All About the Winch Rope: A General Guide

Of all of the parts of the winch, the rope is debatably the most easily damaged. It gets exposed to a lot of damaging elements. It experiences a lot of tension during pulls, and it is exposed to a lot of abrasion.

For this general guide on winch ropes, we will analyze winch cables in general. We will see the differences between the two types of winch cable, synthetic rope and steel cable. We will examine what can cause damages on a winch rope. And our best recommendations for winch ropes will also be provided at the end.

Steel Wire Cables

Steel wire cable was the traditional winch rope option for decades. It is known for its undeniable durability. It is very strong, and it can serve you for years. Steel cable wires are also not easily damaged by the heat generated within the winch drum during a pull.

The steel cable wire has its perks. However it does have its disadvantages. It is prone to rusting due to exposure to moisture. It also burrs due to abrasion. And these burrs can be harmful to the bare hands and skin. This is why it is always advisable to wear a pair of protective gloves when handling winch ropes, especially a steel wire cable.

The biggest disadvantage of the steel wire cable has it that it holds a lot of tension during pulls. Basically, when it breaks during a pull, the suddenly released tension it is holding can be dangerous. The thinner the steel cable, the more dangerous it is. The tension in a steel wire cable during pulls can tear through flesh.

For this reason, many people prefer the synthetic rope over the steel wire cable as their winch rope.

Synthetic Rope

The synthetic rope is gaining a lot of popularity these days. It has a lot of benefits since manufacturers can synthesize different ropes with different properties, meaning that it can virtually be “perfect” for winching.

Generally, synthetic winch ropes can be made to be stronger than steel wire cables. That is amazing since synthetic ropes are a lot lighter than steel wire cables (something like 70% lighter). Unlike, steel wire cables, synthetic ropes are also a lot safer. They do not hold a lot of tension; they do not snap like a whip when they break during a pull. Synthetic ropes are buoyant. They float on water, which is a nice feature.

But like the steel wire cable, synthetic ropes also have their drawbacks. Synthetic ropes can be more expensive than steel wire cable. They are also a lot less durable than a steel wire cable. They can get damaged quite easily by the heat generated by the winch drum during a pull. This is why a lot of synthetic ropes you buy today have a heat treated sleeve for protection.

Synthetic ropes also get damaged by the ultraviolet rays (UV) from the sun. And they are more prone to breakage due to abrasion, dust, sand and other particles.

What Can Damage a Winch Rope and How to Protect It

As was already mentioned multiple times, a winch rope can get damaged by abrasion, small particles, tension, heat and the other elements it is exposed to. However, with the proper maintenance and protection, you can make your winch rope last.

For steel wire cables, you have to make sure that you keep it away from moisture to avoid rusting. If you are in a fairly humid place, make sure that you don’t put your winch in a winch cover. This will trap all of the moisture inside the winch. If ever your steel wire cable gets wet, dry it off as soon as possible.

To prevent as much abrasion as possible, use a tree trunk protector when pulling. A tree trunk protector is a piece of long fabric or some material that you wrap around your anchor point to actually protect either the winch rope and the actual anchor point.

Another thing you can do to minimize abrasion on a steel wire cable is to use a roller fairlead instead of a hawse fairlead. If you need to learn all about fairleads, see this guide.

As for synthetic ropes, you can’t actually do much except clean it regularly and avoid exposing it a lot. Cleaning the synthetic rope can help prevent small dust, sand, mud or other particles from lodging within the fibers of the rope. These little particles can damage your rope little by little, so it is good that you do not expose your synthetic rope to them.

If you have a winch cover, it is advisable that you use it on a winch with a synthetic rope. This will protect it from small particles. This is a great way to not expose your synthetic rope to a lot of elements. As was discussed above, synthetic ropes can get damaged by a lot of things: sand, dust, mud, the sun’s UV rays and who knows what more.

Winch Rope Recommendations

Here are our top recommendations for the best winch rope replacements. The list is a combination of both steel wire cables and synthetic ropes.

If you want to see why we think that these are the best ropes, read this buying guide.

Rope Winch Conclusion

It is always good to have even the most basic understanding of the parts of a winch, if you have a winch. Ths way, you can be better equipped to handle decisions about it. You can better protect and maintain your winch, your investment. Hopefully, this general short guide has given you a few helpful knowledge about winch ropes.

Do you have any questions about winch ropes? Is there helpful information that you wish made it in this short guide? Comment below to let us know what you think of this!