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3 Common Wire Rope Damage Types

Many industries are concerned with extending the life of their wire ropes as long as possible, and rightly so. Wire ropes are an expensive and essential asset; without them, many worksites wouldn’t be able to function. Their breakage and damage can cause equipment downtime and the need for costly repair, not to mention pose a danger to workers. Depending on who you talk to and their experience with wire ropes, the cause of wire rope damage will likely be different. Each reason is worthy of concern, as a compromised wire rope can pose a significant safety risk.

Understanding the risk and how to best protect your wire ropes from damage can make a world of difference and ensure you get the most from your investment. We’ve compiled some of the most common causes of damage, damage types, and finally, how to inspect and protect your wire ropes so that you can be armed with all the information to get the most from your wire ropes.

Read on to discover more.

3 Types of Wire rope Damage 

  1. Corrosion breaks are one of the most difficult causes of wire rope failure to identify, making it one of the most dangerous types of damage. The most common cause of wire breaks due to corrosion comes down to poor lubrication.
  2. Abrasive wire breaks occur when the wire rope has been damaged by mishandling with hoist sheaves and drums. Abrasion breaks occur when the wire rope encounters the hoist sheaves and drums or a damaging external object. These breaks present as worn thin wire ends causing breakage.
  3. Fatigue breaks occur when the wire rope is exposed to prolonged mishandling or repetitive bending. This damage can often be seen without much inspection, and if one broken wire occurs, the rest will soon follow.

the common thread behind these damages

Most wire ropes contain hundreds of individual wires that collaborate to bend while withstanding vast amounts of weight and pressure. Undoubtedly, the number one culprit of wire rope failure is improper lubrication. Other forms of abuse are caused by improper reeling or unreeling, using the wrong kind of sheeve or storing the wire rope poorly. The most common denominator? A lack of education on handling, storing, and maintaining wire ropes.

Learn more about why you need to lubricate your wire ropes here.

When it comes down to it, a wire rope is a machine. We expect the rope to support highly expensive, dangerous, and important pieces of equipment without any kind of maintenance or forethought. After all, a rope is seen as just a tool to aid the bigger picture. However, one of the biggest culprits of rope failure comes from this thinking, according to the Access Engineering Library. They attribute wire rope failure to simple human neglect and abuse.

Other causes for these types of rope damage upon inspection

Wire rope damage can manifest in several ways, some more subtle than others, but each is as important as the other to address.

These include:

  • Heat damage
  • Internal and external wire breaks
  • Mechanical wear
  • Fatigue in bends
  • Corrosion
  • Tension breaks
  • Core failure fatigue
  • Shear breaks
  • Premature rust and oxidation

inspection for these wire rope damage types

A range of cues will indicate that your wire rope is beginning to fail, and there are several tests you can perform to test the wire rope’s performance, capabilities, and health.

The best way to tell if your wire rope is failing is to examine it with the knowledge of what has caused the damage. Each failure type has different signs and symptoms.

When to Inspect your Wire Ropes for damage

The best rule of thumb is to have the same person inspecting your wire ropes so they can stay on top of any potential issues. In addition, they should be trained by the manufacturer to know what to look out for in your industry and wire rope application.

A wire rope should be inspected during installation and every working day at the beginning of the shift. Your trained personnel should keep daily records of the inspections, and if the wire rope has been in storage for any period, it should be thoroughly inspected and re-lubricated before being placed back in the field.

inspection Steps

  1. While lightly holding the rope, use a cotton cloth or rag to feel along the wire for any broken wires that stick out or snag. Keep in mind that some wire breaks will not protrude from the wire, so visual inspection is still required.
  2. Measure the diameter of the rope to compare over time. If the measurements are getting smaller, this indicates that there is damage to the internal or external wires.
  3. Check for any corrosion, pitting, abrasions, or build-up of old lubricant along the rope. Lift the strands and open the rope by inserting a marlin spike beneath two strands and rotating.

Signs of rope failure

A well-maintained wire rope lifespan can be as long as 20 years. However, if you notice any of the following, you should consider pulling your wire rope from service and replacing it with a new wire rope as soon as possible:

  • There are six or more broken wires in one lay
  • There are three or more broken wires in one strand across one lay length
  • There is rope deterioration of up to 1/3 of the original diameter
  • The shape of the wire rope is distorted
  • There is heat damage on the rope surface
  • The ropes diameter has experienced excessive stretch
  • There are kinks, knots, or splices

Prevent damage with routine wire rope maintenance

It has been well established across the wire rope industry that the most significant cause of wire rope failure is abuse and neglect from those who use them daily. Thankfully, most of these wire rope failures can be avoided if proper maintenance and due diligence are performed.

Some issues are unavoidable, in which case, regular inspection of your wire rope becomes an essential protection factor. These inspections will inform you of any risk factors that may indicate the need for wire rope repair or replacement. It’s essential never to leave the health of your wire ropes up to chance.

To improve your wire ropes’ life expectancy, strength, function, and durability, practice the following 3 steps:

  1. Use a wire rope cleaner to remove contamination and build-up within your rope strands
  2. Provide regular greasing with a wire rope lubricator
  3. Inspect your ropes for any damage or wear

Protect cords, cables & ropes with Viper’s MKII lubrication systems

Our range of MKII wire rope lubricators make it simple to keep your wire ropes in good health with penetrative lubrication. With the Viper WRL system, your wire rope lubrication will be safer, more effective, and quicker than ever.

Get in contact with our team to find out more about providing the best care for your wire ropes.