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Old 09-25-2011, 09:55 AM   #1
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Winch Cable or Synthetic Rope?

I need to put new winch cable on my 2005 TJ I just got. Which isthe best wire cable or the new synthetic rope? There is quite a bit of price difference between the two. I get out to the mountains maybe 2-3 times a year and go 4-wheelin. I've jeeped a lot and never needed a winch and been in some pretty tight spots. This one just happened to come on the jeep I bought. So, is it worth the extra money?

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Old 09-25-2011, 09:59 AM   #2
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Go with synthetic you will never regret it. Lighter, easier to work with and way, way safer. No stored energy means if it snaps it just falls to the ground versus cable that could hurt you or a bystander real badly, or take out part of your jeep.

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Old 09-25-2011, 10:11 AM   #3
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Will the sun degrade the strength of the rope? Do I need to get a winch cover to prevent this? I was looking at the Smittybilt rope at 4 wheel parts, they've got a pretty good price on it and it comes with a free fairlead.
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Old 09-25-2011, 10:20 AM   #4
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If you buy a rope, buy one that is made from Amsteel blue....nothing else is even close and its more UV resistant.
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Old 09-25-2011, 11:11 AM   #5
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Once you switch to synthetic, you will never want to go back to wire rope. I went through three wire ropes in 6-7 years and my 3/8" rope from Viking was still in superb condition after five years the last time I saw it before my TJ was stolen last year.

It's MUCH lighter and pound for pound, MUCH stronger as well... not to mention it is safer to use and won't recoil and hurt/maim/kill people if it breaks like wire rope can and does.

If you go with synthetic, I would only go with a 3/8" which is rated to something like 19,600 lb. breaking strength. 5/16" is technically "strong enough" but since (let's face it) synthetic is more suceptible to being damaged by abrasion, the extra safety margin of 3/8" makes it worth it.

This is a link for Viking Offroad's winchline division, owned by two active Jeeping brothers (Thor and Jon) that support the Jeep community in many ways. Viking Winchlines
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Old 09-25-2011, 11:37 AM   #6
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synthetic is worth the money. you gotta be a little more careful about abrasion...but i'm quite impressed with how much weight is saved. i did install a winch cover to prevent UV degradation....but the cover can be a pain. i take it off in the summer when it's really hot because it screws with the way the fan clutch kicks in because not enough air flow is passing through. should be good for winters around here tho, prevent ice build up and nasty mag-chloride issues.
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Old 09-25-2011, 11:47 AM   #7
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UV is not the issue some make it out to be. First, docks and ships at sea have been using synthetic ropes far longer than the offroad community has and if UV degradation was significant, they wouldn't be using it since docks and most ships keep their lines outside 7/24. Not to mention that winchline manufacturers have added additional UV protection to their lines. I've never worried about nor bothered to cover my winchlines and they do fine.
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Old 09-25-2011, 12:01 PM   #8
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not to mention if you do break it it can be tied/woven back together
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Old 09-25-2011, 01:44 PM   #9
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We used the Amsteel line on the ship I was on it is strong, maybe one day if the "MAN" ever gives me a pay increase I will have that on the winch I cant afford
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Old 09-25-2011, 01:55 PM   #10
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Amsteel blue is where its at. They put their 3/4" rope between a 4x4 tractor and half buried bulldozer. It pulled the hook off the dozer
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Old 09-25-2011, 02:11 PM   #11
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Another nice thing about synthetic, it floats! So if you loose hold of it in water, you don't have to go fishing around the bottom trying to find it or go have to go all the way back to the winch to find it.
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Old 09-25-2011, 10:33 PM   #12
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Go with synthetic you will never regret it. Lighter, easier to work with and way, way safer. No stored energy means if it snaps it just falls to the ground versus cable that could hurt you or a bystander real badly, or take out part of your jeep.
The dropping to the ground is a very commonly espoused misconception and it's just that, a big misconception.

If you were to stand in the path of a parted synthetic 3/8" winch line, you may not be seriously injured, but you wouldn't be a happy camper and even more so depending one where you got tagged.

The best way to view the increased safety of synthetic over steel cable is you and a buddy each grab a 4' piece of steel and synthetic and take turns swatting each other as hard as you can. The guy getting hit with the steel will most assuredly be less than happy to take more than one or two smacks and only then if he's really tough.

