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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I recently purchased a Harbor Freight ZXR 12000 Lb. Truck/SUV Winch. It was on sale for $299 ($100 off). The 12,000 lb capacity is overkill, I only plan on using it to help with tree cutting, retrieving my stuck tractor and backhoe, and such. It may also come in handy for trailering and off-road use. However, with winches, it's better to oversize because the actual working capacity is usually considerably lower than the rated capacity for a number of reasons, and the 12000 lb HF winch was reasonably priced with the current sale.

Since the Ascent has no provisions to front mount a winch, I'm going to need to mount it using the rear hitch receiver. This is easy enough because many places sell winch receiver mounts. However, the electrical hookup is another story.

I'm an industrial electrical (and software) engineer, so when I spec electrical wiring and connections, I go by the book. This winch is rated to draw 359 amps max. To properly get this ampacity would require 4/0 copper wire which is very large and very expensive. Around 20-25 feet is required. This would cost almost the same as what I paid for the winch.

The big-name winch companies such as Warn and others sell (expensive) kits to wire rear receiver mounted winches. What surprised me is that the 25-foot lengths of wire they include with these kits are only 2-gauge wire, which has a rated ampacity of only around 115 amps. This is crazy since they rate this kit for winches up to 16,000 lbs that can draw 400 amps or more. Using 2-gauge wire for a length of 20-25 feet for amperage capacities far greater than what the wire is rated for can result in considerable voltage drops exceeding 2 volts. This could cause the wire and the winch to get very hot and eventually burn out.

The only thing that I can figure out is that since the duty rating on these winches is only around a minute or so, they're betting that the 2-gauge wire will be good enough. Still, it seems very sketchy to me. Not only is this dangerous, but it could considerably lower the rated capacity of the winch and cause it to wear out faster. Yet, they do seem to be getting away with it. I've scoured the internet on this subject and no one seems to be complaining too much. Most people seem to be wiring very large winches with only 2-gauge wire. Still, I just can see it, the wire ampacity is all wrong.

Yet, I don't want to pay $250 for a pair of 25-foot 4/0 copper wires. Technically I could buy only one 25-foot length of wire for the positive lead and then use the chassis as the negative lead, but this can cause considerable other issues if all the chassis ground connections involved are not nearly perfect. I could also simply buy another battery exclusively for the winch, but that's not a great solution either. I could run 3/0, or even 2/0 wire which is less expensive, but now I'm playing similar games with less than adequate wire ampacity as the winch manufacturers are. Since I'm rarely or never going to need the maximum amp capacity of the winch, I could simply consider lesser gauge wire as good enough, but then that'll always be the weak link.

So, this is a dilemma that I still haven't worked out. I'd thought I'd open up a discussion here to see what others are doing or to hear other opinions and options. I'm sure many of you have installed and used winches and have run into this yourselves.

This discussion may also be useful for other Ascent owners who may be considering installing and using a winch.
 

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Question: using the hitch as a mount wouldn’t it limit the pulling capacity of the winch to 5000lb?
With the Ascent weighing ~4500lb, add some gear and gas, that doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Question: using the hitch as a mount wouldn’t it limit the pulling capacity of the winch to 5000lb?
With the Ascent weighing ~4500lb, add some gear and gas, that doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room
Well, this is another subject altogether, but yes, technically the receiver is rated for 5000 lbs. However, for a highly intermittent pull lasting under a minute or so, pulling a bit more is not unreasonable.

For constant pulling for perhaps hours on end, such as trailering, the 5000 lbs limit should never be exceeded, but even if you were pulling a 5000 lb trailer, you might exert more than 5000 lbs on the receiver for short periods of time such as when accelerating from a stop going up a hill or other such dynamic load situations. 5000 lbs is the maximum constant Working Load Limit (WLL), not the breaking point, which could be 1.5 to 2X that or even more.

The unibody itself can handle more than you think. Imagine if your Ascent ever had to be winched out of the mud or a snowbank or up a steep incline if it were stuck in a ditch. That might induce a force greater than 5000 lbs for a few minutes. Such a scenario is not uncommon, especially for those who off-road SUVs or people who live in a snow belt and slide off the road into a ditch and need to be recovered. This happens a lot.

