It’s inevitable for steel cable to rust and synthetic line to tear in a winch. In the case of synthetic cable, you may get away with discarding bad sections and a little bit of length sacrifice. But for steel cable, barbs and rust can deal heavy damage that compromises the integrity of the cable. This is where you need to know how to replace winch cable.
If you have the right tools and some idea of how to replace a winch cable, it shouldn’t be that hard. The reason you need to change your cable may vary but the process is practically the same in most vehicle winches. Don’t worry if this is your first time replacing a winch cable. We have curated this guide to understand the steps easily and change the cable safely.
Table of Contents
8 Steps To Replace Winch Cable
Before we move on to the process of replacing winch cable, we need proper preparation.
First of all, safety gear. No matter how simple it seems, do not neglect the fact it could cut your hand with any sharp edges. Specks of dust, loose particles are also something you don’t want in your eyes.
Get a pair of heavy-duty gloves and safety goggles. Next, set aside a long flat-headed screwdriver to depress any tensioner you have in your winch. You will also need an Allen key to unscrew the winch drum set-screw. Apart from these, some duct tape and a plier are also useful in winch rope replacement.
Step-2: Cut power to the winch
Cut all power to the winch so it doesn't accidentally turn on. You can do that in several ways. Mostly, turning off the engine will do the trick. To be absolutely sure, disconnecting the battery is also a good idea. Remember, you have to connect it again to spool the cable in later. Whichever path you take, if your winch has a power button, turn that off too. This is the most important part of installing winch cable.
Step-3: Engage the free spooling mode
After successfully disconnecting from the power, look for the clutch noob on the control panel of the winch. Turn the clutch and rotate it towards free spooling mode. In this mode, the spooling drum will rotate freely without any resistance. That way you can easily unspool the old wire with a just tug of your hand.
Step-4: Pull the old cable
Now, slowly pull the worn cable towards the outside. We have already mentioned that you need heavy gloves for this stage. Never try to unspool the cable bare hands, even if it’s a synthetic one. They are the safest winch cable replacement in the market but still, you need to use gloves.
In the case of steel wire, you can see that the worn cable has small spikes or barbs on them. Touching them without a glove is very dangerous. Besides, gloves will give you a strong grip and less chance of slipping the cable off your hand.
Just before the last winding, you will notice the end of the cable has a screw. Unscrew that with the respective Allen key. Depending on the winch position, it might get tricky. Try to use a long Allen key or an extension for that matter.
Step-5: Insert new cable
Now that the old cable is out of the way, it's time for some cleaning. You never know when you will get a chance like this to clean dust and rust from intricate places. It's harder to clean when there are cables on the drum. As you are about to install a new cable, might as well clean the winch drum.
A few shots of WD40 and thorough wiping are enough for cleaning stubborn loose particles. This is a very noteworthy part of how to replace a winch cable process. So, remember to do that right after you unspool the old wire.
Now, insert your new cable through the winch guide. If your new wire comes with the taped end, it would be an easy task to push through. If that’s not the case with you, wrap some tape at the end. That way, it won't stick to the set screw hole on the drum.
Also remember, there are tensioner bars in some winch models. Insert your wire through that too. You can use the flat-headed screwdriver to keep the tensioner loose. That way, your new wire will get through much easier.
Step-6: Respool the cable
After correctly setting up the new wire, make sure you have tightened the set screw. Do a couple of hand-pulls to make sure it's secure. Now connect power and turn on your winch. Slowly reel in the cable from side to side. Be aware of random overlapping on the drum. You can use your hand to help the re-spooling process but be careful with that. Keep as much distance from the winch and guide the cable.
Step-7: Check everything is in place
So you have completed the re-spooling stage. Great job! It's time to check the winding quality. The thing with steel cables is they tend to bend too much of repeated overlapping. Try to avoid this the minute you see overlapping on your winch drum. Just winch out the part that was overlapping then winch in again.
Step-8: Test run
At the last stage, you can either test your new cable with a tree or pull something heavy. This test will give you confidence in how it might act in a real scenario. If you come across any irregularities or doubts, make necessary adjustments.
Want to learn more about how to replace winch cable with synthetic rope? Fortunately, the process is nearly the same and much easier. They just cost a little bit more compared to the steel wire.
Nothing beats the utility you get from a winch in a dire situation. Whether you have been stuck in the mud, large rocks, or simply need to lift something, a winch will be always there for you. But in order to get the best service, you need to change out the old cable once in a while.
Hope this article on how to replace winch cable will shed some light on the underlying complex details. Also, make the process more fun and easy.