The Garage - Winch Rope
Replacing the Steel Cable with Synthetic Rope!

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Last Updated: 12/3/2013
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Winch Rope

Summit Racing Equipment
Address: P.O. Box 909
Akron, OH 44398-6177
Phone: 800-230-3030
Click here to visit their website.

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I recently discovered a kink in the winch cable and instead of replacing the steel cable I went all out and converted the winch to the more desirable synthetic rope. The main reason for me to switch to a synthetic rope instead of just replacing the steel cable has been safety.

Both steel cable and synthetic rope give a very small amount of stretch, the equivalent of less than 1% at breaking pressure. This tiny amount of stretch stores kinetic energy that is released when the line breaks. Since steel winch cable is much heavier than synthetic rope, the force of that stored energy is devastating powerful, particularly dangerous with people near.

The synthetic line is so light and therefore stores less kinetic energy, which when released, the winch line virtually falls to the ground with a fraction of the force of steel. For this reason, 4x4 off-road racing sanctioning bodies do not allow steel cables because of their inherent danger. Synthetic winch lines are now mandatory.

The top rated synthetic winch ropes currently available are made from Dyneema SK-75 fiber. These braided ropes are up to 40% stronger than wire cable of the same diameter. Plus, they won't rust, kink, curl, splinter, develop sharp frays, conduct electricity or heat or freeze my hands in the winter.

Synthetic winch ropes are lighter in weight and some are specially treated to be UV-stable, come complete with a protective sleeve for the first layer of rope on the winch spool which should prevent damaging the fibers from any developed heat while the winch is in operation. Choosing a high quality rope also means that they are usually spliced with a stainless steel thimble and are equipped with a top rated safety hook made from forged steel.

Although I could have gone with a cheaper rope solution, I did choose the Smittybilt XRC Synthetic rope (# 97715) which is available from Summit Racing Equipment for many of the above mentioned reasons.

Winch Rope Manufacturer Specifications:

Brand
Smittybilt
Part Type
Smittybilt XRC Synthetic Winch Rope
Manufacturers Part Number
97715
Rope Material
Synthetic / Dyneema SK-75
Rope Length (ft)
92 ft.
Capacity
15000 lbs. rated line pull
Rope Diameter
15/32 in. / 11.91 mm / 0.47"
Notes:
One hook per cable.

Features:
  • 1/7th the weight of steel cable
  • Float's, minimal weight, torque free
  • No kinks, curls or wire splinters to deal wit
  • Minimal stretch, non-rotational
  • UV and abrasive resistant
  • Specially coated to prevent slippage of the winch drum
  • Comes with a protective sleeve to prevent overheating
For safe operation of a synthetic winch rope an aluminum hawse although recommended, it is not a necessity as long as the original steel fairlead has smooth rollers (no rough-cast finish) and has no marring (burred-up) from the steel cable use. The benefits of a aluminum hawse is that it offers a very smooth finish and instead of sticking 3.5" off the front of my bumper, the aluminum hawse protrudes only 3/4"! That is a serious saving that will greatly benefit my approach angle. Another good reason is of course weight savings. That big roller fairlead weighs in at 11 lbs. but the aluminum hawse weighs only 1.4 lbs.

I decided on the T-Max Aluminum Hawse (10"x 4.5") and purchased it from Summit Racing Equipment to complete this project. As far as I know it is CNC machined from a solid block of 6061-T6 billet aluminum. Now I had pretty much everything needed to get going.
Cost:
The T-Max Aluminum Hawse was $65.95 and I spent $349.99 on the Smittybilt XRC Synthetic rope. I also purchased Dupli-Color PS100 Paint Prep spray for the drum cleanup which was $5.55
Both, the hawse and rope were shipped directly from the manufacturer and took about 8 days to arrive.
Everything was purchased online from Summit Racing Equipment.which charged a handling fee of $12.95 for that order.
Total cost involved
: $434.44


Installation:
The install of the new winch rope consists of unspooling and removing the old steel cable from the winch drum and taking the old and already a bit rusty Steel Roller Fairlead off the bumper. Mounting the new aluminum hawse on the face of the bumper with two bolts and respooling the drum with the new synthetic rope. This is a pretty simple and straight forward project!
The cable has been unspooled from the winch drum and I was cleaning the now empty drum with paint prep spray from Dupli-Color..

What a mess of cable. The small task at hand is to roll it up and give it a light coat of WD40 to prevent any rusting while it is stored.

I use my Dremmel with a carbide bit to smoothen all edges on the bumpers hawse opening. I finish it using a sanding sponge.The new winch rope has been spooled onto the drum, it was a very tight fit and I was a bit of worried but it did went on just fine.

The new aluminum hawse came highly polished thus I wet sanded it to achieve a more natural look which I like better.

Talking about weight loss! The old cable & fairlead weigh in at about 37 lbs. meaning the I lost over 22 pounds of my front bumper.

To complete this entire project took an afternoon which included some minor rust removal and cleaning. I am very happy with the result and knowing to be safer should the synthetic rope break during a winching operation, it will just fall to the ground and doesn't snap back like cable and could cause damage to my Durango or another vehicle or worse, hurt someone!

Also, the synthetic rope is much lighter and easier for me to handle, because pulling 90 feet of 3/8" cable up a steep hill is a tough chore especially as I am no longer in my twenties :-)













Verdict:
To sum it all up, synthetic winch rope has been tested, and proven, in competitions the world over, in extreme climates and terrains from Iceland to Australia, in the mud, snow, sand, and rocks.
Now it is on my winch and I feel a lot better knowing that it's a lot safer and stronger than the old one because my old steel cable had a breaking strengths of only aprox.14000 lbs. Although I found it hard to believe that winch manufacturers are selling winches rated for loads that are dangerously close to the breaking strength of the cables but that is what my research showed!


Let's not forget, breaking strength is determined in testing conditions on new, undamaged cable, in a controlled testing environment. Safe working load (SWL) on steel wire cable for pulling is determined by dividing the breaking strength (straight-line pull, lab conditions, undamaged cable) by 5. This is called a safety factor of 5.
At this point I could not find any info on the SWL for the Smittybilt 97715 XRC Synthetic Winch Rope. I have contacted several stores and the manufacturer. I will update the page when I have reliably obtained this information.


This project was completed 03-28-2012



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