Hawse Fairlead vs Roller Fairlead

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What is Winch Fairlead?

Simply put, a winch fairlead is a metallic device that acts as a guide for cables or ropes on winches. The primary purpose of a winch fairlead is to remove the lateral strain from the winch and to reduce damage to the cable.

If you own a 4-wheel-drive truck then you know how important a winch can be for your overlanding or offroading rig. Winches could help your vehicle pull out from mud or any other difficult situation.

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A winch comes with multiple parts and accessories such as a snatch block, a winch fairlead, a mounting plate, a winch cable, remote controls, and much more. 

Among them, the winch fairlead is the part to guide the winch line onto the drum of the winch. Most top brands offer a fairlead and installation hardware with their winches for free.

However, you might want to upgrade your device with a new winch fairlead. In this post, we will share a brief comparison between the two types of fairleads which are hawse and roller fairlead.

Types of Winch Fairlead

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Roller Fairlead

You will get roller fairleads mostly in winches with wire/steel cables. As the name implies, two vertical and two horizontal mounted rollers are used in making roller fairleads.

Those 4 rollers make a border through which the steel winch line passes. Thus they are also known as 4-way roller fairleads.

You might know that most roller fairleads are made of steel. As a result, this is the best option to use with the steel winch line. This type of fairleads are made of multiple parts and would be very heavy.

In general, you should not use a roller fairlead made specifically for steel cables with a synthetic winch line. However, you can actually still run the ‘synthetic cable and steel roller fairlead’ combo, but in that case, the roller fairlead should not have any types of sharp edges or scars. 

Roller fairleads are known to stick out 3.5 to 4 inches from the mounting surface material, not resulting in a better approach angle.

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Hawse Fairlead

On the other hand, a hawse fairlead is usually used with synthetic winch lines. Almost all of the hawse fairleads are made of aluminum.

As a result, they are very lightweight compared to the steel roller fairlead and have less friction. On top of that, it is made of 1 piece of metal with no moving parts. So there is little to no possibility of it breaking apart. 

As aluminum hawse fairleads are used with synthetic winch cables, the overall weight of the winch drops by 30 to 40 lbs. (approx.). Interestingly, we know a few brands offer steel hawse fairleads.

In that case, you can use those steel hawse fairleads with steel cables. Generally, hawse fairleads stick out about 1 inch of the mounting surface. 

Therefore, it has a tad better approach angle compared to a roller fairlead. Aluminum hawse fairleads come with various coatings like galvanized, polished, and powder-coat, etc.

However, only the ‘Type III anodized’ coatings could last forever on an aluminum fairlead compared to the other options.

Which is better a Hawse fairlead or roller fairlead?

Depending on your preferences, you can choose a roller fairlead, which uses steel rollers and is mostly used for heavy-duty steel lines or you can opt for a Hawse fairlead. They are mostly made out of aluminium and are used with synthetic lines. Hawse fairleads give you a slightly better approach angle since they stick out a little less from your bumper.

Which Winch Fairlead is better?

The answer to this question depends on the kind of winch cable you are using. Normally, if you are using synthetic lines, then you should use aluminum fairlead (hawse). 

On the other hand, if you are using a steel winch cable, then you must use a 4-way roller fairlead of steel. Otherwise, a steel hawse fairlead could also be used, if you insist.

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Can You Use A Rollers Fairlead With A Synthetic Rope?

Technically, yes. Roller fairleads can be used with synthetic ropes. However, the rollers on the roller fairlead would need to be free from any sharp edges or burrs. Those sharp points could damage your synthetic winch rope

So, before you use the ‘roller fairleads and synthetic line’ combo, ensure that there is no sharp edge. Still, we will recommend hawse fairleads of aluminum to be used with synthetic winch rope.

Can You Use Hawse Fairleads With Steel Cable?

Generally, it is not advisable to use hawse fairleads with steel cables. Because most of the hawse fairleads are made of aluminum. As steel is a harder material than aluminum, a steel cable can easily damage the aluminum hawse fairleads. 

But you can find special hawse fairleads made of steel as well. Along with those particular steel hawse fairleads, you can use steel winch cable. But if it is made of aluminum, then don’t use a steel cable.

Can You Use A Winch Without A Fairlead?

Once again, technically, it is possible to use winches without a fairlead. However, it is not recommended. There are a few drawbacks of not using a winch fairlead. 

For instance, the winch line will wear out faster than its usual expected lifespan. Also, without a winch fairlead, the cable may not wind up evenly. So, a fairlead could be one of the best winch accessories for your rig.

What Is A Fairlead Mount?

As the name suggests, a fairlead mount is a mounting bracket made of metal for installing winch fairleads.

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Concluding Thoughts – Hawse Fairlead vs Roller Fairlead

Both hawse fairleads and roller fairleads have their pros and cons. But depending on the winch cable and winch accessories you are using, one will be better than the other for you.

Usually, if you want your winch setup to be lightweight yet sturdy, then you should go for an ‘aluminum hawse fairlead and synthetic line’ option. 

But if you want heavy-duty winch action, then you can get a winch with a steel roller fairlead and a steel cable. To be noted, never use a steel cable with aluminum hawse fairleads.

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Ferenc Elekes has been a devout Overlanding enthusiast for many years. During that time, Ferenc has explored 75 countries on six continents, with overland travel involved in 40 countries on three continents. From his trusty 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado with a roof-top tent, he’s blogged about experiences that can only be found in the remotest regions on Earth. Along the way, he's gained in-depth knowledge of the novel challenges overlanders encounter and practical ways to meet them. On his website, he shares informed opinions about everything from the best overland gear to how to get a vehicle unstuck. Ferenc has also written for Ih8mud, the Expedition Portal, the Overland Journal, and he is often invited as a guest to outdoors-related podcasts.
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