Synthetic Winch Rope vs Winch Cable (2021 Comparison)

| Last Updated: August 17, 2021

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An off-road driving enthusiast experiences rough and tough terrains with inclement weather conditions. However, this is of little to no worry if the driver has a good-quality winch attached to their vehicle.

When unpredicted weather or road conditions ruin the journey, a winch is the only way to self-recover from potholes and surpass swamps.

If you intend to purchase a winch but are confused between synthetic rope and cable, this article will be of great help to you. We will discuss some important aspects to consider about the two kinds of winches so you can understand the difference between them.

What is a Synthetic Winch Rope?

As the name implies, a synthetic rope is a cord made from synthetic material. This kind of rope is made of polyethylene fibers that are woven together in a braided-style. It has amazing strength and pulling power.

These kinds of ropes are reported to be simple-to-use and have gained popularity ever since the 1990s. Upon winding it out, synthetic rope tows the vehicle with great stability and strength. In some models, the rope is concealed under a sleeve to protect it from dirt and abrasion.

What is a Winch Cable?

A winch cable is made of steel. High-quality, galvanized steel is used for this kind of cable. These look a lot like a twisted rope.

A winch cable's main job is to pull heavy vehicles when bumps or indentations prevent them from moving forward. These cables boast excellent tensile strength, which is enough to sustain loads as heavy as a large truck.

It is winded on a drum that you rotate for as long as the required cable length is unwounded.

Synthetic Winch Rope vs. Winch Cable – Similarities and Differences

Both of these two types are readily available, which is why many buyers and users often find themselves confused between which one to purchase. Therefore, we have listed some similarities and differences between the two, so you understand their usage and purpose better.

Synthetic Winch Rope and Winch Cable Similarities

Although winch ropes and cables belong to two different categories, there are many similarities between them. These include:

Purpose of Use

Your vehicle can be the best at driving on rough terrain. Your off-road driving skills can also be perfect. But you might find marshy puddles or potholes on your route, and once you are stuck there, you cannot go back. At that moment, there are little to no options left for you to choose from.

Here, winches with strong and powerful cables come into action. Both ropes and cables work for the same purpose: pulling the vehicle and bringing it back to the running condition.


As winches execute heavy-duty tasks, there is also a need to take care of this towing device. We have to ensure the proper maintenance of these units. 

Winch ropes include fibers of polyethylene, between which dust particles and mud get trapped. If the rope is left unwashed for days, the dirt dries and results in chafing. Therefore, all winch rope owners should wash the rope after every use.

When it comes to winch cables, there is no fear of dirt. However, since they are made from steel, they can catch rust very easily. Therefore, it is recommended to clean and lubricate the cable with some machine oil. People also use WD-40 to keep it rust and corrosion-free.

Hence, both types are high-maintenance and require proper care for efficient functionality.

Effects of Anchoring

When you anchor ropes or cables with a post, don’t make the mistake of looping them directly. Winch ropes are already susceptible to fraying and wear-outs. Moreover, looping the rope on anchor points can destroy the fibers and increase the chances of the strands breaking out.

Anchoring, if done carelessly, is also harmful to steel cables. Therefore, it’s better to use shackles for attaching ropes and cables to any anchor point.

Since both of these are heavy-duty and powerful and work with heavy loads, you cannot anchor them to a weak point, such as a dead tree.

Synthetic Winch Rope and Winch Cable Differences

Despite their similarities, there are significant differences between a winch cable and rope. Some of them are:


Synthetic ropes are quite lightweight as compared to cables because of the different construction materials. Owing to this fact, lightweight ropes tend to have less inertia and lesser energy. As a result, they cause no serious harm to the user on sudden and accidental breakages.

On exposure to water, synthetic ropes absorb a great amount of moisture and ultimately become heavy. This can be a huge disadvantage if your vehicle gets stuck in muddy water or a rainy situation. Meanwhile, steel cable’s weight does not change no matter how much water they are submerged in.

Price Point

The prices for both types of winches are different. Synthetic ropes cost way more than winch cables. The former can cost anywhere between $25 and $50.


Among all types of winches, steel cables ensure excellent and long-lasting performance. There are no wear-outs or fraying, even after long-term use. Some steel cables also come with powder coatings and zinc coatings that prevent rust. 

On the other hand, due to friction and natural wear and tear of the fibers, winch ropes are much less long-lasting than steel ones.


Synthetic ropes are more convenient to handle. One factor that contributes to their easy-handling is the minimum potential energy acquired by the rope when stretched. This property makes the product safe for beginners. It is ideal for ATVs.

