Polaris Ranger Winch Buyer’s Guide: What You Need To Know When Shopping For A UTV Winch
Warn, KFI, Superwinch, SuperATV, there are more Polaris Ranger UTV winch brands than I can count. So which winch should you go with for your side-by-side? That’s a question we get asked all the time, so we figured we’d write a little bit about our views on the best and most practical Polaris Ranger winches.
Finding The Right UTV Winch
You get what you pay for on some things, and this is definitely the case with UTV winches. If you’re a relaxed rider that doesn’t mud, plow, or go extreme in any way, having a winch for emergencies is a good idea. For such riders, a cheaper winch is probably not a bad option. If you only use it once or twice a year, it wouldn’t make sense to go all out on a top-of-the-line winch.
But even if you think you’ll be winching a lot, the bigger brand names aren’t necessarily better. Polaris winches, for example, are overpriced in our opinion. They don’t perform more reliably than other winches and although they are Plug & Play and don’t require a winch mount in many cases, when you buy a Polaris winch, you are paying a premium for the brand name. For the discerning individual, it even appears that Polaris took a Warn winch to their R&D department and copied it piece by piece. Warn has been around a long time and they are the #1 winch manufacturer.
No surprise then that many of the riders we’ve talked to about winches for the Polaris Ranger vote for Warn as their favorite UTV winch. And while they do provide budget winch options, if you see yourself needing to use a winch frequently, their VRX or Axon winch models are about as good as they come.
That being said, We’ve also talked to a few riders who had issues with Warn winches in the past -- particularly with regards to how they handle damaged winches under their warranty policy -- and think that they’re overpriced for what you get. One rider of this opinion suggested KFI winches, choosing their Viper Elite edition. SuperATV’s blackout winch is another good one that kept coming up in conversation with riders. Basically, what we found was that winches with metal insides -- rather than plastic -- performed far better in both the short and long run.
Using The Right Winch Cable
We also found out that most riders prefer a synthetic rope winch line over a steel cable -- but again, it really depends on what you are going to be using it for and how it is going to be “stored” on your Ranger. The synthetic rope does not do well under intense heat and abrasive conditions -- i.e. tied around a tree, a rock, etc. Winches using synthetic rope mounted on the outside of the Ranger should be affixed as high as possible to keep them dry and mud free.
If you winch through or water during your ride, you should always unroll the rope at home when you’re back, wash off the mud, and let the rope dry before spooling it back up. This may seem like a bit of a hassle, but because synthetic rope has no stored memory, if it breaks,it will not spring back at you while winching. Masterpul rope is one of the better brands, but there are several good and cheap synthetic ropes that work well.
Properly Mounting The UTV Winch
If you went the aftermarket route, you’re going to need a winch-mounting bracket to affix your winch to your Polaris Ranger. If you have a newer edition of the Polaris Ranger with the new body style, you’ll have to get a machine-specific mount, as no other model brackets will fit. Some riders mount their winches upside-down with the cable spooling from the top. They say it makes winching easier, but we’ll leave it up to you to decide for yourself.
The KFI mount and 4,500lb Superwinch work well together, and the mount from Extreme Metal Products also fits the Superwinch 4500. Some mechanically inclined riders choose to fab up their own mounts, but whatever route you choose, make sure that your Polaris Ranger winch mount can handle the type of winch you choose. The mounting holes differ between regular winches and wide-spool winches -- with bolt patterns being 6-5/8" wide x 3" deep for wide spool winches, and 4-7/8" x 3" deep for regular spool winches -- and the strength of winch mounts can differ as well.
Powering The UTV Winch
We get many inquiries about how to set up a Polaris Ranger winch. A common area of confusion is the pulse bar and the positive/negative terminals under the hood. Because winches can draw many more amps than the pulse bar can handle, you should not wire your winch to the pulse bar. You need to power it with large-gauge wire attached directly to the battery. Now the control power to the switch and relay can come from the pulse bar, but the remote terminals and ground under the hood are where you should wire your UTV winch.