You asked for it and we listened. Many of you wanted more information on the UV degradation of synthetic winch rope. For off-roaders, UV damage to winch ropes is secondary to the more damaging abrasion and impacts we subject our lines to. But with regard to UV damage, the web is full of anecdotal information about this subject, but what are the real facts? Many will claim that winch ropes are coated with UV inhibitors that prevent ropes from getting UV damaged, others say that all polymers are subject to some level of UV damage. Since we don’t have the facilities to conduct an accelerated UV exposure test ourselves, we turned to our friends in the cordage industry as well as scoured the web for any real test data. Here is what we have discovered. You can extrapolate the data as you wish.
First of all, a majority of the winch rope manufacturers do not manufacture the individual UHMWPE fibers that ropes are comprised of. These rope companies purchase spools of the fibers/yarns from companies like DSM which owns the Dyneema trademark. The real fiber knowledge resides with these fiber companies. In the images below we have included UV test results direct from the fiber source – DSM. We have also included data from the sailing (coated and uncoated fiber) and the climbing industry.
As the exposed outer layer of your rope sustains UV damage, the damaged fibers become opaque which attenuates further damage to the inner rope fibers. The problem is that the UV damaged outer rope layer is weaker and abrades and rubs off easier when used, exposing fresh undamaged fibers beneath. This is not as much a problem with a static application like standing rigging in sailing. However, this can be a problem in a dynamic application like off-road winching where we are repeatedly rubbing and abrading the dirty gritty winch lines across our fairleads.
So how do we tell how much strength our winch ropes have lost due to UV damage? You can’t. So what’s the take away then? All fiber and rope companies agree that prolonged UV exposure will damage UHMWPE fibers to some extent. In some cases up to a 20% strength reduction can occur in under a year. Take a look at the UV data charts and decide for yourself. The simple fix is to cover your winch line from the sun. Winch covers work well to cover the spool, and because silicone is inorganic, an opaque RTV silicone can be used to cover smaller areas of winch line as well. Common Cordura abrasion guards can also protect the last portion of your line from UV damage, but don’t rely on these guards for winch line protection when rock crawling.
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We like what we see, but we really like what we don’t see even better ……exposed synthetic winch rope.
Let’s face it, if any of your synthetic winch rope is visible on the front of your rig, then it’s also vulnerable to damage from the sun and impact or abrasion. No one ever argues this point.
If you can see it, then you can ruin it, plain and simple. So where is the best place to stow the end of your synthetic winch line? There is only one place, behind your fairlead where the sun and rocks can’t get to it. Our ProLink family of products have always provided this type of complete rope end protection, and now our Rope Guard equipped Flatlink family of products does the same.
We also make the Rope Guard for the UltraHook product, making the UltraHook the industry’s first winch hook with rubber pads and complete rope end protection. In addition, we also manufacture the industry’s first splice on rope thimble shackle mounts that provide complete rope end protection.
So, if you are running synthetic winch rope and you can see it, then get it out of harm’s way and behind the fairlead where it belongs.
Engineered, Tested, and Made In The USA
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Our new Rope Guard products come with installation instructions but many of you asked for an installation video as well. Well here it is. Please remember to remove the FlatLink and UltraHook products from your winch cables so that you can properly place them on a horizontal surface for easy drive rivet installation. Have a great weekend everyone! #justthefacts
CHECK OUT THE NEW PRODUCT HERE: