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How to Install a Winch on the Back of a Truck: Step by Step

How to Install a Winch on the Back of a Truck: Step by Step

Winches are motorized pulley systems that can be installed on the front or back of a vehicle. A system of gears rotates a large drum of wire or rope, leveraging tension to move large objects such as ATVs or damaged vehicles. Oftentimes they are installed on the back of trucks, but how do you install a winch onto the back of a truck?

To install a winch on the back of a truck, drill a mounting plate perpendicular to the centerline of the vehicle. Using the bolt configuration most compatible with the vehicle model, drill the winch into the mounting plate. Finally, power the winch by connecting its wiring to the car battery.

Of course, the process is far more detailed than three simple steps, and configurations often vary from one truck to another depending on weight capacity. Read on to learn more about where and how to mount a winch, as well as important factors to take into consideration throughout the process.

Can You Mount a Winch on the Back of a Truck?

First, it is important to know the different advantages of front-mounted and rear-mounted winches. Front-mounted winches are helpful when pulling or retrieving heavy equipment from precarious locations, such as hauling another vehicle out of trouble or moving large objects that obstruct roadways.

Typically installed just below the rig, a front winch offers the benefits of easy access and easy maintenance. A front mount allows the driver to see what is going on throughout the process and to easily intervene should the cable tangle.

A rear-mounted winch allows for reversed leverage, which is helpful when pulling equipment into or onto the bed of a truck.

It can also help drivers avoid being in potentially dangerous positions, as a front-mounted winch might make it more difficult to retrieve a heavy or damaged vehicle without the entire truck falling.

Rear-mounted winches are also better for self-recovery; when off-roading or exploring, it is easier to pull yourself out of tricky spots using the pull afforded by a rear mount.

Either way—front or back—it is important to install a winch bumper.

Since your truck is, in terms of stability, the anchor for a significant amount of weight and stress tension, a winch bumper could be the difference between an effective haul and a destroyed axle frame.

Winch bumpers are typically manufactured from heavy-duty steel, making them incredibly durable and safe to use. Designed to replace original bumpers, winch bumpers fit snugly against the front or back of the truck.

This helps keep appearances low-profile and protects the winch from accidentally getting bumped or damaged by other cars or equipment.

Properly installed, a winch on the back of a truck can be a lifesaver. Otherwise, poor back-end installation can pose significant risks and be dangerous for all those involved.

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When installing a back winch, here are some important safety factors to keep in mind:

  • Use synthetic rope to help reduce the overall weight of the winch system when it is not in use.
    • It also spools more easily and is therefore less likely to get damaged than other winch lines that get kinked when spooled incorrectly.
  • Re-coil your rope or cable regularly.
    • New rope is not ready to use right out of the box; it needs to be re-spooled under a test-run load prior to actual use pulling objects out on the trail.
    • Between uses, regularly re-wrap the coil to prevent inner layers from getting damaged or sealing to the drum.
  • Always wear gloves.
    • Winch cables can fray cut your hands with razor-like sharpness, and a winch in motion can pull your fingers into the drum, mangling or detaching them.
    • Heavy-duty leather gloves are typically sold alongside other winch equipment.
    • Wearing a pair can prevent injury and increase your grip on the cable, which is critical.
  • Do not wrap your cables around a tree; more often than not, this level of strain will kill the tree and can sometimes even pull the broken trunk onto your vehicle—or you.
    • The spool can also cinch so tight against the bark that it becomes nearly impossible to remove.
    • To properly use a tree as an anchor, use a wide strap around the base of the largest tree available, making sure that the angle and tapering of the tree will not allow the strap to slide.
  • When using a rock as your winch anchor, use a tow strap rather than winch line.
    • Sharp angles on the rock can damage synthetic rope and even steel cables. The last thing you want is a broken cable and a boulder tumbling toward your vehicle.
    • Remember that stranded vehicles require a tremendous amount of force to retrieve, so the bigger the rock, the better.
  • To avoid the danger of getting injured by a snapped cable, try weighing a steel winch down with heavy blankets, tool bags, heavy coats, or polyurethane winch weights.
    • The weight of the intermediary object will pull a broken cable toward itself, preventing it from flinging outward.
  • Take your time. Rushing through the setup process will nearly always guarantee disaster.
    • Take time to observe all physical and mechanical factors in play, properly setting everything up—rings, cables, shackles, load—to ensure safety and success.

How Do you Attach a Winch to a Truck Bed?

Having a winch on the front of your truck can be incredibly helpful, but having one installed directly in the bed of your truck allows you to load heavy items easier than ever before. It will maximize your truck’s overall potential while decreasing your overall workload.

