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Synthetic Rope Vs Steel Cable – Which Is Better For Winching?

When the concern favors one of the two winch cable types, it poses a tough dilemma among the enthusiasts. A novice off-terrain enthusiast will fall easy victim to the dilemma but a major divide is apparent even among veteran off-roaders.

In this regard, the only solution is to understand them clearly, and thus you can face the challenge thrown by synthetic winch rope vs steel cable. Let’s start with a brief introduction of both the winch rope types.

As is hinted in the previous section that the name of the winching cord is significant and like the previous one, this one tells the element of making the rope.

Yes, synthetic ropes are used to manufacture this comparatively stronger but lighter winching rope. Polyethylene is the most popular material.

Our lookout must be the upsides of synthetic winch lines for which we can ditch the traditional steel cable. Not to forget, the downsides to finding out why the classical steel cable winch is still so popular with the users.

Synthetic Rope Winch

What Is Steel Winch Cable?

The very name suggests the metallic construction and element of this type of pulling cord in a winch. Not to ignore, this is the classical winching string ever since winching is introduced. And it has been the only alternative until the tough challenge thrown by the synthetic winch rope.

Yes, it is still widely popular with off-roaders and enthusiasts despite the rising popularity of its rival.

Now, the questions arise where lies its weakness that a newly arrived option dares it and the strength that it is still not completely outshined by an up-to-date and updated offer.

Steel Cable Winch

What is the function of a winch line?

It is the winch line in this automobile part that accomplishes the job a winch is meant for. To tell it clearly, it pulls a stranded or stuck vehicle or other heavyweight engines powered by a rotating mechanism constituted with a motor and gear. The motor runs either backed by a car battery or electric energy.

So, the function of a winch cord is to rescue stranded heavyweight structures that are nearly impossible or too tough to accomplish manually. That pulling job requires a string or cord that is not easily breakable and can stand the gigantic pull of stuck Trucks, Jeeps, ATV, UTVs that need to move. Now, it is not that tough to determine the qualities a winch rope or cable must have. They include:

• Immense strength
• Resistance weather and other adversaries
• Easily Maneuverable
• Safe to deal with
• Easy to fix
• Cost 

Yes, these must be the crucial factors to consider before voting in favor of one winch line from these two. The list above sees that some factors are related to the pulling task and some are not. To blow out confusion, a winch being a costly investment, you cannot ignore the price factor.

Why going for pricier alternatives if you can do away with spending less. Let’s compare the factors in both the types of winch for your better understanding of steel cable vs synthetic rope.

Strength Comparison Between Synthetic and Steel Winch Line

The winch line or string is the most crucial component, and it must have the strength to pull heavy weight loads left off-road. By comparison, the synthetic rope will equal or surpass the strength of the steel cable. But the problem lies elsewhere.

A synthetic winch rope may not break while pulling loads but it can yield to the abrasion, sliding, or rubbing of harsh and sharp surface.

To answer that, the recent synthetic ropes are coming protected by a sleeve. Featured with a sleeve, any synthetic rope easily passes through the common obstacle.

Still, there might be issues if the surface of the steel has several obstacles in the path. On the other hand, the steel wire cable offers immense strength not to break or snag easily while using.

Steel Cable or Synthetic Rop: Which Is Weather Resistant?

When the concern is the weather resistance and other decay, both the types of pulling cord have their upsides and downsides. Whereas heat and direct sunlight can tell upon the synthetic rope and the UV light can damage the fibers. Thus the rope goes weak and brittle not to last longer along with the possibility to break while pulling.

Moreover, frequent winching in adverse terrains will limit the lifetime of a synthetic rope. Sandy, middy, and harsh terrains will eat the rope to the core and make the winch rope vulnerable to minimal pressure. Not to ignore that winch rope holds water that makes it heavier and froze during winter season. In both cases, winching becomes near impossible.

Conversely, if you consider the steel cable winch, it doesn’t have to care much for rough weather. You will just keep the winch clean after use and take proper care that rust doesn’t develop under humid weather. A steel cable claims lesser maintenance labor; you will just have an occasional soaking with WD-40. The toughest nemesis for steel cable is the rust, which is really tough to keep at bay.

Synthetic Or Steel Cable: Which is Lighter?

The synthetic rope version has a clear edge in this consideration as it is far lighter than the metal cable. Therefore, free-spooling and hauling the rope is just a breeze. The hauler car 4*4 will be appreciative of the shaved pounds to pull. This is a strong point of the synthetic rope and outshines the heavier rival here.

For a reminder, however lighter the rope is, you must wear hand gloves while hauling the loads. The rope may be lighter but the vehicle you are trying to rescue is not necessarily lightweight.

The Maneuverability

Ease of use is another factor to consider before opting for any winch line. In this consideration, the synthetic rope comes out as the winner clearly. Unlike steel cable, it will not cut or burn your hand while holding tightly when drawing the load.

On the contrary, steel cable requires immense strength to handle it and it is not that easy to roll and fold the wire cable when needed. Steel being a stubborn substance, is really tough to maneuver at will and requirement. To judge by this point, synthetic rope wins when the fix is steel cable vs synthetic rope.

Steel Cable Or Synthetic Rope: Which Is Easy To Repair?

When you think that a broken or snagged steel cable is beyond repair on the spot, this classical cable is wronged by saying so. In reality, the wire cable can be mended and you just the proper tools and know how to do the needful. If you are a master off-roader, you may have learned the craft of repairing a steel cable, but a novice will find it utterly confusing even if equipped with the proper tools.

But synthetic ropes are easier to repair when broken or torn as ropes can be braided on the spot faster and firmer. But you should never go too relaxed and the repairing is a temporary or emergency alternative to get out of the stuck trail.

You should go for a fresh winch rope or steel cable at the earliest convenience. Most off-road travelers keep an extra winch line in their store to respond to the call of urgency.

Steel Or Synthetic Rope: Which Is Easy Safer?

Yes, safety should be the prime concern when you apply a winch to rescue your stranded vehicle. You cannot and should not take it the safety concerns lightly as any type of cable can break or tear without notice and in the wink of an eye.

And the breakage of the rope or cable can cause serious injury to death. The steel cable is especially dangerous while snagging or breaking because it stores energy and snaps at a killer speed.

But a rope is not that safe when tearing. On top of keeping alert, you should go for recovery dampers every time you go for the off-road rescue. Steel cables are sharp and got burning hot for friction with a metal surface. Therefore, gloved hands are what may put you on a safer side.

Comparison Of Price

Synthetic ropes are a bit pricier than the traditional steel cable and the modern synthetic ropes are far upgraded than their first generation of 90’s products. You will get ease of use, safety, and higher strength with the rope version.

Moreover, a synthetic rope has a shorter winching life than its metal counterpart. But a steel cable is for the ones after an affordable option. And the steel wire is more durable than its soft and flexible counterpart. Go for the steel cable only when cost matters much for you.

So, Which One To Choose? - Our Verdict

As it is predicted at the very outset that to vote any one as the clear victor is nearly impossible as both options do have their bright and flip sides. But to go by the trend, you can go for the synthetic rope winch that will offer ease of use, flexibility, easy maintenance, less risk, and more.

However, the major cause you should go for a synthetic rope winch is its lighter weight and maneuverability. Conversely, if you prefer simplicity and durability over ease, your gravity should be towards steel wire winching.

You have reached thus far means you can decide which winch line is your cup of tea, and you will not fall victim to the dilemma of synthetic rope vs steel cable battle.

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