How strong is the steel cable (wire rope) that comes with your winch?… Not very.
It turns out that there is little margin of safety with steel cable equipped winches. Why is this? Unlike the lifting industry, the recreational pulling industry is unregulated, consequently winch manufacturers typically equip winches with steel cables with minimum breaking strengths that are very close to the max winch capacities. The lifting industry requires a 5:1 safety factor due to the overhead dangers. The pulling industry does not. In fact many steel equipped winches possess a safety factor of less than 1.5!
Take for instance common 5/16 steel cable supplied on most winches up to 10K capacities. The working load limit (WLL) on common 5/16 steel cable is only 2000 pounds. The minimum breaking strength is approximately 10K pounds. So in many cases a 10K winch can be supplied with a steel cable with a minimum breaking strength of 10K. Take a look at the steel cable writeup from our friend Tyler at Roundforge (Roundforge.com) for more comprehensive data on steel cable types and classes.
One of the reasons that cable failures are relatively infrequent is mostly due to vehicle recoveries being in the 4-5k pulling load range, well below the cable breaking strength. Also, often times steel cables can possess ultimate strengths above the minimum breaking loads. So what’s the takeaway here? Due to the little margin of safety in steel cables, make sure you properly maintain the cable and be on the lookout for weakening factors like kinks, broken wires etc., and when possible use a snatch block to reduce the cable load.
Yes, we often end up breaking wire rope slings during the pull testing of our products.
Picture supplied by our friend James Pickard. James snapped his steel cable while using the UltraHook. The UltraHook possesses a breaking strength of 31,000 pounds(hook opening) to 48,000 pounds(shackle pin mount). Engineering facts matter.
Factor 55 – Engineered, Tested, and Made in USA
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