If you are chasing a more budget but good quality 4WD winch, Runva is a name that will come up regularly.
These are Chinese imports, but have been on the ‘good quality’ end of the market now for many years, and a lot of people still recommend them over the higher (and sometimes much higher) priced units.
Runva Winches have increased in price a fair bit over the years as the reputation has exploded, but they are still very popular and recommended by many.
I would liken them to Stedi, who also import but make products that are well backed up, and that are good quality. They aren’t the best, but they are far from the most expensive too. You can read our Stedi Light Bar Review here.
We do enough solo travelling that a winch is not an option; I want it there, and I want it to work if things go wrong. Of course I’m prepared to pay more for a quality product if needed, but if there’s no need to, then I don’t bother with brand names.
Like all of our reviews, we are honest about products. We paid for the winch ourselves, have no affiliation with Runva and have not been paid to write this.
When I was originally looking for a winch, I spent a long time checking out the different warranties. You might be surprised to know that a lot of the big brand name warranties are basically not worth the paper they are written on.
Water ingress is one of the most common ways a winch will fail, and you know how many companies don’t warrant their winches if they’ve been in water? I wonder what the chances are of your winch, mounted on the front of your 4WD getting wet are?
Seriously, even the biggest, most well known winch manufacturer state in their warranty that they won’t cover for water ingress. You’ve got to be kidding, right?
Runva’s winch warranty covers the electrical items for 5 years, and has a limited lifetime warranty on all mechanical components. The usual terms and conditions apply; it can’t have been in an accident, modified, run off smaller batteries than required etc etc.
They cover your winch for water, mud and dust ingress in its entirety, and even mention regular exposure is fine. The only exception is if you high pressure clean the winch, which is more than fair.
Installing the winch
So, I ended up with a Runva XP11 Premium Winch, bolted into the AFN bar on my Isuzu Dmax. It was about $900 from Ultimate 4WD, and I installed it myself, with an auto electrician doing most of the wiring.
The mechanical part of it is easy, and if you do it carefully its quite straight forward. The winch was much easier than installing our AFN Bull Bar, which was a nightmare (although we are quite happy with the bar itself).
Pulling the control box apart
Fitting the winch to an AFN bull bar was quite easy, but the control box was a challenge. I decided to leave the control box mounting until after the bar was on, which in hindsight was probably a mistake.
However, the auto electrician I use has done hundreds of these, and simply pulled the control box apart and mounted the electrics in between the bar and the radiator with no cover at all.
They are supposed to be waterproof (and the cover isn’t going to do anything anyway, except look pretty) so I’m happy with it.
Make sure your battery is sized correctly
Winches use a lot of power, and Runva has a minimum battery rating of 750CCA, or Cold Cranking Amps. I actually didn’t know this until I had unboxed it, and when I checked the factory Dmax starter battery it was only about 630 CCA, so I had to go out and purchase a new battery.
I’d have done that anyway, but it just brought it forward. I stuck our new Dmax battery in the Corolla, so it wasn’t much of a loss!
Either way, make sure your starter battery is suitable for the winch you buy or you’ll void your warranty and potentially do damage.
Spool the rope on tight
Before you actually use your winch in a winching application, you need to ensure the rope is spooled on tightly.
If you don’t do this, when you load the winch up it will pull itself tight around the layers underneath that are not tight, and you end up with a huge amount of friction. It will get hot enough to melt, and damage parts of the rope.
Before you use your winch, find a tree or use another vehicle on a gradual slope, and winch yourself up the hill slowly (ensuring you leave time to recharge the battery and look after the winch).
You’ll have to turn back and forth to ensure it spools on evenly, but the end result is a nice, tight winch spool that is ready for real life action.
Anything mounted on your 4WD is going to cop a hammering. Winches in particular are well known for not working when you need them to, because they aren’t a regular used item. You should be running the winch at least once a month if possible, and pulling them out once a year to service them.
I’m guilty of doing neither, but I’ll only have myself to blame when I go to use it and it doesn’t work!
Make sure you wash the ropes thoroughly after use too, so you remove any grit, mud and dirt. This will cause your rope to fail early, and like everything in life, a bit of additional care and your product will last much longer.
Runva Winch Review – the good
It comes with lots of accessories
On our 80 Series Land Cruiser, I ran a Smittybilt winch, and also installed that myself. That winch was a similar price, but came with almost nothing extra.
The Runva winch came with an isolator, a winch thimble (that you attach your shackles through), a snatch block, wireless controller and wired controller, 4500kg rated shackle and a neoprene cover for the winch.
Whilst I’m sure these items don’t cost a fortune, it was nice to have it all included. I’d have to go and buy some of it otherwise, and that’s additional time and cost. To be fair, I didn’t even know it came with that gear, so it was just icing on the cake when I unboxed it all.
Solid, easy to mount and use
The Runva winch is a solid unit. There’s thousands out there now, and they have a good reputation. It was easy to install, its easy to use and it just works.
You can rotate the winch around to get the handle in different locations, and the instructions are decent too.
The Wireless remote is flimsy
The blue, plastic, wireless controller that comes with the Runva winch is almost like a kids toy. To date its caused us no issues at all, and that’s great, but it feels like it would break if you dropped it, or pressed a button too hard.
On the flip side it also comes with a wired remote that is much better built. If the wireless one fails, I can easily plug the wired one in and use that (which also lives in the car).
The wiring isn’t long enough from the isolator to the battery
I’m not sure if the Runva Winch would suit some vehicles, but for our Dmax we had to extend it considerably to get the isolator in a position that was suitable.
Not the end of the world, and I guess Runva don’t want excess cable around the place (and it costs extra), so its no major issue.
Using the Runva winch and our review
Honestly, I could count on two hands the number of times this winch has been used. I’ve done a couple of recoveries with it, and winched our boat trailer up a beach at Osprey Bay but for the most part it just sits there, ready to use when I need.
Especially now with our Reconn R2 behind, I feel much more comfortable knowing that if we do get badly stuck we have lots of options for getting going again.
We’ve had it installed for more than 3 years now, and touch wood its always performed as it should.
Overall, I’m really impressed with the unit. It’s great quality, didn’t cost the earth and came with a few extras I wasn’t expecting.
I’ll be honest and say I’ve never serviced it (bad boy!) and it could bite me in the backside, but its always worked when we needed it to, and we are quite happy with it overall.
Would I get another one?
There are a lot of different brands out there now for 4WD winches. I don’t think I’d ever pay the premium of a Warn one, but something middle ground like the Runva or Carbon are a good option. I’d certainly get another Runva winch, but would be just as happy to try something else next time.
I’m happy with the Runva Winch, and wouldn’t have an issue recommending them.