A power winch is one of those farm tools that's handy to have around, especially if you like off-road driving, want to drag pallets or need to pull out a piece of equipment stuck in the mud. Here are a few ins and outs of buying a winch for your 4-wheel drive truck.

Types - Basically, there are three options. You may choose a low-voltage winch, which runs off 12- or 24-volt DC electrical systems, a high-voltage winch, which runs off 110-volt AC current or the hydraulic-only winch that's the most heavy-duty for farm jobs.

Line pull - This is the amount of load (weight) the winch can pull. There is a calculation to this rating. The rating is accurate for the first layer of rope (the steel cable) wound onto the drum. For each additional layer, deduct 10% from the maximum rating.

Winch size - To determine the size of winch you'll need, make this simple calculation: multiply the gross vehicle weight of the truck (find it on the driver's side door) by 1.5. That's the minimum size winch for the vehicle.

Ropes - The higher-value winches have wire-core ropes. The less expensive systems have nylon cores. Most winches have 110 feet of rope.

Line speed - There are two measures of line speed, which is the speed required for the winch to recover the rope. Some may have a no-load speed of 38 feet per minute or may have a full-load speed at which the rope is recovered when moving at its maximum weight capacity.

Gearing - Typically, you'll choose  between two types: a worm gear or a planetary gear. Gearing converts motor speed to line-recovering torque on the drum. The worm gear generates the highest conversion. The planetary gear is a system that recovers the rope at higher speed.

Motor - Permanent magnet motors are good for light-duty winching, and series-wound motors are best for heavy pulling.

Battery - Winches put a heavy strain on a standard electrical system. Consider the alternator size, battery type (maybe add a second battery) and grounding setup.

Front or rear mounted - Most people choose one or the other. Portability from front to back is convenient, but the maximum pulling weight capacity will be reduced.

Source: Dairy Calf & Heifer Association