How To Wire A Winch With A Toggle Switch

This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

You just bought a winch for your 4x4, and it came with a remote. The problem is you don’t want a remote. How do you wire a winch with a toggle switch instead?

Wiring a winch with a toggle is not stressful, even if you have never wired anything. The convenience of operating the winch from inside your 4x4 is valuable. (It eliminates the need for constant recharging of the remote or the possibility of being stuck with a dead remote).

As any four-wheeling driver knows, a winch can be a lifesaver when your vehicle gets stuck in a difficult situation. Whether you’re stuck in the mud or water, facing a steep incline in the mountains, or just need to attach a winch for hauling heavy things like cars, a winch can make a tough job relatively simple and straightforward. But what if the new winch just came with a remote? What if you don’t want to keep plugging and unplugging the remote, checking on battery life, or just need a toggle, so you don’t have to stand in the mud just to operate the thing? Can you connect a winch toggle switch yourself? The answer to that question is yes, and you don’t need a degree in electrical engineering to do it.

Table of Contents


What Is A Toggle Switch?

A toggle switch is a mechanical lever or tab powered by an electrical circuit connected to a motor. While there are all kinds of toggle switches, the simplest have simple on/off positions allowing the connected unit to engage or disengage. In the case of a winch, the toggle switch sends power to the winch motor when switched on (allowing electricity to complete the circuit) and engaging the winch. When moved to the off position, the circuit is broken, and the motor receives no power.

What’s the Advantage of Having a Toggle Switch On A Winch?

A toggle switch to your winch has a couple of advantages. Toggle switches are inexpensive, and they are reasonably easy to install. In addition, wiring a toggle makes them accessible from inside the 4x4’s cab so that it can be operated from the comfort of a dry location. A toggle switch offers more control for the operator. Many automakers have additional toggle/rocker switches on their dashboard to connect other items like winches, light bars, or other accessories.

How to Wire Winch With Toggle Switch

There are several things to be aware of as you work with a toggle switch, but the most important is that you are working with an electrical device. If you wire it up incorrectly, you could damage your vehicle’s critical components or even create harm to yourself. So, follow all safety procedures to ensure that you don’t run into any problems.

Before You Begin - Be Safe

  1. Find a dry installation area to work on your vehicle. Do not attempt to wire up a toggle in the rain or with your boots standing in water, (you are working electricity, after all).
  2. Make sure that the ignition to your vehicle is off. Since you will be working with your car’s battery, you want to ensure no power is running to the unit. Working with a fully-charged car battery could cause issues by shorting out the circuit or creating a shock. While a battery doesn’t have enough amps to kill you, you won’t like the shock it does provide.
  3. Follow all safety precautions and installation instructions. Most toggle switches come with instruction manuals but can differ slightly, so pay attention to them. (If you have little experience with toggle switches, it is always best to have some prior knowledge by watching a few YouTube videos on how to do it).
  4. It is always a good idea to have things organized before you begin. You will need some wire, needle nose pliers, clamps, connectors, and a wirecutter. If you do not have any spare switch housing on your dashboard, you can purchase a two-switch panel that will slide into your horizontal vent, drill a hole, or place the unit below the dash in a convenient location.  

Installation of Toggle Switch to Winch

  1. Pull the negative cable from the battery of the 4x4.
  2. Disengage the winch’s clutch.
  3. Most winches have a relay box/cover. Locate the relay box of the winch and remove the cover to give access to the wiring. (You should discover three color-coated wires, Red, Green, and Yellow or Blue. The Red is the power wire, the Yellow wire is the power out, and the Green wire is the ground wire).
  4. Run the wires from the winch to your cab. Be sure to allow plenty of additional wiring (a few feet is best) to route wires along the side of the engine compartment. (You will need two wires from the winch to the cab and a third hot wire from the toggle/rocker switch to the battery).
  5. Ensure you can access the location you wish to mount the toggle switch. (You may have to remove part of the dash housing or the vent).
  6. Connect the two wires running from the cab to the winch wiring. You will need to splice the wires (green and yellow/blue wires running from the toggle switch/cab. (You solder the wiring to keep the wire splice together for a firmer connection). It is usually a good idea to notch the relay box cover to allow the colored wires to fit).
  7. Move inside the cab and begin to wire the toggle/rocker switch. Place the toggle switch housing to reveal connection prongs. If the wires do not have connectors, you will need to have the wire splices ready to install them.
  8. You must place the power/hot red wire from the battery into the middle terminal/prong (follow the instructions for your particular toggle switch). The Yellow/Blue wire connects to the toggle switch's top connection port, and the green wires connect to the bottom port.
  9. Push the toggle switch into the switch housing with a gasket on your dash, driver’s seat (or wherever you decided to mount it. Some owners place it in a cubby or under the dash. See your auto parts store for an easy bracket mount).

Test Your Unit

Confirm your wiring is correct and reconnect the negative battery cable. Verify that your ignition switch is off, and flip the toggle switch out. (It should not work. If it does, you have reversed the wiring and need to check it.

Pull some winch cable by hand, and then turn the ignition on. Test the toggle switch, and the winch should activate. If nothing happens, you need to check your wiring.

Be sure to use cable ties to connect the wiring from the winch to the toggle switch to the side of the interior walls of the engine compartment.

A Couple of Points To Ponder

Consider a toggle switch with a cover (a bomber’s switch) to prevent the switch from being engaged because it gets bumped accidentally.