So you are thinking about buying a winch. If you are like me and enjoy calling it a wench instead of winch you probably are new to all this and need a little 411.
Do you need a winch?
Need is a strong word. There are other ways to accomplish the same tasks that a winch helps with. A winch does make recovery a lot easier and I would suggest at least one vehicle with a winch on any off road outing. Plus they are just cool looking. The catch is they are not cheap. Try to talk your buddy into buying it and putting it on his jeep.
How big of a winch?
The common rule is 1.5x the weight of the vehicle. Most TJs weigh about 4000lbs stock. Add some bigger tires and bumper, skid plates, etc and you can get up to 5000lbs quick. Still at 5000lbs a 8000lb winch will do just fine in most situations.
There are two main types of winches you will hear about, internal solenoid and external solenoid. Internal costs more. With external you can choose where to install the solenoid. Some install it under the hood for a cleaner look. You will want to make sure you can get to it easily if you need to.
Some winches claim to run when submerged. This could be helpful if you find yourself too deep.
Winches come with either steel or synthetic cable. Synthetic seems to have the advantage right now. It is safer (when it breaks it will not snap back as hard), it does not fray and leave sharp spots, and it is lighter.
Warn is the industry leader. They are a large company (has many government contracts), provide great customer service, but cost the most. Because of their government contracts, they do maintain manufacturing and assembly plants in the USA however many of the parts are imported. Some will say to buy Warn because it is more American. That is a decision left to you.
There are many other brands: Superwinch, Smittybuilt, Gorilla, Milemarker, Heirbor Freight (aka Chicago Electric).
Here is an older article where they did a torture test of some winches: Jeep Articles / General (Winches In Hell) - MoabJeeper Magazine
You need to consider your use, style, and budget. Keep in mind you get what you paid for. In general, a $300 winch will not perform or last like a $1000 winch however there are many happy winchers with a $300 winch.
The internet is your friend. I would recommend talking to the company you are buying from. There are companies that just drop ship from wholesalers and know nothing about the product. Find someone that knows what they are selling and will stand behind the sale.
There are many threads on here about how to install a winch. One thing to keep in mind is that unless your bumper is winch ready, you will need a winch plate. My basic understanding of a winch plate is that it provides a secure mounting service that helps transfer the load from using a winch to the frame of the vehicle. Most bumpers are not manufactured to deal with an attached winch pulling thousands of pounds from their center point.
I am a complete newbie at winches. I am providing this info based on my research over the past month or so. Here is a great article that provides even more detail: