Steel Cable vs Synthetic Rope Winch

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bee_CO

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Rope vs Cable.
It's been discussed everywhere on the Internet, but what are your thoughts on it? Any anecdotal stories to share?

I'm new to winching, recently bought my first (yet to install, need to finish designing, and then fabricate, my bumper.) I went with a synthetic winch because they are lighter and safer, but beginning to think maybe I should have gotten a cable winch, since they are more durable. I would hope to never have to use it on a trail for self recovery... My thoughts on it would more likely be used to load an in-op car into a trailer (bumper I'm designing has front hitch), recovery of [idiots] cars in winter, and general pulling power to move shit around. Did I make the wrong choice by getting synthetic, for my purposes?

Synthetic Rope pros:
Lightweight
Safer in case of snap(carries less potential energy)
Nicer looking /smaller fairlead

Cons:
Easier to damage (Abrasion)
More expensive

Cable pros:
Cheaper
Tougher/less prone to damage

Cons :
Burrs in cable can be dangerous to hands
Higher risk of damage or injury in case of line or other rigging failure
Heavier
 

Winterpeg

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Just keep in mind the synthetic ropes can freeze together on the winch.
I learned this the hard way.
I got it unspooled, but it sure took a bit to get that accomplished.... If I remember correctly I hooked it to something and pulled it out with a vehicle. Once the outside coil got off the spool it was ok after that.
 

ShawnR

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I chose synthetic for safety reasons. Only used it a couple times so far dragging logs. Haven't had to recover myself yet. There is a thread on here somewhere with good info about which synthetic line will hold up the longest and not be affected by UV light, salt water, etc.
 

v_man

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Synthetic is the future , running a steel winch line is like choosing drum brakes over disc .

One anecdote : I was pulling myself out of a snowy ditch once . Synthetic line broke because of the angle I was pulling at , and the way the line was running over the fair lead . User error. I tied a double fisherman's knot in the line , adjusted the pull angle , and pulled myself out . I continued winching on the line that I broke and tied together for several years after that ....
 
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Corbet

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Synthetic has more advantages over steel. But yes it sure sucks when it gets frozen into a solid block on occasion. Steel can do the same but not nearly as bad. I can't see a reason I'd go back to steel.
 

Mad Garden Gnome

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Isn't there an issue with winch brakes overheating to the point of damaging the synthetic type cable? I thought I had read this somewhere......
 

harv3589

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Isn't there an issue with winch brakes overheating to the point of damaging the synthetic type cable? I thought I had read this somewhere......
Some winches are designed that they don't hear up the drum and transfer the heat to the synthetic line.

I have synthetic on my jeep and the winch was made to run that. On my Power Wagon it's just the steel that it came with...


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Mad Garden Gnome

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Some winches are designed that they don't hear up the drum and transfer the heat to the synthetic line.

I have synthetic on my jeep and the winch was made to run that. On my Power Wagon it's just the steel that it came with...


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Ah.

So would you say that those with winches that have the brakes inside the drums (I believe that is issue) should either not run synth or be extremely aware of winch loading?
 

4xFar Adventures

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The heat buildup on a winch drum happens when it is equipped with the brake inside the drum, and you are powering out the line under load. Say lowering someone down a ledge. This should only be done for 20' at a time, and allow of adequate cooling time. Under normal, or even extreme conditions, winching in should not produce excessive heat buildup to the point of damaging or melting your line.

If you find yourself needing to a lot of powering out under load, you should look into getting a different winch, like the Warn 8274 or worm gear like the Superwinch Husky.

There are higher heat resistant synthetic lines, like Technora or Kevlar, but they are significantly weaker than Dyneema SK-75 line, and I would not recommend them.

The benefits far outweigh the cons of synthetic over cable winchline. While abrasion resistance should be looked after, Dyneema isn't made of glass. The most wear will happen if the line is under tension and rubs against something, like a rock or log. Use the rock guard where needed.
 

Corbet

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Powering the line out with a planetary winch is poor practice regardless of line choice. You are forcing the winch to overcome its internal brake. Thus the heat build up. Synthetic line them compounds the problem by offering the drum a thick blanket of insulation rather than a heat sink like steel rope does.
 
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