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Difference Between Starter Relay and Solenoid

There are a lot of people who often confuse Starter Relay with Solenoid and vice-versa. Often times, it is thought that starter relay is the same as solenoid. This is a common misconception especially if you are not a mechanic or you newly just acquired a winch and just starting to figure how winches work. This thinking could be harmless, however, if you are an off-road enthusiast winch owner, this could have a damaging mistake.

Owning a winch requires on-going knowledge and learning about its parts and how they work. Having knowledge could provide you huge advantage especially when your winch gets damaged while you are off-road and you would need to use your winch. When situation comes to worse, it is very important that you do not make any mistakes nor make assumptions or wild guesses. As we say, knowledge is power. So what are you waiting for? read further and learn more about starter relay.

What is the Starter Relay?

One thing that you must know is that your winch actually does not have a starter relay. Yes, we know this could come as a shock to you. The reason for this is because often times starter relay could often times be interchangeably used for solenoid. In fact, even in websites, you would see this which is why we understand how confusing this could be.

A starter relay is actually your vehicle’s starting system which is also part of the system of your solenoid. Yes, it is very confusing as they have similarities in appearance as well, but, do not be fooled as they work differently and they have different functions as well.

What Does the Starter Relay Do?

It is amazing how small things have very much important roles. For example, though starter relays are very much small electrical devices, they provide powerful current which is used by your vehicle’s motor.

Starter relays’ function is very similar to a winch solenoid which we understand could be very confusing. The difference however is that a starter relay is a switch while a winch solenoid acts as both a relay and an actuator.

Moreover, a starter relay could work as a remote switch which could control high current circuits. Hence, aside from cars, it could also be used in refrigerators, motorbikes, lawnmowers and many more. Though there are many appliances and electronic devices that use starter relays, a winch does not actually need one.

Differences Between a Starter Relay and a Solenoid

In this section of this article, we shall provide you the differences between a starter relay and a solenoid. The solenoid discussed in this section is actually the one that is found in starting the circuit of your vehicle. The reason behind this is because a winch does not need any starter relay.


Solenoids and starter relays differ in size. Starter relays are smaller than solenoids which are much more heavy duty than starter relays. This is also true no matter if the solenoid is from a winch or a car.


The solenoid is made of two coils of war and magnetic core. Its core moves in and out once the solenoid is activated. Starter relay on the other hand, when activated, current would flow through the coil winding. It produces electromagnetic field which moves one of its plunger to close the circuit which switches the motor on.

Solenoids’ core moves only when electromagnetic field is present. It closes the circuit and it moves a gear to function which works as an actuator.


Solenoids’ main function is to activate the motor. It gets your motor to work. This is the reason why solenoids are placed near the motor. Most often than not, starter solenoids could be seen right beside or on top of the motor.

Starter relays on the other hand could be found depending on the type or model of your car. It could be found in the fuse box or power. It could also be found under the dash within the fuse panel. It could also be in the right fender or under the hood. It could also be installed on the driver’s side.

Does a Winch Need a Starter Relay?

When you install a winch, a lot would often connect it to the starter relay as it is thought that the winch motor is repurposed starter motor. This is actually not necessary as a winch does not need to connect to a starter relay. Hence, it is more better if you connect your winch to the battery of your car instead.

Solenoids are sufficient to control the current that flows into your winch. If you are new to installing a winch and would need more knowledge about installing your winch, we suggest that you check our step-by-step guide on how to install your winch.


Starter relays are often times confused with solenoids and vice-versa. However, one important thing that you must know concerning about starter relays and solenoids is that winches do not need to have a starter relay. Hence, when you have some problems with your winch, do not get confused and say that your winch’s starter relay is broken.

Starter relays could be found in vehicles. They control circuits with high currents and is part of the starting system. In fact, it works as a switch for your motor. Solenoids on the other hand would function as both a switch and an actuator.

If you need and want to learn more about parts of a winch, check our complete guide and learn about the basics.

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