With electric winches becoming more popular and more and more affordable accessory on the modern 4x4; the choice between using steel cable or synthetic rope on your winch is a question most people need to address.

Ironman 4x4 offers four variations of 12v winches to suit most 4x4 applications.

The size of the winch is generally matched to your vehicle so the choice between all of these comes down to whether you choose steel cable or synthetic rope.

So why choose synthetic rope over steel cable and vice versa?

Cost

There is a pretty straight forward answer here. If you want a cheaper option then steel cable is the go. But for many the extra investment in synthetic can pay off over the long term - both in usability and the lack of future desire to swap cable types in the future.

Weight

Synthetic rope is a huge weight saving over the equivalent steel cable. Generally you save 10-15kg by going to synthetic rope, which can be a huge saving - both on your front suspension and also on yourself when handling and using the winch.

Durability

Durability is an even match - the synthetic rope is more prone to abrasion, but the steel cable will also suffer if not treated correctly - developing burrs. Sythetic rope wins out with rust resistance, with steel cables if untreated becoming rusty.

Handling

Synthetic rope is much safer and easier to handle. Being lighter it's much easier to carry around and is much more flexible and malleable, which makes it much more compliant. It also happens to float. Steel cable on the other hand requires gloves to handle as metal filings can get stuck into your skin (not a pleasant experience). It also has built in tension within it as it's not nearly as malleable as rope - meaning it has a lot more spring to it.

Safety

There is no questioning it, synthetic rope is safer. By design synthetic rope doesn't store nearly as much potential energy, so if the rope should snap it won't be nearly as dangerous (a winch damper is still always recommended to use). As stated under handling, synthetic also doesn't suffer from filings and burrs the same way steel cable does - meaning it's a lot safer to handle as well.

Overall

Ironman 4x can't recommend enough taking advantage of all the benefits that synthetic rope provides. The small additional cost at the time of purchasing your winch is greatly offset by the ease of use and safety that is provided by synthetic rope. Ironman 4x4 sells synthetic rope seperately from our winches for those wishing to upgrade. Offering two different sizes based off the size of your winch and their respective ratings:

To suit 9500lb winch or near equivelent - 9.5mm synthetic rope
To suit 12,000lb winch or near equivelent - 11mm synthetic rope

Posted on 19/05/2015