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Steel or Synthetic … winch rope


If you’re in the market for treating yourself to a new winch you’ll recognise the first decision to make is Wire Cable or Synthetic Rope?


Unless it’s just a bumper ornament, a winch is an important additional piece of equipment to the truck. There are times when a winch is all that’s holding a truck from pending doom. Ok we’re not all Indiana Jones but that doesn’t get away from the fact a winch is there to take the weight of the truck and pull it ‘back on track’. So what’s it to be for your winch, Synthetic Rope or Wire Cable and what is best.


Synthetic Rope is the new boy on the block, yes pricier but it’s 150% stronger, nearly a 10th lighter. Weight will not only be an issue if you’re out on expedition, lugging a heavy, stiff cable up hill might make the choice easier. Due to the synthetic covering on winch ropes the fibres are prevented from stretching when under strain. This means if the rope snaps whilst under pressure it will just fall to the floor reducing the risk of a flying steel whip. Think off a rubber band, harmless until you stretch it but once stretched and released it bolts off unpredictably.

Splicing Rope

A big advantage of using rope in a winch is the ability to fix it yourself should it snap or fray. No need for special tools, splicing or a knot can be done anywhere, there and then, a big plus if you’re in, the wilderness. The only downside to a rope winch is the recommended maintenance wash once home. Because rope is a soft fibre, things like grit, mud, even small stones can embed into it creating an abrasion. This rough debris if left in the rope will simply rub away the synthetic coating and start to fray the rope impairing it’s quality and reliability for future use.

kink frayed cable






Steel cable has been the tradition for many years tried, tested and certainly cheaper. Made from steel its has a few obvious pitfalls like rust and fraying over time. Fraying occurs when the fine steel wires that make up the cable break. A few broken wires is not going tosteel-rope-winch alter the effectiveness or strength but those pesky wires will rip your hands apart whilst handling even through gloves.

A wire cable will still need inspection after use to check for any kinks or frays and remove any debris taken in. Generally a wire cable is less needy, it’s stiffness prevents tangles and it doesn’t require washing unless it’s caked in muck. Remember whether washing or winching in water a metal cable will need to dry through before storage to prevent rust.


If price is a factor when choosing a winch, then maybe a future replacement is the way to go, to replace a wire cable with a synthetic rope when the time is right.


Also, consider adding a winch damper to your kit, they aren’t just a little high vis ‘vest’ for the winch line, they make the winch line easier to see when using plus weighting a damaged line down if failure occurs.





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