How to Attach a Wire Rope to a Winch

Written by will charpentier
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Spooling wire rope onto a winch can be a test of will, because the wire rope will not want to go onto the drum easily.The connection to the drum, however, depends on that orneriness and friction between coils of wire on the cable drum. Done correctly, spooling wire onto a winch may occupy several hours of your time, but the results when, for example, you are setting an anchor, will be a happy surprise.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Wire rope tensioner
  • Crowbar
  • Railroad track liner bar
  • Leather gloves
  • Safety glasses

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  1. 1

    Feed the wire rope over the top of the cable drum, around the back of the cable drum, and under the cable drum, pulling the rope upward. There are three holes in the side plate of the cable drum; push enough wire rope out of the cable drum through the hole nearest the metal strap that's bolted to the side plate, to reach--perhaps an inch or two--past the metal strap. Loosen the nuts on the metal strap with the adjustable wrench and remove one nut, washer and bolt entirely.

  2. 2

    Move the end of the wire rope that's protruding through the hole so you can slide the metal strap over the wire rope. The end of the rope should point toward the rear of the boat before the strap is put in place over it. Put the bolt back through the bolt hole on the side plate of the cable drum. Move the metal strap over the wire rope and position it so the bolt goes through the hole on the strap and through the hole on the metal strap.

  3. 3

    Place the washer over the end of the bolt and start the nut onto the bolt and tighten with your adjustable wrench only until the strap clamps the rope.

  4. 4

    Use a wire rope tensioner to "pretension" the wire as you spool it onto the drum. If a tensioner is not available, wrap one full turn of the wire rope around a bollard as the rope comes from the spool of wire rope and the friction on the bollard will tension the wire rope. Use a crowbar or railroad track liner bar (a 5-foot long iron shaft) to shift the wire rope so it winds levelly on the cable drum. Operate the winch to take up wire rope so there are three complete turns of wire on the cable drum.

  5. 5

    Operate the winch to spool the remainder of the wire rope onto the cable drum.

Tips and warnings

  • Always leave at least one layer of the wire rope on the drum. The three wraps of cable on the drum, held beneath a layer of cable, are what keeps the cable on the drum. The strap that sits over the wire rope only serves to keep the cable end in place while the rope is being spooled onto the drum.
  • When tensioning the rope onto the cable drum, watch for kinks. If you see one forming, stop the winch and work the kink out of the cable.
  • Wear large leather gloves when working with wire rope. Wire rope may have broken strands. These tend to bend upward and form "fish hooks." The leather gloves will protect you from smaller fish hooks and give you a short warning if a bigger fish hook takes hold, allowing you to stop the spooling before your hand gets hooked.
  • Wear safety glasses whenever you work with wire rope.

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