Synthetic Winch Rope – How Do You Keep It Safe?

Truck winch bumpers are such a useful and important piece of rescue equipment for off-road trucks. Along with the winch itself, truck owners need a supply of winch rope, either steel wire or synthetic. Given the many benefits that synthetic rope can offer, many off-roaders have switched to this option. Getting the longest and most reliable use from synthetic winch rope while keeping its many qualities requires proper care and use.

Abrasions and Other Damage

The biggest threat to synthetic winch rope is damage caused by abrasions and cuts while the rope is being used. Cuts, scrapes, and other damage to the rope fibers will eventually weaken it and increase the chance that it could snap when put under high stress such as during a winch rescue. This usually happens when the rope is dragged across rocks, rubs against sharp edges on the vehicle, or if the fairlead has burs, sharp edges or is not smoothly radiused.

Extreme shock loading can also damage these ropes, although abrasion remains the most common cause of degradation that puts the rope in jeopardy. Damage may also result due to the heat produced from winch spools mounted on truck bumpers that use an internal drum brake.  

Preventing Damage

Fortunately, this damage is easy to prevent by taking a few precautions. Always use a protective sheath over the rope to reduce the possibility of damage from dragging or scraping. Available in 6 to 10-foot lengths, these nylon sheaths can be easily slid over the rope and positioned where rubbing could occur.

In addition, be sure the fairlead is smooth and well radiused and that the fairlead opening on the winch has a large, smooth opening. Where the winch drum is concerned, if the rope has a tendency to heat up, regularly check its condition by unspooling it and looking for broken fibers and/or lack of pliability. Ropes that remain cooler are stronger, while those that heat up over 160 degrees are weaker and could sustain significant damage.

Proper Spooling

Besides the concern about drum temperature and the damage that heat can cause, off-road truck or Jeep owners need to pay attention to how the rope spools. When first adding synthetic rope to any winch spool, it should be installed by winding the first 10 or so turns onto the spool without tension, then continue to wind with the rope under tension.

This can be done by winching the truck on flat ground solely to help the rope wind up evenly, without gaps between winds. In this way, the layers of rope will not lay in those gaps, affecting the lay of the whole spool which could affect unspooling.

Keep It Clean

In addition to taking steps to reduce the chance of abrasions and other damage, off-road truck owners should wash their synthetic winch ropes from time to time. Dirt on the rope and within the fibers is one more thing that can speed up the degradation of the rope by rubbing and scraping against the fibers.

Simply soak the rope in a bucket of warm, soapy water to get the dirt out, then give it a good rinse to remove the soap and let it dry out. Wash the rope after use if it becomes dirty or periodically if it remains spooled on the winch.

Synthetic HMPE rope is the preferred choice for use with winches mounted on truck bumpers because it is strong, lightweight, and does not stretch like natural fibers. Although steel wire is a very reliable winching option, the qualities of synethetic winch ropes make them much easier to manage. With a little care and proper use to reduce wear and tear, 4WD off-road truck owners should have few issues with synthetic winch ropes!

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