The Best Winch Accessories For Synthetic Winch Ropes
Synthetic winch ropes are a great addition to your 4x4.
They are extremely lightweight, safer than steel winch lines, easier to handle, and have higher breaking strengths than comparable steel cable diameters.
One thing that steel winch lines excel at is abrasion resistance. Synthetic winch rope requires a few winch accessories to make it last. The biggest problems for synthetic winch ropes are abrasion, friction, and extreme heat.
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- Reducing exposure to UV rays that weaken the rope over time
- Reducing friction and heat during use
- Preventing pinch damage that will weaken the ropes fibers and cause fraying
- 3/8” splicing fid (9.5mm)
- Heavy duty scissors
- Lock stitch needle
- Electrical tape
- Nylon lock stitch thread
- Practice rope
- Kit bag
- increasing your winching power
- changing your winching direction
While most general winch accessories will work with synthetic winch line, there are a few that are better at reducing wear, heat, and pinches. You can eliminate a lot of problems by properly winding your line on the winch drum with the proper tension, making sure your winch isn’t running hot, and keeping dirt and sand out of the rope. Dirty winch ropes can be cleaned with soap and water. This will decrease abrasion in the rope itself and keep the rope’s sliding surfaces smooth.
We disagree with some manufacturer’s instructions about whether you
can use certain components (like roller fairleads) with synthetic lines, however not using the right accessories could void warranties.
Some accessories also have some additional benefits for your rig, like
being extra lightweight. With care of your synthetic winch rope and
using the right winch accessories with it, you’ll be using it for a long
Our accessories below protect your synthetic winch rope by:
Warn Aluminum Hawse Fairlead for Synthetic Winch Ropes - SMOOTH SLIDING SURFACES
This winch accessory is highly recommended by Warn, but this is a highly debated subject. We’ll start by saying that you may need this, you may not. Read on. This fairlead will fit any winch with a standard drum (most common) and has mounting holes that are 10” apart on center (this is a standardized size for winches). It comes with mounting hardware. It’s solid cast aluminum and has a matte finish. There seems to be some confusion about the finish of this fairlead on the internet. This part number currently has a matte grey finish, although there are many images that show it with a polished finish. We’re not sure if Warn switched the finish at some point in the past, but the fairlead in our photos has the current finish for the 87914 part number.
There are a few benefits to an aluminum hawse over a roller fairlead. The first is weight. Roller fairleads have a steel frame and steel rollers. A typical one comes in at 11.5 lbs, while a comparable aluminum fairlead is 1.5 lbs. This might not sound like a lot, but combined with the 85% weight reduction from a synthetic line, this will make your frontend significantly lighter.
An aluminum hawse fairlead can also reduce your approach angle. Roller fairleads are very chunky and may be the first thing on your rig to make contact with a rock. Any hawse fairlead has a much lower profile. While this is usually a good thing, some people may find that extreme winch line angles will cause their line to rub on other front end components. The extra inches that the roller fairlead pushes the line out away from your bumper may get you some needed clearance, but this is highly dependent on what the profile of your frontend looks like.
Many synthetic winch line manufacturers recommend an aluminum hawse fairlead like this. We think a standard roller fairlead is fine, but we understand where the manufacturers are coming from. If you’re upgrading a winch from steel to synthetic, it’s probably because your winch has some use on it and you’re ready for the benefits of synthetic line. Your old snatch blocks and roller fairlead may have a lot of damage from wheeling. Sometimes a roller bangs a rock. Sometimes the roller doesn’t spin and the cable gouges it. The cable develops burrs that scratch and mar the snatch block pulley and the fairlead’s rollers. Some of your accessories rust and get pitted.
With steel cable, these imperfections aren’t really a problem. But imperfections on parts that your winch line contacts are a much bigger deal with synthetic winch rope. Rope is less durable and easily develops little cuts and pulls where it’s been dragged over rough surfaces. Obviously, this will weaken it and make it wear out prematurely. What does this mean for you? A well-used roller fairlead will damage your rope without extra attention. If you’ve got a roller fairlead and you want to keep using it with synthetic rope, make sure the surfaces are as smooth as possible. You might have to do some sanding and deburring to make this happen.
The second issue that manufacturers have is that winch rope may become pinched between a fairlead’s rollers. With newer fairleads that have fat, overlapping rollers, we don’t think it’s a problem. You may still want to keep an eye on it, especially when the rope is filling at either side of the winch drum.
You cannot use this fairlead with steel cable. Steel cable will simply chew the aluminum to pieces. It is intended for synthetic winch lines only.
Winch Line Hook Stopper by KFI Products - PROTECT YOUR LINE FROM CRUSHING
The last thing you want to do is damage your new synthetic winch line, right? But we’ve all cranked in the winch too much at some point, crunching the hook against the fairlead and winch line. Not only can you damage your synthetic rope, you can also damage the sliding surfaces on your fairlead. This means that next time you use it your rope will be sliding across a marred surface which will snag it, cut it, and wear it down. No bueno.
The solution is a cheap winch cable hook stopper. It fits on your rope right behind the hook. It’s larger than the opening in a fairlead, so it’ll never get sucked into your winch, and it’ll keep your winch hook far away from your fairlead. Your winch rope will be safe!
