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The Best Winch Line For Your Jeep Wrangler – Steel Cable vs Synthetic Line


I’m Ryan from ExtremeTerrain.com, and today
we’re gonna talk about winches, specifically the difference between a synthetic line and
a steel cable, but also some of the other features of winches, as well. We’re out here in the middle of a two-day
wheeling trip as you can tell by all of the mud and the dirt on the Jeeps behind me. So make sure you subscribe to the YouTube
channel to check out those videos. We did a build on a Dune JKU and a couple
of other comparisons that I think you’re really going to like. But today is all about winches, so let’s get
into it. So there are a couple of different decisions
to make when purchasing a winch but the biggest one is going to be the type of line that you
want on your Jeep. Now, the traditional line is going to be a
steel cable like this, and most of that line is going to be relatively the same diameter
and have the same braking strength. It’s going to be very, very strong. There are a couple of pros to having a steel
line like this and one of those is that they don’t require a ton of maintenance. You don’t really have to worry about them
when they’re on the front of your Jeep. You can run one and until it starts to fray
or start to look pretty ragged, you won’t have to change it out. This is gonna hold up really well, and it’s
going to last a long time. Now, one of the big downsides to a steel cable
is that while it’s under load, it’s stretched out, it’s going to be storing energy and if
that line breaks under load, it’s going to snap back. It can hit someone. It can cause damage or injury, and of course,
that’s something that nobody wants to see. There are ways to mitigate that by using a
weight in the middle of the winch line to help be a little bit safer, but you’re never
going to get rid of that problem. But that is where a synthetic line comes into
play. This synthetic line is going to have roughly
the same strength as a steel cable. It’s still going to stretch when it’s under
load just like steel will, but if this were to break, even under load, it falls right
to the ground. It’s completely harmless. A couple of the other benefits to a synthetic
line are the fact that it’s lighter weight. It’s not going to kink up or give you a splinter
like a steel cable will. And because it’s lighter weight, it’s easier
to drag up a steep hill, especially when that hill is covered in mud. Now, some of the downsides to synthetic is
that it is a little bit more difficult to maintain. You are going to have to make sure that you
keep it nice and clean. It’s not going to last as long on the front
of your Jeep, and when you are changing it out, it’s also going to be more expensive
than steel. So definitely some trade-offs. In my opinion, synthetic’s the way to go. It’s worth spending a little bit extra money
to make it even more useful and also a lot safer. Now, once you’ve decided what line you wanna
choose, another decision that you’ll have to make is going to be what weight capacity
you want the winch to be able to pull. Now, the general rule of thumb for a winch
is that it should pull about one-and-a-half times of the loaded weight of your Jeep. So here we have a two-door JK. It’s a pretty light Jeep. There’s not a lot of armor on it. And we have this set up with a 9,500-pound
winch from Barricade. Now, this winch is going to be more than enough
for this size Jeep and this weight Jeep. If you do have a bigger four-door JK, like
this one is, or a four-door JK that’s loaded down with a ton of armor. Maybe you like to get your Jeep buried up
to the axles in mud, then a higher pulling capacity is going to be what you want, and
this has a 12,500-pound pulling capacity. So, of course, this one is going to be a lot
stronger. When you’re looking at winches, a couple other
things to consider are how waterproof they are. This is Rugged Ridge’s Nautic winch. This is a new series of winches from Rugged
Ridge, and this solenoid pack is completely waterproof and also dust proof. So, if you have it mounted here, you dunk
the Jeep underwater, you’re driving and it’s raining, you don’t have to worry about water
affecting these electronics. This one over here by Barricade, not as well
sealed up. You’ll actually see a lot of people mount
these remotely, put them up under the hood to try and keep them dry, because again, it’s
not going to be waterproof. The Nautic winch over here, also, is going
to have a lot of cross bracing. If you actually get up close and you look
at the body of this winch, it’s going to look a lot beefier. It’s going to be a lot stronger than that
Barricade one because of that cross bracing that’s built into it. Something else to consider with winches is
going to be your line speed. Now, depending on how you use your winch,
you’re not going to be as concerned with having a really fast pull, although it is a nice
convenience. Some of the more expensive winches on the
market, even under load, are going to pull pretty quickly. Some of the less expensive more budget-friendly
winches are going to pull a little bit slower, again, depending on how often you use your
winch that may or may not be a big consideration. Now, one of the newest things that winches
are doing is coming with a wireless remote, and that’s what we have here on this Barricade
winch. Up on the front here, you have a switch, so
you can turn the winch off completely, turn it on for the wired remote, or turn it on
for the wireless remote. Now, the downside to a wireless remote is
always that you have to keep batteries in it. But as long as you keep the batteries fresh,
this is going to be a way that you can winch from inside the vehicle, or a safe distance
away, without having to worry about being within 12 feet and having that tether. But your batteries die, you drop this in a
mud puddle, you do have your backup of your wired remote, which is always really nice
to have. Now, this Rugged Ridge winch does not come
with a wireless remote, but they do give you a remote that has a nice long 12-foot cable,
so you can stay well out of the way of the danger zone while you’re winching. I do really like this remote. As you can see, it has a really substantial
