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12-Volt Wire Options and Instructions

Full wiring instructions are also included with the Installation Instructions. This page expands on the discussion of wiring including how long you need, how to route the wiring, and some other important points.

Standard Wiring on Winch: No extra charge

The Warn winches come with 6 feet of black and red 8 AWG copper wire, permanently solder-connected to the motor. The ends have ring-terminals to connect to a battery or other 12-volt power source. There is no extra charge for this standard wire set up. Unfortunately, it probably won't be adequate for your installation.

a) 6 feet is not long enough to reach a 12 volt power source in most houseboats. The forward wall of the swim platform is NOT the same as the transom engine wall. There is usually 3 to 5 feet of space between the two which accommodates the outdrive. Also, you would want to route the wire as high as possible, up and over any framing. So it is not a direct straight line. You can swim under your platform and see this quite easily. We have soft-strand copper 8 AWG cut-to-length zip wire which is very hard to find in local stores.
b) If you don't use your PWC's and winch year round, you MUST remove the winch during the winter and store it inside to prevent rust from building up in the motor. The soldered wire connections make this impossible.

The solution is 50-amp Quick Connectors.
We offer genuine Anderson 2-piece connectors for $20. We cut the wire next to the winch motor and hydraulically crimp the connectors to the ends. If 6 feet isn't long enough to reach your battery source (it usually isn't) you can order as much wire as you need, described next. This allows you to easily disconnect the wires and remove the winch with 2 bolts for winter storage.

Cut-to-Length Wire, $3/foot

If you need more than 6 feet of total wire length to reach your 12-volt battery or other power source, we can supply as many feet of 8 AWG red/black stranded copper zip-wire as you need. This assumes that you are also ordering the Quick Connectors. We hydraulically crimp a connector next to the winch lead, and the other connector to the zip-wire, and we crimp the ring terminals on the other end of the wire. This is the most common choice.

Measuring Wire Route

Note: While the winch comes with 6 feet of wire, if that isn't enough to connect to your battery source, it cannot be used as part of the total-length measurement. In other words, if you need 12 feet of wire from your winch to your battery, you have to order 12 feet of zip wire. You can't use the 6 feet that comes on the winch because that would require splicing the wire.

This drawing will help you determine how much wire you will need to connect to your 12-volt battery source. With most standard-construction houseboats, you will drill a hole into the forward wall of your swim platform and another through the transom (engine wall). You will want about 6 inches of wire extending through the winch Frame and forward wall of your swim platform. You will then route the wire up to the ceiling of the outdrive area, over-around-or-through the framing (usually 3 to 5 feet), through the transom, down to the floor of the engine room, to the battery, up to the top of the battery, and to the terminals. It is highly recommended that you swim under your swim platform and look up at the ceiling of your outdrive area so you can see the best route. It won't be a straight line. Obviously, you will want the wires as high up as possible, over or through the framing. You will want to secure the wiring to the framing. As a precaution, after you have measured and determined how much wire you need, we suggest you add 2 or 3 feet more than you think just to be on the safe side. Most installations with common-construction houseboats use 12 to 15 feet.

Variable Option: The quick connectors require a heavy duty crimper which most people do not have. We use a professional hydraulic crimper. But the ring terminals are softer copper, and they can be crimped with a hand tool, or common pliers or vice grips. So, some customers order more wire than they will likely need, and instruct us to "include but not crimp" the copper ring terminals. This allows you to cut off any unnecessary wire, and crimp the ring terminals yourself. If you want to do this, write "DO NOT CRIMP RING TERMINALS" somewhere on the order form.

Wiring Installation Instructions

A basic understanding of 12-volt wiring is necessary to connect the winch to a power source. If you aren’t comfortable with that, you can ask a friend for their help, or most marinas have employees who are very comfortable with wiring.

Most of our customers connect directly to a battery. It is permissible to connect to another 12-volt source such as a fused connection that controls another device that would not be used at the same time as your winch, but it should be able to handle at least 50 amps which would be indicated by the fuse rating, and it will be fed by at least 8 AWG wire. (If you are not familiar with wire gage sizes, the lower the number, the larger the wire.)

In this PWC Rail application, the winch will never “dead-load” like it might if it were used on an off-road vehicle winched to a tree. So it should never require its maximum amperage. Still, if you connect it to a power source other than the battery, the recommended wiring should be at least 8 gauge. That said, during our design-phase, we tested the Rails many times with a 20-foot length of much smaller 12-gauge zip-wire temporarily clipped to a battery, winching up a full-size 3-seater without any problem. But for permanent installation, you would want to use 8 gauge stranded copper wire, which is very hard to find locally. Do not use 8 AWG speaker wire which is copper-coated aluminum and will not carry the necessary amperage.

