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Winch Fairleads - What They Are and Why You Need One

Winch Fairleads - What They Are and Why You Need One

March 22, 2021

Winch Fairlead 1" Think - MADE IN THE USA

Hawse vs. Roller Fairleads: What's the Difference and Why Do You Need a Fairlead? 

If you have a winch, you need to have a fairlead.

It doesn't matter what type of bumper or winch you have, a fairlead is a must-have piece of off-road recovery gear. Luckily, 9 times out of 10, your winch will come with a fairlead. This is super nice because you can start using it right away; however, when it comes to fairleads, the possibilities are endless.

With more than one style of fairlead out there, how do you know which one to use or not to use? Winching is a great way to recovery yourself or other stuck vehicles, but it can also be very dangerous if done improperly or with the wrong equipment.

It's important to practice safe winching techniques with the right gear because when it comes to off-road recoveries, you can't afford to slip up. Since fairleads and winches go hand-in-hand, it's important to use the correct equipment.

What's a Fairlead?

Winch Fairlead 1" Thick - MADE IN THE USA

The main purpose of a fairlead is to prevent the winch line from becoming damaged or frayed while the winch is in use. Generally, the winch goes in or on the bumper, and the fairlead sits in front of the winch. Without a fairlead, the life span of your winch line is greatly reduced.

Without the use of a fairlead, the winch line would rub directly on the sharp edges of your bumper and cause a lot of wear and tear on the line. Not only is this a big safety issue, but it could result in a failed recovery if it were to break.

Fairleads come in all shapes and sizes but it's important to have one that will work for your application. In many instances, winching is going to be done at some type of angle, so it's important to have a quality fairlead with a big enough surface area that will protect and preserve your winch line.

Different Types of Fairleads

Billet Winch Shackle and Fairlead - USA Made

If your winch didn't come with a fairlead or if maybe you just want to run a different style, there are a ton of options out there. With that being said, it can be a little confusing when the time comes to choose the right fairlead for your vehicle.

Materials matter and country of production matters. Your fairlead is most likely going to be made out of steel or aluminum. It's important to note that steel cable can not be used on aluminum fairleads, but steel fairleads can support synthetic and steel cable.

The two most common types of fairleads are roller fairleads and hawse fairleads. While each has the same general purpose, there are some important differences between the two.

Roller Fairlead

Roller Fairlead

Roller fairleads have been around for a while and come standard with a lot of winches. This design uses two horizontal rollers and two vertical rollers which allows for smooth, dependable winching.

You can use any type of winch line (steel or synthetic) with a roller-style fairlead. Although there are quite a few moving parts with a rolling fairlead, failure is very rare since the parts are never under large amounts of stress.

Roller fairleads tend to stick out a little farther than hawse fairleads and weigh a bit more than them as well. Although you can use synthetic line with a roller fairlead, be wary. In fact, most companies that produce synthetic line recommend using an aluminum fairlead.

One reason is debris may start to build upon the surface of the rollers as time goes on. For steel cable, this isn't a big deal, but for the synthetic line, this could definitely cause some problems down the road.

Synthetic line also has a chance of getting pinched in the rollers, which would eventually cause premature wear on your winch line. You should not use a synthetic line with a roller fairlead that was previously used with steel line. Over time, the steel cable leaves burs and knicks on the surface of the fairlead. Imperfections like this can cause damage to synthetic line leading to possible issues while out on the trail.

Hawse Fairlead

Hawse Fairlead - MADE IN THE USA, Roseville, CA

Hawse fairleads are extremely simple.

There are no moving parts which means you would have to go out of your way to break a hawse fairlead. This type of fairlead is offered in both machined aluminum and steel.

While aluminum fairleads are great, you can not use steel cable on one. Steel cable will cut through the aluminum not only causing a big safety issue but will eat up your line as well.

This style of fairlead is becoming increasingly popular and is starting to be offered with some models of winches. The slim design gives you a little more clearance so you won't be using your fairlead as a rock detector.

Hawse fairleads also weigh less than rollers; in fact, if you have an aluminum fairlead and synthetic line, it's estimated you shave 40-50 pounds!

When it comes to choosing a hawse fairlead, you have a couple of options. This style fairlead is offered in a 1" thick option or a 1.5" option. But is there actually a difference or is it just for looks?

Thicker fairleads (1.5" option) have a larger surface area, which means the rope will have plenty of room to glide across. This comes in handy when you're using your winch at extreme angles. The extra surface area on the fairlead will ensure your winch line doesn't see any extra stress.

Agency6 Offers USA Made Aluminum Fairleads in multiple sizes. We offer the 1" thick option or 1.5" option in a variety of colors, made in the USA, right here in Roseville, CA. 

USA Made Billet Aluminum Winch Fairlead Machined RAW: Check Price

USA Made Billet Aluminum Winch Fairlead Machined RAW

USA Made Billet Aluminum Winch Fairlead Black: Check Price

USA Made Billet Aluminum Winch Fairlead Black

USA Made Billet Aluminum Winch Fairlead Gold: Check Price

USA Made Billet Aluminum Winch Fairlead Gold:

USA Made Billet Aluminum Winch Fairlead Red: Check Price

USA Made Billet Aluminum Winch Fairlead Red

Final Thoughts

USA Made Fairleads - High Quality Off-Road Fairleads

If you have a winch, which fairlead you go with is up to you. Winches are pretty customizable whether you run a hawse or roller fairlead, closed-style systems, or an old-school hook.

We also offer winch shackles that mount to the end of your winch line. These shackles look right at home on our fairleads and offer a safer alternative to old-school winch hooks.

Whichever route you go with for your winch, safety needs to be your number one priority when it comes to doing any type of off-road recovery. This is why it's important to note what kind of cable you have and which fairlead style works with that kind of winch line.

A majority of winch accidents are from either improper equipment or lack of knowledge. Fairleads are pretty simple, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to consider went the time comes to buy one.

If you have any questions regarding fairleads or off-roading in general, don't hesitate to reach out to one of our socials. 

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