As far as steel cable is concerned, people can face severe injuries as a result of mishandling. These cables also snap and can cause major damages. Only professionals or people who have good practice tend to use these. Because these cables have higher potential energy and inertia, they have a lot of force when they snap out of your control.

Fulton WC325 0100

Towing Strength

Towing strength is basically the tensile strength needed to pull the load. The greater the tensile power, the higher the load limit. 

Synthetic ropes boast outstanding strength for towing heavy vehicles. An advantage of using these ropes for heavy lifting is that you can mend them if they break apart amidst the situation. However, if a steel cable breaks up, you cannot mend it together. 

Weather Resistance

The weather also influences the functionality of these two products. A steel cable is prone to get affected by moist weather or wet pavement and becomes vulnerable to rust and corrosion. However, this can be overcome by lubricating it more often, frequent maintenance, and choosing powder-coated cables.

A synthetic rope cannot withstand the exposure to UV rays for a long time. Furthermore, it undergoes fraying quickly at extremely hot temperatures. If anything like this happens, repairing or replacing it immediately is essential. Exposure to moisture also makes it heavier than it originally is and causes inconvenience to the user. 

Top Pick Between a Synthetic Winch Rope and Winch Cable

Now, it’s time to draw a conclusion to the comparison and declare a winner. Both of these products have something extraordinary due to which we can’t tag them as better than the other. While summarizing the specifications, as mentioned earlier of the two, we can agree that synthetic winch ropes are a better choice in terms of convenience.

If you want safety above anything else, you should opt for synthetic ropes. They are easier to handle, lightweight, and also have better tensile strength.

Synthetic winch rope (Source)

However, if you are in search of a cost-effective product, then a winch cable should be your pick. It provides a satisfactory load limit and durability at affordable prices.

Busy individuals would look for a product that does not ask for regular replacements and can survive every weather without compromising on the performance. Steel cables come with prolonged life and excel at dealing with rocky surfaces and weather severities. They are also low maintenance compared to ropes.

A winch rope should be your pick if your vehicle weighs too much.

In short, both products are equally beneficial. The final choice solely depends on your personal preferences and requirements. By comparing the attributes, you can figure out which type of product would best suit your needs.

Review of Our Favorite Synthetic Winch Rope and Favorite Cable

For your off-road journey, you need to head out with a winch as safety gear. Below, we have reviewed our favorite synthetic winch rope and cable so that you can easily make your pick.

Best Synthetic Winch Rope:
Ucreative Synthetic Winch Rope

Ucreative 1/4 Inch x 50 Feet 9,500LBs Synthetic Winch Line Cable Rope with Black Protecing Sleeve for ATV UTV (Blue)


  • Comes with a long sleeve
  • UV-light and chemical-safe
  • Can be handled with and without gloves
  • Material is reported to be of good quality
  • Cost-effective product compared to others


  • Undergoes abrasions after heavy use
  • Suitable only for an aluminum Hawse fairlead

What Recent Buyers Report

Most of the buyers had positive things to say about this winch rope. They installed it within minutes and reported that it performed very well with heavy loads, particularly UTVs. Some reports showed that people were happy with the price point as well. All in all, the product is approved by buyers.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The rope has a breaking strength of 7,700 pounds, which is exceptionally high and advantageous for all types of jeeps and similar vehicles. High-quality synthetic fibers are used in the manufacturing, so maximum protection from UV rays and chemical corrosion is guaranteed.

To save the rope from abrasion and to prolong its lifespan, it comes with a five-feet long sleeve. Towards the 15-meter long rope's end, you will find a durable loop made from a heat-resistant metal. The rope is six millimeters wide. It is soft and gentle on the user’s skin; therefore, it can be used without gloves as well.

Bottom Line

Owners of ATVs and heavy vehicles should go for this product. From material quality to breaking strength, everything is ideal for heavy vehicles. Apart from that, it is very convenient and safe to handle, so newbies can also consider buying this unit.

Best Winch Cable:
Fulton WC355 0100

Fulton (WC325 0100) 3/16' x 25' Winch Cable with Hook


  • Backed by a five-year warranty
  • Hook is rust and corrosion-resistant
  • Recovers vehicles from deep indentations easily
  • Includes a sturdy hook for anchoring, free of cost
  • Very easy to install, making it good for beginners


  • Cable is prone to rust and requires lots of maintenance

What Recent Buyers Report

Backed by several positive reviews, this Fulton product is reported to be very easy to install, even by beginners. Reports suggest that this unit can be used to pull or use a heavy-duty boat, trailer, and RV. Some people also used it for medium-weighted tasks and were satisfied with its performance.

