What is a PTO Winch & How Does A PTO Winch Work?

Depending on your needs, there are various winches available. The most common types are electric winches, hydraulic, portable winches, and the less common PTO winch. 

So, how exactly does a PTO winch work? Winches are now well-known in thousands of industries, including mining, manufacturing, sailing, and vehicle recovery. 

Although electric and hydraulic winches are the most well-known, the PTO is a little-known winch with several advantages over its predecessors.

So, in this article, we’ll look at the PTO winch. We’ll go over its meaning, how it works, advantages and disadvantages.

What is PTO winch

pto winch

A PTO winch is a Power Take-Off winch and is not your typical vehicle recovery winch. It is, in fact, much more than that.

Because of their power source, PTO winches differ from electric and hydraulic winches. 

The PTO winch is powered by the gearbox transmission rather than hydraulic pressure or electrical motors. PTO winches function similarly to other winches, but they are faster and more efficient.

How Does A PTO Winch Work?

Most PTO winches are linked to a hydraulic pump, which allows the force to be distributed through the vehicle’s hydraulic system. A hydraulic motor receives this force and converts it to a rotational force.

However, contrary to popular belief, the gearbox is not directly connected to a PTO winch. It is, in fact, linked to a hydraulic system. 

It’s as if the wires have been replaced with hydraulics to connect the system in a simple way to visualize it.

Before buying a PTO winch, make sure your vehicle is compatible with it. They’re typically used in tractors and trucks, so many will not fit your vehicle. 

In fact, before you even consider purchasing a PTO winch, you’ll need to provide the manufacturer with your vehicle specifications. This enables them to obtain the appropriate winch for your vehicle.

Because it is powered by your gearbox, it will only work when the ignition is turned on, similar to an electric winch.

Advantages of PTO Winch

Speed can be adjusted. Because you’re drawing power from the gearbox, you’ll be able to control the output of this power and won’t be limited to a single winch speed. As a result, a PTO winch is extremely versatile.

This winch can be used all day. A power take-off winch is intended to be a workhorse. You can put it through extreme strain for hours, and it will continue to function normally. This is not the case with other winches.

A lot of power. Instead of drawing power from a battery or a fluid, a PTO winch draws power from the element that gets you from point A to B. This means you’ll have plenty of power and will be able to pull some seriously heavy loads. This contributes to the PTO winch’s workhorse status.

Disadvantages of PTO Winch

You cannot apply power to the wheels when your winch is engaged. Another disadvantage of using the engine as your power source is this. It can be extremely frustrating to use only one tool at a time (your vehicle or your winch), especially when a task requires them to work simultaneously. Definitely, something to look into if you would like to get a PTO winch.

Pins for shearing. Shear pins are used in PTO winches. These will break if you overload your winch. This is a complete nightmare that can be extremely difficult to resolve. They are, in the end, very fragile and a pain in the neck.

There’s no engine and no winch. The fact that PTO winches are powered by your engine is great until something goes wrong with the engine. If you use a PTO winch for recovery and your engine fails, your entire recovery system will be destroyed. With a PTO winch, you’re simply putting more reliance on your engine, which is something to keep in mind if you’re stuck in the mud alone at night.


Although the electric winch has seen significant improvements in recent years, the PTO winch remains the king of the winches in power output. 

The engine is the source of power for this type of winch, which is why it is still the best.

However, despite its immense power, most people are unaware of this winch’s existence. 

So, this guide has explained exactly how this winch works to make it easier for you. 

So, if you have a PTO winch and are curious about how it works, this guide has covered everything you need to know.

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As an avid off-road enthusiast, I know firsthand the importance of having a reliable winch. That's why I created WinchAdvice – to help fellow off-roaders like myself make informed decisions when selecting their next winch. So whether you're an experienced pro or a beginner just starting out, my website offers valuable advice and guidance on all things winching.

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