What is the best winch for my Jeep Wrangler TJ?

Finding the best winch for a Jeep Wrangler, in general, can be a tough task. Not even to mention the added difficulty of finding after-market parts and accessories for an older vehicle. While plenty of options still exist for a Wrangler TJ, there are definitely fewer options than say a Jeep Wrangler JK or even JL.

When looking at winches for any vehicle, you are going to need a couple of things to go along with it. Alongside the extra parts needed to install a winch, you will also need some technical know-how to get the job done.

What is the best winch for a Jeep Wrangler TJ?

There are a plethora of winches on the market, but here are my 4 favorite winches to choose from! I listed these from least expensive to most expensive.

Harbor Freight Apex Badlands 12k

I am sure you have heard about this winch. You may be rolling your eyes, but you shouldn’t. I have personally owned this winch on one of my Jeeps for over a year now. Absolutely no issues to speak of, with over 50 recoveries.

Price: $599.99

Smitty Built XRC Gen3 12k

Smitty Built makes a great product, high-quality parts, and world-class technical/customer support. If you’re looking for a winch that has a great name brand to stand behind it then this is a great choice.

Price: $749.99

Warn EVO 12k

What is there not to say about Warn? Warn is a true legend within the offroading community. They are known for world-class winches, competition, to trail riding. A Warn winch will get you home safe – every time.

(Notice this has steel cable, synthetic is more expensive)

Price: $912.99

Warn M8000

While this winch only has 8000 pounds of capacity, you will not notice because it is all you need. While a 12k is nice to have for those shorter winch lead situations, an 8k will be perfect as well.

If you can afford it, the Warn M8000 is the ONLY choice.

(Notice this has steel cable, synthetic is more expensive)

Price: $746.99

Do I need any extra accessories to install a winch on a TJ?

Yes, you may need the following accessories to install a winch easily on your Wrangler TJ. Some of these items come included depending on which winch you get. So I would wait until you receive the winch and then decide exactly what is needed.

Wiring harness:

I will say with almost 100% certainty that all of the winches listed will come with a wiring harness to install the winch. Just in case keep in mind you may need one, especially if you plan to buy a used winch.

Battery Terminals:

You may need new battery terminals to get the job done! Consider looking at upgraded battery terminal clamps that have room for extra accessories.

On/Off Switch:

On/Off switch is peace of mind that the winch won’t be draining the battery while not in use. You can either install the on/off switch next to the winch on the bumper or you can install it inside the cab.


Most winces are internally protected from short circuits, but I like to be extra safe especially with an expensive winch and an expensive Jeep. Consider adding an extra inline fuse!

Smitty Built SRC Stubby Stinger Front Winch Bumper:

Price: $287.99


Price: $419.00

Jeep Wrangler TJ DIY winch bumper:

Okay, so you’re looking for a cheap and easy upgrade for your Jeep TJ. I’ve got one for you! There is no need to spend thousands of dollars on a simple stubby bumper, especially when we can accomplish your goals for around $60-$100. All we are doing here is modifying our stock factory bumper.


  • Angler Ginder/Jigsaw/SawZaw
  • Welder (If Applicable)
  • Impact
  • Sockets

Step 1: Buy

Let’s get the only part we need on order for this build! This is the winch plate I used for my build, but you can choose from a bunch online. This isn’t anything too complicated to dwell on, essentially it is a 1/4″ stamped piece of steel with holes in it.

Rough Country Winch Plate:

Price: $69.95

Step 2: Cut

Let’s cut those ends off now! For me, I wanted to cut the factory bumper as small as possible – you can cut it to any shape or size that you like.

Step 3: Weld (If Applicable)

Okay, this step is not required! If you have a welder and some scrap steel of any thickness you can consider filling in all those holes in the bumper as well as capping the ends of the bumper. I chose to do both for mine!

Step 4: Paint

Time to paint this cool bumper now! If you’re into the whole rusty look then I would disregard it, otherwise, you can choose just about any paint, or color you wish. Worst case scenario is you used to the wrong $4 kind of paint and waisted 30 minutes. In this case, just grind the old paint off and try again.

I chose to go with Bedliner for mine. Turned out quite nice!

Step 5: Install

Finally, let’s install everything – If your winch plate is not in yet, do not worry. Simply install the bumper, once the plate comes in, it will take less than 10 minutes to put it on.

Installing the winch plate is not worth an explanation. I believe the instructions are 3 steps long!

What is a winch?

A winch is essentially a 12V powerful motor that runs off the battery inside of your Jeep Wrangler TJ. Connected to this motor are a spool, clutch system, and a rope or cable.


What extra parts do I need to install a winch on my TJ?

If you do not already have a winch plate (they did not come from the factory with one) then you will need either a new winch plate or a winch bumper that has a mounting surface built-in. You could also use a combination of the two! If you found a bumper you like that does not have a winch mounting surface built-in, then you can simply add a winch plate to make it work.

What is the best winch bumper for a Jeep Wrangler TJ?

Here are some of my favorite winch bumpers for a Jeep Wrangler TJ. Down below you can find a guide for a DIY winch bumper on your TJ.

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