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What's the advantage of synthetic winch line vs steel cable?

qslim

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I'm going through the TJ I got last year and doing some small stuff to get it ready for the spring, all the while reading all over this forum as I'm still fairly new to the scene. So, what's the advantage to synthetic line vs steel cable? I have never used a winch in my life, and I bought this thing with a bumper and Warn winch already installed and hooked up. I ran the cable all the way out for inspection, did not see any damage to the braiding, so I wound it back up neatly. What's the point of changing out the cable?

Also, I searched the forum but didn't see anything on the basics of winch operation... Does anyone have a good writeup or a source for using a winch safely and efficiently when needed? I'm sure I could figure it out, but I'm too old to wing it and would rather not lose a finger in front of my children on the trail. Thanks!
 
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Sundowner

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Good primers on recovery would include the Warn recovery manual, the US Army technical manuals on the subject, and exhaustive questions to people that actually know what they're doing.
 
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mrblaine

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So, what's the advantage to synthetic line vs steel cable?
Light weight.
Much stronger than steel of the same diameter.
Fairly UV resistance for most types.
Low elongation factor as in it doesn't stretch as much as other fibers.
Lower mass means less energy to release when the line breaks under load and the ends recoil.
Fairly abrasion and cut resistant compared to other fibers.
Most of it has a nice hand and is very easy to handle when working with it.
 

billiebob

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Synthetic has one advantage, light, flexible so you can throw it.

Every other plus minus between steel/synthetic is spin.

yes steel rusts, yes synthetic hates the sun.
yes a broken steel wire can hurt, yes synthetic must be protected from abrasion.
yes synthetic is flexible, yes steel cable is unlikely to knot.

Both require care but on the average steel is carefree compared to synthetic.
And synthetic is easier to handle.

oh and synthetic is a 100% premium $$$$, for a shorter lifespan.
Hence virtually every commercial operation uses steel.
 

jjvw

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WOW there is a youtube video saying steel is gone, everyone is buying synthetic WOW
wonder who made that video

And no, we have never considered synthetic for towing or logging.
There's a YouTube video for everything!
 

billiebob

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There's a YouTube video for everything!
it is called marketing. Hardly reflects what industry is using. Just shows they are trying. Maybe it is a thing in California. I have not seen any commercial use in BC. But for sure, someone is likely trying it. I'd like to see cost and life expectancy.
 
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jodomcfrodo

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it is called marketing. Hardly reflects what industry is using. Just shows they are trying. Maybe it is a thing in California. I have not seen any commercial use in BC. But for sure, someone is likely trying it. I'd like to see cost and life expectancy.
Nevertheless, winches on Jeeps are used in a far different fashion than any winch used in the tow truck or logging industry. Winches on Jeeps are used far less often and in much different scenarios. The certain advantages that synthetic rope offers are more useful for the types of winching that the usual Jeep owner needs to do. Just because most tow truck drivers don't use synthetic doesn't mean that synthetic is worse for winching when it comes to Jeeps.

I'm sure deep sea recovery professionals use steel cable too, doesn't mean a thing for Jeep owners.
 

jjvw

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... Just shows they are trying. ...someone is likely trying it. ...
That was the only intention behind me posting the videos. Remember in the olden days when the off-road world was also very resistant to synthetic rope? Things change. Equipment improves. People eventually catch on.
 

A. Paul

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You will find each have their pros and cons, just don't buy into the myth that synthetic line "falls harmlessly to the ground." Yes synthetic line is safer but can still seriously injure or kill, learn and practice the proper techniques
(here's a good video)

and stay safe with whatever line you choose.
 
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mrblaine

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Synthetic has one advantage, light, flexible so you can throw it.
We all view things differently I guess. I consider the near double strength rating to be a huge advantage.

Every other plus minus between steel/synthetic is spin.

yes steel rusts, yes synthetic hates the sun.
Given that the impetus for our use of synthetic on a recovery winch was the widespread use of synthetic in the marine industries, not sure where you get the "hates the sun" part.
yes a broken steel wire can hurt, yes synthetic must be protected from abrasion.
yes synthetic is flexible, yes steel cable is unlikely to knot.
No, steel is unlikely to knot, it is very likely to kink and if you follow any standards regarding steel rope, it should be replaced when that happens. No one does it, but they should.

Both require care but on the average steel is carefree compared to synthetic.
Likely a regional thing. The only care I have ever given any of the ropes I've used and run is to spool them out and in after a side pull, that's it.
And synthetic is easier to handle.
Easier to handle, easier to splice.

oh and synthetic is a 100% premium $$$$, for a shorter lifespan.
Hence virtually every commercial operation uses steel.
Not sure why we care what happens in the commercial world since that is not the realm we are in but I'll indulge you. Commercial uses are very far and wide. Practically the entire shipping industry, tugboat industry, mooring industry, and others use synthetic, lots of it, and it is the same synthetic we use. Helicopters use it for lifting slings, and they hold drilling rigs in place with it. So no, not every commercial operation uses steel. Any place that needs very high strength with minimum weight for critical application benefits from and uses synthetic ropes.
 

mrblaine

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Fascinating!
Early in my research many years ago, I came across an article about steel that basically explained for deep operations in water, it would get to a point with any size steel where the weight of the line would overcome the breaking strength and it would simply be unable to hold just itself up before breaking.

Synthetic doesn't have that issue since it floats and you can get the full strength of the line for working at depth.

I mean since we want to explore all the bullshit that doesn't really matter for what we do with our winches and all.
 

toximus

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Frozen braided wears quicker, some fairleads don't work well with braided, and it's kinda' femmie ! :rolleyes:
Wire is cheap, can be up-ended and re-spooled, not bothered by ice, and it's manly ! ;)
I used to side with steel cable since 9/10 winch pulls are in the winter for me and I thought it would freeze into a big ice cube. Then I switched to synthetic to prove the theory. I haven't had any issues that I thought I would.

I'll let the real men have their decapitations and I'll keep doing what I do.

In something like the forestry industry where winch cables drag on the ground all day long, then yes, I still think steel is the way to go, but Jeeping we're not doing that to our cables.