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What Is a Winch Chain?

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

A winch chain is a length of steel chain that is used on a winch in place of a steel wire cable or a synthetic cable or rope. Commonly used on extreme-duty hoist applications, the winch chain is used on both hand-operated and power winch designs where heavy lifting requires the use of chain over that of other types of cable. The benefits of using winch chain over steel cable are multiple, including no frayed cable strands to injure workers, no kinks to create problems while unspooling and superior strength as compared to the average cable or rope.

The chain winch is offered in several hand-operated and power versions, from the common chain fall-type of mechanic winch to electric and air-powered power winches used in manufacturing plants worldwide. In some cases, the chain is preferred over a cable to ensure worker safety. The steel wire cable often used on winches has the propensity to fray, and this causes small, but very sharp, strands of wire to become present on the cable. These wires can cut and dig into a worker's hands, even penetrating through heavy-leather gloves. The use of chain prevents this type of injury from occurring altogether.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The use of winch chain is also preferred over other types of cable due to its ability to resist kinking. Even the best synthetic cable can begin to curl and twist when exposed to repeated lifting and wrapping of the cable. This often results in a cable that is difficult to attach and secure because it has become so twisted and coiled. By replacing the cable or rope with winch chain, this problem is also eliminated since the chain will never kink or twist. The winch chain is also easier to fasten to a load since the attached hook can be coupled to any link on the chain.

On an industrial-sized winch, the weight of the winch chain and hook will typically keep the chain in a straight down position even when not attached to a load. This prevents the winch from using excess cable to reach the floor level due to kinks, curls and twists in the cable. Unlike a cable that often digs into itself when wound tightly onto a winch spool, a winch chain is commonly fed through a set of sprockets that catch the chain links and do not require the chain to be wound onto a spool. The excess winch chain simply hangs free from the winch sprockets.

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