How to Replace a Winch Cable with a Strap: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Published By: Aaron Redstone
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Total: 5 min read time

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Have you ever considered replacing your winch cable with a strap?

If not, let me walk you through why it might be one of the best decisions you’ll make for your winching needs.

The benefits of switching to a winch strap are significant, not only for the safety and performance of your winching operations but also for the longevity of your equipment.

Straps, made from synthetic rope or nylon, are generally more flexible and easier to handle than traditional steel cables.

They’re less likely to fray or kink and, in the unfortunate event of a break, they don’t snap back with the same potentially dangerous force as a cable.

However, to reap these benefits, proper installation is crucial. It’s not just about swapping out a cable for a strap; it’s about ensuring the strap is installed correctly to maintain, or even enhance, your winch’s performance while keeping safety as the top priority.

Tools and Materials Needed

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s ensure you have everything needed for a smooth installation process. You’ll need:

  • Good Winch Strap: Opt for synthetic rope or a nylon strap, depending on your preference and winching requirements.
  • Protective Gloves: Always protect your hands. Gloves can prevent injuries from frayed wires or sharp edges.
  • Cable Cutters or Angle Grinder: Essential for removing the old cable.
  • Winch Hook or Thimble: This will secure the end of your new strap.
  • Lighter or Heat Gun: If you’re opting for synthetic rope, this is for sealing the ends to prevent fraying.


Safety first! Engage the winch brake and disconnect the power to ensure there are no accidental activations during the installation process.

Extend the cable fully to access the entire length and inspect the winch drum and fairlead for damage.

Any nicks or sharp edges can damage your new strap, so addressing these issues now is critical.

Removing the Old Cable

remove cable

Step 1: Safety Gear On

Before you start, it’s essential to gear up with protective gloves. Old winch cables can have sharp frays or burrs that can easily cut skin.

Gloves will protect your hands from injuries and ensure a safer working environment.

Safety goggles are also recommended to protect your eyes from any small particles that may fly off while cutting the cable.

Step 2: Cutting the Cable Near the Drum

Using cable cutters or an angle grinder, you’ll need to cut the old winch cable. If you’re using cable cutters, ensure they are strong enough to cut through the cable’s material, usually steel.

For thicker or more stubborn cables, an angle grinder might be necessary. This tool can quickly cut through the cable, but it requires a steady hand and safety precautions due to sparks and the potential for the tool to kick back.

Position yourself in a stable stance and cut the cable as close to the drum as possible.

This minimizes waste and ensures you have a clean area to start installing the new strap. If using an angle grinder, ensure the cutting area is clear of flammable materials due to the sparks produced.

Step 3: Removing the Old Cable

Once cut, you’ll need to remove the old cable from the drum and fairlead. This might require unwinding any remaining cable wrapped around the drum.

Be mindful of any tension still in the cable as you remove it to avoid sudden releases that could cause injury.

Pull the cable through the fairlead, ensuring it doesn’t catch on anything as it’s removed. This might take a bit of maneuvering, especially if the cable is damaged or frayed.

Step 4: Cleaning the Drum and Fairlead

After the old cable is removed, inspect and clean the drum and fairlead thoroughly. Use a brush to remove any debris, rust, or dirt from the drum.

It’s essential to have a smooth surface for the new strap to wind onto to prevent wear and tear. The fairlead, through which the strap feeds, must also be free of burrs or sharp edges that could damage the new strap.

If necessary, lightly sand any rough areas on the drum or fairlead to create a smooth path for the winch strap.

Installing the New Winch Strap

installing strap

Feeding the Strap Through the Fairlead

The process begins by feeding your new winch strap through the fairlead. This is the guide on the front of your winch that helps direct the strap from the drum to wherever you’re pulling.

Make sure the fairlead is clean and free of any obstructions or sharp edges that could damage your new strap. Slowly feed the end of the strap through, ensuring it moves smoothly without any snags.

Securing the Strap to the Drum

Securing the strap to the drum is a critical step that ensures the strap is firmly attached and won’t slip when under load. The method to secure the strap varies by winch model, but there are a few common techniques:

  • Tying a Knot: Some winch drums have a small hole through which you can tie the end of the strap, creating a secure base. This is more common with synthetic ropes where a simple knot can be sufficient to hold the strap in place.
  • Using a Clamp or Set Screw: Many winches are designed with a clamp or a set screw on the drum for securing the strap. This method is straightforward and involves placing the end of the strap under the clamp or set screw and tightening it down. Ensure it’s tight enough to hold the strap securely, but be careful not to damage the strap by over-tightening.

