10 Things to Look For Before You Buy an Electric Boat Trailer Winch

It's more than just, "capacity."

Buying an Electric Trailer Winch
Electric winches make loading your boat easier.Courtesy Fulton

There are two ways to load a boat on a trailer at the ramp. There’s power loading—a practice that is prohibited at many ramps. Or you can crank it on with the trailer winch, which is hard work with a big boat. But electric trailer winches can do the loading for you. They work well when used with either bunk-style or all-­roller trailers. Here are 10 factors to keep in mind when considering an electric trailer winch.

Boat Weight
Select a model rated for the weight of the boat, if not more. Powerwinch, for example, offers models with capacities ranging from 4,000- to 11,500-pound boats with a single cable setup. Double-cable pulley-block assemblies double the pulling capacity.

Power Delivery
You can install a battery inside a battery box on the trailer tongue, but it requires that you charge the battery before each trip. You can also wire the winch directly to the tow vehicle's battery, which is regularly charged by the vehicle itself.

Cable or Web Strap
Fulton electric winches are equipped with high-strength web straps. Powerwinch models use stainless-steel cable, while Dutton-Lainson offers winches with either. Both materials work well and are nominally the same when it comes to strength and durability.

Remote Options
Fulton and Powerwinch offer models with wireless key fob remote controls. Remotes let you stand well clear of the ­cable or web strap, which can inflict ­serious injury should they break under pressure.

Solid Mount
Electric winches are subject to tremendous strain when retrieving a boat, so they need to be securely through-bolted with Grade 5 bolts to a solid steel plate with backing washers.

Cable or Strap Orientation
Make sure the cable or strap feeds underneath the bow stop or roller. This allows the boat's bow eye to snug up just ­below the bow stop.

Hand Crank
The emergency hand crank supplied with models such as the Powerwinch RC 23 lets you manually winch in a boat in case of battery failure. Fulton lets you use a socket wrench.

Freewheel vs. Power-Out
Some winches such as the Powerwinch 712 have a clutch release that lets you freewheel-out the cable when launching the boat. If you want more control when launching the boat, the Powerwinch 915 lets you use the motor to unwind the cable. Fulton's XLT series winches offer clutch releases as well as power-out modes.

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Illumination
When launching and loading a boat in the dark, extra lighting helps. The Fulton XLT series and the Powerwinch RC line have aft-facing LED lights to help you see the boat and trailer, as well as the strap or cable at night or before dawn.

Securing the Bow
Electric trailer winches are not designed to secure the bow eye while towing. Use a separate strap to cinch down the bow after retrieving the boat. A high-strength ratchet strap works well in this application, but don't forget to back that up with a bow safety chain in case the strap breaks or fails for any reason.