If you've done much traveling on trails, it's a good bet that you've used a winch on your vehicle or been with someone else who's needed a little powered pull to get them out of a sticky situation. If you have a winch on your rig, you probably did a little research to figure out just which one was right for you and your wheeling style. you got it all mounted up and wired and prestretched that shiny new cable and coiled it back on the reel all nice and neat.
But usually time and use take their toll on that steel-braid cable, leaving it kinked, frayed, or simply a coiled mess on your winch spool. the braid doesn't like to flex smoothly and tends to retain a permanent twist or bend if pulled across something other than a straight line. Prudent handlers will certainly wear gloves while feeding the cable, as individual strings of the braid will break and leave sharp prongs waiting to cut your hand. the cable should be periodically checked for wear or fraying, and it should be repaired or replaced when no longer safe and reliable. When that time comes, you may want to consider swapping to a synthetic winch rope for a variety of reasons.
The foremost reason to switch might be for safety reasons. Should a tensioned steel-wire cable snap or a hook come loose, steel cable can snap wildly and may cause severe injury or vehicle damage unloading all that stored energy. a synthetic winch rope stretches very little, so if it breaks, it usually falls harmlessly to the ground. given that winch rope weight is about one quarter that of a steel cable, you can see the rope offers benefits in weight savings and safety.
Although winch rope can still be abraded or cut if dragged across a sharp edge, it is not prone to the same kinking problems as steel cable. When wound on the winch spool, the synthetic cable can compress and distort as it is wound tight, but pops back into shape when spooled free. It also does not easily conduct heat or electricity and is generally much easier to handle overall.
This type of winch rope was originally designed for the sea-going shipping industry. It is a braided synthetic or nylon cable that is extremely light and even floats on water. the cables come in several sizes or weight ratings. Usually a heavy steel hook is braided onto the end of the cable, or a steel eyelet may be used with a traditional winch hook.
Some wheelers may have concern about heat damage when using synthetic winch rope. Some planetary winch drums can get reasonably hot when operated in a powered output mode. However, this operation should not normally be sustained on a winch. as such, under practical winch operations, heat damage to a winch rope should not be a concern.
A winch can be a magical trail tool, extracting you from some ugly situations. However, we're dealing with a heavy vehicle and a highly loaded cable or rope. Safety should be your foremost priority and running synthetic winch rope on your winch can further increase that safety factor.