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What Makes a Good Wire Rope Lubricant?

Used in conjunction with a high-quality lubricant, the Viper Wire Rope Lubrication System has the ability to increase the life of your wire ropes by up to 300%.

Effective lubrication of wire ropes can improve operational life, reduce the wear rate, improve safety and provide essential corrosion protection. Many applications of wire ropes involve heavy lifting, extreme tension, harsh environmental conditions, and high friction. Cranes, ships, the mining industry, drilling rigs, and suspension bridges are just some of the most common applications, and wire rope uses can include pulling, dragging, or hoisting.

Incorporating the right lubricant into your maintenance routine, applied with an wire rope lubricator, can change the way your ropes function, how long they can operate, and the overall productivity of the worksite.


Wire Rope Lubrication Basics

Wire rope lubricants come in two different forms: penetrating and coating lubricant.

The penetrating lubricant contains a solvent that carries the lubricant to the core of the wire rope. From here, it will evaporate leaving a coat that covers each wire stand.

A coating lubricant will protect the outside of the cable from corrosion and rust, but will not as effectively penetrate to the core of the wire rope. Wire rope lubricant is essential to ensure a long and well functioning life cycle of the rope, which is achieved primarily through reducing friction and preventing corrosion.


Wire rope lubricants require three layers in order to create effective lubrication, these include:

  1. Hydrodynamic/full film lubrication for high temperatures
  2. Extreme pressure additive to prevent metal surfaces from welding together
  3. Solid lubricant suspended in grease or oil to separate the metal surfaces


These three layers combine to create a lubricant that will aid in keeping the rope from suffering corrosion and damage from friction wear. These elements combined will protect the wire rope from some of its most common risk factors.


Factors that affect the quality of wire ropes include:

  • Corrosion – Used in extreme temperatures, often in the salt air, and made up of predominately metal or steel, wire ropes are prone to corrosion. This corrosion can lead to metal loss and a lack of flexibility in your wire ropes. The work that wire ropes do requires flexibility, shock absorbency, and friction resistance – all of which are lessened when corrosion occurs. Proper lubrication can act as a corrosion inhibitor and prolong the function of your ropes.
  • Worker Error – No worksite is immune to human error, and when dealing with wire ropes, there are a few things that can go wrong in the handling process that will decrease the function and lifespan of the rope. Incorrect storage, excessive strain, or poor winding of the ropes can cause them to bend or twist in ways that are counterintuitive, resulting in kinks, splits, or breakages. Without proper lubrication, these risk factors are increased as the rope loses its flexibility and wear resistance.
  • Wear Rate – Some worksites are more intense than others, and if your wire rope is used constantly, expected to lift extremely heavy loads, or is put under strain by constant jolting, stopping, and starting – it may be at risk of early retirement. Using a good quality lubricant may allow for longer periods between lubrication, with the tackiness of the product clinging to your wire rope, giving it a longer service interval overall.
  • Application Type Some application types will put the wire rope under more pressure than others, especially those with constant bending and stretching, or in extremely cold or sweltering hot conditions. The core of the wire rope is coated in lubricant during the initial manufacturing process, and the type of work you do will influence how quickly this lubricant dries out. Re lubrication becomes integral in this instance to allow for the bending, twisting, stretching, and high loading that your wire rope needs to do on a daily basis. This is why it’s important to use high quality wire rope lubricators.
Viper WRL lubricating a wire rope
Some application types will put wire ropes under more pressure than others

Protect Your Wire Ropes From the Inside Out

Wire rope is made up of several strands of thick wire, braided or twisted around a fiber or steel core. Wire ropes are a consumable product and are not meant to last forever, but with a proper penetrative lubrication routine, they can have a long and efficient lifespan. Early in the ropes life, breakage may be more common as the wires settle into position, but it will soon adjust to the type of work it is expected to do.

Due to the construction of the wire rope, the appearance of its outer surface only represents around 20% of the ropes composition. This means that your rope strands could be suffering below the surface, and the all-important core could be drying out without prolonged lubrication.

The lubricant that is applied during the ropes manufacturing process is not meant to last its entire lifespan, and the rope is at risk of failing from the inside out. By selecting a lubricant that has a high adhesive and penetrative strength to cling to the rope, with the ability to resist flying off at high speeds, you will be giving your rope a longer and healthier life. Corroded rope can be a safety hazard, and there’s no definitive way to determine how much life it has left. Proper lubrication with a high-quality lubricant will aid in preventing this deterioration.

Invest in a Quality Lubricant Today

Using the best tools, having the highest training, and being as respectful to your wire ropes as possible will all be made moot if a good quality lubricant is missing from your routine. The thickness of the lubricant is one of the most important factors to allow an easy flow and coating of the rope, and the penetrating factor is another.

Fresh lubricant can struggle to find its way into the fibers of your rope if a rope cleaner isn’t used. By speeding up the process using Viper’s WRL MKII System, you will be ensuring the true penetration of your lubricant.

We recommend the VPG-O Penetrating Lubricant for its ability to coat the wire rope while penetrating through towards the core, adhering strongly and resisting corrosion, wear, and fatigue. To find out more about how our products can help improve and expand the life of your wire rope, contact us today.

Viper WRL VPG-0 Penetrating Grease
Viper WRL VPG-0 Penetrating Grease 35lb

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you lubricate wire rope?

Yes, you should! Like anything used in extreme conditions or industrial worksites, regular maintenance is key to survival. Lubricating the wire rope can prevent corrosion, reduce wear and friction, and improve function overall.

How do you maintain wire rope?

Through proper lubrication, wire rope cleaning and using a good quality lubricant.