A tractor winch is a hauling system usually mounted to the rear of a tractor. The winch involves the use of a cable wrapped numerous times around a drum, which is rotated in one direction to feed the cable out and in the other direction to retract it. The tractor winch is often used to haul heavy objects such as logs or even other vehicles, and it is sometimes combined with a mounting plate that protects the cab of the tractor from debris or errant cables.
Some tractors are fitted with a power take-off system, commonly known as a PTO. The PTO is essentially a rotating drive shaft that is splined so it can accept a wide variety of accessories. A tractor winch system can be mounted to the PTO so the winch can be powered by the tractor itself, thereby eliminating the need for an outside power source such as an electric motor. Other tractors that do not feature a PTO can still accept a winch system, but an outside power source will be necessary. An electric motor is most common, but other types of motors such as gas or diesel versions are also common depending on the size of the tractor winch system.
Loggers often use a tractor winch to haul heavy logs out of the woods or from one location to another. This system is sometimes known as a skidder if the entire vehicle is designed specifically for the task, but a tractor winch can be used with a tractor that may or may not be designed specifically for hauling wood. The cable is very often fed through a boom arm that allows the user to more accurately guide the cable as well as the items being hauled, though sometimes no boom arm is present and the items being hauled will be snugged up against the mounting plate for greater stability.
A hook is usually mounted to the end of the tractor winch cable. This hook is used to secure the cable in place around the items being hauled. Once the hook is secure, the user can retract the cable and tighten it around the items. The cable and winch system will usually feature a weight capacity rating; this will dictate how much weight can be hauled at one time. Exceeding this limit can risk damage to the winch system as well as potential injury to the operator or any bystanders.