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Synthetic Winch Rope


Elite Explorer
February 2, 2000
Reaction score
City, State
Albuquerque, NM
Year, Model & Trim Level
1991 XLT
Okay, I did a search and didnt come up with too much information on the subject or a discussion about just synthetic cable. Maybe this thread can evolve to be a good source of info and/or discussion on synthetic winch line for future searches as well as the present. (Note: this thread is not intended to debate which winch or winch brand is better or chains vs recovery straps, etc. There are already numerous threads on those subjects)

Typical Synthetic Winch Line:


Here are a few questions that I have and some that I already know but I will put up to get this discussion going


-What length will fit on which winch? Popular Winch 'Fit' Table
-What size is better for a typical winch application for Explorers? 5/16 or 3/8? Tradeoffs in length vs strength i.e.-125' of 5/16" or 100' of 3/8"?
-Is there a better or preferred brand of synthetic winch line?

Which Fairlead to use?

-Composite (UHMW or similar)
-Roller (with UHMW/Delrin or similar rollers)

Hook choices, which is best?
-"Excel" type hook

-Gunnebo Hook

-Self Locking Hook

-Basic Hook
-Factor55 Ultra Hook

Thimble choices
-crush proof

-Stainless Steel

-Standard thimble
-Safety Thimble

Misc. Issues
-Heat protection for first layer on winch, is it needed?
-Rock chafing guards? How many and what lengths - for example: 1 long 10' or 2 5' guards, which is better?
-Use with snatch blocks?
-UV protection

Trail or Home Fixes for broken/frayed line?
-Trail splicing
-Another Splicing how-to
-Simply tying a knot (emergencies only!)

-4WDSU Article: HERE
-4x4wire article: HERE

Feel free to add your comments, questions, answers to the above or anything else directly related to synthetic winch rope

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In my very limited experience with syn. winch line I have personally witnessed one breaking because of rubbing on a rock. It sounded like a very loud whip crack and the line did fly through the air back towards the vehicle but because it was so light it fell to the ground pretty fast, mostly in front of the buggy but some did land on top of the cage. We tied a knot in it and kept on winching, it broke about 4' from the hook. The lesson I took from this is that a guard and proper straps around a rock anchor should be used. My friend also has made his own fairlead by using a piece of ~1" thick UHMW and a router to round the edges. It looked like a very good low-buck way to get a fairlead that will work with synthetic winch line. However with the price of aluminum fairleads around $30-40 I wouldnt spend my time making one.

The reason I started this whole thread is because I am looking to buy a synthetic winch line soon for my Warn XD9000i multi-mount winch. I am tired of lugging it around since it weighs sooo much. It doesnt get much use and stays in my garage most of the time except on wheeling trips with the Explorer. I am debating about using 3/8 100' or 5/16 125'. I am leaning towards the 3/8 for the strength and very rarely have I ever unspooled over ~80' of cable. I plan to go with the crush-proof thimble and an Excel hook with a single 8-10' guard (I figure if I ever need 2 guards on the trail I can cut the single carefully in half and replace it with a new guard later). Opinions on this combination for a heavy first-gen 4 door Explorer?

I have been shopping around at online stores and was surprised to see amsteel blue's own website price was very competitive. Anyone know who has the best prices on these? Right now I am looking at Ebay (Viking line and Master Pull mostly) and Offroad Overstock (Viking Line) but I am now seriously considering just going to Amsteel blue's website to buy it.

I've got a syn line spooled in the winch and .. well I don't really have much to say other than it works :D Which good I guess.

I bought mine from Ebay .. the Master Pull brand, 3/8" - 100 ft -- which is kind of too much line for my winch (TMax 9k) and there's typically 6-8 ft that I can't spool in all the way (so that the hook is at the fairlead) so I just wrap the rest around the stinger bar and attach the hook to the D-ring shackle.

As for the fairlead, definitely just go with an aluminum one -- they're cheap enough as you mentioned (I got mine for $40). Ive heard that the UHMW/Delrin ones also deflect too easily under load.

So far the line hasnt snapped on me yet but I've really only dont maybe 5 serious pulls on it

skunk uses amsteel in his winch I believe. its gets used all the time and hasnt failed yet. Its also suppost to give little or no whip if it breaks.

wow the amsteel blue line for my 9.5Ti is only 215 for the 3/8"/100' with the crush proof thimble and hook... not that bad
no more kinked line and safer... mmm this maybe on the to buy list

Well I pulled the trigger yesterday and bought a 3/8"x100' Viking Trail Line and AtoZ aluminum fairlead from AtoZ Fabrication (a distributer). Excel hook, crush proof thimble, chafe guard and heat protector. I would have gone with the one from amsteel-blue website however in my experience with them over the last week their customer service/sales help is very lacking. Zach at A to Z was very friendly and helpful to deal with. I can take a few pics and post a mini-writeup when I get it.

