How to Test a Winch Motor: The Ways You Didn’t Know About

Assume you’re traveling in your car at night and suddenly your chubby tire got stuck in sticky mud or slit broken road. You keep trying to start your winch motor, but it totally winds up! Imagine how dreadful it’d be at that moment.

If you’d test your winch motor before leaving, you might not stick under the open sky. Well, don’t be upset if you don’t know how to do that because we’re going to teach you how to test a winch motor in a very accessible way.

Not only just for the extreme case, to get a clean performance, testing winch motor is important. 

Here, the process will give you a set by step clear (DIY) idea about how to test and what tool will be required.

How to Test a Winch Motor: The Major 3 Steps

To perform the testing of a winch motor in a trouble-free way, it’s important to have a proper idea about the necessary tools that are going to be needed.

Therefore, knowing the techniques to test your winch motor can come in quite handy for you.

1. Jumper Cable Test 

Jumper cable test is one of the easiest techniques among all other steps. Let’s get to know how to test a winch with jumper cables.

For doing this test, you need to follow these steps:  

  1. Firstly, ensure the winch cables are disconnected, and the vehicle’s battery is charged. 
  2. With the help of jumper wires, connect the vehicle’s battery or a backup battery to the winch.
  3. Link up your black cable in one end of your winch terminal. Now take the red cable and connect it with another end of the winch. If the lines go well, you’ll get a spark signal, and the things will move. However, if nothing shows up in any of these it means there’re some misconnections.
  4. Gently tap the red cable terminal of the winch, which should be responding electrically.  
  5. Link the winch drum to the red cable terminal. Then, it should be heading in a single direction. 
  6. The winch drum will move inversely due to overturn linkup at the end. 

While following the winch motor wiring diagram, the electrical response of the winch drum indicates that your winch motor is working. If it doesn’t move, it means that there might be problems. 

If your motor doesn’t work after the jump cable test

  • Damaged Brushes – When you press the positive wire on the winch’s terminal, it means the winch’s electrical connection is totally secure. But if you notice that the winch drum doesn’t show any movement, it should be a problem caused by damaged motor brushes. Getting new brushes will solve the issue.
  • Defected fuse – A fuse can be damaged in many ways, if it’s already damaged then simply replace it, because fixing the fuse is another problem.
  • Short circuit – High voltage creates a short circuit and damages the wire. Figure the damaged wire and remove that. Get a new one.

What If Your Motor Goes Only One Way?

Multiple points can be responsible for this ‘one-way’ problem.

  • Defected Switch and regulator – Any switch and nods can defect, creating dysfunction. In that case, replace that.
  • Improper wire connection – The line can be faulty in some connections. If your wire seems old or damaged, then stop using that and replace it with a new one
  • Filthy motor – Dust and rust can easily jam your motor function. So always clean it and cover it when you’re not using it.

2. Voltage Drop Test 

For the electrical parts of the winch, excluding the winch’s motor, you should execute this test. 

To make this method work, you need to follow these steps given below: 

  1. By turning the selector dial to the DC voltage setting, set the multimeter in VDC. 
  2. Connect one of the probes to the winch’s grounding and another one to the blue or yellow wire of the winch.  
  3. In this stage, both your winch and multimeter should be activated. Measure the voltage and notice the running voltage of the winch should be closer to the reading of the multimeter. If this is the case, then your winch is working perfectly. 

Now, if it isn’t giving the measures accordingly, there might be some problems with the electronic systems.  

If Your Motor Doesn’t Work After Voltage Test

Only one way can get you out of this dilemma if the voltage test doesn’t live up to the mark, and that’s cleaning. Here you go. 

Clean Your Motor Thoroughly

Cleaning is important for not only longer life but also better performance. Here are some steps.

  • Disconnects all the lines
  • Unattached parts which are easily doable
  • Clean with airflow and brush
  • Start the motor for the test, check if there are other problems.

3. How to Bench Test a Winch Motor

Before performing this test, make sure your motor is stable and secure.

  • An earth cable is needed to connect with your winch motor. joint bolt can be found either on the top bottom or bottom left
  • Now connect the A end terminal with F1 end terminal with a good quality connector.
  • Now you can examine the polarity situation in the motor. To know that, you can attach a connector with the F2 end. You also can link up the F2 end, A, and F1 end to know the other polarity result.

Now, What If the Winch Is Very Slow After All the Test

There’re three reasons if you don’t get the expected performance after all.

  • Lack of lubricant use – Users mostly forget about this part, but this is very important for better performance. Some parts of the motor need moisture. Otherwise, it won’t perform. So, apply the lubricant on those necessary parts on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Continuing with defective parts – Sometimes, we keep using the motor when a particular part is injured or barely works. In that case, you really should change that stuff as soon as possible. 
  • Low powered battery – People often forget to change their motor’s battery after a longer period of use. As a result, it gives poor performance. Make sure you take care of that seriously.

How to Maintain Your Winch Motor for a Prolonged Service Life

Just a few steps can ensure the long life of your winch motor. Even, you don’t need to do any servicing if you thoroughly follow these points.

  1. Clean the motor on a daily basis
  2. Check all the wire connections and joints on a regular basis
  3. Lubricant necessary areas
  4. Replace defective parts in time


How to fix a winch motor?

If your winch motor isn’t turning on, you can apply a wire of 16 gauges or higher, making the two opposite pins work in the socket. To see further effects on the motor, you can twitch other pairs of pins.  

Another method of fixing a winch motor is by cleaning your motor perfectly. It helps in the flow of electricity too. 

How to test a winch solenoid? 

For testing a winch solenoid, you need to make sure if the wires are fitted properly and if there is a reading on the voltmeter after checking the cable connections. If the wires are loose or there is no reading, the winch solenoid is not working.  

When you’re testing 12v winch motor, you should be aware of turning off the winch by unscrewing the solenoid cover after disconnecting the cables. 

How would you know if your winch contactor is bad? 

 Mainly, a witch contactor is bad when you have a broken wire or a switch that doesn’t work when connected to the contactor. On the winch, the contactor mainly works on the power and IN pole or OUT pole. So, when the connection isn’t working, it’d tell you that your winch contactor is bad.  

How do you test a winch motor with jumper cables? 

You can easily verify the jumper cables to connect the battery by gently tapping the red cable on the positive terminal and the black cable on the negative terminal. If the winch drum moves following an electrical response, your motor works with it. 

The winch drum would also rotate in the opposite direction if connected reversely. If it doesn’t respond, then your motor might be broken. 

How do you test a winch solenoid with a multimeter? 

With the winch turned off, tap a voltmeter to the two large studs placed on the winch side of the solenoid. After measuring the reading of the voltmeter, you will read 12 volts if it is working. 

When the solenoid gives a ‘click’ sound, it means that it is ready and connected with a multimeter. After testing, the resistance should read zero Ohms. 


By now, you must’ve covered the major portions which are needed for testing it. Therefore if you face any issues, we’ve also given the solutions to your advantage regarding how to test a winch motor. If it doesn’t work even after that, you can try the bench testing method.

One thing to remember is that your winch motor can function at its optimum performance by proper maintenance and cleanliness, or you might come across in-depth issues. Good luck! 

Ricardo Vaughn
Ricardo Vaughn

Vaughn is a seasoned off-roading expert and professional winch specialist. When he's not out on the trails, he shares his knowledge and experiences through his writing as a blog author in the off-roading and outdoor lifestyle space.

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