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Choosing the Right Winch Rope: Steel or Synthetic?

If you’re browsing through winches for sale in the Philippines, you’ll eventually have to purchase a reliable cable for your new equipment. This means choosing between steel cable or synthetic rope. Both types of cable have their strengths, but depending on how your winch will be used, one kind will be more suited for you than the other. Here’s a guide to help you figure out whether you should buy steel cable or synthetic rope for your winch.

Steel or Synthetic: A Basic Guide to Choosing Your Winch Rope


Traditional steel cables first came to be in the 1830s, when they were used in hoists in German silver mines. These steel cables were made by hand, using a process that resembled techniques for weaving hemp rope. Three pieces of wrought-iron wire were twisted together to form a strand, and then three or four of these strands were twisted together in the same way to make a cable. Nowadays, these cables are made from aircraft-grade material. World-class winch manufacturer Ingersoll Rand even offers wire rope made of extra improved plow steel (EIPS), which can take around 15% more weight than improved plow steel (IPS).

Meanwhile, synthetic rope entered the market in the mid-1990’s. Dutch company DSM developed Dyneema Sk75, a hi-tech polyethylene fiber originally meant for the fishing industry. This fiber was then used in the synthetic rope Amsteel Blue, developed for off-roading purposes. Synthetic cable is now the rope of choice for several major sanctioned off-road events.

Ever since synthetic rope surged in popularity, the strengths of these two kinds of winch line have often been weighed against each other. Here’s a rundown on the pros and cons of each type that should give you an idea of which type of cable you ought to purchase.

Steel Cables

This type of winch rope is often used for utility purposes, such as pulling logs and deepwater activities.


  1. Steel cables are more durable and don’t have to be replaced as often as synthetic rope.
  2. They are resistant to friction, heat, and UV radiation, and can operate without a protective sheath.
  3. Steel cable is also less prone to abrasive damage from mud, rocks, or sand, making it perfect for usage in extreme environments.
  4. This type of winch rope is easy to maintain and doesn’t even need to be cleaned. Thoroughly spraying the cable with WD-40 is often enough.
  5. Steel cables are often more affordable than synthetic rope.


  1. Steel cables are susceptible to pinching, crimping, and kinking, which reduces the cable’s strength.
  2. These ropes are heavier than their synthetic counterparts.
  3. Because of how the material stretches, steel cables are known to snap violently, occasionally injuring operators.
  4. Steel cable can rust and develop kinks and sharp burrs as it wears. Operators are advised to wear gloves when working with steel cable.
  5. Damaged or broken steel cable is harder to repair. In some cases, the whole cable has to be replaced.

Synthetic Rope

Synthetic winch ropes are popular with off-road enthusiasts and professional drivers of tow trucks.


  1. Synthetic rope is lighter than steel cable. It even floats, which can prove helpful during vehicle recoveries in muddy terrain or bodies of water.
  2. This type of winch line does not snap as violently as steel cable.
  3. Synthetic rope doesn’t rust up or form kinks and burrs.
  4. Synthetic ropes often have higher breaking strengths than comparable steel cables.
  5. Damaged or broken synthetic rope is easier to repair on the field.


  1. Synthetic rope degrades from exposure to heat, chemicals, and UV radiation, so it needs to be replaced every few years.
  2. Synthetic rope is also more susceptible to abrasion and fraying. Operators often have to use anti-abrasion sleeves and protective coatings with these winch lines.
  3. This type of winch rope absorbs water. It can become heavier or even freeze over in cold weather.
  4. Dirt and sand can enter synthetic rope and damage its core. To avoid this, winch users need to clean the rope after heavy use.
  5. Synthetic rope is often more expensive than steel cable.

ALSO READ: A Beginner’s Guide to Winches: 7 Applications You Need to Know

With this guide, it should be easier for you to decide whether you’ll buy a steel cable or synthetic rope for your winch. To be sure that your choice of cable suits your needs, though, it’s best to ask for advice from an expert before making your purchase.

Compresstech is the Philippines’ leading source for air compressors and winches, offering no less than the most updated solutions for 34 years and counting. Not only can we help you choose the right winch line for your application, but we can also provide you with high-quality winches and hoists from Ingersoll Rand and other reputable manufacturers. Consult with us today!

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