Winch Rope vs. Winch Cable
When selecting an ATV winch and winch accessories, a very common discussion with ATVers and off road enthusiasts is Winch Rope vs. Winch Cable. The answer to which is better is more a discussion of what you are accustomed to. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Both require periodic inspections for wear and damage. Both will gradually lose strength due to natural causes such as surface wear and fatigue. The following explains the pros and cons of both so you can make your own educated decision.
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Normal Working Loads
Normal working loads are the manufactures recommended loads that a cable or rope are subjected to in everyday use. They are normally expressed as a percentage of new cable or rope strength and typically do not exceed 20%. Typically to free a stuck ATV the winch and cable or rope must overcome the Total Vehicle Resistance Force (TVRF), which may be much greater than the normal working load but should not exceed the strength of the cable or rope.
Shock loads are a sudden change in tension from a state of relaxation or low load to one of high load.
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Any sudden load that exceeds the normal working load by more than 10% is considered a shock load. Shock loads should be avoided whenever possible in a winching operation to avoid damage to the winch, winch accessories, cable or rope. A winch, cable or rope that have experienced a severe shock load can fail at a later date even though the load is within the capacity of the system.
Wire winch cable has been around for years and is inexpensive to produce. Wire winch cable is composed of wires, strands and a core. The basic unit of winch cable is wire, which is helically laid together in a uniform geometric pattern to form a strand. Most winch cable is galvanized aircraft grade cable and is typically made up of 7 strands of 19 wires each for a total of 133 wires that must work together and move with respect to one another if the cable is to have the flexibility necessary for successful winch operation. Because of the wires moving against each other they are lubricated during manufacturing.
Wire cable is not susceptible to elongation or stretching and is typically less than 1% elongation at break point, but this small amount of elongation stores potential energy. When a wire cable under tension breaks or releases from the anchor point, this energy is released in the form of backlash (kinetic energy) which can be very dangerous if someone is in the path of the backlash. For this reason wire cable is not allowed at some sanctioned off road events.
Because of its rigid nature wire cable can be difficult to work with and is prone to kinking, rust and sharp strands, therefore it is recommended that gloves be worn when handling wire cable. High operating winch temperatures and Ultra Violet light (UV) have little effect on wire cable and they work well in abrasive environments such as sharp rocks, metal and logs. It is necessary to periodically lubricate wire cable as the lubrication the cable receives during manufacturing is only adequate for the initial storage and the early stages of the cables service life.
Winch rope has also be around for years but synthetic winch rope has become very popular the last 10 – 15 years. Now there are several types of synthetic winch rope available and we at KH Value are very pleased with the reliability and durability of the AmSteel Blue synthetic winch rope. AmSteel Blue is the latest development of Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) fiber in a twelve-strand braided rope utilizing Parallay™ design with a proprietary blue urethane coating. This twelve-strand braided rope yields the maximum strength-to-weight ratio and is stronger than wire winch cable constructions– yet it has a Specific Gravity of 0.98 so it floats.
AmSteel Blue wont rust, is UV protected, available in multiple colors, won’t conduct electricity and is very easy to handle with no sharp strands. Because the synthetic rope is made up of closed fibers water can not absorb or penetrate into the rope fibers. Like wire cable AmSteel Blue is not susceptible to elongation and is typically less than 1% elongation at break point and this small amount of elongation stores potential energy just like wire cable but because AmSteel Blue is 1/6th the weight of wire cable the backlash in the event of a break is very little and does not pose the safety hazard of wire cable backlash.
AmSteel Blue does not work well with high winch temperatures or abrasive environments and an aluminum fairlead is recommended to avoid metal abrasion from a scuffed and/or weatherized roller fairlead. Like all braided rope, synthetic rope can be spiced if you know how. A good resource for rope splicing is The Splicing Handbook.
Compare the specifications of both AmSteel Blue synthetic rope and wire winch cable below and you decide which is best for your ATV or UTV. At CampingATV.com we have the ATV Winch Accessories you need, so let us help you properly equip your ATV for your next ATV camping adventure. Read our helpful Winching Tips to help you get unstuck and back on the trail.
|Wire Winch Cable||3/16″||ATV||4,200LB||3.25LB/50FT||$0.80 – $0.90/FT|
|AmSteel Blue Synthetic Rope||3/16″||ATV||5,400LB||0.5LB/50FT||$1.00 – $1.10/FT|
|Wire Winch Cable||1/4″||UTV||7,000LB||5.5LB/50FT||$0.90 – $1.00/FT|
|AmSteel Blue Synthetic Rope||1/4″||UTV||8,600LB||0.8LB/50FT||$1.58 – $1.60/FT|
* Strengths are based on tests of new standard construction in accordance with manufacturer’s Standard Test Methods in a laboratory environment. It should be expected that strengths will decrease as soon as a cable or rope is put into use.