toggle switch on it. It feels pretty good in your hand. Some of the less expensive winches on the
market, they feel really cheap. It feels like you’re gonna break this thing,
even if you just have it thrown in your center console. So that’s something that I really do like
about this winch. Now, as far as winches go, they’re all really
going to install in a very similar fashion. You are going to have to either install a
winch mounting plate on your factory bumper or have a winch ready bumper like we have
on both of these Jeeps here with us. But once you have that in place, these are
just gonna bolt down with four bolts, and there’s only really two wires that you have
to run up to your battery to get these things powered. So the install is going to be pretty simple,
and you can have a winch installed on your Jeep to get you out of a sticky situation
pretty easily and pretty quickly. What we’re gonna do now is actually take these
things out, hook ’em up, and show you how they pull. Of course, it’s gonna be pretty similar in
this comparison, but I do wanna show you a couple of different ins and outs between these
winches. Now, we got ourselves midway up this trail. This is a spot that you may very well get
stuck. These rocks are really slick, maybe you broke
something. We probably could have made it the rest of
the way up this, but I do wanna show you how you use these winches in the real world and
some of the benefits to having synthetic versus steel and vice versa. So when you are working with a steel cable,
you always wanna have a pair of gloves with you, synthetic, as well. But steel is much less forgiving, even if
you don’t have a frayed line, which of course, you shouldn’t be winching with a frayed line
anyway, you can still get pinched, bit, end up bleeding from a steel line very, very easily
and very, very quickly. So we are gonna have gloves on, that is first
and foremost. Now, any winch these days is going to have
both an engage setting and a free spool setting, so we can put this in the free spool setting
just by adjusting the clutch here. And that’s gonna make it very easy for us
to pull out this line all the way up to the tree we’re gonna hook to. So we got ourselves up to the tree that we’re
gonna hook to. Of course, anytime you are winching off of
a tree, you do wanna use a tree saver. So the next step is going to be taking the
tension up on the line, taking the slack out. I’m gonna go do that now, and you might wonder
why I’m bringing the rest of my recovery bag in this D-ring with me. What I’m actually going to do is take the
line here, and I’m going to use this D-ring to attach the rest of my recovery bag onto
the line. The idea is that if the line snaps, it’s going
to hit this point where there’s weight on it and it’s going to then fall to the ground. It’s still not going to be as safe as a synthetic
line, but this is one of those things that you wanna do every time you’re using a steel
cable to add a little bit of safety. So, now that we’ve done that, we can take
up the slack on this line. I just have to go over to the winch and turn
it on wireless mode. We’re gonna go ahead and spool the winch in
a little bit. So now we’re set up, and we’re ready to go. It’s time to actually do the pull. I’m gonna take the wireless remote up around
the corner here and get myself into a safe location just in case anything were to happen
to this winch line. We do have Eric still inside the Jeep. With this wireless remote, he would be able
to very easily control the winch from inside the Jeep. If you’re winching by himself or, of course,
stretch the cable, use that one. But because we’re both here, I’m gonna do
this, he’s gonna do that, and we’ll get this Jeep up the hill. We go slide our bag forward a little bit,
so it doesn’t get stuck up in the fairlead. Okay. So, Eric, hold on the break. We’ll take the tension off the lines, pull
the rest of the weight in, and we’ll be back on our way. So now we have the next Jeep in the line-up
again, probably could have made it up this hill, but we got him stopped here, so we can
show you some of the differences between that Barricade winch with the steel line and this
Rugged Ridge winch with the synthetic line. So with the synthetic line, you don’t have
to be as worried about pinches, about splinters, but gloves are always a good idea, anyway. And the first step is going to be popping
this winch into free spool mode and pulling the line up to the tree. Now that we’re up here, go ahead and clip
it in on our tree saver that we already have set up from the last spool. Now we can head back down and take up the
tension on the line. So we’ll go ahead and get the remote hooked
up here. So now, we can go ahead and bump in the winch
line, put a little bit of tension on it, and we’re not gonna use a flag on this line, because
again, that synthetic line is going to be safe. It’s not gonna snap. If it were to break, it’s not gonna snap back. It’ll just fall to the ground nice and safely,
and it does make it very easy set up as well. I’m gonna stand to the side just to be safe,
get out of Dan’s way here. Go ahead and bump this in. What I am gonna do is give Dan the remote. He can handle the actual winching in, just
make sure it’s not gonna get bound up on anything, this 12-foot cable here. I’m gonna go up top to the hill. That way, I can keep an eye on the rigging,
and I can also spot for Dan. Of course here, not much is gonna get hung
up on, but in a tougher situation of having a spotter in front of you is definitely gonna
be helpful. All right. We got into a pretty good spot. You can stop there, Dan. I’m gonna go ahead and grab the remote back
from Dan, again. I’ll take the tension off the line, clean
things up, and he can be on his way up the trail. So that’s it for this video. Obviously, there are a lot of decisions to
make when purchasing a winch, not the least of which is whether to get the steel cable
or spend the extra money for the synthetic. I gave you my opinion on both and a few of
the pros and cons. Make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel. We have other videos like this, some great
Jeep content, and you’ll be able to see the other videos that we shot this weekend while
we were out on the trail.

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