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Badlands Winches... How Bad Are They?


May 19, 2020
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Austin... TX? Nope. Minnesota!
As the title says... just got the fresh Chinese Fre--- I mean, Harbor Freight ad in the mail, and there is a coupon for the Badlands XZR 12000 at $299.

I rarely wheel anymore, sadly, but plan to get back going in a beat up FJ62.

So how bad are they? Is it worth the $299, or not?
If I'm in the position of needing to winch, the last thing I want to worry about is the winch not working. Used Warns aren't much more than that, that's the route I've gone a few times now with no regret.

I'd put a badlands on a trailer or something but that's about it.
No experience with them, but they do seem popular for occasional use. I found a Warn VR-8 on clearance for $300, so I went that route. I know it’s made in a China but have more faith in it than off brand stuff.

IMO, it’s worse to “think” you have a winch (meaning one that will let you down when you really need it), than not have a winch. Either assume you don’t and drive appropriately, or just put it on a trailer or something else that’s not going to massively screw you if it doesn’t work.

If you wheel more crowded trails with someone to recover you it’s less of an issue. My playground is a 1/2 million acre national forest where it’s common to drive all day and never see a soul.
I’d put one on a trailer or maybe my big truck that doesn’t wheel but gets used in the forests. But for my wheeling rigs I stick with a Warn. I’ve never seen a used Warn Winch for that cheap though, or worn wench or warn wench or whatever the retards list it as, they are asking near new money from what I’ve seen.
I'm on year 10 or 11? I got one right when they switched to the badland name.

Its been flawless. Its slow and loud, and it may not last long term if its going on a vehicle thats parked outside 24/7. I wheel an old school dumpster on 37's that's for whatever reason usually the #1 recovery vehicle of whatever group im in. Also use it alot for land management stuff. It gets used quite a bit.

I've been meaning to replace it with a warn for a long time now but 1- it still works and 2- im lazy
They are not bad winches at all. A ton of people buy and use them with almost zero complaints. Some of these guys act like the first time you need it its not going to work and leave you stranded. I'm sure that a Warn that you buy used that has been put through God knows what before you get it is going to be any better...:shaking: Google some reviews and ask people that have owned or own them. Fuck the haters

If I didn't get an absolute smoking deal on a brand new Warn VR12S from the other site when i was building my wife's Jeep I would not have hesitated to go with a Badlands winch..It was part of the original plan.
In my experience, I am not a fan of any of the budget winches. They are all loud, have subtle little issues, have huge current draws, and are slow as hell. I see used Warns (XDi, 9.6Ti, 8274s, M8000) for 300-500$ fairly regularly with very minimal if any issues that are easy fixes. In the past 6 months I've bought a XD9000i on a cradle for 300$, a hardly used 9.5Ti for 400$, and an 8274 missing a motor for $100. Once you get used to 8274/9.5Ti/9.5XP speeds, you don't want to go back.

That being said, for the non-serious wheeler, or on a trailer, the budget winches are fine. They work and given the choice between a crappy 300$ winch or no winch because you can't afford or cant find a good Warn, I'd pick the shitty one. I guide for one of the bigger Jeep Jamborees and a couple other big events and I've seen pretty much all of them used. I think the older Tabors/Warn budget winches are probably the worst of them, before anybody accuses me of being a fan boy. I considered a HF winch for my trailer before I found the XDi.
One on the truck 12k and one on the ranger sxs 5k. Don't use them much, but always work when i need them to. Truck it 8 urs old and the ranger is almost a yr
I have a 10+ year old 10k HF winch. I've only used it a few times for light pulls, but its worked fine for me.
I prefer made in USA stuff for a lot of reasons. One is quality and another is durability. If you can afford a made in USA winch I would get one.
I have a few wheeling friends that have them and they like them. They use them quite often as well, they are mostly just pinching off boulders or out of mud holes, they are not repelling up ledges or anything with them. I'll stick with warns, personally.
I put a 9k on a beater the night before a trip. It was $200 with a coupon and they let me stack a 20% off. It slow and loud as mentioned. But for $200 I'd rather go HF and have place to take it if/when it shits the bed than use any other given cheap winches.

​​​​Some day I'll put it on a receiver for trailer/whatever use.

It works but........

Once you get used to 8274/9.5Ti/9.5XP speeds, you don't want to go back.

Also this, I had an 8274 I paid $500 for in very nice shape. After abusing the fuck out 9f it for a few years, I added a 9.5xp motor. Holy fuck that think was fast.

Didn't want to cut the grill in half or have a bumper that sticks out a foot on our little mold 4runner. Grabbed a 9500cti-s or something like that on another rig, got new but 2nd hand for around $900 (~$1800 new) it's a very good winch also.
I only go wheeling like once a year anymore, but 2 of the 'yota fellas I wheel with have them and like them. I'm a snob, and bought a used Warn XD9000i for the same amount as the current sale price on the 12K Badland, that I immediately had to completely disassemble, the planetary, clean, break loose the rusted in place spool selector ring, and relube due to it being underwater, flooded, and/or rained on a lot, and neglected.

