to install your winch with a isolation switch or a fuse in the main power circuit.

Can electric winches be used manually? ›

Can I use a winch handle to manually operate my electric winch? Yes. Inserting the winch handle into an unloaded winch automatically disconnects the electric motor and allows you to use the first and second speeds just like a manual winch.

Can you hard wire a winch? ›

You can hardwire in a switch like # BDW20173 to your winch. It simply gives you a controller at a different location to assist you in using the winch.

Do you need a circuit breaker for a winch? ›

Circuit breakers are essential in any anchoring system. The primary functions are to protect the winch motor from overload, batteries from voltage drop, and in a worst case scenario prevent fire on your boat!

Can you drive without a solenoid? ›

Without a solenoid, turning your key wouldn't start your car at all. However, you could still start your vehicle by directly interacting with the battery and starter motor. But starting your car this way would require you to pop the hood of your vehicle before each drive.

Can a winch motor run continuously? ›

Electric winches don't have a 100 percent duty cycle (like a hydraulic winch) and need a rest occasionally from their work. This “rest” allows the electric winch cool down and build up an electrical reserve in the battery from the engine's alternator.

What is the best battery to power a winch? ›

A 12-volt battery rated up to 650 CCA will typically be enough for a 12,000 lb. vehicle which is the general standard for winches.

What size alternator do I need for a winch? ›

While certainly on the lower side of ideal, 60 amps is adequate if you only plan on using the winch occasionally and don't do a lot of mudding. If you wanted to upgrade, you can swap in a 94-amp 12si alternator without much trouble.

What kills a truck battery? ›

Electrical devices or lights left running, a defective charging system or alternator, and extreme weather are some common reasons but maybe it's just time to get a new battery.”

Will a deep cycle battery run a winch? ›

Yes, you can use a deep-cycle battery for a winch.

Can you change wire to rope on a winch? ›

Yes, you can put synthetic rope on a winch designed for steel cable. However, the brake drum in the winch might not be able to cool as well because steel cable acts like a heat sink, while synthetic rope may act more like an insulator trapping heat. Heat can damage synthetic rope—not to mention the winch.

Can a battery charger power a winch? ›

The battery will be used twice in a week and then put on a charger. Expert Reply: You will need a 12 volt battery that is rated for more than 55 amps to power your electric winch. Any battery that meets those requirements should work well for you.

How do you wind a winch manually? ›

When cross winding, start with two layers of a level wound rope using the appropriate back tension. At the end of the second layer, pull the rope quickly across the drum, allow it to wind one full turn at the side of the drum, then quickly pull it back to the opposite side of the drum.

What can I use instead of a winch? ›

If you don't have a winch. Some vehicles can't mount a winch, but they can still self-recover. OTA checks out three different ways of getting your 4WD unstuck: sand ladders, Bog Outs and Trac Grabbers.

How do you triple the pulling power of a winch? ›

Next, add an additional pulley block to the vehicle's recovery point, run the winch line to a second tree with a tree trunk protector, and add another winch damper, to triple the pulling power of the winch. This provides a pulling force of 36,000lb, although it will also cut the speed of the recovery by one third.

Can you run a winch off jumper cables? ›

Jumpers would be ok for a short, easy pull, but if you need sustained winching, you need big cables, and good battery terminals to make that connection.

What is the best wire for a winch? ›

For a winch that is rated up to 4K it is recommended to use 6 Gauge Wire like what comes in the Bulldog Kit # BDW20304. Anything higher than 4K will need to use higher gauge wire like what is included in the Kit # BDW20207 that I mentioned.

Can you power a winch through trailer plug? ›

Expert Reply: The 12 volt auxiliary power coming from the trailers 7-way connector will not have nearly enough power to use for an electric winch, even the very smallest of trailer winches. Instead, I recommend using a quick disconnect winch wiring kit like the Winch Trailer Wiring Kit part # BDW20307.

What size circuit breaker do I need for a winch? ›

Circuit Breaker 300A Inline. Suitable for some winch installations, these inline breakers are rated to trip at 300 amp.

