What Is A Fairlead On A Winch?

Last Updated on September 21, 2022 by Automobile Note

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A winch is primarily a tool to draw and drag heavy loads and has several parts crucial to make the load-hauling easy and convenient. Visibly, the vital part of a winch is the line or string by which loads get shifted or moved to the wanted direction orientation and location. Therefore, the string or winch line in dragging or drawing must be guided in a straight line or laterally.

Therefore, as an answer to what is a fairlead, you better know the fairlead, a prime component of a winch, accomplishes this act of guiding the winch cable or rope laterally.

With the popularity of the winch as offroad rescue equipment, the components have been going through modifications varying in shape, size, and performance. In this guide, we will discuss the different types of fairleads of a winch and which one is suitable for winching purposes.

What Is A Winch Fairlead & How Many Types Are They?

Slightly touched in the intro, a winch fairlead is a metal accessory to keep the moving winch line in the desired direction so that the winch cable cannot create an angle smaller or greater than you need or want. The winch cable passes through the fairlead passage, and that passage is either rectangular or circular, depending on the type of the winch.

Whatever the type is, the main task of a fairlead is to guide the winch string in the direction you want. Winch fairleads are of two types as per the applications go:

i) Roller Fairlead and  

ii) Hawse Fairlead

The very names of the fairleads suggest the purpose each type is used for but to go by the wide uses; they vary in materials too. To fathom the differences and the similarity, you need to delve deep into their applications and functions. Here you go with an in-depth discussion on the two types of winch fairleads that may help clear your confusion regarding this vital winch component.

What is Roller Fairlead?

Roller Fairlead is the most popular one among the owners of off-road vehicles. The name is identical to the structure and gives a clue to how it functions in winching a vehicle in distress.

A roller fairlead has four steel rollers with their ends met detached to other two ends– two vertical and two perpendicular rollers – making a rectangular passage for the winch line to easily come and go through. The great convenience of a roller fairlead is the little or no friction with the running winch line while active. And the tubular shape of the steel rollers causes lesser friction, making the winch cable moving easily and fast.

Winch Roller Fairlead

Thus the roller fairlead offers ease and speed in winching, but steel being a very strong metal, can eat away the rope is used instead of a metal winch cable. So long you use the metal cable for your winching purpose, roller fairlead will offer the best service but it can prove damaging for synthetic rope cable.

What is a Hawse Fairlead?

Unlike the roller fairlead, the hawse fairlead is a single piece of metal, mostly aluminum, with a circular passage made to allow the rope line to pass through at ease. For being a single piece of metal, it is sturdier than its steel rival and four-piece counterpart.

Aluminum being lesser tough and harsher than steel, can go fairly long with synthetic rope string and doesn't eat away with time. Moreover, you can use your metal steel cable in an emergency without any hassle, but regular use of steel cable is not wise as steel can prove to be harsher for the aluminum surface.

Winch Hawse Fairlead

While aluminum is the widely used material for hawse fairlead, you can avail steel hawse fairlead in the market, and you can use steel winch string in this case.

Which Fairlead is to go for?

You cannot and shouldn't declare one superior to the other as the convenience depends on your need, situation, and preference. A roller fairlead is the best one to go with given you have a metal winch string and so you can cut your cable costs down with a roller fairlead while winching with cable line at ease. But roller fairlead in combination with a steel cable will significantly increase the mass of the winch which may consider a hassle.

Having said that, a hawse fairlead is a craze as the use of synthetic rope as the winch line is on the rise now. And aluminum is not that harsh with the rope to decay overtime. Moreover, aluminum combined with synthetic rope can cut your winch mass fairly down to the preference of most off-roaders. If you allow downside of a bit higher price, the hawse fairlead is the advisable option here. And you can avail steel hawse fairlead nowadays to handle the steel cable without any restriction on emergency.


While fairlead is not the main component of a winch, a wrong preference may affect the winching convenience. Since winching is an arduous task, you cannot afford to go for a fairlead not matching your existing winch string.

Therefore, if you want the fairlead on the winch to guide the moving winch string in action in the right orientation and direction, go for one that matches your winch string – roller fairlead for cable and hawse fairlead for synthetic rope. We hope all that covered here should address your query of what is a fairlead on a winch.

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