Here's a pretty decent comparison and it would be better if they had used a couple of endless eye splices on the steel, but if you search on there, you can find break tests of steel 3/8's and 5/16's that show just how violent they are when parted at full load.

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Old 09-26-2011, 12:08 AM   #13
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The dropping to the ground is a very commonly espoused misconception and it's just that, a big misconception.

If you were to stand in the path of a parted synthetic 3/8" winch line, you may not be seriously injured, but you wouldn't be a happy camper and even more so depending one where you got tagged.

The best way to view the increased safety of synthetic over steel cable is you and a buddy each grab a 4' piece of steel and synthetic and take turns swatting each other as hard as you can. The guy getting hit with the steel will most assuredly be less than happy to take more than one or two smacks and only then if he's really tough.

Here's a pretty decent comparison and it would be better if they had used a couple of endless eye splices on the steel, but if you search on there, you can find break tests of steel 3/8's and 5/16's that show just how violent they are when parted at full load.


Simple analogy would you rather get snapped in the butt with a wet towel or a steel cable I will take the towel!

I have never actually seen someone snap a synthetic cable in person yet, but man when a steel cable lets go watch out.
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Old 09-26-2011, 08:19 AM   #14
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I have alot of friends that just LOVE chains.

Theyre belief is that, its a chain, its got like a 50,000# minimum breaking point.

They dont check their chains either.

So easy for a chain to be drug down the road and weakened to 10,000#.

When a chain lets go, someone is getting seriously injured, or youre gonna need new headlights, grill, hood, etc.
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Old 09-26-2011, 08:58 AM   #15
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Simple analogy would you rather get snapped in the butt with a wet towel or a steel cable I will take the towel!

I have never actually seen someone snap a synthetic cable in person yet, but man when a steel cable lets go watch out.
There are times on the trails when we have to do a recovery due to someone encountering some serious breakage like an ARB breaking completely in half. When that happens, we will do more recovery work in a day that most folks get to do in an average lifetime.

That said, I've been next to several synthetic winch lines that have parted under decent loads and have yet to be hurt or even suffer the equivalent of a welt left by a snap from a wet towel. There is a disclaimer that goes with that though, I've never been next to one that parted at it's breaking strength and don't know that I want to.

The rest of the story is our group of wheeling folks has about 98% running synthetic, myself included.
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Old 09-26-2011, 09:03 AM   #16
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We are about 50-50. I run steel on mine because its still good and 150' of rope would make my butt hurt for a long time. That being said, when my steel needs replacing I will replace it with rope.
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Old 02-08-2012, 10:05 AM   #17
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How well does Synthetic winch line hold up in the sand, mud, and winter freezing weather compared to steel cable?

1) I have read several posts on the Web and Forums where others experiences with the synthetic line use in winter, was frozen to its self and the inner drum. (It was or had been raining, and then you drove into freezing weather). Some were able to get the line out, others could not. Then the topic was, what does the ice do to the fibers over time when you straighten the line out?

2) Using synthetic line it in the sand and mud you can get debris into the fibers and over time cause line abrasion. Seems to me you would need to be proactive in keeping your synthetic line clean and inspected after use and then would not be an issue.

3) Synthetic line for some conditions and steel cable for other conditions?
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Old 02-08-2012, 10:11 AM   #18
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BTW: I have 100' feet of 3/8 steel cable on my winch currently, but carry 100' feet of 3/8 synthetic line as a winch line extension, or replacement if I or someone else damages their winch line, while out on a trip.
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Old 02-16-2012, 04:09 PM   #19
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1)How well does Synthetic winch line hold up in the sand, mud, and winter freezing weather compared to steel cable?

Answer: The synthetic ropes whether Dyneema or Technora are extremely tough materials and highly resistant to cuts and abrasion, but they are still fibers and as such can be cut more easily than steel. Dyneema is used for cut resistant gloves for example in industries requiring that feature, but a winchline under a few thousand pounds of force on a truck will cut instantly if dragged over a sharp edge on a bumper. So one has to be more careful with synthetic lines compared to steel, even though you can ruin a steel cable first use if not careful.

2) I have read several posts on the Web and Forums where others experiences with the synthetic line use in winter, was frozen to its self and the inner drum. (It was or had been raining, and then you drove into freezing weather). Some were able to get the line out, others could not. Then the topic was, what does the ice do to the fibers over time when you straighten the line out?

