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Project Winch Revival: Synthetic Viking Winchline Cable

Synthetic Cable Can Rescue Your HD Truck

Kanan Gubins
May 1, 2012
Photographers: Kanan Gubins
It’s pretty amazing the kind of trouble you can get yourself into with a 9,000-pound HD truck nowadays, and it’s equally astonishing how good the recovery equipment is. When you need your product to get you out of a hairy situation, you certainly don’t want to be relying on the cheap stuff.

This truck’s winch cable snapped while trying to retrieve a stranded off-roader. It was a very scary thing to witness—luckily no one got hurt. The cable was rated at 12,000 pounds; it was pulling a Dodge ¾-ton truck and snapped at the 60-foot mark.

Photo 2/14   |   When getting stuck, your rig’s best friend can be a winch. But when it fails, you’re stuck! It happened to us while winching out a Dodge 2500 extended-cab longbed (at 12 a.m.) when snap! Our 12,000-pound-rated cable broke. All the proper precautions were taken, but something obviously went wrong.
After that adventure was over, we got hold of Thor Johnson, co-owner of Viking Offroad/Viking Winchlines. We gathered a lot of new information about what the synthetic winchline can do for your rig. Thor’s family has been in the cable- making business for hundreds of years, so we think he knows best when it comes to cables. For our application, Thor recommended the 3⁄8-inch synthetic Viking Winchline cable rated for 17,600 pounds for its ease of installation, flexibility, and overall strength.

 Synthetic rope is a relatively new product for the off-road world. It was introduced in the late ’90s to early ’00s—mainly to the Jeep market in the United States. Viking Winchline is an OEM for Superwinch and sells winchlines and recovery gear to the military, fire search and rescue, forest service, and others around the country.
Photo 3/14   |   After the adventure up north, we went to the world-renowned experts at Viking Winchline for help. We went with a Viking Winchline 3⁄8-inch 17,600-pound-rated synthetic cable.
Photo 4/14   |   You should never go below 10 feet using a winch cable, as this will allow you to keep maximum strength while pulling out of a situation.
The best things about replacing steel cable or wire rope with synthetic:

  • Much easier to handle
  • Safer if it breaks
  • Safer for your hands because there will be no nasty wire strands sticking out
  • Does not recoil like cable
  • Lighter (typically 5 to 7 pounds, compared to 20 to 35 pounds for most cables)
  • More forgiving when spooling in; it does not have to be perfectly aligned like cable to avoid kinking
  • Can be field repaired in a few minutes to achieve same strength
  • Military and other agencies are going this route more and more
  • OEM winch companies are seeing the benefit and headed this direction
  • Synthetic has a much better bending fatigue capacity than steel
Photo 5/14   |   Thor showed us how to properly install a Viking winchline. Eight inches of cable should be placed on the drum of the winch and taped so there’s no slippage. Then the rope can be pulled onto the drum.
Drawbacks:

  • It’s more susceptible to cuts and abrasion than steel. With care and a watchful eye, these lines can last for years. Recovery trainers like Bill Burke and Overland Training have been using them for many years without replacement, working every day.
  • They’re expensive. Note: On the cheaper Chinese versions...you get what you pay for! The fiber is the same—one company has a patent on it (DSM in Holland)—but it’s up to the manufacturer to spin the fiber into a good rope.
Photo 6/14   |   We all know off-roading is fun, but when you get stuck (or someone else does), you need the right tools.
Field repair:

Unless you have no other choice, tying a knot in a winchline is never a good idea—it reduces the strength by around 50 percent. A $40 splice-rope repair kit can be purchased, and a splice can be filled in 5 to 10 minutes. This will return the line’s structural integrity to full capacity. But you have to understand why it was cut so it does not happen again. Winches are not strong enough to break these lines unless a mismatched line has been installed, like a 12,000-pound Jeep line on a 25,000-pound Unimog winch. Most winchline breaks occur at the bumper behind the fairlead, where the line is abraded and damaged so that it snaps on the next pull.
Photo 10/14   |   Like always, the proper preload should be applied when spooling in a new cable or after usage. We used a Ford F-350 to put a nice preload on our cable.
Heat:

There is no issue with heat unless you power out using certain winches, mostly with an internal brake. Simply refrain from powering out the line, and there is no issue. If you need to power out, do it by the book—a few seconds at a time—and keep checking the drum. If you can touch it with your bare hands, the winchline is good.
Photo 11/14   |   This is what is really amazing. A simple thread is used to lock the cable in place to allow it to be as strong as it was before. More info at www.winchline.com.
Photo 12/14   |   Yes, it looks sexy with the nice orange cable, which lets people know to get out of the way—we’re here to help.
Other features of synthetic:

It will not lose any appreciable structural integrity under UV light—even when left in the desert for years. The truck will wear out before this is an issue for the lines.
Photo 13/14   |   As you can see, there’s a big difference between a normal winch hook and a Viking hook. Size matters, along with strength.
Viking Splice Kit (Rope Repair Kit)

If a winchline breaks, use this tool to properly fix it; it’ll retain the same strength and safety as before the break. It is very easy to mend the line, but the right tools and instructions are necessary.
Viking Splice Kit Includes:

  • 5⁄16-inch and 3⁄8-inch Splicing Fids (7.9mm and 9.5mm) with Optional Sizes, CNC machined
  • Instructions
  • Heavy-duty Scissors
  • Lock Stitch Needle
  • Electrical Tape
  • Nylon Lock Stitch Thread
  • Marker
  • Practice Rope
  • Kit Bag
Photo 14/14   |   Since synthetic cables are a lot easier to cut than a steel cable, RockGuard is cheap insurance to keep your cable healthy.

Sources

Viking Offroad
N/A, AK
818-842-0595
www.vikingoffroad.com

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