Paying someone else to install the winch on your truck can get pricy, so it’s helpful to know how to install it independently. First, ensure your own safety and the safety of others by keeping the area around your truck clean. Eliminate any objects that might be in the way or that may get damaged; both can be hazardous.

Wear gloves to protect your hands and fingers from the heavy equipment and wear well-fitting clothing to avoid having fabric catch on any of the winch’s moving parts. Gloves and secure clothing will help prevent any potential injuries.

  • Before installing a winch in your truck bed, you’ll need a mounting plate.
  • Trucks rarely come with a mounting plate, so you will likely need to purchase one designed for your model of vehicle.
  • Be sure to purchase a mounting plate that is designed to withstand the winch’s pulling; local auto retailers can help you determine the appropriate mounting plate rating for your vehicle.

To install the mounting plate, place it at the desired location in your truck bed, aligning it perpendicular to the vehicle’s centerline. Mark the location by drilling holes corresponding to the winch base.

Place the mounting plate in place and bolt it securely into the marked base holes. (source) While drilling the holes and securing the bolts, it is important to ensure that no electrical wires are in the way or nearby, as electrical interference or damage to wiring could be particularly dangerous.

To secure the winch into the mounting plate, align it tightly with bolds. Use a steel mounting frame that suits the four mounting configurations:

  • Foot Down
  • Foot Forward
  • Foot Down OR Forward
  • Foot Forward AND Foot Down.

In the Foot Down configuration, all four holes are at the bottom of the winch and face downward. In the Foot Forward configuration, all four holes are on the side and face forward.

In the Foot Down or Forward configuration, the winch can be mounted and secured in either of the first two ways. (source) In the Foot Forward AND Foot Down configuration, the winch must be secured both ways; it is designed with four bolts facing forward and two facing downward.

An alternative truck-bed installation using angle iron elevates and secures the winch to the truck bed’s inner frame. The following video describes this process in detail:

Next, you will electrically connect the winch. The gear casing and gear train on the winch convert power from the motor, allowing it to generate a pulling movement. Most modern winch models on the market are electric, though there are some exceptions. When mounting a winch on the front of your vehicle, you can power it directly with the car’s battery by following these steps:

  • “Connect the positive wire (+), usually color red, to the positive post (+) on the winch.
  • Connect the negative wire (-), usually color black or brown, to the ground post on the winch.
  • Move both wires from the front into the engine section.
  • Keep the wires out any significant heat sources or wherever the wiring can rub or get pinched.
  • Connect the positive wire (+) from the winch to the positive post (+) on the battery, and most winches include an in-line fuse.
  • Connect the negative wire (-) from the winch to the negative ground (-) post on the battery.”

Most vehicles have an electrical wire that runs from the battery under the hood to the base of the rear bumper. (source) You’ll use this disconnect when electrically connecting a winch to the truck’s battery from the bed of a truck. Refer to your vehicle’s manual for details on locating the power disconnect location on your truck.

How to Rear Mount a Winch

Before beginning to rear-mount a winch to your truck, remove both the original bumper and license plate. Next, you will need a winch modeled to maneuver the amount of weight for which you anticipate regularly using it.

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Next, you’ll need a steel winch bumper suitable to match the model of your vehicle. 4WheelParts has a great selection of durable winch bumpers, which are reliable replacements for a sturdy bumper.

It will also be useful to have a container of spray-on truck bed liner, like these Spray Bed Liners on Amazon, to help the bumper blend in and remain durable.

With all of the necessary supplies on hand, begin by cutting two 1/4-inch steel extension brackets. The winch will hang between the frame rails and the spare tire hanger cross member. Use a mounting plate to mount the winch in the center of the bumper so that the control cable is easily accessible.

The control box on the Mile Marker winch (and most other models) is remotely wired, so you’ll need to plug it in at the rear battery disconnect, near the license plate.

Alternatively, run a battery cable inside the frame rail on the driver’s side of the vehicle to bring power directly from the battery under the hood to the control box of the winch.

Finally, mount the winch fairlead (a metal device used to manage the extraction and detraction of the winch cable).

You may need to create a hole in the bumper in order to bolt the fairlead above where the license plate is normally located. Replace the license plate—a flip-up plate holder attached to the fairlead may be the easiest approach—and the setup is complete.

As always, the steps to any vehicle upgrade process depend largely on the make and model of the vehicle, the materials and tools in use, and the brand of the selected product.

While these steps provide information that will help you get started on the winch installation process, be sure to research the specifications of both your vehicle and of available winch models prior to purchasing and installing one.

This will help you save time and money and ensure that the final setup accomplishes the desired processes.

When you are attaching a winch to your truck, make sure you follow the instructions that will be included. Before you start, make sure you have all of the required equipment. The last thing you want to happen is for you to be ready to attach the winch, but not have the correct tools to do the job.

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