As far as heat protection I asked my friend what his experience was and he said to definately get it. He recently unspooled all his cable on a trail and the first layer was completly flat and partially melted to the point he is going to cut off the melted part.

nice man post up some photos of the setup

9 out of 10 wenches agree, synthetic rope is better :D

Chafes less :thumbsup:

Heh, sorry I couldn't resist...

I carry some of the leather wrap they use to protect TIG cables with me. It works great to protect synthetic rope from abrasion.

Thats a good idea Rick!

Got the fairlead in today finally so I got it all installed. Before with the wire rope my XD9000i multi-mount weighed in at 103 lbs. After installing the synthetic winch rope and aluminum fairlead it weighs in at a much better 76 lbs for a weight loss of 27 lbs!! It is now much easier to move around.

Pic 1: the rope and fairlead
Pic 2: after removing the roller fairlead the wire cable had rubbed the paint off in places so I took a 4.5 angle grinder and die grinder to open the hole a little more
Pic 3: installing the end of the new rope
Pic 4: Finished install


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here in the Midwest, I've heard from the local boards that synthetic rope does not like mud too well, and that steel cable is easy enough to unspool and lube, than to keep replacing synthetic line that supposedly degrades here in the Midwest clay/mud/silty environment. The safety factor is HUGE plus for synthetic though. I'm sure the weight and material make synthetic much easier to handle also.

its because the grit in mud gets into the cables and wears at it from the inside.

Its time to bring a dead thread back to the living. I wish I'd read this BEFORE ordering the synthetic rope a few minutes ago. So I have a few questions.

Will the synthetic rope work with a roller fairlead? I ask because my roller fairlead is also what my light mounts are bolted to. hate to change it and try to figure out how to remount my lights.

How serious is this heat problem? Here in Arizona it gets HOT. (I've already ordered a cover for the winch)

The other question I have is... what is everyone doing with the steel cable that was removed? (I truly hate throwing things away that are in good shape just because they've been replaced)

My Ramsey winch uses a funky bolt pattern and the roller is the only one that I have found that will fit. I just do my best to make sure the rope doesn't get caught in the corners and only slides along the rollers themselves.

UV is no good for the synthetic rope. My Explorer is stored in the garage so it's not a big issue. I believe that heat from the drum of the winch is more of an issue than ambient heat.

I don't recall what I did with my steel cable.

My original cable is up in the attic somewhere. I have been using synthetic rope for as long as I have had a winch, about 15 years. I recently replaced my rope because it was old, but still appeared serviceable. It was a 7/16" rope and this time I went with less length but 3/8", because it's about twice as strong, will last longer, and I never came close to using the extra 20' you get with smaller rope. I carry the old rope, and a 75' extension in my recovery bag. Never used them, but I'm sure if they weren't there I would need them.

I have only ever used the billet type fairleads with rope, but like Rick said, if you are careful to keep it out of the corners it should be fine. I have a roller snatch block that I have used a few times and just watched so the rope didn't slip off the roller.

Sun is what kills rope. There should be a protective sleeve at the beginning 10' around the spool and at the end with enough length to keep the rope out of the sun. If the rope you purchase doesn't have the sleeve, or not enough, you can use hollow climbing webbing. It's cheap, you can get it by the foot, and it comes in many colors.

Brian and Rick have the answers for you. I'll add that you can get poly rollers for your fairlead if your current ones are scuffed up from steel cable. Daystar KU70054BK. Personally I prefer the hawse for synthetic, my roller fairlead has pinched my steel cable before and Ive seen a steel cable shred when it got stuck in the corner of a roller fairlead. No chance of that with a hawse if you can get one to work with your setup.

I'm still a firm believer in using a big hook with safety latch on the end and not the new thimbles and other fancy aluminum widgets that have come out since the original post.

I still have 2 or 3 rolls of steel cable in my attic. If you want to get rid of your cable you could probably make a few bucks back by listing it in a local 4x4 page or something like craigslist.

Looks like I need to delete some of the photos and dead links that no longer work in my post. (edit-done/updated!) I just used the winch with that same rope in my posts above last week and I still like it, the rope has held up good since it stays stored indoors and the spool covered when not in use. Since then I have also purchased a cheap synthetic rope for my other Explorer with a big yellow safety hook and it has been working great as well, I really cant say the expensive one is any better than the cheap one I bought more recently having used both quite a bit.

Well my rope arrived yesterday, it is bright yellow and has the mentioned cover over the last several feet of it. I made sure I bought a rope with a rating higher than that of the winch. I also bought a cover for the winch, so that'll help as well.
And I've always preferred the big hooks to modern "techie" alternatives. I tend to prefer simple parts that are proven not to fail.
I've given some thought to the light set up and I may have a few ideas that'll allow the use of a billet hawse if I feel I need to.
Thanks for the thoughts and tips.

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