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Upgrading your Winch from Wire to Synthetic Rope

Upgrading your Winch from Wire to Synthetic Rope

These days, it seems like anytime winches are brought up, synthetic winch rope is right behind. It has become a hugely popular choice in recent years as it continues to outperform wire rope. So what is this phenomenon that has dethroned the reigning winch rope champion?

First of all, you may have heard synthetic winch rope operating under aliases such as "plasma" rope or "syn" rope. And while it seems like a recently new presence on the winch scene, it's actually been around since the mid-1990s. The exact origins of synthetic winch rope are unknown, but it was the Master-Pull that became the first widely known and marketed version. In the fishing and maritime industries, use of synthetic rope can actually be traced back for decades. Emil Bjornsson, the head of Master-Pull, decided to take this idea and apply it to winches, and fourteen years later it's still turning heads.

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What is it that makes synthetic winch rope superior? To answer that, you have to take a look at how it's actually made. Without getting too technical, the rope is altered in a chemical vat at the molecular level. What you end up with is winch rope that is 30-40% stronger than wire rope, almost double the breaking strength, and lighter and easier to manage.

One of the scariest things about winching with wire rope is the deadly kickback that can come if the rope breaks. It will go flying and can really harm anyone in the near vicinity. Winches with synthetic rope, on the other hand, offer more peace of mind since the rope doesn't hold much kinetic energy. Combined with the fact that it's lighter, there's going to be a lot less danger if it happens to break.

Of course synthetic winch rope isn't perfect and there are some things to keep in mind. A synthetic winch line that is unsheathed will be more susceptible to chafing, and will succumb quicker than wire rope. It's also more vulnerable to heat, whether it comes from chafing or the internal drum brake. If the temperature of the synthetic rope reaches somewhere between 150 and 450 degrees Fahrenheit, it will begin to lose strength. If the rope repeatedly reaches these high temperatures, "heat aging" occurs, which extremely weakens it. In fact, if it reaches a particular temperature (depending on the rope) between 290 and 900 degrees, it could actually melt. If you follow the winch manufacturer's instructions, you should be able to avoid heating the rope. Just allow the brake to cool off as necessary and you should be fine.

To keep synthetic winch rope in great condition and ensure it lasts a long time, use appropriate maintenance techniques. Properly respool it after every use. Keep it free of sand and grit, which will do their own form of chafing, by washing it with a hose every once in a while. Keep a cover on the winch during the day so that UV rays don't damage the rope. With these tips, your synthetic rope should be just fine.

How to Install Synthetic Rope on Your Winch

Step 1: Release the clutch and pull the wire rope off the drum. Make sure to wear gloves so you don't cut your hands – we recommend Mechanix Wear Fast Fit gloves.

Step 2: Once you reach the "bitter end" of the wire winch rope, you will find that it is fastened to the drum with an Allen head screw. Remove this and the wire rope will be fully released. The exact method will vary based on the different brands of winches.

Step 3: If you plan on replacing the fairlead, remove that now.

Step 4: Before you install the new fairlead, examine the opening of the winch bumper. Check if the edges will possibly rub up against the synthetic rope and cause it to chafe. If it seems rough, use a file or grinder to smooth the radius until you feel confident that there will be no chafing.

Step 5: Use the same screw or one provided with the rope to install the end of the synthetic line on the drum.

Step 6: It's important to find a place big enough to stretch out the cable while you're rewinding it under a load. One option is to winch your truck, or another truck, up a slight grade. You can also partially apply the parking brake and winch your truck. Once it's fully wound, you're ready to head out and winch away!

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