What Is Better For A Winch Rope Or Cable?

Today, there is a broad spectrum of winches that offer varying functionalities.

Winches use different types of ropes to perform their function. Often, car mechanics use either winch ropes or cables.

Both are effective, but it depends on your requirements. So, at times, car mechanics often face a dilemma on whether to purchase a synthetic winch rope or cable.

The truth is, both the winch rope and cable each offer distinctive pros and cons. Thus, to get the best answer, it would be best to analyze all your needs first.

Over time, the synthetic winch rope has gained more popularity than the winch steel cable.

But does this mean it is better than the winch cable? First, let’s understand how the winch rope and steel cable individually operate.

Winch Steel Cable

Typically, car experts consider the winch cable more robust than the winch rope.

Additionally, the winch cable provides more longevity than the winch rope.

It is, in fact, a better option when winching out a car from harsh and complex landscapes.

For instance, when your car gets stuck in mud or sand, you would rather use a winch steel cable for recovery.

Winch steel cables are more resistant to wear and tear. They are also easy to maintain. One of the best things about them is that they are less expensive than the winch rope.

Aside from the numerous benefits offered by winch cables, they offer downsides as well. Steel winch cables are more prone to rusting.

Also, they are not friendly to the skin since they easily cause cuts on hands. It will help if you put on protective gloves anytime you are using a winch steel cable.

Fortunately, you can implement some techniques to prevent rusting on the winch steel cables. Apply a coat of oil on the steel winch cable to make it more resistant to rust.

Encompassing a winch cable around the winch can also be a challenging task. It is not as flexible as synthetic rope.

Thus, you may set yourself up for disaster when you spool the winch cable wrongly.

Synthetic Rope

On the other hand, synthetic winch ropes are also well known for winching out cars.

As a matter of fact, they have dominated the market from the early years. Most people prefer using synthetic winch ropes since they consider them much safer.

They are less bulky and flexible than steel winch cables. Thus, they are more user-friendly.

Nonetheless, due to their material, they store less energy compared to the steel winch cable.

Additionally, due to its flexibility, it is easy to spool synthetic ropes onto the winch drum.

It is also less likely to develop rust and sharper edges.

Thus, it is a much safer option for winching. Even so, always wear protective gloves whenever you are using synthetic rope for winching.

These ropes can form knots that could cause damage to the skin. Contrary to popular belief, synthetic rope is less likely to tear and wear out than steel winch cables.

But if it happens to break, you can easily fix it. Synthetic ropes are best used for cars stuck in water bodies since they are lighter, hence floating on water.

So, if your car is stuck in a swamp, consider using a synthetic winch rope.

Despite these advantages, synthetic ropes are relatively delicate. They get easily affected by harsh weather conditions like extreme heat.

So, you have to take good care of a synthetic rope to prolong its durability. Clean it and dry it often, especially after use.

The Final draw – a synthetic winch rope or a steel cable?

Both a winch rope and a winch cable get the job done. And each carries its advantages and disadvantages.

So, the best option between the two really depends on your needs, taste, and preference.

How strong of a winch do I need?

Choosing a winch:

Determining the correct winch that can cater to your needs requires you to analyze your needs.

But you have to select a winch with the correct strength to perform the task. Note that it would be best if you purchase a winch with a larger pulling capacity.

Nonetheless, it depends on the type of vehicle you have. If you have a higher gross vehicle weight, go for a winch with a higher pulling capacity.

On the flip side, if you have a smaller gross vehicle weight, go for a winch with a lesser pulling capacity.

Before you purchase a winch, ensure that it is 1.5 times stronger than the car. So, to identify the right winch to buy, take the gross vehicle weight and multiply it by 1.5.

For more understanding, let’s look at a real-life example. If your car has a GVW of 4000 lbs, go for a winch with not less than a pulling capacity of 6000 lbs.

We achieved the figure 6000lbs by multiplying 4000lbs by 1.5.

Can you put a synthetic rope on any winch?

One of the most frequently asked questions is to use a synthetic rope in any winch.

Well, it depends. You have to consult your manufacturer first—state all your needs and winch specifications to them.

From there, they can advise you on the best synthetic ropes to buy. Also, they will tell you if the winch is compatible with the synthetic rope.

Don’t do guesswork when it comes to buying a synthetic rope for your winch. You can end up losing several thousand just because of this.

As mentioned earlier, synthetic ropes are sensitive to heat. So, identify the heat generated by the winch and see if it can accommodate a synthetic rope.

Whenever you use a synthetic rope on a winch generating excessive heat, you reduce the synthetic rope’s longevity.

Moreover, this can interfere with the winching process. The synthetic rope will wear out and become less robust.

Thus, it won’t perform its task as expected.

If you plan to use a synthetic rope, always go for a winch with external brake assemblies.

Such winches do not generate and accumulate too much heat. Thus, they can accommodate a synthetic rope.

Ultimately, it would be best if you first ask the manufacturer. They know best about the types of products they are selling.

Can you replace a steel winch cable with a rope?

Undoubtedly, synthetic ropes have remained a popular option for decades.

The majority of individuals believe they are safer and perform efficiently.

Due to this, car mechanics with steel winch cables may desire to replace the cable with a synthetic rope.

I mean, using a synthetic rope for winching is better due to its lightweight nature and flexibility.

So, is it possible to replace a steel winch cable with a synthetic rope? Well, yes.

All you have to do is consult the manufacturer on the best type of synthetic rope to work with your winch.

How to Install Synthetic Rope on Your Winch

Wear heavy-duty gloves and remove the existing cable off the winch carefully.

Heavy-duty gloves will protect your hands from all kinds of blisters or cuts. You might also want to wear a protective garment.

You can use a screwdriver to unspool the winch cable. Check the instruction manual of the winch to find out the best way on how to do so.

Remember, different winch types incorporate different unspooling techniques. Do not be in a hurry while doing this.

Take your time to avoid any damages to the configuration of the winch.

The next step would be to evaluate the winch bumper. Ensure that the corners can accommodate the synthetic rope.

In case you find out that the winch has sharp edges, smoothen and even them out using a file. Otherwise, the synthetic rope would get damaged within no time.

Afterward, use the same method you used for the winch cable to encompass the synthetic rope.

Spool the synthetic rope around the winch in single layers. Avoid any overlaps to protect the winch from any damage.

Do this until you reach the end of the synthetic rope. Then, you can start using your electric winch.


This article clearly shows that both a winch synthetic rope and a steel cable work perfectly fine during the winching process.

Saying one is better than the other without analyzing your requirements would be slightly unfair. So, it is always important to evaluate all your requirements.

Then, determine whether you will need a winch rope of a cable. But, generally, synthetic winch ropes are more popular than winch steel cables.

Fortunately, most winches can accommodate synthetic ropes. All you have to do is check with your manufacturer.

Ensure that your winch does not build up excessive heat that can damage the synthetic rope.

If your winch generates more heat, you would rather go for a steel winch cable.

Additionally, if you choose to replace your steel winch cable with a synthetic rope, that’s possible.

Buy the correct synthetic rope and proceed with the correct installation process.

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