Whether you had one rough pull or a hundred easy ones, wear and tear on your winch cable is natural. Everybody has to replace theirs with something new eventually.
It’s a simple job right?
Not so fast!
There are a few major pitfalls you need to avoid when changing your line. We’re going to walk you through how to replace an ATV winch cable or rope to make sure you get it right and don’t damage your gear.
You’ll need a few basic tools to replace your winch cable. There’s nothing special here—you should already have everything.
These steps will take you through the process of removing your existing synthetic rope or steel cable and replacing it with a new one. The process is nearly identical whether you’re replacing cable or rope, but we’ll note the differences when they come up.
Before you do anything else, you need to figure out if you have room to remove your ATV’s winch cable while the winch is still installed.
If your winch is mounted on top of a bumper, you’ll have no problem keeping it installed.
However, if you can’t reach your winch drum with both hands, you may need to remove it. In some cases, removing the fairlead alone will give you enough space to work with. If you do have to remove your winch, the process is simple enough:
Removing your cable or rope is a piece of cake. If you’re working with cable, be sure to don your heavy-duty gloves to protect your hands.
Then, follow these steps:
The line will run through a hole in the drum. With synthetic rope, the line will have a simple knot (tip: take a picture of the knot now so you can replicate it later). Steel cable will be secured with a set screw or locking bead.
If you’re removing synthetic rope, lighten the tension by pushing the long end of the line through the hole. Then, undo the knot and pull the rope through the drum. You may have to cut the end off if it’s covered in glue or tape that won’t allow it to run through the hole.
With a steel cable, you’ll need to use an allen key to loosen the set screw so you can pull the line out. On some winches, the cable will loop around a locking bead set into a slot in the drum. Just feed the cable through to lighten the tension on the bead so you can unloop the line.
It’s important to take this opportunity to inspect the condition of your winch, especially if you’re replacing a steel cable with a synthetic winch rope.
Look for grooves and ridges—anything that’s not smooth.
If it’s roughed up, you’ll need to file it smooth or replace the winch before using a synthetic rope. Those grooves can easily slice fibers when under the intense pressure of a loaded winch.
Installing your new line is a little bit more complicated than removing it. Make sure you pay careful attention to these steps. This is the part of the process where mistakes are likely to happen.
For synthetic rope, that means looping it around the drum and tying a knot. We recommend using electric tape to attach the loose end to the drum.
For steel cable, tighten your set screw or loop it around the locking bead.
To properly spool the line, you need a heavy load to tighten the line around the drum as you reel it in. Attach the end of your line to a tree and slowly winch the line in as you guide it onto the drum. Your goal is to achieve neat, tight rows with no crossover.
The tension ensures that the rows are packed tightly and won’t get damaged the first time you use it in a real winching situation.
Don’t be tempted to put your fingers through the hook or loop as you guide the last few feet in. It’s easy to crush your fingers in the fairlead if you get distracted for a moment.
Now you know how to replace an ATV winch cable or synthetic rope. The process is simple enough, but paying attention to the details will ensure that your new line lasts longer than your busted one.
If you need a new line, check out our replacement synthetic winch ropes. We have bright colors to make them easier to spot if you’re in mud, or you can roll with classic black if that’s more your style.
But if your winch has fully bit the dust, check out our Black Ops Winches. We have 2,500 lb. winches that are perfect for ATVs, but you can also get 3,500 lb., 4,500 lb., 6,000 lb, and 12,000 lb. winches if you need a little more oomf.
Now get back out on the trail and have enough fun to get stuck. With your ATV’s winch cable replaced, those ditches and mud holes will look a lot more inviting.
Check out how to change a UTV winch rope on a Black Ops Winch: