Types of Winches: Everything You Need to Know

Winches are mechanical devices which have a single purpose. They are designed to pull in, let out, or adjust the tension of a cable, rope or wire. And while all winches are purpose-built for shifting amounts of weight that a human can’t, different types of winches are suitable for different applications. We’ve listed out the mechanics of each type of winch and its ideal industrial application.

Winch Features

At the minimum, a winch consists of a spool or drum which is attached to a hand crank. More complex industrial winches may have gears, ratchets, mechanical brakes and solenoid brakes to prevent it from unwinding. They get their power from electricity, hydraulics, or an internal combustion engine.

Lift and shift applications typically require one of four types of winches, these include an air winch, a diesel winch, an electric winch or a hydraulic winch.

Air Winch

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Air winches are powered by compressed air instead of electricity. Using an air line, the air pressure is fed from the air compressor through to the motor. This powers the cable drum, allowing the air winch to effectively transport the attached load.

Air winches are capable of performing well in harsh environments of extreme heat, cold, dust, wet and explosive surroundings.

Air-powered winches are known to be more environmentally-friendly, versatile and durable than other types of winches. Commonly used to suspend materials, they are used most commonly in oil and gas, construction and marine industries.

Diesel Winch

Diesel winches are lifting and shifting tools powered by a diesel engine which rotates the reel by means of a drive unit. There are typically two systems driving the rotation, a belt drive and a shaft drive. This provides a way to transport heavy materials vertically, horizontally or on an incline.

These winches are independent and are a good option where an electric power supply is unavailable or difficult to obtain.

Diesel engine winches are best used for power transmission projects including telecommunications, underground power cable engineering, towers and construction works.

Electric Winch

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Electric winches rely on an electric motor which is powered by electricity. Current flows through opposing poles which spin the magnet required to power the motor and turn the winch.

These types of winches are relatively lightweight for ease of transportation and are suitable for when other power sources aren’t available. They are also environmentally friendly as they emit zero emissions.

Electric winches are suitable for use in landscaping, power and telecommunications industries as well as being a good solution for towing applications.

Hydraulic Winch

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Hydraulic winches use fluid power, hydraulic systems and a motor pump to power the winch. The pump creates pressure which moves a low-pressure fluid to the driven component and back to the reservoir, through several valves.

These winches are able to pull for lengthy periods of time without the risk of overheating and are suitable for operation in cold conditions.

Hydraulic pressure winches are suited for heavy-duty marine applications, both offshore and onshore, including mooring, anchor handling, towing, hoisting, lifting, pulling, lowering and much more.

Winch Safety

To ensure the safety and efficiency of your winching application, the proper use, routine inspection and winch maintenance are essential. We’ve put together a guide which includes a winch maintenance checklist to keep you safe when you use this heavy-duty equipment. You can view this in our blog, Stay Safe: The Importance of Routine Winch Maintenance.

Contact Winch Hire Australia for Your Next Project

To find out more about the other types of winches, hoists, or cable handling equipment to rent or purchase we have available or if you require reliable, high-quality equipment hire, contact the friendly Winch Hire Australia team today!