Winch License Plate Mounts for Staying Legal

Most aftermarket winch bumpers don't have provisions for a license plate. But if you're in a two-plate state you'll want to have your plate mounted up front so you don't get a ticket. Those tickets can be, like, 200 bucks!
Table of Contents

  • The Winch Recovery Kit Comparison Guide
  • The Best Winch Accessories For Off Roading

  • So, how should you mount your plate? Do you drill your new winch bumper? Do you zip-tie your plate on? Where do you put it? Most of these solutions stink. Sure, they're easy. But most of us don't want to drill our new $700 bumper or worry about zip-ties popping off. Some bumpers don't even have a flat spot to mount a plate with their fancy tube and plate construction. It also looks better to have your license plate centered exactly where your winch is, rather than off to the side.

    Luckily, there are several aftermarket solutions for this, and we'll do one DIY solution at the bottom of this article.

    Mount Type Features and Factors

    Universal Winch Fairlead Dimensions
    Roller pin diameter 5/8"
    Side roller to side roller distance 8 3/4" on center
    Fairlead mount bolt to mount bolt distance 10" on center
    Winch roller diameter (Warn) 1 9/16"

    There are three main types of mounts out there: flip-up, clip-on, and bolt-on. There are several options among them, such as:

    Fitting roller and/or hawse fairleads: Some mounts fit either roller or hawse fairleads. They ones that fit both usually need an extra bracket.
    Where they mount: Most fairleads mount on bolts that are 10" apart on center. Fairlead pins are 5/8" in diameter and usually 8 3/4" apart. Winches have several standardized dimensions, but there's always that one company or winch that just needs to be special....

    You should know some dimensions of your winch, like the pin diameter and distance on roller fairleads, and the mount bolt distance for all fairleads.

    Flip-Up Winch License Plate Mounts

    Flip-up mounts are the easiest license plate mount to use. They bolt on to your winch and can be flipped up on demand to use your winch. Most attach to existing holes in your winch although we've seen some that are specific to the bumpers of some manufacturers.

    Since flip-ups are bolted to your rig, you never need to worry about having your license plate stolen.

    Some flip-up mounts use screws and some have fancier hinges that'll last longer and be more reliable.

    Where a flip-up might be a problem is if your fairlead is somehow recessed into your bumper. This could prevent the flip-up plate mount from fitting or flipping up.

    Some flip-ups only flip-up to a 90 degree angle, and some can go further. We like the ones that open wider since it'll keep your winch cable away from your winch.

    When picking a mount pay attention to these criteria:

    • Will the hinges last?
    • Will it fit an aftermarket hook behind your license plate?
    • How far does the license plate flip up?
    • Does it work with hawse or roller fairleads?
    • What's the finish?

    Cascadia 4x4 Flipster Winch License Plate Mounting Bracket

    Cascade 4x4's Flipster Aluminum Winch License Plate Mount
    The Flipster uses a glass-filled nylon hinge and is constructed from thick aluminum. With the included stainless hardware it won't ever rust.
    Cascade 4x4's Flipster Winch License Plate Mount Flipped Up
    Hide a big aftermarket winch hook behind this plate mount! Works with roller or hawse fairleads.

    If you need to have the nicest stuff for your 4x4, the Flipster is the bracket for you. It's made out of laser cut 1/8" and 3/16" aluminum and anodized black. It flips as high as you want and holds its position due to it's snazzy hinge. The hinge is glass-filled nylon that should last 20,000 cycles. So, if you fourwheeled almost every weekend and you winched 10 times every weekend, the hinge would finally wear out after around 40 years. Not too shabby. This mount includes a CNCed adapter to work with hawse or roller fairleads. The all-aluminum construction and stainless steel hardware mean it'll never rust.

    It'll also work with large aftermarket winch hooks. Fits fairlead mounts that are 10" apart on center.

    Pocono Metal Craft Flip-Up Roller/Hawse Fairlead License Plate Winch Bracket

    Pocono Metal Craft Hawse/Roller Fairlead Plate Holder Side View
    PMC's plate holder is fairly deep and can accommodate thick assemblies.
    The Hawse or Roller Fairlead Plate Holder by Pocono Metal Craft
    This has a stainless steel adjustable hinge with bronze bushings. Definitely one of the nicer options!

