Common Warn Winch Problems That You Should Know: With Fix

Last Updated on August 15, 2022

There are many winch manufacturer brands out there. Among them, the Warn winches are the most renowned as their product users do not suffer lots of defects like other brand models.

In the late 1950’s, Warn Industries started the development of the electric winch. In 1974, the company updated its Belleview Winch to the M8274. It featured more modern components and had and impressive an 8,000 lb. capacity. Ever since, they have been upgrading their winches regularly.

Today, I am going to discuss some common problems of warn winches and how to troubleshoot winch problems. Stay with me, it’s going to be insightful for you.

By the way, I have reviewed a few warn winch series. If you’re looking to buy a new one then you may find these helpful.

Most Common Warn Winch Problems

1. The contractor often goes wicked

The major problems that are seen in winches especially warn winches is that the contractor frequently got wicked.

Generally, a controller is a small size black box that usually holds the relay switches controlling power when the power is sent to winch. Usually, you will find the controller box on the back part of the winch either terminals or wires on it.

However, warn is to seal this contractor for stopping water from getting into it. Later, warn has recalled some winch model as the quality of the contractor was poor. This poor quality might lead to fires.

As a result, the grim and mud frequently get into the contractor and results in a dead contractor. If you need to replace then check these winch contractors. Make sure to check if it fits your model.

2. Problems while spooling

Another major problem of warn winches that are seen is the spooling cable for the warns winches back into the place.

Lots of warn winch users complained about these spooling issues. According to them, spooling does not wind up easily and won’t free spool as your expectations until you turn on the switch.

It is recommended to use a synthetic rope instead of a steel cable as the synthetic rope is much easier to wind than a steel cable.

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3. Winch stuck in free spool

Winch free spool doesn’t engage?

To fix: Take the side cover of the winch off and there will be a spring/ramp mechanism. Grease it, put it back together, and check if it works. There can be many reasons behind it, best option will be to see a mechanic if basic checking doesn’t work.

4. Useless Remote

A dead winch can be renamed as a useless or dead remote, not the winch itself. It’s frequently seen that the remote control stops working properly.

However, it should not be a major problem as the warn winch is renowned for replacing dead parts quickly.

In the rear case, you need to keep in your mind about some problems with the remote controls, as the problem may be mistaken for a problem with the winch itself. Here is some warn winch remote replacement options.

5. Motor often stop working

Another reason for a dead winch is the motor can stop working. It’s often seen that the motor stops working for unknown reasons.

There could be lots of reasons behind a quitting motor. It can be getting stuck, the motor gears are faulty, a bad ground contact, or entrance of dirt into the casing of the motor.

However, the solution to deal with the dead motor is quite easy.

Firstly, you can try to free up the motor gears by tapping the housing with a hammer. Secondly, check whether you have solid ground or not. For this, you need to check the ground contact.

Lastly, clean the winch after taking it apart. After that, you will see that your winch is running well again.

6. Frayed rope resulting in a snapped cable

It does not matter whether you use steel cable or synthetic rope on your winch. Eventually, it will become frayed. Well, generally it happens by using the cable over time.

Remember that a frayed rope can normally spool close to the housing. Also, keep in mind that the cable can be snapped from the rubbing of the metal framework.

However, there is a simple solution to this problem. The solution is to ensure that you are bringing some sort of covering whenever you are going to wrap the cable around a sharp object.

You can use these type of straps too.

7. Provides low power while the winch is new

After a certain period of time, you are supposed to notice that the winch pulling capacity is not the same as it was before.

The reason behind this may be: The wrong installation, attaching the electrical grounding wire to the motor housing is not done, there is something that isn’t going right with the battery, or overheating the motor.

If you face this problem, then you should recharge the battery, replace the motor itself and its brushes, and clean the battery and wire terminals.


A winch is considered a good friend, when you’re in danger and in need of help. But did you ever find your helping friend not helpful?

Yes, I am talking about your friend: winch.

A winch is a machinery tool that is used to pull or lift any objects, especially while recovering your vehicle. Like other machinery tools, a winch may also have physical or functional problems.

These are some common problems that a warn winch user often faces and the same goes for other brands.

However, if you have good knowledge about a winch, then you will be able to deal with your emergencies effectively. If you are new to winching then I hope that this article has helped you to deal with the warn winch problems.

If you’ve liked this guide, then you might also like to read our guide on how to bench test a winch.

common warn winch problems

17 thoughts on “Common Warn Winch Problems That You Should Know: With Fix”

  1. I have used my winch only once and it’s brand new.
    I cannot get it to engage as it is stuck in the free spool state.
    Any suggestions?

    • On some winches where the free spool lever goes into the winch there is a triangular keyway that engages the gears. One way is engaged the other free spool. Often times, the spring that holds pressure against the keyway can be broken which would cause your problem. You can try fixing it by simply replacing the spring with a heavier one of equal or close to the same size. Any competent hardware should have something to match for less than a buck. All you got is a dollar and a little time in it. If you’ve never disassembled a winch before pay attention to how the gears set together when you pull the winch apart, it’s helpful for reassembly.

  2. The winch on my side by side is a Warn Vantage 4000, it will spool out, but when I try to spool in, it won’t. it will free spool on disengage in and out.

    • Take the side cover of the winch off, there will be a spring/ramp mechanism or some such thing. Grease it and put it back together and check if it works. There can be many reasons behind it, best option will be to see a mechanic if basic checking doesn’t work.

  3. Hi. I have warn axon 45s winch. I bought it from amazon and after installation it is working with clicks (when operating it turns-stop, turns stop, and it happens for both direction, and no matter its under the load or just trying). Its not just clicks, and not turn, that is why I think this is not solenoid problem, but something else, probably electronics.
    Here is the link for video on how it works.
    youtube .com/watch?v=Mudbp1xeuEI
    Will appreciate any advise.

    • Try the solution I mentioned in free spooling problem (point 3). If that doesn’t work, you’ve to see a mechanic.

  4. I have a Warn winch that I was winding in and all of a sudden it would not stop I unplug the controller and it still will not stop had to pull wires loose before it tore the liftgate off the back of my trailer any suggestions

  5. My winch only starts and stops. In or out. Quite often have to keep pressing the button till it engages. Very rarely runs consistently. I only have a remote . Not sure if it is the solenoid or remote. I have put new batteries in the remote.

  6. I have a brand new Warn Axon 45s it spools in, but will not spool out under power it just clicks. I can free spool it no problem, but if I try to spool it out under power it just clicks.


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