A secondary benefit is that it keeps your winch rope tensioned. Synthetic winch lines in particular need to be properly reeled and tensioned. Loose ropes will do this bulging thing where tight ropes are wound over loose rope below. As the pull gets harder, the tighter top coils keep pulling and slip over the loose bottom coils. This rope-slipping-on-rope action creates heat and friction, two things that are death for a synthetic line. A winch rope hook stopper will keep your line taught after you’ve reeled it in. We don’t like hooking the rope to a shackle on the bumper. This exposes your rope to more UV light and we suspect that the 90 bend in the rope is not good for it in the long term.
We like this winch cable hook stopper the best because it’s a two-piece design. Other designs are one-piece, with a hole and a small slot to push your winch line through. Most people have to cut their winch line and resplice it to make it work, so a two-piece design is a no-brainer. The connecting hardware uses allen head cap screws with a 4mm head and 10mm nuts. It’s a bolt-on installation that you can complete in well under 5 minutes. This stopper will take winch lines from 3/16” to 3/8”, with smaller lines having a looser fit.
Winch Cover - KEEP THE SUN OFF YOUR LINE
Synthetic winch rope should be protected from the elements as much as possible. Since most winches are mounted on the outside of your rig, your winch rope will constantly be at the mercy of sun, rain, and dirt. Dirt that works its way into your winch rope will abrade it and weaken it. Your winch rope will also degrade in ultraviolet light, which means that every day that the sun shines on your winch line makes it a little weaker. Some synthetic winch lines come with a protective coating that reduces UV degradation, but UV coatings wear off eventually.
A winch cover will keep the sun from constantly beating down on your winch line and also provide some protection for your winch. Warn makes a tight-fitting neoprene winch cover for most of its winches, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding one that fits. These covers fit over the top of your winch, and attach without strings or straps. Neoprene is waterproof, but water can still theoretically get in through the seams. As long as the majority of sun, water, and dirt is kept out, this isn’t a problem.
Eventually your winch cover may succumb to the UV degradation. Warn includes a bottle of UV protectant for you to periodically apply, but you should treat your Warn winch cover as a consumable item. It will fade to grey in the sun and will likely last 3-4 years of use, so it is cheap insurance to keep your synthetic winch rope protected.
Synthetic Winch Rope Repair/Splice Kit by Viking - BE PREPARED FOR BREAKS
Sometimes, synthetic winch lines snap. They get abraded or overloaded and they break. With a steel winch line you can reconnect the line in the field with wire rope clamps, but you won’t be able to reel in that part of the line or it’ll damage your fairlead, the rest of your cable, and possible the drum. But with synthetic winch line, you can splice it back together in the field with a synthetic winch rope splice kit and have it work as new (you can splice steel cable, but it probably won’t be so easy in the field). The splice will make a small bulge in the rope, but you otherwise won’t know it’s there. Unlike with a steel cable clamp splice, you can have the full functionality of your winch line back after making the splice.
Splicing winch rope is not magic. You basically thread one end through the other end so that the first rope is inside the second rope. When you pull on the line, the outer line compress on the inner line and holds it in place, like a Chinese finger trap. This is a great skill to have and can really be helpful on the trail, especially if you’re out with a big group. Once you’ve practiced, expect a splice to take about 15 minutes.
The Viking Kit includes:
Why can’t I just tie a knot?
Knots in rope significantly weaken them and you should not use knots to repair your synthetic winch rope. A square knot, which is the one knot you’ll probably know, breaks at about 75% of the strength of the line strength. In other words, your 10,000 lb. synthetic winch line becomes a 7,500 lb. winch line when you put a square knot in it. A splice also looks better and keeps unsightly lumps off your winch drum. A properly made splice with the optimum length is stronger and safer.
You should practice your splicing. The Viking Kit includes practice rope. Read here for info on the splicing process.
Lightweight Snatch Block - DOUBLE YOUR PULLING POWER WITH A PLASTIC PULLEY
Snatch blocks are an incredibly useful accessory for your winch. A snatch block has a pulley and two side plates that can be used for attaching a shackle. There are two big reasons for have a snatch block:
Typically, a snatch block is attached to a solid anchor like a tree, rock, or another vehicle that’s anchored. The operator can run the cable out to the snatch block and back to his 4x4 and he’ll have doubled his winches pulling power. An 8000 lb. winch now has 16,000 lbs of pull. This is especially helpful when stuck in mud.
Another common scenario is needing to winch another vehicle at an angle. If the winching vehicle can’t be situated in front of the stuck vehicle, the wincher can still attach a snatch block to an anchor in front of the stuck vehicle and pull it out at an angle.
Synthetic winch line manufacturers do not recommend using cheaper all-steel snatch blocks with synthetic lines. We discussed above how steel lines can damage steel roller fairleads and that the gouges and scratches can also damage synthetic lines. The same is true with snatch blocks. To remedy this, newer snatch blocks use pulleys made from advanced plastics.
ARB’s Ultra Lite Snatch Block, the 10100020, is extra versatile. It takes 1/4”-1/2” diameter winch lines, unlike many snatch blocks that take only a 5/16” or 3/8” max diameter cable. It can also be used with steel or synthetic winch lines. Between the line diameters and materials it works with, it will work with any winch you are likely to own or find on the trail. We really like the fact that you can use it with virtually any line size and type. It has 6mm (0.24”) thick side plates and weighs 5.3 lbs. It’s working load limit is 20,000 lbs which is plenty for most 4x4s (but not large trucks).
Last updated: September 5, 2019