Winch rope failure is most often caused by operator error. There’s a lot to know about how to safely operate a winch and take care of your winch rope. One small oversight can lead to winch failure or rope failure.
Causes of Winch Rope Failure
One of the most common causes of rope failure is friction. Overloading the rope is possible but less likely. You can usually tell the reason for the rope breaking by examining the cut ends. If most of the rope fibers are cleanly cut, the culprit is friction—for example, rubbing on a sharp rock or the edge of the winch plate. If the rope fibers are stretched out in long, thinning frays, the culprit is overloading. Sometimes you’ll see a combination of both, in which case a majority of the strands are cut by friction and the rest are frayed by the resulting overload.
Winch Rope Spooling
To prevent damage to your winch rope, make sure the rope is spooled onto the drum in the underwound direction. When the rope comes off the winch drum, it should be coming from underneath the drum, not on top of it. If the rope comes over the top of the winch drum, it will go through the fairlead at an angle, which leads to friction and possibly cutting. If the rope comes out from underneath the drum, it will go through the fairlead straight on, which eliminates friction and cutting.
Sharp angle pulls are another possible hazard for your winch rope. Straight pulls prevent the rope from rubbing on the sharp edges of a winch plate or bumper, but if an angle pull is your only way out, make sure the rope is not rubbing against anything. Same thing with sharp rocks. Don’t let the rope fray on a rock or other sharp object while you are winching. Use a rope sleeve to protect the rope.