Attaching the Winch Hook or Thimble

Once the strap is secured to the drum, the next step is to attach the winch hook or thimble to the free end. This attachment is crucial as it’s the point of connection between your strap and whatever you’re pulling or lifting.

  • Using a Splice for Synthetic Rope: Splicing involves weaving the end of the rope back into itself to create a loop, into which the winch hook or thimble can be inserted. This method is strong and creates a neat, professional-looking finish. It requires some skill and knowledge of rope splicing techniques.
  • Using a Knot or Bolt for a Nylon Strap: For nylon straps, you might use a simpler method like tying a knot or using a bolt through a loop in the strap to secure the hook or thimble. Ensure the knot is tight and secure, or if using a bolt, that it’s properly tightened and won’t loosen under load.

Winding the Strap onto the Drum

With the strap attached to the drum on one end and the winch hook or thimble on the other, you’re ready to wind the strap onto the drum.

It’s important to apply slight tension to the strap as you wind it to prevent any loose loops that could tangle or snag. Start by slowly operating the winch, guiding the strap evenly across the drum.

It helps to have someone guide the strap while another person operates the winch controls, ensuring the strap lays flat and even across the drum.

This step requires patience and attention to detail. Properly wound straps are less likely to wear prematurely, ensuring your winch operates smoothly and efficiently.

Testing and Adjusting

Testing and adjusting your new winch strap is a crucial phase to ensure its optimal performance and your safety during use.

Reconnect the Power and Disengage the Winch Brake

The initial step is to re-establish the power supply to your winch.

This action is preparatory, setting the stage for testing. With the power back on, you must disengage the winch brake.

The winch brake typically controls the spooling and unspooling of the strap, allowing it to freely move in and out. Disengaging it is necessary to test the winding and unwinding mechanism under controlled conditions.

Operate the Winch to Wind the Strap In and Out

Now, it’s time to operate the winch. Your objective here is to carefully observe how the strap winds onto the drum. Use the winch controls to slowly wind the strap back onto the drum, paying close attention to its alignment.

You want the strap to lay flat and evenly across the drum, without any overlaps or gaps that could compromise its strength under load.

After winding, extend the strap out again, watching how it unspools. This process checks for smooth operation in both directions.

It’s crucial to ensure the strap feeds through the fairlead correctly, without catching or snagging.

Check for Proper Spooling and Adjust If Necessary

Proper spooling is essential for the longevity and effectiveness of your winch strap. Improper spooling can lead to wear and tear, reducing the strap’s lifespan and potentially causing it to fail under load.

If you notice any uneven spooling, overlaps, or gaps, you’ll need to adjust how the strap is wound onto the drum.

This might involve manually guiding the strap as it winds or adjusting the tension to ensure it lays flat.

Test the Winch Under Load to Ensure Proper Functioning

The final step in this process is to test the winch under load. This test is crucial because it simulates the real-world conditions under which you’ll be using the winch.

Attach the winch hook or thimble to a secure point and carefully use the winch to apply tension to the strap. Watch for any signs of slippage on the drum or issues with the strap feeding through the fairlead.

This load test should be conducted gradually, increasing the load to your winch’s operational limits to ensure the strap holds securely and performs as expected. Always follow safety procedures during this test to prevent accidents in case of a failure.


Switching to a winch strap not only enhances the safety and performance of your winching operations but also contributes to the longevity of your winch.

Remember, though, that the key to these benefits lies in proper installation and regular maintenance.

By following these steps, you can enjoy a safer, more efficient winching experience. Regular care ensures that your equipment remains reliable, ready for whatever task you have at hand.

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. But all my reviews and guides are genuine and come from my experience.

Aaron Redstone 

Hi, I'm Aaron, the founder of Off-Road Pull. My love for off-roading began in my teenage years while exploring the diverse landscapes of Arizona.

With more than 16 years of experience in off-roading and winching, I bring a blend of practical know-how and a background in mechanical engineering to provide you with detailed and trustworthy advice.

My passion is to share this knowledge with both newcomers to adventure and experienced off-roaders. When I'm not tackling rugged terrain or crafting in-depth articles, you'll find me capturing the scenic beauty of the outdoors through my lens.

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