But I have no plans for pulling 12,000 lbs. As I said above, that is overkill. The heaviest thing I plan to winch is my backhoe which weighs only 1,240 lbs. I don't envision ever needing to pull much more than 5000 lbs, roughly the weight of the Ascent itself if I ever had to winch it out.

When you buy a winch, you should try to get one that can pull 1.5-2X or more than what you actually ever need to pull. This is because a lot of factors reduce the actual full weight capacity. For example, inadequate wiring can considerably reduce the current going to the winch thus reducing its actual capacity, and even the number of layers of cable feed on the reel can reduce the winch's full capacity:

4693


This will also reduce the wear and increase the longevity of a winch. So, buying a 12,000 lb winch and only planning to actually pull 5,000 lbs, more or less, is not unreasonable or uncommon.
 

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When I use my receiver mounted winch I just use really good copper wire jumper cables. It is doubtful that you will ever see the max amp draw because you will be pulling a much smaller load than it is rated for. Never had the cables get warm on me.
 

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LOL!!! Guess what discussion I just had? A winch discussion for my Ascent!
Anyways, SHHHH!!!! Primitive is making a front bumper replacement winch mount for the Ascent. Release date pending.

I am using a hitch platform and second battery, so I can use the 0 gauge short wires from the winch and not waste money on 4/0 gauge (though, I ordered it already and Amazon doesn't seem to want to cancel it).

This was the final plan before I decided to just use my 2nd battery instead.

4694


The image says 12' - it's not. It's 18' give or take.
4695


I'll perma wire it once a front platform is available.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
When I use my receiver mounted winch I just use really good copper wire jumper cables. It is doubtful that you will ever see the max amp draw because you will be pulling a much smaller load than it is rated for. Never had the cables get warm on me.
I did consider that, but in my case, I'm eventually going to purchase a travel trailer and it would be handy to have battery power and alternator charging for the RV. So, wiring power to the rear was already on my to-do list.

Even though I may never see the max amp draw as you rightly point out, it's still a shame to induce a weak link in the system. It just goes against my engineering instincts. But your point is still quite valid.
 

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Total need is a little under 20 feet. I went with welding wire. I then went with standard Anderson quick disconnects, and an emergency cut off switch, all to be in the engine compartment. Wire was 4/0, because, like you, I like doing it right, with a little room. I calculated 445a max for 4/0 at 18 feet. I need less than that, but more than what 3/0 would allow.

I was going to use this wire:

These ring terminals:

These quick disconnects:

And an emergency disconnect switch. Additionally, there's be a power block at the hitch for the connection from my wires to the hitch's wiring (shorter wires, standard ring connectors).
 

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I did consider that, but in my case, I'm eventually going to purchase a travel trailer and it would be handy to have battery power and alternator charging for the RV. So, wiring power to the rear was already on my to-do list.

Even though I may never see the max amp draw as you rightly point out, it's still a shame to induce a weak link in the system. It just goes against my engineering instincts. But your point is still quite valid.
Right, but something I learned the other day is the weight of the towed object isn't relevant on its own. This may not apply to your needs, but, how stuck the object is, also applies, and that can increase the rolling load to the limits of a winch.

This guy was so stuck that me with a recoil rope, and the Jeep, with a winch, combined, at the same time, Couldn't free him. The Jeep wasn't moving, and I wasn't moving, and the Mercedes wasn't moving. The winch was struggling and doing nothing.

Again, may not apply. It really depends on what type of extraction you're going to be doing.

4696
 

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Discussion Starter #9
LOL!!! Guess what discussion I just had? A winch discussion for my Ascent!
Anyways, SHHHH!!!! Primitive is making a front bumper replacement winch mount for the Ascent. Release date pending.

I am using a hitch platform and second battery, so I can use the 0 gauge short wires from the winch and not waste money on 4/0 gauge (though, I ordered it already and Amazon doesn't seem to want to cancel it).

This was the final plan before I decided to just use my 2nd battery instead.

View attachment 4694

The image says 12' - it's not. It's 18' give or take.
View attachment 4695

I'll perma wire it once a front platform is available.
Rob,
You and I always seem to be working on the same or similar projects, lol!

The 4/0 wire and Anderson type connectors are my plans as well. I was also going to include a battery shut off switch inline just to depower the huge wires going to the back of the Ascent when not in use (a little extra safety).

