When I purchased my cruiser in 2011,it was basically already trail ready (as all cruisers are to a degree). It had a lift, front bumper, rock sliders and factory lockers. All I needed was a winch and a rear bumper to get me out and about on the trails. To me the first purchase has to be a winch.
Winches are a hard one to decide whether to go with a cheaper brand with the rationale that you hardly ever use it or going with a reputable brand with the argument, when you do need to use it must work. I am a big believer in buying something good and you only have to do it once and I didn’t want to be let down on the trails so I went with the recently released at the time Warn Zeon 10. A couple of things stood out for me with the winch. The integrated contactor pack in the winch body and the introductory price of $750 with steel cable for a 10K Warn winch got me over the line.
I was fortunate enough to get a very sleek and minimal front bumper with the cruiser so I figured there may be some modifications to be made once I received the winch. To my surprise the winch fit in perfectly. However the integrated housing on top that holds the contactor had to go. Warn offers a nice cable extension system that relocated the contactor to a more convenient location. There are two lengths, and I opted to go with the longer length as the price increase was incremental and I hadn’t fully planned on where I was going to relocate the contactor. The instructions were very good and the install took no more than a couple of hours and most of that was trying to mount the contactor into an unobtrusive location which took advantage of the captive nuts in the Toyota engine bay.
Winces look great especially when they’re new and shiny, so you always get some instant gratification. However you always want to really test how it preforms. Over the last few years the winch has preformed flawlessly with some fairly basic pulls. I believe most winches would do the same job though. So at the end of last year I started to really put it to the test. We did some winter show-wheeling and had to pull the 5000lb cruiser over 100 feet up a snow covered hill with ease.
Since then I decided to get a synthetic rope to replace the steel anchor. I think that synthetic is the only way to go. That being said, I disobeyed my rule above and went with a generic chinese rope from amazon for half the price of a warn. In hindsight this was a waste of $160 when I snapped it quickly on the pull I’ll go into detail below.
A couple of weeks ago we found out about two jeeps in the bottom of one of our local pristine rivers. The owners has abandoned them and left them there for the better part of a month, so we decided for the owners but more importantly the environment that we pull them out. The main winching vehicle was the cruiser with the 10,000lb winch on it. The pull was form about 150’ down a 45 degree embankment so it wasn’t gong to be easy. I started the pull with a single line pull and the winch pulled flawlessly, never coming to a halt. About 10’ into the pull the cheap synthetic rope snapped in two. I did a quick figure of 8 on it and we were winching again with a double line pull to conserve the ropes integrity. At that point some other offroaders came to give us a hand. They had a 8000lb smitty bilt winch hooked up to a Toyota mini truck. Well we pulled in unison however the smitty bilt winch kept stalling out (no fault of the smitty bilt as the operator refused to get a double line pull on his winch. There was several hours of winching and the Warn Zeon did the bulk of the work, always pulling and never stopping. I was extremely impressed in the strength and power of the Warn.
I would highly recommend the Warn Zeon 10, but now I’d get it with the synthetic cable from the factory. If you’re looking at getting into a winch for $400 the Warn isn’t in the running, but in my opinion it’s priced within reach of most off-road enthusiasts and definitely worth the extra couple hundred dollars more. When you need it you will appreciate that you have it. Below are the links to the specific Winch I bough and the model with the synthetic rope. I will also include a link for the contactor relocation kit and some handy winching essentials.