It´s one debate that doesn´t seem to be going anywhere fast. If you´re buying a brand new winch like the Superwinch Terra 45 or maybe it is just time to replace your old cable. Which way do you go: steel or synthetic? Let´s take a look at the pros and cons so you can decide once and for all which is better for YOU.
Life of the Cable
After an extended period of time depending on use, a steel cable can start to crimp, get rust spots or develop frayed strands of steel cable which can give you nasty cuts and also decrease the reliability of the cable. In the short term, the steel cable can take a lot more abuse than the synthetic variety. However, synthetic cables can have a much longer life. That is of course only if it is taken care of and carefully prevented from fraying on the edges. Fraying edges on a synthetic cable is the beginning of the end for this more costly type of cable. The more affordable steel cables might be more attractive for the rugged wincher who doesn't mind replacing a steel cable at the first signs of wear.
Potential and Kinetic Energy
You don´t need to be a science major to recognize the danger of a cable under extreme tension. Whether it is due to overbearing the cable or a replacement cable is well overdue, it can be a potentially very dangerous situation. In terms of this, Synthetic is generally the winner as it doesn´t become a dangerous projectile. It is also easier on the hands and actually provides more pull per inch. Bear in mind however, that your maximum pulling power is still limited by the winch you select. It´s downside is that if it is in contact with a sharp edge, it has the possibility of slicing or fraying the edges, which is very unlikely with a steel cable.
Some users of synthetic cable have made complaints about UV damage causing weakness that leads to a decrease in strength. Newer synthetic lines are being manufactured UV resistant, and a winch cover is also a cheap solution to this problem.
About 95% of new winches are being shipped by their companies with standard steel winch cables. This can be taken as just because they are the cheaper option of the two for them to make the most profit, or a signal that it is still the best choice of cable.
As I mentioned before, Synthetic does provide you with more pounds per inch. Which means more pulling power for less cable. Even though pulling power is generally determined by the winch, check out this article with tips for both types of cables on how to double your pulling power.
Synthetic is the latest and more expensive cousin, that still has a few kinks to iron out before it really replaces steel cables completely. Steel has been proven in every condition. It is tried and tested and cheaper. For reliability and cost, definitely your cable of choice.
Sam is an ATV enthusiast and updates his adventure website with outdoor tips and articles, including a review on the Superwinch Terra 45 (1145220)