Answer: Synthetic winchlines were originally designed for heavy commercial fishing that happens mostly in the north seas. These areas see a lot of cold weather, ice and freezing saltwater. There will be some damage caused by this but it is very minute. This will effectively shorten the life of the rope by a relatively small amount, maybe 1-2% reduction in overall lifespan. If you cut these ropes with a good sharp knife you will find your knife will dull very quickly. We use high quality scissors to cut the ropes and have to replace them weekly because the ropes are so difficult to cut.

3) Using synthetic line it in the sand and mud you can get debris into the fibers and over time cause line abrasion. Seems to me you would need to be proactive in keeping your synthetic line clean and inspected after use and then would not be an issue.

Answer: This is correct, any rope will pick up sediment whether sand or mud and it will eventually work its way into the rope. The result is called internal abrasion. It is a good idea to clean the rope after it gets muddy, and always a good idea to inspect it especially after heavy use. Again internal abrasion will shorten the lifespan but by a small amount like the ice.

4) Synthetic line for some conditions and steel cable for other conditions?

Answer: Now that we have discussed these technical details, it is far more important to make sure the lines are protected from sharp edges. You will wear out your line by external abrasion long before the internal abrasion from either sediment or ice. Many people do not realize this but steel cables have some real disadvantages, where if they get pinched or kinked they will break strands after a pull or two after that, they will corrode and after many pulls they begin fatigue after being forced over a small diameter winch drum over and over. This is why Warn and Superwinch are now starting to offer more synthetic lines because they realize synthetic holds up better over time from this perspective.

5)Is sand and mud an issue for Synthetic Lines? Is ice an issue for synthetic lines?

Answer: No

6)What do you recommend we use in the NW?

Answer: We started this company in the NW where my brother Jon ran the operation and both of us have wheeled for years. I have lived in California for 20 years or so and we use these here in the desert sand , sediment and rocks. Besides that we have thousands of these lines being used successfully all over the world. The main thing to remember is ever though these are very strong high tech ropes, they are still ropes and will cut or abrade on sharp edges. So more care needs to me taken to protect them compared with steel cables.Virtually all lines we get in for repair were cut due to insufficient opening in the bumper for the line. Our fairleads have a line machined in the back showing how big this opening should be.


7) I have 100' feet of 3/8 steel cable on my winch currently, but carry 100' feet of 3/8 synthetic line as a inch line extension, or replacement if I or someone else damages their winch line, while out on a trip.

Answer: If your winch came with 100’ of 3/8” you should keep the same dimensions or shorter. When the rope is under tension it is the same size as steel, so the lines must be installed under tension, as with steel cables. If you go shorter you will benefit from having more power more often during winching due to the effective gearing changes that happen with pulling off different layers on the drum. All winches are rated at the first layer and loosing roughly 10% power each layer after that. See the info at the bottom of this page: Viking Offroad - Hardware

Ultimately the synthetic lines are so much easier to handle and they are safer in case of a break which is rare with steel but it happens. We hear about them breaking every year. One other issue if a steel cable breaks, they will spiral like a bullet because of the twist in those lines, and will change direction because the break is never clean. Either goes with 3/8” x 100, or 80 and your 100’ extension is a perfect complement.
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Old 02-16-2012, 04:59 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wondertwin1 View Post
I have alot of friends that just LOVE chains.

Theyre belief is that, its a chain, its got like a 50,000# minimum breaking point.

They dont check their chains either.

So easy for a chain to be drug down the road and weakened to 10,000#.

When a chain lets go, someone is getting seriously injured, or youre gonna need new headlights, grill, hood, etc.
I've snapped a few log chains at work pulling dead trees out of the woods with tractors...that is definitely a misconception your friends have and if they're not careful, they're going to kill someone (or their self). I've snapped a few chains while giving them a little tug to break the tree free from the dirt (which is a big no-no actually as chains are NOT designed to be jerked--but larger trees need a quick jerk or you'll just spin your tires and sink)...when that chain goes whizzing past your head, it is NOT a pleasant feeling realizing that had it taken a different path, you'd be laying there dead/dying with a gaping hole in your head. Those things snap with one hell of a force...

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