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Winch vs Hoist: What's the Difference?

Winch vs Hoist: What's the Difference?

Hoist and Winch

Some people use the words 'winch' and 'hoist' interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two, and it's important to understand that difference before you decide which product to use for a certain job.

The basic difference is as follows:

Hoists lift things. Winches pull things.

Winches are designed to pull loads horizontally across a relatively level surface, whereas hoists can be used to lift loads vertically and suspend them in mid-air.

Hoisting vs Winching Diagram

Important: If you're pulling a load up a steep slope - where the load would descend the slope due to gravity if unsupported - this is classified as a lifting operation and requires the use of a hoist, not a winch.

Can a winch be used as a hoist?

Generally speaking, no. It is not safe to use a standard winch to lift loads up off the ground, as it wasn't designed for this purpose and there is a risk that the load will be dropped.

One of the key differences between winches and hoists lies in their braking systems.

  • Winches normally use dynamic brakes that are specifically designed to support rolling loads, not lift dead weights. The gears of a dynamic braking system automatically lock when pulling a load, but lifting a weight vertically can overwhelm the strength of this system, causing the load to slip and potentially damaging the gears.

  • Hoists use mechanical brakes that are specifically designed to lock and support the load you're lifting. This system is far better suited to vertical lifting, and unlike winches, most hoists are fitted with load limiters to prevent you from attempting to lift a weight that exceeds the hoist's WLL (Working Load Limit).

However, there is some overlap: certain winching products are designed to double up as hoists. For instance, SafetyLiftinGear's Electric Winch (available in 110 volt or 240 volt configurations) can be used as a winch with a pulling capacity of 800kg...or as a hoist with a lifting capacity of 500kg.

Electric Winch

Buy or hire hoists/winches from SafetyLiftinGear.com

Now that you know the difference between hoists and winches, use the following links to buy or hire the product you need:

Hoists & Other Lifting Equipment


Any other questions? Get in touch with the SafetyLiftinGear team!

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