As described above, we provide 8-gauge copper zip-wire (both wires are connected together with a web as shown) for $3 per foot. Our Winch Frames have three optional-height 7/8” diameter holes, through which you can run the wire. You will need to drill a matching hole in your swim platform wall. Most common bit sets have up to a ½” bit. You can enlarge it by angling the bit back and forth and “chewing” the hole larger.

Protect Your Wiring

You need to protect the wires as they pass through the aluminum holes. We don't supply rubber grommets because they would require a larger and more precise hole than most customs can drill. Some customers just wrap the wires with black electrical tape, but a section of garden hose works even better. In fact, most customers use a long enough section of garden hose to completely shield their wiring where it is passing through the holes and is exposed to the elements under the outdrive area. You will want to use at least 5/8” hose, preferably 3/4" so it is easier to feed the zip-wire through the hose. You can buy 3/4” hose from any hardware store…just cut it to the length you need.

On each end of the garden hose, where it passes through the drilled holes, you can slit the hose so it can be made smaller by overlapping the cut edges as shown in this picture.

It is easiest to feed the zip-wire through if you first push a “fish-line” through the hose and then use it to pull the zip-wire. Some people have used bailing wire as a fish-line by bending (rounding) the end over so it isn’t sharp and pushes through more easily. But bailing wire isn’t very stiff, so you will want to keep your hose as straight as possible while pushing it through. You will want to get the zip-wire wet with lubricant such as dish soap so it pulls through more easily. If you can’t feed the wiring through the entire length of your hose, you can cut your hose into sections. You can then tape it together with black electrical tape, although that isn't necessary. The point is, you will be adding a level of protection with a garden hose enclosing most of your wiring where it is exposed. You don't need to protect it inside your engine room. If you choose to feed your wire through a long hose, we recommend that you cut the hose a little longer than you think you need for the entire route, then feed the wiring through the hose while you are on top of your deck, with help to keep the hose straight. After the wires are all the way through, then you can feed the hose through the Frame, through your swim platform wall, route it under your swim deck, and into your engine room. You can cut off any extra in the engine room. In other words, it is VERY difficult to push or pull the wiring through the hose if the hose is bent under-over-and-around in different directions. Obviously, you will feed the wnd with the ring terminals through the hose. The Quick Connector won't fit through a hose.

There will be several support beams under your deck, through or above which you can thread the wires or hose as high as possible away from the water. If you don’t enclose it in a garden hose, wherever the wires touch aluminum, you should protect them...if nothing else, with multiple wraps of tape, but preferably with something more substantial such as a piece of rubber or short section of old garden hose. You can slit a section of garden hose and spread it over the zip-wire and then secure it with tape, zip-ties or other means.

Existing Winch Connections?

If you are replacing existing rails with our Rails, you might already have wires under your swim platform to which you can connect our winch. That will reduce the length of wire needed, and avoid the need to drill a hole into your engine compartment. As an example, one of our customers replaced his older rails with a pair of ours. He connected one of the winches to his existing terminal that was already mounted behind a step without needing to cut-and-extend the 6 feet of wire that comes on the winch, and he connected the winch from the Rail on the other side of his swim platform to the same terminal with 8 feet of our zip-wire. While both winches are now connected to the same terminal feed, he only uses 1 winch at a time, so the amp-draw is never over loaded. By using his existing power source, he didn’t have to drill any wiring holes.

You might be able to find an existing pass-through hole in your transom wall that has enough capacity through which to feed the winch wires. If not, drill a hole as high up as possible.

If you are installing 2 PWC Rails, we recommend you route the wires from each winch to the same place so you only have to drill 1 hole into your engine compartment. You will want to locate the hole so that you have a good path for the wires to reach your battery or other connection location.

As noted in the Installation Instructions, you will drill the hole in your transom from inside the engine room because it is too high to reach while in the water under your outdrive floor..

Which battery?

It doesn't matter which battery you connect to. All the batteries in your engine room are connected to a charging system, and you are only using battery power when your PWC Rail winch button is being pushed. So you can connect to the closest battery or 50-amp terminal. I have had a couple customers who don't run wiring to their engine room at all. They just cut and strip the wires next to their winch, and connect to a portable battery jumper box. But that is an extra hassle when it comes to unloading and loading, so probably not preferrable.

When you have run all the wiring and are ready to connect it, connect the positive side first, then the negative side, then plug in the Quick Connectors and you are ready to go.


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