Warn’s Newest Winches: AXON & VRX

Published in the October 2018 Issue October 2018 Feature Lane Lindstrom

When it comes to winches on ATVs or side-by-sides, we think users fall into two basic groups.

The first group would be those who buy and mount a winch to their vehicle and then hope they never have to use it. The second group is those aggressive drivers who regularly use their winch in difficult terrain to help them navigate over numerous obstacles. We suppose there might be a third group that uses it for work purposes but for this argument’s sake, let’s just stick with the first two groups.

Most winches are pretty straightforward pieces of equipment and fairly easy to use. And they usually last for quite a while if you take care of them. Warn Industries’ Vantage and ProVantage have really good reputations in the powersports market and have proven their worth over the years.

But for Portland, OR-based Warn Industries, the company felt those already popular winches could be improved upon. So the company went to work three years ago to try and figure out how it could make the Vantage and ProVantage better. The result? Completely replace them with new winches that offer more features and cost less. Did you catch that last part? More features and a lower MSRP.

Warn threw the wraps off the two new winches, the AXON and VRX, this summer and then put them to the test in a wide variety of circumstances to prove these new pieces of powersports equipment are indeed worthy of the red W. “We’re not going to put that red W on it if it doesn’t meet our criteria,” Kyle Shiminski, Warn vice president and general manager, said.

Yes, the AXON and VRX definitely look like winches, but they share so few components with the discontinued Vantage and ProVantage that they truly are all new. And the new winches come in sleek, compact new casing for a nicer look.

Before we get into the specifics of each winch, there are three standout features that seem to rise to the top of all that is offered.

1. Waterproof Construction This may not seem like a big deal to those who mostly ride the desert or rocks but what helps make the winch waterproof also makes it “element” (read: dirt, dust, etc.) proof. Nothing gets in Warn’s new winches. The technical term for this is IP68. This is the highest waterproofing in the industry and means the winch can, in need be, operate under water. And it’s not just parts of the winch that are waterproof. It’s the entire system; winch, contactor, wiring harness, all connections and switch. Warn uses a new sealing technology to help meet the IP68 standard. The “6” in 68 represents protection against solids, i.e., dust, particulates, etc. The “8” represents liquid, i.e., water. The higher the number the better the protection. And for what it’s worth, 8 is the highest number in the rating system and means the winch can be in one meter of water for 30 minutes and continue to work. Another important point is that meeting the IP68 standard means the equipment or system—in this case the winches—is waterproof while it is working or operating, not just while it’s sitting in water. We saw the new Warn winch operating under water in two different scenarios. One was in a fish tank. That was impressive but what was more impressive is watching the AXON work in a small river. The winch was mounted to an ATV and the rope hooked to a pickup on shore. The AXON easily pulled the ATV, with Warn product manager Tom Paasch on it, from the river. Impressive yes, but when we asked Paasch how long the ATV with the AXON had been in the water before we showed up for the demonstration, he told us about an hour, which far exceeds the minimum rating of 30 minutes underwater. 

2. Digital Winch Control There is a lot going on here with the new digital winch control. Basically the new control protects the Warn winch from, well, us, meaning the operator. Sometimes we push our equipment too hard either because we lack some product knowledge or are simply overtaxing it. The built-in digital winch control offers overload protection or load limiting, overheat protection or thermal protection and low voltage protection. And the winch control gives immediate visual feedback to the user in all those areas. For example, each Warn winch has a load rating, such as 4,500 lbs. The winch is constantly measuring the load. When you hit the overload limit, the winch will stop. And, for every 25 percent your load changes, a light in the winch control changes color. Or if the winch gets too hot from overuse, the winch control flashes red. If the battery (which supplies power to the winch as well) is low on your vehicle for whatever reason and you are using the winch, you get a warning in the form of a flashing yellow light.  

3. Versatile Switch This is another nice feature. Warn has designed the rockerbar switch so that the same switch can be used on an ATV (mounted to the handlebar) or side-by-side (mounted in the dash) and also in a remote. The switch is also “plug and play” and the switch assembly is IP68 rated.

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