    PMC's license plate bracket is another well-constructed piece with a great hinge. It's made out of laser-cut steel and has a stainless steel adjustable hinge. The hinge has oil-impregnated bronze bushings to keep it working smoothly. It'll stay where you put it, and if it doesn't, you can just tighten the hinge hardware a little bit to do what you want. It'll fit over roller or hawse fairleads. Fits fairlead mounts that are 10" apart on center.

    Westin MAX Tray License Plate Bracket

    Westin Flip-Up Winch Mount License Plate Holder
    The Westin gives plenty of room to fit roller or hawse fairleads.
    Westin's Winch License Plate Mount Flipped Up
    The side tabs keep the plate bracket in place when the license plate holder is down.

    This is designed to be used with a Weston winch tray, but we think it can probably be used in some other setups. One thing we really like is that it snaps into the down position to keep it locked into place. With the side shrouds on the mount it seems like you could make your winch pretty invisible to passersby. Security by obscurity. The "hinge" on this mount is the top screws. It bolts on to the winch fairlead mounting holes.

    Tuffy Flip-Up License Plate Holder for Hawse Fairleads

    Hawse Fairlead Plate Holder Flipped Down
    This is an inexpensive mount, but it doesn't include a metal plate to back your license plate.
    Tuffy's Flip-Up Winch Hawse License Plate Mount Flipped
    No fancy hinges here! The top screws are the hinges. Bolts under your hawse.

    You'll like this mount if you're a minimalist. It's very small. While it has a couple holes in the top, it doesn't include a plate for the license plate to give it a hard backing. It bolts to the holes for mounting a fairlead and will only fit a hawse, not a roller fairlead. The top screws function as the hinge. It's made of steel, so it will rust eventually. Fits hawse mounts that are 10" apart on center.

    Tuffy Flip-Up License Plate Holder for Roller Fairleads

    Tuffy License Plate Mount for Winch Rollers
    This is an inexpensive mount, but it doesn't include a metal plate to back your license plate. It attaches to the roller pins.
    Flip-Up License Plate Mount by Tuffy
    Like most of the license plate mounts here, this will fit just about any Warn winch.

    Tuffy's other flip-up license plate mount is also very minimal. It's just like the hawse mount - no license plate backing plate, top screws are hinges, made of steel and pretty light overall. It mounts to a roller fairlead, but not through the mounting bolts! It uses the side roller pins. In order to install it, you need some snap ring pliers to remove the circlips at the tops of each side roller. Then you pop the license plate holder on and replace the circlips. It should be painless if you have some snap ring pliers around.

    This fits fairleads with roller pins that are 8 3/4" apart on center and 5/8" in diameter. Make sure yours is the same!

    Some winches don't have enough play in the rollers between the top and bottom circlips to also be able to fit this bracket, so be aware that you may have a problem.

    Clip-On Winch License Plate Mounts

    These are usually easy to deal with and clip on to tubular roller fairleads. Our DIY solution at the bottom uses clip-on mounts. While these work just fine, you still need to take it off and put it on before and after winching. Don't accidentally leave it behind on the trail! We wouldn't want to just leave it off for a trail ride because it would be too easy to forget to put it on at the end of the day. At least where we are, the cops would be delighted to find one of our rigs missing a plate. Seriously, it would be thrilling for them.

    While the ease of taking a plate off is definitely a benefit with these mounts, it's also a detriment. Why? It's also easy for thieves to take your plate off! While we've never had this happen (the worst theft was a guy taking a bag of chips out of a backpack in our Jeep which wasn't discovered till we wanted some chips 2 days later - #hangry) we imagine that some people live in areas that this could be a problem.

    EAG License Plate Mount Bracket for Roller Fairlead

    EAG Winch Roller License Plate Mount
    The mount plate is made of steel and has a textured powdercoat finish.
    EAG Winch Roller License Plate Mount Metal Clips
    The back of the mount has clips that'll slide right over your rollers.

