Synthetic Winch Rope FAQ
What is better, steel cable or synthetic rope?
While many enthusiasts have a personal preference over steel or synthetic rope, over the last few years synthetic rope has been adopted as the preferred choice, and is often mandatory in most major sanctioned off-road events.
Below is a general list of synthetic vs steel pros and cons. It’s important to note that not all synthetic and steel cables are the same, and some will have different features and capabilities.
Strength: Dyneema rope is up to 15 times stronger than steel.
Weight: Synthetic rope is much lighter than steel, and easier to carry and handle.
Handling: Synthetic rope doesn’t develop sharp burrs over time, which can be dangerous.
No rust: Steel cable can rust and in turn weaken if not kept dry and maintained.
Safety: Synthetic rope doesn’t store up as much energy as a steel cable does, which means if it breaks it won’t become a lethal projectile and cause injury to you or damage your vehicle.
It’s flexible: Steel winch cable is prone to kinks which in turn makes it harder to spool up on the drum, further decreasing strength. It is to be noted that synthetic rope, if not handled carefully can knot.
It floats: If you get stuck in a mud-hole or body of water having this advantage can be a great help.
Repair: if it snaps it can usually be repaired in the field with proper braiding techniques.
Can be susceptible to UV exposure, heat, chemicals and abrasion.
Can hold water: this can add weight, and if you’re in a cold environment, can even freeze.
Need to be properly maintained. Grains of sand and dirt can bury themselves in the rope’s core and weaken it’s integrity. If you’re out in the mud and dirt it’s important that you take time to spool it out and wash it occasionally.
Expense. Synthetic cable is often the more expensive option.
What kind of fairlead should I use for a synthetic winch rope?
It’s recommended to use a hawse fairlead with a synthetic rope. If using a roller fairlead with a synthetic rope the rope can snag on the corners of the fairlead, as well as get cut and damaged on the sides of the sharp steel housing.
Regardless of the fairlead you choose, always ensure your rope doesn't come in contact with any sharp edges on your bumper and vehicle.
How do I know which rope to use with my winch?
Check your winch manual, or contact the manufacturer or agent you purchased it from. Most ATV winches will use rope with a diameter below 9mm or 10mm, while bigger winches will start at 10mm and up.
Do I need to wash my rope?
Yes. It’s recommended that you wash your rope with soapy water to remove any grit and debris which might have become stuck inside the fibres of the rope. Over time this dirt and grit can work it’s way in to the rope, damaging the core and weakening it from the inside out.
Do I need a winch dampener with my synthetic rope?
Yes. While a synthetic rope doesn't store as much kinetic energy as that of a steel wire, it can still be of some danger when snapping under high tension. Depending where the break occurs and what item is attached to the rope, a flying hook, shackle or anchor point can still pose a significant threat to any person or vehicle near by.