How to Test a Winch Solenoid? A Step By Step Guide!

The winch is equipment designed to pull heavy loads for livelihood and emergencies.

Imagine something you rely on that gets unreliable during critical situations suddenly. How do you feel then? Unexpected and weird circumstances…

Have you noticed that your winch motor is pulling cable slower than before? Or worse, did it stop working at all in the middle of the task? As long as there is no burnt smell, or smoke coming out from the winch motor itself, then chances are, the issue will be on your switches, electrical wire connections, or winch solenoid unit.

In this article, we will be focusing on how to test a winch solenoid in the latter component. Before we go, let’s check out which equipment you’ll need to test your winch solenoid. And if you like the best winch for jeep JI, here it is.

Things Required:

  • Personal Protective EquipmentEven though you go for testing a small object, SAFETY FIRST is a must… and be the FIRST, regardless of size and tasks.
  • Safety GlovesSince you will work with direct electric flow, rubber gloves are suitable.
  • Safety Glasses and Safety MaskThese pieces of equipment will help you clean the solenoid terminals. You shouldn’t inhale any rust or black carbon dust, would you?
  • Multi-MeterIt is a standard electrician’s partner. It works great with both the digital screen and analog needle pointer. Borrowing one from a friend (if possible) will save you from unnecessary purchases.
  • Electrical Contact CleanerIt is a WD-40 for electrical components. It works well in removing carbon build-up and rust on terminals made of copper or brass material. A spray can like this is a good value for the money as you may find other uses for it in the future.
  • Wire Brush or Used ToothbrushIt will depend on the degree of carbon built in your terminals. If black carbon powder is present, then a used toothbrush will do. If it rusts, then it needs to use a wire brush instead.
  • An Automobile Batteryor any power source is required that can supply 12V DC.

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    Best Practice for Noobs

    Assuming you successfully have (or asked someone) disassembled your winch control box to take out your winch solenoid and decided to DIY, here are important items to keep in mind:

  • Determine the model/brand winch motor used by the winch solenoid. It will give you an overview of your winch solenoid model. Is it a two-solenoid type? Perhaps a four-solenoid-type? What brand is it? The specific model provides information on the electrical load capacity (voltage and amperes) and the wiring layout of your solenoid unit.
  • You might get help searching pictures internet for wiring diagrams for your solenoid unit.
  • Check if apparent surface damage to the solenoid unit.
  • Look for any labels or color markings that identify the terminals. (i.e. positive, negative, groundings)
  • Clean the terminals of any dirt, rust, or carbon build-up using your wire brush. In case of severe carbon, you may opt to spray some electrical contact cleaner. Do not forget to wipe off excess afterward.
  • REMEMBER to wear your safety glasses and mask if you will do this!
  • Inspect all parts to find if any loose or broken wires or screws are out there. Replace them if required.
  • The Testing Steps

    Usually, if your winch solenoid unit has 4-studs (2 large studs & 2 small studs), it means that you have to test only 1 solenoid coil. Otherwise, you have to apply all the steps below repeatedly. It will mostly depend on the number of solenoid coils of the winch solenoid unit.

    • Once you have successfully identified the correct wires and terminal labels on your unit, connect your positive cable (+, RED) FROM your solenoid to the winch motor. Do the same for the negative (-, BLACK) cable as well. Take note of the markings on the metal studs on your solenoid unit.

    Note: On updated electricals, BLUE and YELLOW connections will determine the direction in which way your winch motor spins.

    • Then, connect the negative cable (-, BLACK) from the battery to the solenoid.
    • Now take the positive cable (+, RED) and connect it from the battery to the solenoid.

    Pro Tips: Be careful when doing this step as it will completely close your electric connection. So do not be panicked when it sparks upon contact. Learn more about negative voltage and its performance here.

  • THE HUNTING STEP:This is the trickiest step as it is where your testing will branch off to several possible scenarios:
    • If, upon contact, your winch motor starts to spin, CONGRATULATIONS! The winch solenoid will still be working, and your DIY testing ends here. If not, take a deep breath, and then continue reading below.
    • Upon contact, if the winch motor does not spin or click, it is now time to determine whether you will purchase a replacement winch solenoid or start saving for a replacement winch motor.
    • If, upon contact, you hear a clicking sound on your winch motor but does not spin, rejoice! It likely means that your winch solenoid is a faulty line.
    • Now it’s time to use the multimeter you borrowed. Set the knob to take the Red & Black leads, touching them on the pair of studs on your solenoid coil.

    Note: When you use a winch system, you know that small accessory kits like solenoid starters play a vital role. Likewise, winch fairleads are also essential parts of the winch system. If you have three minutes in hand, you can read the guide on fairleads to know which one is fit for you. When you’ll learn about the function of fairleads, you may change your mind to select the entire winch system. As a beginner, more chances are there to be fooled by the wrong selection!


    Remember that you have to do this every time if it includes more than 1 solenoid coil on the unit. Some of the sections mentioned are also principles to be applied when testing other small electronic equipment/components. Hopefully, this piece of writing may come to your help in need of testing the winch solenoid. More of such writings may help you. You can find all the writings here.

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