Superwinch Tiger Shark Winch Review

Jan. 07, 2013 By Jaime Hernandez

Whenever taking an off-road trip into the backcountry, it’s a good idea to have at least one vehicle with a recovery winch. Sometimes the closest town or help can be hours away if you get stuck or roll. Even then, many tow trucks will not provide service off-road, and if they do it’s at a premium. You’re better off having your own recovery equipment.

Up until this point, we’ve been relying on others in our group and we also try to not get in over our heads. We recently installed an off-road bumper on our 4x4 after the stocker was crunched. It was also time to get our very own recovery winch. Being prepared never hurts and it will come in handy if the situation should arise.

When deciding on a recovery winch, we quickly thought of Superwinch. A few years ago we installed a Superwinch Talon on Tom Severin’s Land Cruiser and he’s had great luck with it (See related article). 

Bill Burke from 4-Wheeling America has over 26 years of off-roading experience and trusts his winch recovery to Superwinch.

We also got to spend some time with Bill Burke from 4-Wheeling America and Superwinch in Moab last year. Bill Burke has been off-roading for over 26 years, is a Certified I4WDTA 4x4 Trainer and leads numerous 4x4 backcountry trips in North America (More on Bill Burke and 4-Wheelin’ America Burke relies on his Superwinch day in and day out. He’s been all over the U.S. and has really put it to the test and highly recommends them. So if Superwinch works for Bill, why not us?

Let’s delve a little deeper.

The newest line of recovery winches from Superwinch is the Tiger Shark. This entry-level model offers many of the same features as the high-end Superwinch models but at a fraction of the cost. Superwinch quality at a value price ... we’re listening.

They currently have five models: Tiger Shark 9,500 lbs., 11,500 lbs., 13,500 lbs., 15,500 lbs. and 17,500 lbs. The rule of thumb when picking out a vehicle recovery winch is to multiply 1.5 by your vehicle’s Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). In our case, GVW is close to 6,500 lbs., so we need a winch rated at 10,000 lbs. - 12,000 lbs.
Superwinch Tiger Shark TS 11,500 model with 6 HP Series Wound Sealed Motor.

According to the manufacturer, “Superwinch is redefining the entry-level winch market with the new Tiger Shark Series with ‘Standard Issue’ features and benefits designed for the enthusiast-level consumer.”  Features are as follows:

Superwinch Tiger Shark TS 11,500 Specs
• Rated Line Pull  11,500 lbs. (5,216 kg)
• Motor   Sealed 6.0 HP Series Wound
• Gearing   3-Stage Planetary
• Gear Ratio  218:1
• Solenoid  Weather Sealed Solenoid and Circuit Breaker Protected
• Clutch   Pull and Turn, Ergo
• Brake   Mechanical, Automatic Load Holding
• Rope   Wire 3/8" x 84' (9.5mm x 26m)
• Hook   Heavy-Duty Clevis Pinned Latched
• Fairlead  Heavy-Duty, Stainless Steel 4-Way Roller
• Remote  12' Rubber Sealed Hand-held
• Dimensions  20.8" L x 6.3" W x 9.2 H (529mm L x 160mm W x 234.5mm H)
• Drum Diameter 2.5" (64mm)
• Drum Length  9" (228.6mm)
• Installed Weight 94 lbs. (42 kg)
• Shipping Weight 98 lbs. (44 kg)
• Warranty  Limited 2-Year Warranty

The Superwinch Tiger Shark gearbox assembly houses 3-Stage planetary gears with a 218:1 gear ratio. Its solid steel construction extends up to the ergonomic free-spool knob with machined Superwinch logo. Case is finished in a nice flat black.

Superwinch Tiger Shark TS 11,500 Performance
• Line Pull: 0 lbs (0 kgs) 80 Amps Motor Draw/19 FPM (5.7 MPM) Line Speed
• Line Pull: 11,500 lbs. (5,216 kgs) 410 Amps Motor Draw/2 FPM (0.6 M/M) Line Speed

Superwinch has taken everything they have learned in the past 40+ years and applied it to the Tiger Shark. Its functionality, quality and value make it an ideal choice for the 4x4 enthusiast. Starting in the low $500s, the Superwinch Tiger Shark is geared for off-roaders looking for a reliable winch that will not break the bank.

Minus the sexy blue Dyneema synthetic rope found on other Superwinch models, the Tiger Shark’s design and function fit our needs, so we ordered one.


We headed over to ORW in Escondido, CA where the Superwinch Tiger Shark would be mounted on our Toyota 80 Series Land Cruiser. Both Jason Smith and Doug Ebba tag-teamed the job and had us on our way before too long. This job is easier with two guys due to the combined weight of the bumper and winch (182 lbs. in our case).  Having the ability to align the bumper on the vehicle frame with two people is also much easier. If you’re doing this solo, there are ways to go about it, like using jack stands, a floor jack or hoist.

