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Choosing the Correct Size Winch Rope for Your Winch?

safety thimble fairlead

It’s finally time to replace that worn out old steel winch cable? Or maybe your wanting to replace your current winch rope with one of ours? How do you choose the correct size winch rope?  What size diameter and length will fit on my winch? Many people assume that when they are purchasing a new winch rope for their winch,  they can get the largest and longest size they can find.  This is absolutely not true and can cause major damage to your winch.  If you want to know the details of this issue continue to read on, or you can go straight to our Winch Rope Conversion Chart to see what size winch rope is recommended for your particular winch model. If you don’t see your winch model, feel free to contact us!

Why the Correct Diameter Size Winch Rope Matters

Winch rope comes in many different size diameters and lengths to fit many different brands and sizes of winches. Let’s look at why it’s important to determine the correct size winch rope in both diameter and length. I will use a common 9,000lb winch for example. From the manufacturer, let’s say this winch originally comes with 100 feet  of 5/16″ diameter steel cable.  While you can simply use the exact same diameter and length in synthetic winch rope, it is common practice to increase the diameter size of the winch rope to gain an increase in breaking strength and working load capacity.  5/16″ steel cable is rated at 9,800lbs which is just above the maximum pull strength of the winch. 5/16″ synthetic winch rope is around 12,000lbs breaking strength. But, the most common size used on winches ranging from 8k to 12k is 3/8″ diameter for the reasons mentioned above.  Our 3/8″ synthetic winch rope has a breaking strength of 20,000lbs!

Why You Need to Choose the Correct Length Winch Rope

What about the correct size winch rope length? The “Rule of Thumb” we go by is for every size up in diameter over the original size winch cable or rope, you reduce the length by 15 feet. This allows you to run the larger, stronger size diameter rope while still maintaining the pulling power of the winch. Each layer of rope added on the winch drum reduces your winch’s pulling power.  Remember, the first layer of rope on the winch drum is where the winch can achieve its maximum pulling strength. The correct length also keeps from overloading one side of the winch drum during angled pulls. Very rarely do we get lucky enough to have consistent straight pulls. If you overload one side of the winch drum during an angled pull due to too much length of rope, the rope could come in contact with the winch’s tie-bars which can damage your rope and destroy the winch. So what do you do if you need more length from your winch rope? Check out our winch rope extensions!

 

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How Do I Attach My Synthetic Winch Rope to My Winch Drum?

If you just purchased a new TRE Synthetic Winch Rope to replace your worn out, kinked, frayed, and rusty steel winch cable, you may be wondering how it will attach to your winch drum. Most standard self-recovery winches use a screw on style drum attachment on either side of the drum flange. Many times these are in the form of a crimped on electrical lug, a pressed aluminum tube, or a crimped terminal in the case of steel cable. While the drum attachment screw should never see a load, these inferior style winch rope drum attachments leave a lot to be desired. Also, very few, if any synthetic winch rope resellers include the necessary hardware to help finish off your installation! You can damage your winch if you use an attachment screw that is too long!

 

pressed aluminum tube
Inferior style winch rope attachments: pressed aluminum tube
Cable drum attachment
Standard Cable Drum Attachment
crimped on electrical lug
Inferior style drum attachment: crimped on electrical lug

What is Special about Tactical Recovery Equipment Drum Attachment?

Our unique drum attachment design is secured to the winch rope by sliding over the tail end of the rope. It is then locked in place by pushing a 7″ to 8″ length of the rope tail through the braided ropes center. Once attached, it cannot be removed unless you physically pull the tail lock out, unlike all of the previously mentioned styles of drum attachments. The reason for the short length of tail stick-out is to lay across the width of the winch drum surface. This enables the first layer of spooled winch rope to bed and grip the tail which creates the strongest drum attachment! The T.R.E. Drum Attachment is laser cut from 12 Gauge Grade 304 Stainless Steel. They are then media tumbled to remove any sharp edges. Our Drum Attachment comes pre-installed on our new synthetic winch ropes AND includes the hardware to fit most winch drums. We include a correct length metric M6 screw, a SAE 1/4-20 thread screw, and a 5/32″ Hex Allen key tool to help ease your installation. We also have the Drum Attachment with hardware available separately if your current rope doesn’t have one, or if you simply want to upgrade how your current winch rope attaches!

 

 

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Is Your Winch Bumper Ready For Use With A Synthetic Winch Rope? – Checking Your Fairlead Mount Opening

Improper Fairlead Mount Opening

So you’ve already made the switch to synthetic winch rope or plan on making the switch to synthetic. Or, you have used your new synthetic winch rope and it failed almost immediately? How about you see abrasion on the rope and you have no clue how it happened? Chances are the fairlead mount opening on your winch bumper is the incorrect size for use with synthetic winch rope.  The fairlead mount is where your Hawse Fairlead mounts to and your synthetic winch rope passes through from the winch drum. During the winching operation, your winch rope will pass through your winch fairlead opening.  While the Hawse Fairlead acts a guide for your winch rope, it is rare to get a perfectly straight pull all the time. So the rope must come in contact with a smooth surface on angled pulls to avoid abrasion which damages the synthetic winch rope. If the first thing the rope comes in contact with is the mount opening before the fairlead surface, you have a huge issue.  The single most important feature of your winch bumper is the fairlead mount opening size when making the switch to synthetic.  Many winch bumper manufactures overlook this detail.  The correct winch fairlead mount minimum opening for synthetic winch rope is 1.75″.  We typically see openings of 1″ to 1.25″, this is simply too small for using rope and must be addressed. Don’t risk breaking or damaging your new winch rope by overlooking this!

ST Fairlead scribe line
Safety Thimble Fairlead with scribe line

 

How TRE Fairleads are Designed for Checking Your Fairlead Mount Opening

Fairlead Scribe Line
Scribe Line showing the correct radius needed in winch mount

Our Hawse Fairleads are precision machined with a scribe line on the back. This provides both a visual and physical indication of whether your bumper’s fairlead mount opening is correct.  We also ensure our fairlead design has the correct entry radius for the winch rope on the opening. This provides for the least amount of abrasion and friction during an angled pull. To take advantage of this feature, you test fit our fairlead to your bumper then check the backside of the opening. You must be able to just see the entire scribe line around the opening, OR by by feeling for the scribe line. If you happen to find that your opening is too small, you will need to enlarge it by cutting some material away.

How to Fix the Fairlead Mount Opening to the Correct Size

We have found it easiest to use a cut-off wheel to remove the majority of the required material. Be sure to wear your PPE. If you are uncomfortable performing this step, please seek help from a competent shop or someone familiar with using these tools. You must remove equal parts from the mount top side and bottom side. For example: If your current opening is 1”, then you will remove ⅜” material from the top inner edge, and ⅜” material from the bottom inner edge to get your 1.75”. Then use a dremel or similar rotary tool to remove any remaining material in the rounded ends. Make sure you do not leave any sharp edges! Test fit your TRE Hawse Fairlead again until you are satisfied that the scribe line is visible. You may also paint any raw surfaces if you so choose. All TRE Hawse Fairleads are manufactured from 6061-T6 aluminum, Mil-Spec Type III Hard-Anodized, and 100% Made in USA!

 

 

 

Check out all of Tactical Recovery Equipment Hawse Fairleads

 

 

 

 

 

 

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