Synthetic Rope VS. Steel Cable – Which One Is Better?

While synthetic rope vs. steel cable is an ongoing topic among experienced users and enthusiasts, to end the debate of which is the best, it mainly comes down to the individuals and their requirements.

Both have been around and used in winches since the beginning, which could make it harder to decide if one is superior to the other. And for that, we have gathered and presented their individual points to let you make the decision.

Performance, quality, durability, and a lot more is there to consider. So, continue reading to find out.

Synthetic Rope Review

The X20 COMP from Smittybilt is an excellent winch that uses a synthetic rope. It offers one of the highest load capacities out there that is 10,000 pounds or 4535 kilograms.

Its 6.6 HP completely waterproof motor is one of the reasons it is so durable and highly functional. However, their use of synthetic rope adds to it by not only making it lighter but also easier to use.

This rope measures just about 98.5 feet in length and 3/8 inches in diameter. So, it can be a lifesaver if you are ever in a situation where there are no trees or poles within a few feet range from your stuck vehicle.

Besides that, the drum has a diameter of 2.5 inches or 63.5 mm and has a length of 10 inches or 254 mm. This is a great length to ensure no excess pull power gets lost in the process. The synthetic rope also makes it easier to arrange and wrap or unwrap from the drum.

Along with that, the drum comes with an automatic out-of-drum brake feature, which prevents the machine from running and the drum from rolling any further. This further prevents the rope from getting tangled up or the engine from overheating.

Moreover, it comes with a wireless remote control, so you can control the machine from a distance or manually if needed. The wireless control covers up to a 12 feet distance.


  • Offers one of the highest load capacities
  • Equipped with a waterproof and powerful motor
  • The synthetic rope is a long 98.5 feet one
  • Minimizes the loss of pull power
  • Comes with a wireless remote controller


  • May be difficult to mount

Steel Cable Review

From the brand Superwinch comes the Terra 45, which has a feature-rich winch – perfect for all your utility vehicles, ATVs with four-bolt pattern winch mount, etc. It has a permanent magnet weather-sealed motor, 3-stage planetary all-metal gear train, machined-in bronze bearings, and of course, a steel cable.

The cable or steel rope is 55 feet in length and ¼ inches in diameter. This steel makes it very durable and long-lasting, although it does add more weight to it. Its pull rating is about 4500 pounds or 2041 kilograms.

Besides that, thanks to the weather-sealed motor, you are getting total protection from rain, snow, and all sorts of harsh weather conditions. And so, you can mount it on your vehicle before going off-road or traveling without any worry.

Not only is it great for all terrains, but also because of the all-metal and heavy-duty 3-stage planetary gear trains, it delivers a lifetime’s worth of excellent performance while maintaining the quality.

Plus, you can use the ergonomic cam action free-spooling clutch to draw the winch rope manually. It is a great option to have to save battery life and also a savior in case of a power failure or other casualties.

Lastly, the all-steel rugged and wide gears and the bronze bearings improve the overall performance of the machine and the pull by making it run smoother. So, there are little to no chances of any drag while pulling.


  • Durable and long-lasting steel rope
  • Protected from the rain, snow, and all sorts of harsh weather conditions
  • Good to use on all terrains
  • Allows drawing the winch rope manually
  • Prevents any dragging


  • May arrive in poor packaging

Which Is Better?

We can’t really say which the clear winner is since both have their strong and weak points. Here is what we mean:


When it comes to weight, the steel cable is clearly heavier. So, it will sink if you are pulling your vehicle out of mud or water. On the other hand, synthetic ropes, made of engineered polypropylene, are lighter and will float over the water surface.


Steel cables or metal ropes for the winch are more durable and long-lasting than synthetic ropes. Although synthetic ropes are much more efficient, over time, with use, they can break or tear up on you.

However, steel cables can also form rust and corrode easily when in constant contact with water. But that doesn’t take away that they have the possibility of lasting you a lifetime. Plus, there are many steel cables in the market that offers a waterproof coating.

Ease of Use

Steel cables are notorious for causing ghastly injuries if you are using your bare hands to pull them. They are not soft, so you absolutely need to wear a good protective glove, like a leather glove, before handling it.

Wrapping or unwrapping them from the drum also takes time as they have a tendency to get tangled up easily.

However, since synthetic ropes are soft, unlike the cables, they are comfortable to grip onto and require no extra protection. And they are far easier to untangle than steel cables.


Along with its durability, another complementary plus point for the steel cables are that they are less expensive than synthetic ropes. So, you are spending less, and chances are high you won't be needing replacements for many years.

However, in the case of synthetic ropes, they are pricier, and you will most likely need a replacement way sooner than using the cables.

Final Words

As everyone has different opinions and preferences, this synthetic rope vs. steel cable clearly shows why people debate between them still to this day. And we hope we helped you make a choice.


I am Samantha, an automobile engineer and POD business owner. I am also a wife of Jason and a mother of three children, two of whom are twins. I am passionate about making a difference in the world and strive to be a role model for my children. I believe that hard work and dedication can lead to success, no matter what your circumstances may be. I have a passion for cars and enjoy working on them in my spare time. I am excited to be able to share my knowledge and experience with you. Stay connected !

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