When Getting A Winch Bumper – Which Winch Rope Is Best?


Having a winch bumper with a strong winch on your off-road Jeep or truck is a great idea if you spend a lot of time on the trail - sooner or later, a winch will be needed.

Adding a bumper that will hold a winch still leaves one important yet often overlooked decision to make, namely whether to invest in steel or synthetic winch rope.

Here is a little primer on the pros and cons of each to help decide which one will be better for your typical winch usage.

Steel Winch Cable Pros and Cons

Steel cable is the traditional type of rope used on a winch that has been installed on a winch bumper as it is extremely strong and very durable.

Before buying steel winch cable, look at the pros and cons as it involves more than just putting it on the winch and forgetting about it until you need it one day.

Pros of Steel Winch Cable

  • Strength - Steel cables are exceptionally strong and not likely to break when properly used and maintained.
  • Availability - Generally available anywhere winches and winch supplies are sold.
  • Durability - Exceptionally durable, resisting most damage from use and environmental elements.
  • Price - Lower in cost due to higher availability and less expensive materials.

Cons of Steel Winch Cable

  • Dangerous - Can be deadly if it snaps due to the amount of stretch the cable undergoes while under load; splintered cable fibers or burrs can cause hand injuries.
  • Extra Weight - Much heavier than synthetic which can add additional weight along with the winch to the front end of an off-road truck or Jeep.
  • Damage and Corrosion - Can fail after becoming kinked or bent as well as corrode over time.
  • Generates Heat - Use of the cable can overheat the winch, sometimes requiring stoppage of the winch recovery to let cable and winch cool.

Synthetic Winch Cable Pros and Cons

Synthetic winch ropes used on winch bumpers are a newer yet very popular type of cable for those who opt against the traditional steel winch cable.

Synthetic ropes are just as good if not better than steel cables in most instances; however, they also have their pros and cons that should be considered before blindly buying one.

Pros of Synthetic Winch Rope

  • Flexibility - Because they are soft and flexible, kinking is not an issue with synthetic winch rope.
  • Strength - Just as strong as the equivalent steel cable when used correctly.
  • Safety - Less stretch under load, so less dangerous in the event of a break and can be handled without hand injuries caused by splintering or burrs.
  • Weight - Much lighter than steel cable, meaning less added weight on the winch bumper and the front of the truck or Jeep.
  • Easy to Use - Synthetic rope spools easier, slides over and around things easier, and is overall more convenient to use than stiffer, non-bending steel cable plus it floats in water.
  • Does Not Heat - The rope itself will not generate heat that adds to the winch mechanism overheating more quickly.

Cons of Synthetic Winch Rope

  • Less Durable - Soft, synthetic rope will deteriorate over time, so it needs to be carefully inspected and periodically replaced to ensure safe winching.
  • Requires Special Care - Must be cleaned after use, then removed from the spool to kept it dry and out of sunlight to prevent UV deterioration and damage from dirt particles.
  • Price - Can be more expensive than the equivalent steel cable.

Is Steel or Synthetic Better for You?

When you have gone through the trouble and expense of adding a premium quality bumper with a winch to your off-road Jeep or truck, it only makes sense to add an equally high-quality cable or rope to use with it.

Though it should be easy to see that both are strong, durable, and reliable, certain factors like the need of maintenance for the synthetic or potential kinking of steel cable might make a difference.

The fact that synthetic rope is so much lighter than steel cable may be another factor to consider.

Whatever your choice is between steel and synthetic cable for your new winch bumper, just be sure it is properly rated for your off-road truck of Jeep and properly maintained.

Both are great options to use for safe, convenient recovery winching!

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