Can You Replace A Winch Cable With Synthetic Rope? Detailed Guide In 2023

As a dedicated off-roader or professional who often works with heavy equipment, you may have frequently found yourself wondering, “Can I replace my winch cable with synthetic rope?” It’s a valid question, and today, we’ll explore the answer in depth.

Is It Possible To Put Synthetic Rope On A Cable Winch?

Yes, it is entirely possible to put a synthetic rope on a cable winch. The process requires careful attention, but it’s a feasible DIY project for the weekend mechanic.

However, keep in mind the fairlead: while a roller fairlead can be used with both cable and synthetic rope, a hawse fairlead made of aluminum is typically better for synthetic rope to prevent wear and tear.

Why Synthetic Winch Rope Is Better Than Cable?

Steel winch cables have been the standard for years due to their durability and strength. However, synthetic ropes are emerging as a strong contender, presenting several convincing reasons for being a superior choice.

1. Weight: Synthetic ropes are significantly lighter than their steel counterparts. This reduction in weight makes handling, installation, and manipulation easier for users.

2. Safety: A broken synthetic rope is less dangerous than a snapping steel cable. When a steel cable breaks, it stores kinetic energy, which can lead to severe injuries if it recoils uncontrollably.

3. Damage: Synthetic ropes are kinder to your off-road vehicle. They are less likely to cause scratches and dents that a steel cable might when under tension.

What Is The Easiest Process To Replace A Cable Winch With Synthetic Rope?

Before starting, make sure you have the following items: synthetic rope, a winch drum, a fairlead that is suitable for synthetic rope, and a solid hand brake.

1. Remove the steel cable from the winch drum. Do this by loosening the set screw holding the cable in place.

2. After removal, clean the winch drum to ensure there is no remaining steel residue that might damage your synthetic rope.

3. Insert the end of the synthetic rope into the hole in the drum. Secure it with the pin, ensuring it’s tightly held.

4. Spool the synthetic rope onto the drum. This process is best done under a modest load to ensure that the rope is tightly wound around the drum.

5. Install a protective sheath over the rope where it enters and exits the fairlead. This sheath will protect your rope from UV damage and abrasion from the fairlead.

What Can You Do To Protect Your Synthetic Winch Rope?

Protection is crucial for the longevity of your synthetic winch rope. Ensure it’s clean and free of dirt or sand particles, which can damage the rope’s fibers over time.

Regularly inspect your rope for wear and tear. Finally, using a protective sleeve can prevent damage from heat and abrasion.

Pros and Cons of Wire


  1. Steel cables are extremely durable and resistant to abrasion.
  2. They don’t require special UV protection, as they’re not susceptible to UV damage.
  3. The heat generated by the winch drum doesn’t affect them.


  1. They store kinetic energy, which can be dangerous if the cable snaps.
  2. They’re considerably heavier than synthetic ropes.
  3. Over time, they can develop burrs which can injure hands.

Pros and Cons of Synthetic Winch


  1. Synthetic ropes are lightweight, making them easier to handle.
  2. They don’t store kinetic energy, reducing the risk of injury if they break.
  3. They’re less likely to cause damage to your vehicle.


  1. Synthetic ropes are more susceptible to UV and abrasion damage.
  2. They’re affected by the heat from the winch drum.
  3. They’re usually more expensive than steel cables.


1. Is synthetic winch rope worth the price?

Yes, despite being more expensive than steel cables, the safety, ease of use, and reduced risk of vehicle damage make synthetic ropes a worthwhile investment.

2. Can you put synthetic rope on a cable winch?

Absolutely! With careful installation and the right equipment, you can easily replace your cable with synthetic rope.

3. Can you use a roller fairlead with a synthetic rope?

While it’s possible, a hawse fairlead is typically better for synthetic rope as it causes less wear and tear.

4. How long will synthetic winch rope last?

With proper care and protection, synthetic winch ropes can last several years. The lifespan largely depends on how frequently it’s used and the conditions it’s exposed to.

5. Which weighs more?

Steel cables weigh considerably more than synthetic ropes. This weight difference is one of the main reasons many off-roaders are making the switch to synthetic ropes.


So, Can you replace a winch cable with synthetic rope?” Yes. It’s entirely possible and, in many cases, highly beneficial to replace your winch cable with synthetic rope.

The benefits of synthetic rope, such as enhanced safety, reduced weight, and less likelihood of causing vehicle damage, make it a highly attractive choice for off-roaders and professionals alike.

Synthetic winch ropes offer an excellent alternative to traditional steel cables, but it’s important to remember that they require different care and protection methods to ensure longevity.

The steps to switch are straightforward and, with the correct equipment and a bit of time, can be done by most vehicle owners.

While synthetic ropes are slightly more expensive, their benefits, particularly in terms of safety and ease of use, make them worth considering for your winching needs.

No matter your choice, always prioritize safety, follow guidelines, and take good care of your equipment.

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