What blocks increase load pulling capacity of a winch? ›

A snatch block is a heavy-duty pulley inside a metal casing. It is primarily designed for handling heavy goods, working as a pulley point that can redirect the course of a winch line. Snatch blocks are also used to increase the lifting or pulling capacity of wire hoists and winches.

What are the 3 types of winches? ›

Winches can also be classified according to other specifications, such as by their drive type (pneumatic, hydraulic, diesel, or electric).

What can be used instead of a solenoid? ›

HASEL actuators are an excellent alternative to solenoids for applications that require linear motion in a compact and simple package. HASEL actuators have several advantages over solenoid actuators, but a key benefit of HASEL actuators is that they consume very little power and do not generate heat while activated.

How do you manually override a solenoid? ›

Operation of Manual Override: Rotate knob counterclockwise to activate override function. Operation of Manual Override: Pull and hold to override. Operation of Manual Override: Rotate knob counterclockwise to activate override function.

Can I use a relay instead of a solenoid? ›

The terms solenoid and relay can often be used interchangeably; however, in the Automotive market, the term solenoid generally refers to a "metal can" type, whereas a relay typically refers to the standard "cube" style relay. The contactor is the relay to use when a circuit must support a heavy current load.

What happens when a solenoid goes out? ›

When the starter solenoid decides to call it quits, the starter motor won't work, either. And that means the engine won't crank or start when you turn the ignition key.

Is solenoid valve necessary? ›

Why is a solenoid valve used? In most flow control applications, it is necessary to start or stop the flow in the circuit to control the fluids in the system. An electronically operated solenoid valve is usually used for this purpose.

Do solenoids need electricity? ›

To function, a solenoid must have three things: Coiled wire. A movable core. Electricity.

How do you double a winch speed? ›

Take a pulley which originally you can lift things with 1/4 of the weight, then put whatever you want to have faster at the end which you usually pull and move the end where the weight has been, then it moves with 4 times the speed.

What winch has the fastest line speed? ›

Capacity High Speed 12-Volt Electric Winch is the ultimate winch for Extreme Terrain. It has a fully sealed drum and an unbeatable line Speed of 65 ft./minute.

What happens if you overload a winch? ›

Without overload protection, overloading can cause your winch hoist to fail, damaging your hoist and equipment and possibly injuring you and anyone nearby, especially if a load is raised when it fails.

Can you run a winch off a deep cycle battery? ›

Yes, you can use a deep-cycle battery for a winch.

Should I use a circuit breaker with a winch? ›

Circuit breakers are essential in any anchoring system. The primary functions are to protect the winch motor from overload, batteries from voltage drop, and in a worst case scenario prevent fire on your boat!

What does a clutch do on a winch? ›

A winch clutch is an important component located inside the winch that locks the motor shaft to the brake assembly preventing the spool from unwinding when the motor stops.

Can I run winch off of trailer plug? ›

Can a Trailer Connector be Used to Power an Electric Trailer Winch Electric winches should have a direct connection to a battery for power. The wiring in a trailer connector, like a 7-Way, and an adapter like #HM47675, is not a heavy enough gauge to effectively power a winch.

Which battery should I connect my winch to? ›

Definitely the starter battery as your engine should always be running when using the winch so that it provides the most amperage.

Can you connect jumper cables directly to battery? ›

Connect the clamp on the red jumper cable to the positive terminal on your car battery, and the black one to either an unpainted piece of metal in the engine or directly to your car's chassis (the frame of the vehicle). Don't attach the negative (black) clamp to the negative terminal of the dead battery.

Do you leave both cars running when removing jumper cables? ›

As soon as both vehicles are running, you can disconnect the jumper cables. Remove the clamps one at a time, in the opposite order you placed them. Start with removing the black cable from the engine block, and then remove the other black clamp from the working vehicle.

What size wire do I need to run a winch back of my truck? ›

For a winch that is rated up to 4K it is recommended to use 6 Gauge Wire like what comes in the Bulldog Kit # BDW20304. Anything higher than 4K will need to use higher gauge wire like what is included in the Kit # BDW20207 that I mentioned.


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