Foot Forward Vs. Foot Down Winch Mounts

What are foot forward and foot down?

You should know this before you mount your winch.

We'll take a look at the difference between the two and why it's so important to know how your winch mounts.

Table of Contents

  • Use a Winch Mounting Plate to Mount Your Winch To Anything
  • How to Clock Your Winch Motor or Gearbox

  • Why do you need to know this?

    In your winch manual, manufacturers will always specify how you can mount your winch. Some winches are designed to be mounted only in one configuration.

    What happens when you mount your winch the wrong way?

    • You can crack the winch case or otherwise damage your winch.
    • Some winches won't drain water if they aren't waterproof.
    • Some winches can't properly self-lube in the wrong position.

    Should I mount my winch foot forward or down?

    Check your owner's manual or our winch database.

    4 Mounting Possibilities

    Every winch that you buy will have one of four mounting configurations:

    1. Foot down
    2. Foot forward
    3. Foot forward OR foot down
    4. Foot forward AND foot down

    What's the biggest difference?

    It's simply where the 4 main mounting holes end up:

    If the 4 main mounting holes are on bottom, your winch is foot down.

    If the 4 main mounting holes are facing forward, your winch is foot forward.

    Winch in a Foot Down Configuration
    In this configuration, the winch bolts experience shear forces. Loose or untorqued mounting bolts could easily lead to a cracked winch case.
    Winch in a Foot Forward Configuration
    In this configuration, there are compression forces on the plate. The bolts mostly just hold your winch on.

    Foot Forward

    Foot Forward Only - Warn M8274-50
    This winch can only be mounted in the foot forward mounting.

    One of the best examples of foot-forward-only mounting is the Warn 8274. When you're mounting in a foot forward configuration, the winch will press up against a mounting plate that takes all the force from winching.

    The 8274 can only be mounted foot forward, partly due to the casing and how the motor is positioned.

    With a foot forward winch, your roller fairlead or hawse bolts will line up with the lower mounting holes in the winch.

    Foot forward winches can be slightly trickier to mount than foot down winches, only because you have to hold the winch in place to get the bolts started.

    Many installs will require you to install the winch into your winch bumper off your rig, and then install the bumper.

    Foot Down

    Foot Down or Foot Forward - Smittybilt XRC 9500
    This winch can be mounted foot down or foot forward. Shown here is the foot down mounting.

    In a foot down configuration, the winch bolts on to a winch mount that's parallel to the ground.

    The most important element in this setup is the bolts!

    Your mounting bolts must be correctly torqued to provide the correct clamping pressure that'll keep your winch from moving around.

    Winch bolts in this configuration experience shearing forces - if they are loose, they'll either:

    • Break off
    • Allow the winch case to twist and possibly crack

    Notice that in a foot down configuration, there are no holes in the winch available for bolting down your fairlead. This job is taken on by the mounting plate or winch bumper.

    These winches are usually a little easier to mount than a foot forward winch.

    However, if installing in a winch bumper, make sure you install the fairlead first to ensure you have access to its mounting hardware.

    Foot Forward OR Foot Down

    Some winches, like the Smittybilt XRC 9500 above or the Warn M8000, can be mounted in foot forward or foot down configuration. This makes it easier to mount a given winch.

    Obviously, whatever position you choose will have the caveats of that particular position.

    Foot Forward AND Foot Down

    Foot Forward and Foot Down - Warn M15000
    Heavyweight are mounted foot forward and may have additional mounting bolts.

    Technically, this is really foot forward with extra mounting. Large winches like the Warn M15000 will use 6 mounting bolts.

    4 bolts are used at the foot forward mounting position and 2 are used in the foot down position.

    These winches cannot be mounted foot down only! The bolts and casing can't take the forces of serious winching!


Mike Johnson

Mike came out of the womb with a Birfield in one hand and a stick of 6010 in the other, ready to weld any piece of trail-busted steel back together. He has wheeled, broken, and modified a variety of rigs, from Toyotas to Jeeps to Fords to Chevies. He likes doing long distance overland travel and would happily spend every night in the bed of a pickup under the stars.

Last updated: September 5, 2019