So far, however, I just can't bring myself to order 25 feet of 4/0 copper wire (very expensive as you know) when I know that I'll probably never need the full power and amperage draw of the winch. I could run 2/0 wire and it would probably be ok for the majority of the time. Yet, I don't want to purposely induce a weak link. The engineering side of my brain is fighting with the economic side, lol.

Technically, as you know, the 0-gauge wire doesn't have the rated ampacity for a 12,000 lb winch, but if used in a short run it would probably still work ok for limited duty pulls. It sure is a lot better than the 2-gauge wire that comes with most large winches and even in the rear hookup kits.

It's great to hear that a front bumper replacement winch mount for the Ascent is in the works! I'll be sure to consider that when it becomes available.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Total need is a little under 20 feet. I went with welding wire. I then went with standard Anderson quick disconnects, and an emergency cut off switch, all to be in the engine compartment. Wire was 4/0, because, like you, I like doing it right, with a little room. I calculated 445a max for 4/0 at 18 feet. I need less than that, but more than what 3/0 would allow.

I was going to use this wire:

These ring terminals:

These quick disconnects:

And an emergency disconnect switch. Additionally, there's be a power block at the hitch for the connection from my wires to the hitch's wiring (shorter wires, standard ring connectors).
Thanks for listing the required length. I was going to order a little more for the connection from the rear connector to the winch itself (or did you include this in your measurement as well?).

I was also going to use welding wire as it's the best choice for mounting permanently under the car due to its ruggedness, and the same connectors.

I'm surprised you didn't go through with the rear wiring since you too are considering a travel trailer someday and this could also serve to provide battery power and alternator charging to the RV. But the cost is a major factor. The wiring costs almost as much as my winch.
 

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Thanks for listing the required length. I was going to order a little more for the connection from the rear connector to the winch itself (or did you include this in your measurement as well?).

I was also going to use welding wire as it's the best choice for mounting permanently under the car due to its ruggedness, and the same connectors.

I'm surprised you didn't go through with the rear wiring since you too are considering a travel trailer someday and this could also serve to provide battery power and alternator charging to the RV. But the cost is a major factor. The wiring costs almost as much as my winch.
I measured to the center of the winch platform, outside the car body (I wasn't going to permanently wire it, but unspool it from the hitch platform and connect the quicks under the hood).

I can't see any way of running two runs of 4/0 where the trailer wiring is, but it would be nice. I'm especially afraid of running wiring underneath because of my off road shenanigans. Last thing I want is to eat some insulation on a rock that hits the underside hard enough to dent something (pleading the fifth about such happenings), and causing a dead short the next time I apply power.

Regardless, I found the stock wiring to be fine, even for recharging the Heartland Edge's battery when near dead.

If the price on that welding wire looks good to you, I may have 20 feet to sell, because, it looks like Amazon isn't canceling my order. I'd gladly ship it to you and eat shipping, if that's the case.
4697
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Right, but something I learned the other day is the weight of the towed object isn't relevant on its own. This may not apply to your needs, but, how stuck the object is, also applies, and that can increase the rolling load to the limits of a winch.

This guy was so stuck that me with a recoil rope, and the Jeep, with a winch, combined, at the same time, Couldn't free him. The Jeep wasn't moving, and I wasn't moving, and the Mercedes wasn't moving. The winch was struggling and doing nothing.

Again, may not apply. It really depends on what type of extraction you're going to be doing.

View attachment 4696
Yes, this is why I'm hesitant to purposely induce a weak link into the system by using smaller gauge wire. You never know when you'll need full power to the winch.

However, the mystery is why Warn and other highly respectable winch manufacturers seem so comfortable using 2-gauge wire for winches up to 16,000 lbs. What are their electrical engineers telling them that we haven't considered? Again, my guess is that they're perfectly ok with overloading the wire for the duty cycle of the winch.
 

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Yes, this is why I'm hesitant to purposely induce a weak link into the system by using smaller gauge wire. You never know when you'll need full power to the winch.

