Industrial workers, tugboat operators, and other heavy-equipment operators frequently find themselves asking, “Should I look into a hydraulic winch or an electric one?” The answer depends on a lot of factors, but we find that the answer is hydraulic more often than not. Here’s why:
Hydraulics Generate More Power
An electric winch can’t keep up with the direct power provided by a hydraulic pump. Proponents of electric winches point out (correctly) that electric winches are more efficient, but that efficiency comes at the cost of raw power.
Greater Manual Control
Electric winches, from the perspective of user interaction, are simple. You move the lever, the winch moves in the appropriate direction. It’s simple, but ask anyone who has ever switched from a Mac to a PC: simplicity comes with a price, and that price is control. Hydraulics allow you not only greater control from the control panel itself, but they also allow you to get inside the machine and make changes that can dramatically affect the way the machine performs — something that an electric winch offers none of.
Hydraulic Winches Don’t Overheat
One of the biggest problems with an electric winch is in repeated, long pulls — the winch will get hotter and hotter as it keeps pulling. Over a surprisingly short period of time, an electric motor regularly subjected to that kind of strain can break down or become incredibly inefficient, draining it’s battery (or sucking a large amount of power out of an engine through it’s alternator). Hydraulic winches don’t overheat, so for applications where repeated, long pulls are necessary, hydraulic winches are far superior.
Ease of Repair
When an electric winch breaks down, you have to have an electrician, an array of supplies, and a stable environment to fix it. When a hydraulic winch breaks, it’s almost always at one of a half-dozen valves or switches, each of which can be easily replaced by hand by almost anyone with the ability to use some basic hand tools. Hydraulic winches can even be repaired on rough water.
There are plenty of other reasons to pick a hydraulic winch over an electric one — but these fundamentals should be enough to show you which choice will be best for you.