Why it Stands Out to Us

You will get a fully galvanized cable of size 3/16” x 25’ in the package. It is ideal for use with electrical winches as well as manual ones. Lifting or towing large vehicles is a piece of cake for this cable as it comes with a maximum breaking strength of 4200 pounds.

A lockable steel hook is also included in the package. Hence, you will not have to buy one separately. The robust hook features a thick zinc coating that makes it remarkably resistant to rust. So, the hook will anchor the cable to anything with great strength and reliability. Furthermore, you can avail of a five-year warranty for all the components of this product.

Bottom Line

To sum up, the breaking strength of 4200 pounds makes this product an incredible choice for heavy-duty vehicles. The steel hook allows the users to fasten the rope securely to tow the load with ease. All these features are meant to add value to your money with the generous five-year warranty.


Winches can make off-roading more secure and convenient only if we choose the winch line wisely. One wrong choice can put us in great trouble. Keeping this fact in mind, we have discussed the uses, differences, and similarities of synthetic ropes and steel cables. Now, it’s time for you to decide which suits and meets your requirements better.  

People Also Ask

Winch lines are not given importance, even though they play a significant role in safely towing a vehicle. That’s why beginners face problems in buying the best product and sometimes make the wrong choices. We have included this section to answer all your queries and clear out any misconceptions you may have.  

What Size Synthetic Winch Rope Do I Need for My ATV?

The size of a winch rope is its length and diameter. A too-long rope can result in several turns on the drum, which can cause tangling and require more force for winding it out. A 50’ long rope with a 3/16” diameter would be ideal for an ATV 2500 and ATV 3500.

What Size Synthetic Winch Rope Do I Need in General?

The size of synthetic winch ropes varies with the pulling capacities and the kind of vehicle you are using it with. But there’s a criterion by which you can understand which size would be appropriate for you. The length and diameter of the rope should not be exceedingly large that it causes more friction on the drum, nor should it affect the pulling power on sharp angles. Always match it with your winch’s power and vehicle’s weight.

How to Cut Synthetic Winch Rope

It can be cut very easily. Wind tape very tightly around the edge or the side you wish to cut. Take a scissor or a sharp knife, and cut the rope as needed. Remove the tape once it's cut. Ignite a lighter or flame, and burn the cut end till the threads melt. Then, with the help of gloves, twist the burnt part so that the nylon strands bind with each other and don't unravel.

How to Attach Synthetic Rope to a Winch

Get a tape and stick it on the drum. Mark the length of the rope you are going to wrap on the drum. Pass this marked point of the rope from the bottom, roll it over the drum, and take it out, passing it through the loop. 

In this way, keep winding the rope on the drum but pass it through the loop in alternating turns. When the rope reaches its end, take that end part and pass it through another loop.

What is Synthetic Winch Rope Made of?

It is made from nylon, polyethylene, or synthetic plastics. Several threads of these materials are woven together in the form of a thick braid. As a result, these threads become extremely powerful and allow hauling heavy loads effortlessly.

What to Repair Broken Synthetic Winch Rope?

Cut the rope from the broken or worn-out point, keeping the scissor at a 45° angle. The rope will split into two pieces. Tape these split ends individually. 

Put two marks on each split end at a distance of 13 and 23 inches, respectively. Insert the tapered head of one rope into the other piece of rope by starting from the initial mark, and pull it out at the second mark. Repeat the same procedure with the second rope. In the end, stitch the crossing points.

How to Attach Cable to Winch Drum

First, put on your gloves for safety purposes. Pass the cable through the fairlead, and fix it on the winch flange with screws or bolts. On spooling, the cable should come out from the bottom of the drum, so be careful of its orientation while reeling it in. 

Start the motor and keep the other end of the rope in your hand, and with a little grip, release it slowly. Make sure no tangling takes place.

How to Replace Winch Cable

Firstly, wind out the whole of the old cable. Scrape off the dirt that might be present on the winch components, particularly the drum. Meanwhile, the motor should be disengaged. Then attach the new cable and change the fairlead if the old one is not suitable for further use. Run the motor again and reel the cable inwards, keeping it under the pressure of your hands.

How to Spool a Winch Cable

Engage the motor and then remove the cable from the anchor point. Hold it in your hand. While letting the cable wrap on the drum, lay some tension on the cable with your hand. If you don’t, free spooling can result in tangling and kinking, which is not good for the cable.

I used to work in construction and landscaping, so I've seen my fair share of ratchet straps, winches, and similar rigging gear. I started Winch Central because I've seen some nasty accidents due to crappy rigging or poor practice. I wanted to be able to recommend good equipment that's SAFE and also provide resources for how its used. I handle the research side of things here as well as product selection for gear reviews.