However, the mystery is why Warn and other highly respectable winch manufacturers seem so comfortable using 2-gauge wire for winches up to 16,000 lbs. What are their electrical engineers telling them that we haven't considered? Again, my guess is that they're perfectly ok with overloading the wire for the duty cycle of the winch.
I couldn't find their kits for any length. I see people no both sides of this argument, but, even when I put current draw times (eg: 3 minute max) into wire gauge calculators, they say 4/0. Best I got with really conservative figures was 3/0.

For something that'll light the car up or blow up a battery in a spectacular dead short, I will go with the proper rated wire (and an emergency disconnect far enough from the battery, yet close enough to leave as little cable as possible between it and the battery).
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I measured to the center of the winch platform, outside the car body (I wasn't going to permanently wire it, but unspool it from the hitch platform and connect the quicks under the hood).

I can't see any way of running two runs of 4/0 where the trailer wiring is, but it would be nice. I'm especially afraid of running wiring underneath because of my off road shenanigans. Last thing I want is to eat some insulation on a rock that hits the underside hard enough to dent something (pleading the fifth about such happenings), and causing a dead short the next time I apply power.

Regardless, I found the stock wiring to be fine, even for recharging the Heartland Edge's battery when near dead.

If the price on that welding wire looks good to you, I may have 20 feet to sell, because, it looks like Amazon isn't canceling my order. I'd gladly ship it to you and eat shipping, if that's the case.
View attachment 4697
Thanks for the offer, I may take you up on that if I decide to go that way, or like you, I may decide on a separate battery. I'm still thinking it through.

In any case, don't worry about Amazon. Sometimes they won't let you cancel an order but you can always return it after it arrives at no charge, even for return shipping. I've had to do this several times.
 

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In any case, don't worry about Amazon. Sometimes they won't let you cancel an order but you can always return it after it arrives at no charge, even for return shipping. I've had to do this several times.
True.

Or, knowing me, if it arrives, I'll end up going with my original plan. In some ways, I prefer that plan, because it means my new Group 24F battery goes into the engine compartment, lol!
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I couldn't find their kits for any length. I see people no both sides of this argument, but, even when I put current draw times (eg: 3 minute max) into wire gauge calculators, they say 4/0. Best I got with really conservative figures was 3/0.

For something that'll light the car up or blow up a battery in a spectacular dead short, I will go with the proper rated wire (and an emergency disconnect far enough from the battery, yet close enough to leave as little cable as possible between it and the battery).
Right. 4/0 is the correct sized wire for a 12,000 lb winch drawing 360 amps, for any sized run, but the Winch manufactures still use 2-gauge which is not even close. Go figure.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
True.

Or, knowing me, if it arrives, I'll end up going with my original plan. In some ways, I prefer that plan, because it means my new Group 24F battery goes into the engine compartment, lol!
That 24F will fit into the Group 35 slot under the hood. I've seen it done. Someone here already did that as you probably know.

If you do decide to go with your original plan, let me know how it works out. I'll do the same if I wire mine before you get a chance.
 

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Right. 4/0 is the correct sized wire for a 12,000 lb winch drawing 360 amps, for any sized run, but the Winch manufactures still use 2-gauge which is not even close. Go figure.
Right, even at really short distances (2 feet or less) at 360a, 3/0 barely squeaks by at 385 amps for 2 feet or less of 3/0. It baffles me. Mine too (not Warn) is 1 gauge or 2 gauge (I'd have to dig it out to check). Baffling.
4698
 

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That 24F will fit into the Group 35 slot under the hood. I've seen it done. Someone here already did that as you probably know.
Yep, my fellow Subaru Ambassador, Lucas, is running the exact battery I ordered. Just barely fits, but makes it. I got the Northstar.

If you do decide to go with your original plan, let me know how it works out. I'll do the same if I wire mine before you get a chance.
Will do! The more we talk about it, the more I am considering going back to that plan - even though I'll have a ton of extra wire when I get the bumper mount lol!
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Yep, my fellow Subaru Ambassador, Lucas, is running the exact battery I ordered. Just barely fits, but makes it. I got the Northstar.



Will do! The more we talk about it, the more I am considering going back to that plan - even though I'll have a ton of extra wire when I get the bumper mount lol!
Do you know if the front bumper mount will be a permanent type mount or a receiver type mount? It sure would be nice to be able to use the winch on either end. Many trucks have that option.

It would also be nice to remove the winch when not in use for security purposes and to keep it out of the weather.
 
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