Installation and real world use
We’ve been testing out the WARN AXON 45RC winch and figured we’d share our thoughts on installation and give our long-term review.
Let’s face it, for any of us ATV or UTV enthusiasts who like to see how far our rigs can take us, a winch is one of those must-have accessories. You’re bound to get in a sticky situation one day where you need a little extra help to get through that mud hole, or rock climb. A winch is the perfect device to get you out of the situation, or help others get their vehicles out. We’ve even used winches in the sand dunes to help get UTVs un-stuck or help others with tire changes. Needless to say, a winch is just a great thing to have on your off-road vehicle.
The name “WARN” should ring a bell – this company has been a leader in the winching space for over 70 years, and it introduced the first dedicated powersports winch in the 1980s. And, best of all, its 180,000 sq. ft. manufacturing, engineering, and office facility is still located in Clackamas, Oregon, right here in the USA.
For this review, we are putting the new WARN AXON 45RC to the test. The significance of the WARN AXON lineup is that these winches have the motor and contactor now built into the housing, along with most all other components. It’s a slick housing that is all-metal with a one-piece tie plate and black powder-coated finish. With all components now built into the housing, there are minimal wires to run, just the power wires and the controller wires, of which there are two push-button controllers (one wired remote and one switch built into your dashboard). Again, the wiring is extremely simple, and we had it dialed in within minutes of our installation. The hardest part is the mounting of the plug-in port for the wired external controller. Once you find a spot for it, you’ll have to drill the plastic out of your vehicle with a hole saw to mount the attachment port. We found a concealed spot in the glove box.
In order to install the WARN AXON 45RC winch on our test vehicle, a Yamaha YXZ1000R, we used one of WARN’s mounting plates. WARN has various mounting plates for ATVs and UTVs on its website – check to see if it has what you are looking for. If you end up buying an aftermarket bumper, make sure the mounting holes of the AXON winch match up to your bumper (or, better yet, drill your own holes in the bumper to make sure everything fits right). After we removed the stock, removable front bumper off of our YXZ1000R, the installation of the WARN mounting plate was very straightforward. WARN supplies all of the hardware needed for the plate, and all we had to do was lower the stock front skid plate a bit to make room. The skid plate is re-attached to the mounting plate once you have everything secured. We were very happy with the rigidity and protection offered by the WARN mounting plate in this case – it has side protection and a dedicated mount for the Epic hawse fairlead.
Once the mounting plate is installed, the WARN AXON 45RC installation is, again, straightforward and easy to accomplish with basic hand tools. Four bolts secure the bottom of the winch, and we made sure everything was torqued to spec. All that is left is to mount the fairlead, put the black hood and signature red WARN strap on, and we were ready to rock (climb, that is…).
This WARN AXON 45RC version is capable of pulling up to 4500 lbs, and the compact design of the RC version (the drum is smaller, thus making the overall size of the winch smaller for vehicles with less available space) made this winch fit perfect on the front of the YXZ1000R. Due to the fact that the drum is smaller, the amount of rope is reduced to 27’. The 45S AXON would have 50’ of the ¼” Spydura synthetic rope, but we didn’t come into a situation where we needed the extra rope. If you’re not limited on space on the front of your vehicle, go with the WARN AXON 45S model for that extra rope, otherwise the 45RC is the same thing and works great.
The WARN AXON 45RC features a new clutch design that includes a hub lock on the side of the winch. This easily allows you to toggle between locked and free-spool settings. The latter of those gave us the freedom to unwind the winch quickly, and locking the hub was easy. We appreciated the design because we could operate this hub in the gnarliest mud situations – it’s large and able to be operated with gloves on or while caked in the mud. Again, this all-in-one winch design of the AXON is something you really notice when you are in the water and mud. It’s IP68 rated for waterproofing, and way that the motor and contactor are combined gave us the ultimate confidence that we could put this winch through the nastiest conditions and it still worked (WARN calls this its Revolutionary Motactor). We really like this design, it just works, every time, no matter what you put it through.
As far as pulling power, we loved that the 4500 lb capacity of the WARN AXON 45RC could winch the YXZ1000R up and over anything we needed, whether it was buried in the mud or stuck on a tricky rock climb. It also had plenty of power to winch four-seat UTVs up on two wheels to change tires (this happened several times, and these larger UTVs are not light), or get these heavier vehicles unstuck. We would highly recommend buying this winch capacity at minimum for a UTV – you won’t have to worry about having “enough” pulling power. Keep in mind, as the rope wraps around the drum, you lose a bit of pulling power. That 4500 lb rating that you buy is the actual rating, but this is the case with one wrap of rope around the drum. Each additional wrap of rope around the drum makes you lose pulling power. We never ran into an issue with having too little pulling power out of this 45RC for pulling ATVs and UTVs, so we would recommend going with this capacity.
A lot of people ask about the differences between synthetic rope and cable rope. For our purposes, we had to go with the synthetic rope because of the compact design of this specific winch (cable or synthetic rope options are found on the AXON 45, just not the RC edition). We are extremely happy with the synthetic rope and its durability after our use of the winch. It has held up very well and is like new, plus it’s easier to use when winching. Keep in mind, we used the tree protectors for most of our winching, so we kept the synthetic line away from sharp edges on rocks and other natural elements. If you’re going to be in super rocky environments or riding in areas that has sharp objects, then you’ll want to go with the cable line for increased abrasion resistance. However, most people will want to go with the synthetic line for its ease of use, and it is still very durable.
One of the things we would recommend is to purchase one of WARN’s accessory kits. We have the WARN Light Duty Winch Accessory Kit, which includes a snatch block, tree trunk protectors, ½” D-shackle, and gloves. This kit is very useful out on the trail when you’re getting creative in tricky winching situations.
What would we change about the WARN AXON 45RC? Not much, really. It would be nice if this winch had a rapid recovery feature so that the rope would spool back up on the drum faster when you are done winching and have the entire rope out. However, we wouldn’t want a feature like this to compromise quality or the AXON’s compact design, both of which are standout features of this winch setup.
Just like us, you can have confidence that a WARN product is going to last with its standard lifetime warranty on mechanical products, and three-year warranty on electrical components.
After repeated abuse in several different climates, we have come to really appreciate the pulling power and quality of this WARN AXON 45RC winch. It’s a must-have accessory for your ATV or UTV in our minds, and the quality of the WARN system makes it stand out in a crowded field of winch options.
Until next time, be safe on the trails and we’ll see you out there!
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