Elk NetworkSteel Wire vs Synthetic Winch Rope

Gear 101 | September 23, 2019

WARN synthetic rope, such as its Spydura line, is made from an ultra-high molecular polyethylene material. It receives a coat of urethane that helps protect the rope from the effects of ultra-violet rays and chemicals, two enemies of synthetic rope. The rope also includes a sliding sleeve to help protect it from wear and abrasion while winching. All WARN truck and SUV winches equipped with synthetic rope should be used with a hawse fairlead. 

Synthetic rope is a great product for many vehicle recovery situations. If you winch a lot and are concerned about weight, synthetic can be a great option since it is lightweight and easy to handle. It doesn’t develop sharp burrs like steel rope, and doesn’t store as much potential energy when under load. On the flip side, synthetic rope is more prone to abrasion, and should be regularly inspected for frays or other damage caused by UV, chemicals, and overall use. And when using synthetic, you always want to lay down the abrasion sleeve when needed to guard against rope damage. 

Steel rope is extremely durable, and is good for both vehicle recovery and utility work, such as moving trees, rocks, etc., since it resists abrasion very well. Ultra-violet wear is also not a factor with steel rope, and it may be a better choice for you if you don’t frequently use your winch. Steel rope is heavier than synthetic, can develop rust, and can also develop sharp burrs. This is one reason why we always recommend users always wear heavy gloves to protect their hands while handling the rope. 

Some people immediately think synthetic rope is safer than steel rope. Although steel rope will store more potential energy, since it’s made out of steel, it is less prone to abrasion (and possible fraying). The bottom line is that no matter which line you choose, you need to follow safe winching techniques and take all necessary safety precautions. In fact, you can download Warn Industries’ The Basic Guide to Winching Techniques to brush up or learn more about how to use your winch and practice safe winching.