Here is an overview of our Superwinch Tiger Shark installation.

The first step is to install the Superwinch on a solid structural support, in our case the Slee Off-Road bumper. The base of the winch is mounted to the winch bumper plate using a minimum of four grade 8 bolts. There’s also the roller fairlead that needs to be installed up front. In some cases, this step needs to be done with the bumper off the vehicle.

In our installation, the Tiger Shark solenoid box was hitting against the radiator grill. We had to relocate it. Most winch bumpers will not have this issue, but the Slee Off-Road Short Bus for 80 Series Land Cruiser is tucked really close, so it’s not uncommon (See related article).  Luckily the Tiger Shark solenoid box can be mounted in a remote location as long as it’s not inverted.

Jason fabricated a relocation bracket and mounted the solenoid box on a tab already welded on the winch bumper. This little trick has proven effective.

In the process, they also had to make some extended lines using heavy-gauge cable, leading from the solenoid box to the winch motor terminals. We used a total of three, two positive and one negative. Jason used welder cable, which is more flexible than battery cable and works well in tight spaces.

Once we had our wiring and solenoid box in place, it was just a matter of running the long red and black cables to the battery. With the battery disconnected, we routed our wires from the winch solenoid box to the battery using the grill opening. Superwinch recommends applying several layers of electrical tape where wiring may come in contact with sharp parts on the vehicle.

At the battery, the red color-coded wire goes on the positive terminal. Superwinch supplies a 400 Amp circuit breaker that should also be installed to help protect against power overload or short. The black color-coded wire goes to the battery negative terminal. If your vehicle is equipped with side pole terminals, it may be necessary to obtain auxiliary side terminal bolts to make these connections.

Once there is power to the winch, it’s time to test it. Pull and turn the free-spool clutch lever to the “disengaged” position. Pull several feet of wire rope off the drum. Return the clutch lever back to the “engaged” position. Plug in the remote pendant control. Push the button momentarily to check the rope drum rotation direction. If the drum rotates in the wrong direction, recheck your wiring.

After the installation is complete, Superwinch recommends that the wire rope be re-wound under load. It comes lightly wound from the factory, so doing this will ensure it’s ready for action. It will also ensure that it doesn’t work its way down into the layers of wire rope on the drum, which may become wedged within the body of the windings, damaging the wire rope.


We got the Superwinch Tiger Shark installed just in time for the Lucas Oil Off-Road Expo. The shiny new wire rope was getting a lot of attention outside the Overland Pavilion. Fast forward three months, the wire rope is still looking good and not showing any signs of rust or damage. We’ve had it sitting outside in the cold, heat, rain and even snow. No problem.

The entire winch construction and hardware looks and feels solid. The solenoid box seems to be doing its job keeping the solenoid weather proof. A simple three-prong plug for the controller is easy to put on and take off.

In use, the 6 HP winch motor runs smooth much like the Superwinch Talon. Most of our testing has been winching in. We’ve yet to use it on a big recovery, but we’re confident that it will perform flawlessly, as we’ve seen both Bill Burke and Tom Severin in action with their Superwinchs. We have a few off-road adventures planned in 2013 that may give us the opportunity to put it to real use. We’ll report back with any extractions.

To compensate for the added weight of the winch and off-road bumper, we did have to upgrade to heavier duty springs from ARB / Old Man Emu up front. This helped bring up the front end and also has better control on and off-road.

Our only gripe is not having a synthetic rope option for the Tiger Shark. Superwinch points out that the drum brake creates excessive heat during winch-out that may damage the rope, making it fail. They also point out that other winch companies with a similar design are offering synthetic rope without letting the consumer know the risks associated. If you just swap out the line you’re running the risk of failure, damage and injury. Superwinch stands by their design and recommends that only wire rope be used on the Tiger Shark. We’ll survive.


If you really want synthetic, make sure to check out the Superwinch Talon series, which is engineered using a high-tensile strength drum designed to resist the unique loading characteristics of synthetic rope.  The braking system is also different to help keep heat levels down.

Overall, we’re really happy with our choice.  The safety and assurance given by a recovery winch are undoubtedly necessary for the off-roader that ventures out to remote places or finds themselves getting stuck often.

For anyone that truly needs a good working winch, backed by the manufacturer with a two-year warranty, the Superwinch Tiger Shark is worth checking out. It looks good, winches great, and best of all--it will not empty your wallet.


SIDE NOTE: Another good item to pick up while you’re at it is Bill Burke’s “Getting Unstuck” DVD. This DVD will help viewers learn more about using their winch and other recovery gear to get “unstuck” in different off-road environments. It’s entertaining, educational and worth watching. Available at

Superwinch LLC.
(800) 323-2031

Off Road Warehouse
(800) 341-7757

Slee Off-Road
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