Synthetic vs Steel Winch Cable – Why Synthetic Rope Wins Overall

Last updated on December 9th, 2023

Synthetic vs Steel Winch Cable

In this article, we will compare 2 winch ropes – Synthetic vs Steel Winch Cable.

The decision to use steel cable or synthetic rope seems to be a challenging one among off-road riders. There are many disadvantages and advantages to both types of ropes, so it can be difficult to decide between them. 

In order to decide between the two ropes, you need to know their pros and cons. Throughout this article, we will compare synthetic vs steel winch cables to determine which is best for your needs.

Here Are The 5 Best Selling Synthetic Winch Ropes this year!


What Is The Purpose Of A Winch Line?

First of all, you should understand what exactly a winch line is. It is a winch line that is used to pull stranded or stuck vehicles or heavyweight engines by means of rotating gears and motors. The motor uses energy either from a car battery or from electricity.

So the purpose of winch cords is to rescue stranded heavy objects that would be nearly impossible to move manually. 

In order to do the pulling job, you need a string or cord that is not easily broken and is capable of supporting the massive pull placed by stuck vehicles, such as pickups, Jeeps, ATVs, and UTVs. It is not difficult to see the essential qualities of a winch cable or rope. They are as follows:

  • Powerful strength
  • Weather resistance, as well as other threats
  • Easy to move/handle
  • Safe to work with
  • Easily repairable
  • Pricing 

When choosing between these two winch lines, all of these factors need to be taken into account. According to the above list, some factors relate to the pulling task while others do not. 

As a winch is an expensive investment, the price factor cannot be ignored. It’s not necessary to go for more expensive alternatives if there are cheaper alternatives available that can do the same job.

The popularity of synthetic rope has skyrocketed over the past two decades. But would it be the best option for you? Let’s examine each separately with its pros and cons so that you can better understand.

Check out this video that shows how winches operate –

Synthetic winch ropes – What are they?

Synthetic Winch Rope is made of a special ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene material (UHMWPE). UHMWPE is a very strong, low-stretch rope (less than 5%) that has high tensile strength (the ability to withstand forces exerted on it) and offers high abrasion resistance (tough enough to withstand wear and tear). 

You can check the best synthetic winch rope on Amazon to find out suitable options. There are several options available in synthetic winch rope in terms of its load capacity. 100000 pound synthetic winch rope & 30000 lb synthetic winch rope are two of them. Below are its pros and cons. 

best synthetic winch rope


  • Stronger
  • Lightweight
  • It doesn’t store energy
  • Easy to handle 
  • Flexible
  • Easily repaired if it breaks
  • Durable and rust-resistant
  • Can float in mud/water


  • Capable of retaining water and freezing
  • Extra protection from ultraviolet light is required
  • Expensive
  • Requires regular washing

Steel winch cables – what are they?

Steel cables of this type are very strong because they are made of metallic construction. In muddy, rocky, and sandy terrains, they are less likely to scratch because they are abrasion-resistant.

Besides being cheaper than synthetic rope, steel cable also requires less maintenance. They are suitable for both recovery and utility work. The user should wear heavy gloves while handling steel cables in order to protect his hands. Furthermore, find out its pros and cons below.

10000 pound synthetic winch rope


  • Strong
  • Durable
  • Abrasion-resistant
  • It will last a long time
  • More affordable
  • Needs less maintenance


  • It doesn’t float
  • Difficult to handle
  • Heavy
  • Can Rust
  • It is difficult to fix when broken

Synthetic vs Steel Winch Cable

Let’s compare both to understand Why Synthetic Rope Wins Overall

1- Strength 

The main component of the winch system is the winch line or string, and it must be strong enough to pull heavy loads left off-road. By comparison, synthetic ropes are equivalent to or are stronger than steel cables.

When pulling loads, synthetic winch ropes rarely break, but often slide or rub against sharp surfaces. To solve this issue, the synthetic ropes are now coming with sleeves that protect them. The sleeve on any synthetic rope allows it to easily pass through the common obstacle.

2- Weight

Synthetic rope has a clear advantage in this regard since it is much lighter than metal cable. They are four times lighter than steel winch ropes. As a result, the synthetic rope can be wrapped and pulled in no time at all. 

3- Water-resistant

Synthetic winch ropes are water-resistant, which means they can float in mud/water. While steel winch cables cannot float in water. 

4- Safety 

Synthetic winch rope doesn’t store energy as steel winch cables. That’s why synthetic ropes are safer to use. 

You should prioritize safety when using a winch to rescue your stranded vehicle. Taking safety seriously is crucial, as any type of cable can get broken or torn without warning and in an instant. In addition, broken cables and ropes can cause serious injuries or even death. 

Steel cables are particularly dangerous when they break because they store energy and break violently. It is a good idea to always use recovery dampers (A recovery damper prevents flying objects from hurting people during recovery operations) wherever you go on an off-road rescue. 

When steel cables come into contact with a metal surface, they become extremely hot. Gloved hands will therefore keep you on the safe side while using steel winch cables.

5- Easy to repair 

Since synthetic ropes can be stitched on the spot, they are easier to repair when broken or torn. The repairing procedure should never be taken too lightly and only be used as a temporary or emergency measure to get out of a stuck situation.

We recommend that you purchase a new winch rope or steel cable as soon as possible. An extra winch line is most often kept in the store by off-roaders to respond to an emergency.


Approximately how long do synthetic winch ropes last?

An owner’s use of the winch and how they care for their synthetic winch rope will determine how long it will last. In general, a rope that is in good working condition should last for 10 years.

How are synthetic ropes different from wire ropes (steel cables)?

In addition to being much heavier, wire rope will sink in water and it will rust overtime. Compared to a wire rope, synthetic rope is eight times lighter, so this makes it less complicated for workers to handle. If the rope is handled and looked after properly, it will have a longer lifespan.

Approximately how long do steel winch cables last?

As long as wire rope (steel cable) is stored properly, its shelf life is unlimited.


Since both of these options have their positives and negatives, it is nearly impossible to vote one as the clear winner from the outset. But, if you prefer to follow the latest trend, you can choose the synthetic rope winch, which is easy to use, flexible, easy to maintain, carries less risk, and is water-resistant.

One of the principal reasons why you should choose a synthetic rope winch is because of its lighter weight and ease of use. Meanwhile, if you prefer simple and durable winching over ease, you should get steel wire winches.

If you’ve come this far, then you’re in a position to decide which winch line is your cup of tea. Now you won’t have to deal with the dilemma of which is better.

Best deals on Amazon

Smittybilt X2O COMP 10,000 lb Waterproof Synthetic Rope Winch

ZEAK 10000lb Electric Truck Winch Synthetic Rope Waterproof with Wireless Remote

Smittybilt X2O 10,000 lb Waterproof Steel Cable Winch

OFF ROAD BOAR 25000lbs 3/8” x 92ft Synthetic Winch Rope

We hope you have enjoyed our Synthetic vs Steel Winch Cable Article and helped make your choice. 

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