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Winch cable advice needed

Steel Pan

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The winch on my ATV was cut short, to about 5' by the previous owner. I won't go into his reasoning 'cause it won't hold up. :arrowheadsmiley:

Anyway, what is a good diameter and length for a replacement cable?

Edited by Steel Pan
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No matter what size, I suggest getting synthetic rope. It's lighter, much safer to use, easy to field splice if needed and will not tear up your hands. Is it for your ATV.? eBay is a good source for precut with eyelet already attached.

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Ya, it's for the Suzuki 300 I just picked up.

It's a Warn A2000 and calls for 3/16".

That seems kinda small, I was thinkin' prob a 5/16 or 3/8.

I'm concerned about stretching on a synthetic cable, yes, no?

I'm gonna be pulllin' rocks in a sling that I can't handle by hand.

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That winch is only rated at 2000lbs, but that is for the first wrap of cable closet to the drum, the second, third, forth wraps are rated even less as you add the cable layers, to about 1400lbs at the forth layer.

Using snatch blocks will increase you pulling power.

Here the info page for that winch from Warn's website, it has links for user's manual, winching techniques, replacement parts, etc..


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Lots of folks are switching to synthetic rope.

Some of it holds up better the wire rope.

Its taken over the commercial boating market for tow/haul line.

i got a sample for a secret project it's .25" rated at 9000 lb with less then 1% stretch.

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It cost more and is much stronger than steel. I used 3/8 on my 12,000 lb rock winch. Used it every day all summer long. It was just getting good and broke in. We made a few triple snatched pulls. It's cool when that tight, you can strum it and it sounds awesome. Yes it cost more but is worth it. I use it (5/16)now on my RZR with a 2500 lb winch. I have pulled some pretty big boulders. You will want to also get a new fairlead. The smooth ones that have no rollers are best for syn. rope. You will have to break it in withe a few stretches, but that is easy.

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With all winch lines, steel synthetic, you get what you pay for.

Synthetic line is much safer than steel, but does have its draw backs-

1. It isn't as tough as wire rope in that abrasions are bad for it. So you need to use the abrasion sleeve if wincing against something like trees or rocks. Since you'll be able to position the quad easily, this shouldn't be much of an issue.

2. Getting sand in the rope can shorten its life, especially wet sand. The grit works its way into the core if the rope and will abrade it from the inside out. If you get it dirty, just run the line out loose when you get home, string it up to keep it off the ground, and turn the hose on it to flush the rope of sand. If it does get abrasions, you'll want to think about a new rope.

3. You must use a Hawse fairlead (solid, smooth-radius, non-roller) with synthetic. Roller fairleads will pinch the rope in the corners and can cut it.

4. The rope can actually melt on the drum of some winches (cheapo brands are worse about this) as Tue heat from the motor soak the drum and the rope is a plastic, after all.

5. The cost is higher than wire rope, but there's a reason for that I will get to later.

Wire rope also has some drawbacks-

1. It can fray and create nasty barbs. Never handle wire rope without good, heavy duty gloves unless you just like to bleed.

2. It can kink and that kink is now Tue weakest spot of the cable, until you get a new, worse kink elsewhere.

3. Should the wire snap under load, you can end up with a life-threatening injury or worse. Steel cable stores a lot of energy (actually stretches more than synthetic of same breaking strength) and acts as a sprung whip when it lets go.

4. Also, should the cable break in the field, there's no fixing it except to shorten it to that now 5' length.

5. Even though it's stainless steel cable, it can still rust

6. It's simply tougher to handle as the cable takes on the shape if the drum and can be like trying to deal with a slinky

Both have good/great points to them, too.


1. The materials they're making today's lines from are more durable than ever and most quality lines (e.g. Master Pull) come with the abrasion sleeves.

2. Care and feeding of the line is limited to using the hose from time to time.

3. Only the drum layer, which you don't want to use anyway, will be stiffer and coiled

4. It is MUCH safer than steel rope. I have seen folks hit by a synth line snapping under load a time or two. They described it as a softer slap. Because the rope doesn't store energy like wire rope, it normally just falls to the ground. At worst I've seen it snap back a little, but that's more due to the way it was running over something instead of energy in the rope.

NOTE: I've been around competitive rock sports and off road racing for 15 years and have witnessed/performed easily 1000+ wincing events. Most were unplanned, hurried, and not in optimal situations. I've seen many more steel cables snap than synth ropes since synthetic became popular. Always use a drop bag or something with some weight across the line to keep it from snapping wildly.

5. Should the line fail in the field, you can mend it. They often come with, or you can purchase, a repair kit. The instructions will show you how to weave the rope back together. It won't be as strong as before, but it will still be plenty strong for that 2000# winch you have.

6. It's lighter than the same strength steel and smaller diameter for that strength which equals longer rope.

7. It is MUCH lighter than its steel cousin, which means a lot on a quad. In fact, it's light enough you could carry a spare rope and still be lighter than a single steel cable.