After learning my lesson on cheap used winches, I bought the 12K Badland for $289 during Black Friday or Cyber Monday last year for the W250 farm truck. It's still in the box though, haven't mounted it, and don't have any first hand experience yet.

Though if I were hanging off the edge of a cliff in a buggy, and depending on it for saving my bacon in harms way, I'd still go name brand, just probably not hastily bought used and untested in a McDonald's parking lot. :homer:
I’ve had a 12k badlands winch for awhile now. Had it on a trailer for a couple years. I parted out the trailer and had the winch on the shelf, and decided to put it on the front of my recovery truck.

It has been used quite a bit. Broke my rear 14 bolt axle and had to winch most of the day up hills in the snow. Also pulled out a tracked bobcat I buried in a sink hole. I don’t have anything to compare my badlands winch experiences to, as this is my first winch.

It had done everything I have asked if it. And for sub $300 it was worth every penny.
I have rebuilt a few winches and what I have found is that many winches share parts both internal and external. The major difference in a warn vs a China winch is the electronics. The warn typically has better electronics. For reference I took an old smittybilt permanent magnet motor winch and converted over to warn series wound motor and put better electronics on it and it work fine. If I am correct the USA part of warn is the assembly and the parts come from somewhere else.
I guess I'll pick one up, then.

For reference, the winch would go on a $1k FJ62 that has been beat to shit and thrashed, along with some pretty decent rust. In my area, a used Warn usually sells for more than this rig is worth. I may even pick up a second for the trailer, but I'd need to scrounge up another coupon (easy enough).
For many years I had a pre Badlands Chicago Electric 10K as my rear winch, have an 8274 on the front. I will tell you I used the snot out of that thing. Basically used it as the friend recovery winch. This was back in college when everyone was supper budget mode and only a few had winches. The thing still was rocking it years after college then one day it gave up the ghost, magnet came loose. Stopped using it right away as to not munch the magnet, took it apart and epoxied the magnet back in place. Its now my multi mount / trailer winch. Still going strong. Replaced it with the 12K Badlands. Used it several times, faster and quieter than the old C.E 10K that did me great. But now that most everyone I wheel with has at least one winch it just does not get used as much.

Several of my buddies have Hazard Frought winches as their primary. They work great.
Buy it, remove decals, and slap on a Irate4x4 sticker to make it an Irate winch. It will be the god of winches and never break.

My first winch winch was a Milemarker 9k. Went through three motors in four years of weekend winching. Second was a Smittybilt. Went through two gear lever pin kits during the 5 years I had it.

Neither winch ever failed me out on the trail and we used them more than most people use their high end winches.

I need a hitch winch and it will probably be the Irate4x4 winch.

Where do I get stickers?
I just got a 12k and used it a few times. The only complaint is its a little slow and a little loud. Compared to my 15 year old MM winch tho, its a paradigm shift. Its not am 8274 but it will get the job done.
Have a Ramsey Patriot 9000, a Warn 8274, and Warn competition narrow 9k. I also have a badlands 5K utv winch on a geo tracker that I’ve been using for 6 flawless years. I’d run another one no problem.
Put a 12k on my trailer. Much happier with it than the old name brand one I have been using for wheeling. I would rather have 2 cheaper winches than one really expensive one.
The HF and other Chinese winches are loud, slow, barely pull their rated load and sometimes the monkeys at the factory forget to grease them but they're sooo cheap.

I would take a new HF over a used warn that I don't know the history of any day.
I've got one for my trailer. So far, it seems to pull fairly well.

The power cables are complete garbage. In under two years, they have corroded inside the insulation. It was bad enough it wouldn't pull.

I have broken part of it. It still works. I'll see if I can snap a picture later today.

Would I use on a trailer again? Yes. Would I use it on a trail rig? Not if I had to rely upon it.
I've got the 9K ZXR on my Samurai, and have used it a handful of times. It hasnt missed a beat, even winching much heavier stuck vehicles. I've got the smallest vehicle in the group but somehow always end up on recovery duty?!
The HF/china winch are fine for the occasional pull on the front of the trailer. Being slow is actually helpful in that case. My local starter/alt shop hates them. Yall need to quit acting like a warn winch is voodoo. Cant tell you how many Warns I've bought for $100. Cleaned and repacked the planetary. New brush rack on the motor. Amazon special a solenoid pack.
I've got to have over 100 pulls on my Smittybilt X20 10k. For the extra $100 I would go with the Smittybilt X20 over the badlands.

Not that I've ever seen a broken badlands winch in person the X20 just has some nicer features (wireless remote, waterproof, great warranty/customer service).
I think like most things HF, they're better than they used to be. When they first came out they were awful. Loud, slow, clutches that wouldn't hold, huge amp draw, etc., but while I still think a Warn is better, the gap has closed some.
I've only used my 12k Badlands a few times so couldn't tell of it's longevity. Also been curious on the new Apex (HF is trying the multiple line thing)
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