If you’re an off-road enthusiast, then I don’t have to make any formal introduction to the winch. To those that are just starting, a winch is an essential tool that helps you to recover your 4×4 vehicle quickly and effectively in case it gets stuck in the wilderness. If you use your winch regularly, then there’s a possibility that the synthetic rope will wear out quickly. Since you’ll need to find a replacement, the question of what size synthetic winch rope for my winch will be obviously inevitable.
Now, a winch comprises several different parts that include the motor, the gear train, the clutch lever, the roller, and the cable. The cable can comprise either a synthetic rope or a steel wire cable. In either case, the cable is responsible for the initial pulling of your vehicle.
Since it’s exposed to a lot of tension during pulls, it automatically becomes the most swiftly degraded part of the winch. In fact, by exposing it to inclement weather, the cable becomes totally susceptible to abrasion leading to premature wear.
Choosing the Correct Size Winch Rope for Your Winch: Step by Step Guide
Once your cable is ruined, the next call of action is to find a replacement. Although there are many options available, finding the perfect size based on the length, diameter and weight can be very overwhelming.
For that reason, this short guide has done the hard work for you by discussing the right size synthetic winch rope you’ll need to buy for your winch.
What You Need to Know About Synthetic Ropes
Since you’ve chosen to take the synthetic rope route, how much do you really know about these winch ropes? Well, in this section, we’re going to discuss briefly what these recovery ropes are and how they work.
First and foremost, synthetic ropes are not made equal. Every manufacturer uses a specific blend of polymers during construction.
Since each polymer is different, the difference in the characteristics easily dictates the performance and the lifecycle of each synthetic rope. Now, one of the materials that’s commonly used to manufacture synthetic ropes is polypropylene.
Although it’s strong, inexpensive, and very lightweight, polypropylene is not UV resistant. Therefore, if left untreated and exposed to the sun’s rays for too long, your synthetic rope will begin to degrade and perhaps lose its strength after some time. Therefore, to prevent the damage, it’s recommended that you treat your synthetic winch rope with UV inhibitors and antioxidants to slow down the degrading process.
The color of your synthetic rope can make a huge difference in the rate of wear. For instance, synthetic winch ropes made from red and yellow colors offer the least UV protection making them the worst offenders.
On the other hand, black and white are considered the best colors to consider as they offer the best UV protection to your synthetic rope. While white reflects the UV rays, black absorbs the rays and converts them to heat.
The Heat Factor
Just as we’ve mentioned above, synthetic winch ropes can be affected by UV rays if left untreated. What happens here is that the UV rays convert into heat, which if left untreated, can cause the winch rope to lose its pulling capacity.
But, other than the UV rays, heat can also result from the winch drum brake or from chaffing if the synthetic rope isn’t sheathed. Note that, when a synthetic rope reaches temperatures of between 150°F to 450°F, it begins to “heat age”. This causes substantial degradation to its pulling strength.
So, What Size Synthetic Rope Do You Need?
So, are you looking to replace your factory winch rope with a new synthetic rope? Well, one question you must be asking yourself is which size is best for your winch. In most cases, people think that getting the longest and the strongest synthetic rope is enough to handle all the pulling problems.
The sad news, however, is that this is just a misconception. In fact, this is a dangerous misconception that can cause serious damage to your winch due to these two factors. First, the pulling power of your synthetic rope can decrease significantly.
Since you’re working with a long rope, the winch will have to work harder to turn the drum which is already overwhelmed with the extra-long rope. You see, the pulling power of a winch is usually high during the first initial wrap of the rope to the drum. As the wrapping continues, the pulling power starts to decrease. So, if you’re working with a long rope, then the pulling power will be very weak.
Another problem with using a long synthetic rope is that it can cause serious damage to the winch and the rope itself when recovering a vehicle in an extremely angled position. If you’re recovering your vehicle at a tight angle, spooling the synthetic rope evenly will be difficult causing the rope to spool on one end of the drum.
Since you’re dealing with an extra-long rope, the rope will continue spooling on one end until it gets to contact with the spreader bars. This can cause serious abrasion to the synthetic rope and potential damage to the winch.
So, how can you prevent this? Well, one way you can prevent this type of damage is to get a winch line that’s potentially shorter than the factory line. In most cases, the recommended size is anywhere from 10” to 20” shorter. By doing this, you won’t risk damaging the winch or the synthetic rope when performing tricky recovery procedures.
What if the synthetic rope gets too short? Well, in such a situation, getting a winch line extension is the best approach. Not only will it compensate for the reduced length, but it will also allow for more versatility when recovering your vehicle in tricky situations.
What About the Diameter?
Other than the size, the diameter of the synthetic rope you’re planning to get can have a huge significance on its overall performance. For instance, you might choose to get a synthetic line with a higher diameter to improve its strength. Although it’s fine to consider this approach, you have to decrease the length of the rope, on the other hand, to ensure that it fits perfectly on the drum.
So, to cut the long story short, a thick rope should be shorter while a thin rope should be longer. Other than the diameter, you need to calculate the working load limit in relation to the maximum breaking strength.
In most cases, the maximum breaking strength should be at least 1.5 to 2 times more than the pulling power of your winch. Supposing your winch has a pulling power of 9000lbs, then it means you’ll need to get a synthetic rope with a breaking strength of between 13,500lbs to 18,000lbs or higher.
As you can see, choosing a synthetic winch rope for your winch is not a simple process. There are many factors you need to consider such as the size, the diameter, color, heat factor, and the ratio of the breaking strength and the pulling power.
Another factor you must consider besides the five we’ve mentioned is synthetic rope vs. steel wire cable. Although steel cables were hugely considered in the past, they have one major detriment. They store a lot of energy when stretched. This energy can cause them to snap/break causing serious injuries.
On the other hand, synthetic ropes are lighter and don’t hold much tension. This makes them less susceptible to breakage hence the safest to use in recovery procedures.