Synthetic Rope vs Steel Cable Which One is Better?

Off-road enthusiasts often times have different taste when it comes to choosing between a steel cable and a synthetic rope. There has a debate between which one is better and you would often hear the advantages and disadvantages of both ropes. This could make it more difficult to choose one and make the right decision.

Synthetic rope has been very popular in the past decades. Though this is the case, the real question would be is, is this choice the right one for you?

One of the differences between the synthetic rope and steel cable is safety. This factor is one of the factors that you must consider in choosing between the mentioned ropes. When choosing between a steel cable and a synthetic rope, we believe the only way to help you choose is by comparing them both. Hence, in this article, we shall review and put up a list of pros and cons.

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Synthetic Rope vs Steel Cable


Synthetic rope could handle more heavy loads more compared to steel cable. In other words, this means synthetic rope has higher breaking strength.


In this category, steel cables are more durable compared to Synthetic rope. Moreover, as you use the synthetic rope more often, the more it decreases over time.


As for weight, synthetic ropes are much lighter compared to steel cables. In fact, synthetic ropes could float on both water and mud while steel cables do not.


Synthetic ropes could be more safe to use compared to steel cables. The reason behind this is because in case your rope breaks, synthetic ropes do not store energy unlike steel cable which means, when your steel cable breaks it could cause some injuries.


One way to ensure that your rope could work up to its optimum performance, you must ensure that they are maintained properly. With Synthetic ropes, keep in mind that grains of sand and dirt could reach their way to your rope’s core which is why we are recommending that you wash it and spool it once in awhile.

Steel cables on the other hand do not need to be regularly maintained


Synthetic ropes are more expensive compared to steel cables.

Easiness to Use

Steel cables are more difficult to use compared to synthetic ropes as synthetic ropes are much flexible which makes it easier to use on your winch.

Steel Cable for Winch

BA Products 4-38SC75LH Winch Cable

Steel cables have in the winch industry for decades. They are made of aircraft grade steel. It is recommended to use on difficult terrains such as mud, rocks and sand. The reason behind this is because they are less prone to abrading. Steel cable is more affordable compared to synthetic ropes. Moreover, they do not require regular maintenance. This means, they are perfect for utility work and recovery work.

Take in mind, however, when you are using this cable, you must remember to wear protective gloves. This way, you could avoid injuries.

The downsides of steel cables are it is susceptible to eroding which could damage your winch. Moreover, it could rust, frayed and burred. Keep in mind that once your steel cable gets damaged, this could cause to lead into a serious accident not only to your vehicle but also to you. Damage and breakage could occur under huge load. It could snap since it has a lot of kinetic energy.

  • Abrasion resistant
  • UV stable
  • Strong
  • Durable
  • Affordable
  • Less maintenance required
  • Lasts longer
  • Difficult to handle
  • Does not float
  • Heavy
  • Could rust
  • Could create wear and tear on your winch
  • Prone to kinks
  • Frays or burrs, steel splinters
  • Difficult to fix if it breaks in the field

Synthetic Rope for Winch

Ranger UltraRanger Synthetic Winch Rope

The synthetic rope was introduced to the market back in the 90s. It is marketed as a safer alternative to steel cable which has made it more popular and more widely available. It is often made of hi-tech polyethylene which makes it very strong. It weighs lesser as well. It is highly flexible which makes it easier to handle. It does not develop any burrs which make it safer to handle even without using protective gloves.

Synthetic ropes in fact have become mandatory in huge sanctioned off-road events. However, the downside of synthetic ropes is that they are not made equal which means they could be weakened by heat, chemicals and even UV exposure. Though this it is the case, if it breaks in the field, you could easily repair it with a proper braiding technique.

  • Stronger
  • Lightweight
  • Does not store energy
  • Could be repaired in case it breaks in the field
  • No kinks
  • Could resist rust
  • Floats on mud and water
  • Subject to internal fraying by sand and dirt
  • Requires extra UV protection
  • Could retain water which could lead to it freezing
  • Expensive
  • Needs to be washed regularly

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