    This license plate bracket only works with roller fairleads. It uses metal clips to attach to the side rollers of the winch. It tends to be a couple dollars cheaper than the similar Smittybilt and has a nice textured powdercoat finish. It pops on and off easily when you want to winch.

    Smittybilt License Plate Mount Bracket

    Winch Roller License Plate Mount by Smittybilt
    This mount quickly and easily clips on to your roller fairlead's rollers. You don't need to install anything except attaching your license plate to the bracket.
    Smittybilt Winch Roller Mount Back
    The bracket uses metal clips to attach the plate bracket to the winch's roller.

    This is the other winch roller fairlead mount. It snaps into place with metal clips, although it sounds like Smittybilt's clips are a little weak. They can allow the license plate holder to slide down the rollers. They are spring steel, so if you try to bend them a little tighter they'll just break.

    Bolt-On Winch License Plate Mounts

    This is our least preferred type of license plate winch because of the extra hardware you need to deal with. However, if you want to have a clean front end when fourwheeling with your hawse-equipped winch, this is the type of plate mount you want. These bolt on your winch or bumper somewhere and will usually have some removable thumbscrews to pop the license plate on and off.

    You need to keep track of both the plate and the screws if you take the plate off. If you lose the screws, you'll have a harder time getting your plate back on if you're just coming back on to the road. It could also be tedious if you need to repeatedly put on and take off your license plate for some reason.

    These mounts are a little safer than clip-on mounts in terms of license plate theft.

    Warrior Products Hawse License Plate Mount

    Hawse License Plate Mount by Warrior Products
    This is a very thin and compact plate mount for your winch hawse.
    Winch Hawse Fairlead License Plate Mount by Warrior Products
    The license plate attaches and detaches with knobs, leaving only the small bracket (upper right) attached to your bumper. If you want a clean bumper while wheeling, this is the ticket.

    This nicely machined piece fits hawse fairleads. With the large knobs, you can wear gloves and still be able to take off your license plate. The bracket bolts under hawse fairleads with 10" on center holes.

    EAG Stainless Steel License Plate Mount for Hawse Fairlead

    EAG License Plate Bracket Attached with Knobs
    The knobs should be easy to turn with gloves on. Just don't lose them!
    EAG Winch Hawse License Plate Bracket
    Twist off the knobs on the bottom of the bracket to remove your license plate.

    This is quite similar to the Warrior mount with a few exceptions. It's made of stainless steel and finished black. The lower bracket that the license plate attaches to looks like it sticks out a little bit more than the Warrior. The bracket bolts under hawse fairleads with 10" on center holes.

    DIY Winch License Plate Mount

    Maglite D-Cell Brackets for Winch License Plate Mount
    These will clip on and off a standard winch roller. They are plastic so they might not last as long in temperature extremes.
    1 1/2" Conduit Hanger for Making a Winch License Plate Mount
    This is more secure than the MagLite bracket, but also a little more trouble to put on and take off.

    If you're pinching pennies and have more time than money, you might be interested in a homemade winch license plate mount.

    Now, given the pictures this seems pretty self-explanatory. But we'll explain it anyway. First, this idea has been around for years and is tested - you just need to put in the effort to build this thing. If you make a backing plate, you can bolt the roller brackets to the plate and then bolt your license plate to the backing plate. This only works with roller fairleads. The roller diameter on a Warn is 1 9/16" so the MagLite brackets and 1 1/2" conduit hangers will both fit. You can get smaller Maglite brackets (like for a C cell) or get smaller conduit hangers if necessary.

    Get the MagLite brackets.

    Get some conduit hangers.

    The MagLite Brackets are plastic and might be a little more sensitive to temperature extremes, particularly cold temps. The hangers are easy to work with and won't fail in the cold, but you'll have to do some time-consuming unscrewing when you need to use your winch, and some time-consuming screwing when your done to put your plate back.

    Theftwise, the hangers will make it harder to steal you license plate. Hope that helps!


Tyler Branham

Tyler 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