Can You Put Synthetic Rope On A Cable Winch?

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Using tools correctly is critical for their efficacy and longevity, which is why it’s so important to know how your cable winch works.

Can You Put Synthetic Rope On A Cable Winch 1 Can You Put Synthetic Rope On A Cable Winch?

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Can You Put Synthetic Rope On A Cable Winch?

Synthetic rope can safely be put on a cable winch. Synthetic rope is lighter, safer, and surprisingly tougher than steel cable, making it ideal for many offroading applications. However, it doesn’t conduct heat very well and can allow the winch brake to overheat.

But that isn’t all there is to the decision to use synthetic rope on a cable winch instead of steel cable. There are several key strengths and weaknesses that synthetic rope has that may or may not make it right for your situation.

Pros and Cons of Synthetic Rope

Pro: Safe

Synthetic rope’s primary benefit over steel cable is that it’s much safer. This is because steel cable stores a tremendous amount of tension energy in it all the time, which means that if it ever breaks all that energy will be released and snap back with deadly speed. This can seriously injure or even kill people and damage vehicles.

Synthetic rope on the other hand doesn’t store any energy in particular, meaning that if it breaks it won’t present any kind of danger to anyone and can even potentially be mended back to full strength by someone with the right know-how.

Synthetic ropes also don’t have any metal splinters or burs that could cause injury to people handling them, meaning that they can be handled without gloves as long as they aren’t moving especially quickly.

Can You Put Synthetic Rope On A Cable Winch Can You Put Synthetic Rope On A Cable Winch?

Con: Overheating

On the other hand, the synthetic rope doesn’t absorb heat very easily, meaning it makes it much easier for the winch’s brake to overheat. Since the brake lets out heat, both through the winch’s drum and any cable it’s in contact with, when it’s in contact with a cable that doesn’t carry away excess heat it loses access to a critical cooling measure.

Some synthetic ropes deal with this by having the part of the rope that wraps around the drum using a heat-resistant material that prevents excess heat from reaching the brake under normal circumstances. Some modern winches that are designed for synthetic rope also use more heat-resistant materials on their drum brakes.

Pro: Light

Because steel cables are made of steel, they are incredibly heavy. This can be a problem when installing cable or trying to keep a vehicle within a certain weight limit. It also makes the cable difficult to move around, which means that it can take several people to get it off the ground.

The average synthetic rope weighs 80% less than a steel cable does, which makes it way easier to install and can save up to thirty pounds of weight for the vehicle the winch is attached to. It’s difficult to overstate the value that having a lighter cable provides, as it means that the winch doesn’t need to exert nearly as much energy to move an already very heavy vehicle.

Con: Price

While a good steel cable may cost around fifty to a hundred dollars, a really nice synthetic rope will probably cost about twice as much as that. It’s up to you whether you think that this price is worth it, but it is certainly a huge difference between the two of them.

Pro: Strength

Surprisingly, the synthetic rope has a significantly higher pull weight than a steel cable does, which means that they don’t need to be as thick as steel cables and more rope can fit onto the same drum. This is incredibly useful, as combined with the flexibility of synthetic rope it gives you the flexibility to the winch’s hook wherever it needs to go.

It also doesn’t receive permanent damage from kinks like steel cable does, meaning that it’s less likely to get permanently taken out of commission by bad luck.

Con: Vulnerabilities

Because the synthetic rope is a rope, it can deteriorate over time from UV radiation or receive immediate damage from water, both of which can cause the rope to lose some of its strength or even break before its time. While many winch ropes are treated to prevent this from happening, it’s best to store them in a dark, dry place whenever they’re not in use.

How to Install a Rope Into a Winch

Step 1: Remove The Steel Cable

Unspooling the cable should be simple enough. Once you reach the end, you’ll notice that the cable is attached by some kind of bolt. Pay attention to how this bolt works, as you’ll need to attach the new rope the same way.

Step 2: Prepare The Drum

Before you can actually put the new rope on the drum, it’ll need to be sanded down. This is because the small burs and slivers that don’t cause any harm to a steel cable can ruin a rope in just a few seconds. Prepping the drum will help your new rope last.

Step 3: Inspect The Fairlead

Depending on what kind of fair lead you have, you might not need to do anything. An aluminum hawse fairlead will work fine, but a steel fairlead will likely need to be replaced. A steel roller fairlead will probably work but might need to be sanded down to get off any burs.

Step 4: Lay Out The Rope

This will allow you to quickly wrap the rope around the drum when the time comes.

Step 5: Attach the Rope

Now that the rope is laid out, you can attach the rope to the drum by doing the opposite of whatever you did to remove the cable you had on there before.

Step 6: Start Spooling

Keeping your hands far away from the winch, turn the device on and begin guiding the rope. Getting a friend or relative to work the winch controls is useful here, that way someone can stop it from turning if they need to. If there’s a heat sleeve, make sure that that covers the entire drum before you get to the normal rope.

Step 7: Finish Spooling and Test

You’ll know you’re done because you run out of rope. Now all that’s left is to test the new rope and make sure it works!