ATV winch cable or rope – which is better

Both winch cable and rope is better in their fields, so there’s no clear winner of this clash. It will be appropriate to answer depending on the user’s preference. If the user wants to use the winch rarely and also ready to spend a large amount, then winch rope is the right option. However, for tough terrain roads, frequent use and cheaper ones, a winch cable is better.

ATV winch cable vs rop

ATV Synthetic rope vs. steel cable

When your ATV is stuck in the mud, you need to bring it out and continue your trip forward. And in this case, you need a winch with a pulling rope. Well, depending on the materials used to construct the ropes there are two types of rope. One is made of synthetic materials and the other is made of steel.

They are named after the construction materials used as the first one is known as synthetic winch rope and the second one is known as steel winch cable. Both of them are used on off-roads. However, abrasive off-road track demands steel cable for a better result.

Again, talking about safety, synthetic rope is the winner here because of its lightweight. Moreover, steel cable is budget-friendly than synthetic ropes. There are a lot of differences between these two winch rope and cable. Read out the differences in details below and then make the choice depending on your need.

The difference in the strength

In a general sense, it seems like steel is stronger than synthetic fibers. But in the real case, the opposite thing happens as synthetic ropes come almost two times stronger than steel cables.

Synthetic ropes

 Synthetic winch rope is made of synthetic fiber like polyethylene, polypropylene, or polyester. The manufacturer combines these small synthetic fibers to make this strong winching rope.

Steel cables

 Talking about the steel cable, they are made of using metal strings that aircraft-grade. These metal strings make the thread and construct the steel cable. They are quite handy for using in off highly abrasive roads.

If you are a new user of winch ropes, then it might be obvious for you to think steel cable is stronger than synthetic. But actually, it’s not and I’ve mentioned already why it is not. Moreover, the steel cable is also easy to break than synthetic rope.

Which one is highly wear-resistant

Of course, steel cable is better when the question is about wear-resistant. Steel cables are made of metal strings, which are well capable of withstanding the abrasive tracks, unlike the synthetic ropes. Synthetic ropes are also wear-out under extreme sunlight because of the UV rays.

Abrasive tracks

 Synthetic ropes are not appropriate for use on uneven abrasive roads where a lot of stones or rocks are. But a steel cable can go well in such tracks because it is made to withstand these conditions.

UV rays

 The ultra-violet radiation is another reason to damage the durability of the synthetic rope and make it wear-out as it is not highly UV-resistant as well.


 It’s better not to keep synthetic ropes near extreme heat, which will degrade the quality of the rope.

Chemical effects

 When the synthetic rope comes into contact with any sort of chemical products, it has a greater chance of wearing out than steel cable.

Well, steel cable is highly wear-resistant than synthetic rope. But you can improve the wear-resistance nature of the rope by using a protective cover, which is wear-resistant.

Safety is a concern

The safety depends a lot on the weight of the rope or cable you are using. The heavier it is, the more energy it will produce when you pull and the more it creates chances of getting injured when the work doesn’t go like the plan. So keeping these things in mind, synthetic ropes are a lot safer than steel cables.

It’s not an uncommon scenario of breaking the winching rope or cable. Because when the rope is about the wear-out and you are pulling it with extreme power, it will break. However, the broken cable can create dangerous projectiles, unlike the synthetic ropes. The heavyweight nature forces the cable to create more energy while pulling and decreases safety.

Lightweight or heavyweight

As I mentioned above, synthetic ropes are safer than steel cables because of their lightweight nature. A synthetic rope is 1/6 times lighter than the same grade steel cable. However, this lightweight rope is stronger than the cable.

If you keep two same ropes and cable of the same weight, the rope will be 15 times stronger than the cable. So you can sense how stronger this lightweight rope is and it is also a safer option. So I don’t think you would choose a heavier one over a lighter one if you are not supposed to use it on abrasive off-roads.

What about the maintenance

Well, both of these things need maintenance to reduce the chances of wear and rust. However, steel cable requires a bit less maintenance than synthetic ropes. As synthetic fiber is used to construct the rope, dirt or other natural substance easily enters it and increase the wearing-out chances.

You need to take proper care of the rope by washing it frequently with soapy water. But you don’t need to do the same care for steel cable, just clean it with a spray to ensure it doesn’t come near to rust and fails to pull your ATV when needed.

Which one is easy to use

It’s a bit difficult to spool up the steel cable on the winch drum because it is difficult to bend and has lot more chances of breaking. The synthetic ropes come with a relatively flexible nature that makes them easier to connect with the winch drum.

Forcing the steel cable to fit on the winch can cause permanent kinks it and this will ultimately make the task more difficult for you to use next time. Because of the flexible nature synthetic ropes have almost no chances of unusual breakage.

Which one is thinner in diameter

If you are thinking of which will be appropriate to place more rope or cable inside the winch, then the answer is steel cable. Steel cables are thinner than synthetic ropes. Most cables found in the market measure around 4 mm in diameter, whereas most synthetic ropes are 5 mm in diameter.

So if you are up for something thinner, then steel cable is a good option. This thinner diameter will also help you to store more cables inside the winch, which might be helpful if you don’t find any strong trees or something to tie your ATV with.

The cost differs

It is the last, but actually, an important factor to consider when you are distinguishing the differences between steel cable and synthetic ropes. Steel cables are budget-friendly than synthetic ropes. You have to purchase 2.5 times more dollars for buying a synthetic rope than a steel cable.

The cost of both these ropes and cables ranges from $25 to $120 approximately. The cheaper one is the steel cables and the expensive ones are the synthetic ropes. But the cost doesn’t indicate that synthetic rope is better than steel cable.

Concluding words

The point I have discussed all are related to each other and you have to consider each of these points to distinguish the difference between winch rope and cable. But the last choice is yours, depending on the purpose of your use.

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