8. most synth ropes float (they were originally designed for marine us, after all)

Steel cable

1. It's cheaper than synthetic

2. It can be found anywhere

3. maintenance typically includes just spraying it with WD40 to displace water (but is a magnet for dust and dirt, which can be bad for it)

4. If you break it in the field, you can quickly shorten it and re-attach the hook with some saddle clamps (never saddle a dead horse, remember that)

5. If it gets a few barbs, no worries - it's still almost as strong as original

6. You don't have to buy a new fairlead or worry about drum heat.

I've been as unbiased as possible in this for a reason... simple pros and cons

My suggestion is to see what you will be doing with this winch, how you see yourself doing it, and what you can afford (synthetic is often 20-50% more than steel for a given strength) and make your own call.

If it were me, I would go synthetic and get a good boulder or tree strap as well as a snatch block.

Going from the winch through a snatch block and back to the vehicle to which the winch is attached effectively doubles the pulling force. However, it also cuts the line speed in half. You can also use blocks to make technical pulls such as winching something to the side or away from you. Because sometimes winching stuff into your way just isn't what you want to do :)

Can you believe it... I typed this entire book on ny phone. My thumbs hurt.

Edited by GlennM
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4 Wheeler mag did a comprehensive test and analysis on this issue in November. New synthetic short lived but works, steel always better in the long run BUT that's for trucks and atv much lighter. The UV protecrion,rubbing burn and lasting reliability seem to be the only problems with the new synthetics. I wish they'd just make towstrap cable and it last for dozens of years,fantastiv UV protection,cheap,light and pulls a zillion pounds easily. I use it for mining exclusively and pulling out stuck,ford,chevy,dodges and jeeps with my toyotas as NEVER STUCK ONCE in over 35 years a mining,4 wheeling and boonie bouncing. :4chsmu1: John

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Don't by from a 4 wheeler or ATV shop……. Instead try a marine supply house.

Another thing about wire rope is its memory and once it is twisted up like a spring it make it a uber pain in the a$$ to work with.

The Syn's are taking over in just about every commercial, industrial application area due to the longevity.

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Thanks El D., I checked it out and it was helpful to find out what the range is in prices.

BTW, I don't purchase online unless I can send a money order. I've heard too many horror stories about the lack of security

doing online purchases. I cancelled my P-pal account about 5 years ago and don't miss it one bit.

I'm convinced to go with the rope rather than the metal cable.

The big convincing point is the metal cable memory. I have had to deal with that frustrating aspect of cables before. You let out 30' of cable and it twists up to about 10', and then ya have to stretch it out. Don't drop it or ya have to untwist it again. :grr01:

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I use it for mining exclusively and pulling out stuck,ford,chevy,dodges and jeeps with my toyotas as NEVER STUCK ONCE in over 35 years a mining,4 wheeling and boonie bouncing. :4chsmu1: John

:nutty: The only reason any of these Fords, Dodges or Chevy's are in need of an extraction is due strictly to the owner pushing his luck and doing something stupid, and I have yet to see a stuck Jeep. :brows:

Edited by Bucket
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I doesn't matter what vehicle you're using, getting stuck is due to having a loose nut behind the wheel.

Operator error.

I have taken 2 wheel drive vehicles into places where I have passed 4x4's buried up to their bumpers. :laught16:

(even jeeps) :brows:

I see 'em with the pedle to the metal, slingin' debris high in the air, as their vehicle slowly sinks in the hole they are diggin'. :tisk-tisk:

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  • 3 weeks later...

I use it for mining exclusively and pulling out stuck,ford,chevy,dodges and jeeps with my toyotas as NEVER STUCK ONCE in over 35 years a mining,4 wheeling and boonie bouncing. http://www.nuggetshooter.ipbhost.com/public/style_emoticons/#EMO_DIR#/4chsmu1.gif John

You've never followed me, obviously :)

I've pulled line only once, and that was to winch myself up a 25' vertical wall to exit a trail called Asylum (now blocked by a subdivision here in Central AZ)

Was sure fun while it lasted :)

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Yeah, I recently got stuck in some snow despite having 4wd and a guy pulled me out with a synthetic rope, both of us were not sure it would hold, but it did. Tougher than it looks.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Went to Summit Racing yesterday and picked up a 50' syn-rope. Around $65 and some change.

I stumbled across it on their site when looking at their winches. Free postage but I just went to the local store and picked it up.

The local Kawa and Honda stores wanted at least $20+ more for the same cable.

Thanks again guys for the info. I'm sold on the syn-rope. So much easier to handle. :yesss:

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Before you get serious with the rope it must be conditioned. Easy but important. Do a couple of full length pulls. Just anchor it to a tree and pull your ATV up to the tree. This will eliminate the new stretch factor in the rope. It will wind up much more controllably when you start doing some hard pulls.

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