Ruftraks 4x4 Photography
Learning Curve, Winching with PLASMA 12 Strand Winch Rope.
From the desk of David Bowyer.
Upon opening the December issue of Land Rover Owner International magazine, I
was not only horrified and shocked, but amazed too, to find some very poor,
inaccurate and factually wrong editorial on page 64 with reference to ‘cable
I am referring to Fiona Spencer’s article entitled ‘Fasten Your Seat
Belts’, in which she covered a wonderful off road event in Portugal.
The Lousa 4X4 competition attracts some of the finest winch equipped vehicles
that you can imagine and in this year’s event 10 Brits were there to do their
best and bring honours home. Of the five pairs of British contenders, Nick Field
with Ray Harvey piloting their colourful bobtailed Discovery naturally were
doing their very best to show the other 47 competing teams that they had the
guts and knowledge to obtain and secure as high a placing as possible.
With autumn arriving, changing weather and slippery conditions under foot, this called for a lot of winching to keep most of the teams moving ahead
safely to reach their goals.
I am focusing now on Nick and Ray, for this is the subject that has led me to this unprecedented need to convey my opinions on the wrong way of both
photographing and captioning Nick Field’s obvious embarrassment in using a low profile winch incorrectly.
Many, and I hope most off-roaders know that you SHOULD NOT pay out or lower a load (or yourself) for more than approximately 6m (20’) because
the safety brake which is situated inside the drum will generate a lot of heat if
used for longer. This is caused by the friction between the brake pads (or cones
on some models) and the inside of the winch drum.
These brake units are carefully designed and installed for two reasons:
Firstly, the brake holds the load (or yourself) safely in a hill situation
should ‘winching in’ or ‘winching out’ cease for whatever reason.
The ’held’ drum will hold a load of approximately 2,000 kgs (4,500lbs),
which should stop the ‘load’ running back down the hill with perhaps
the rope detaching itself from the drum with possible disastrous results.
Secondly, if the drum is being rotated too fast by heavy load (or yourself)
through plummeting back down a hillside, or bank, the gears will not only rotate
at an alarming speed with any grease being literally flung from their teeth, but
what effects will be had to the electric motor?
Well, I can tell you what will happen, you will break it! NEVER allow an electric winch motor to ‘overspeed’ as the armature could become damaged
through revolving too fast. In a normal ‘nominal’ half-load off-road
winching scenario, a Bosch or Iskra motor (these are fitted to most of the
world’s winches) have their armatures revolve at either 2,800 or 4,000 RPM. If
you didn’t have a automatic winch brake to either slow you down or hold you
(or your load) the weight would back feed through the gears and would actually
drive the motor armature up to about 15,000 RPM like a turbine!
This would not only damage the motor, by the balance weights detaching
themselves from the armature, but damage could be done to the alternator as
well, as the high revving winch motor acts as a generator and charges the
alternator and the vehicle electrics to around 18 volts. This doesn’t do the
rest of the vehicle’s electrics much good either!
So back to this article in LRO. What caused the heat in the winch? The brake of
course. Why did the brake and the winch drum get so hot? Because the winch was
not being used properly in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. In
this case ours, for the winch in question is a GOODWINCH G12. But the same
should go for any other manufacturer.
In the scenario that was depicted in LRO, Nick Field was using a fantastic
replacement for wire rope called ‘PLASMA 12’.
PLASMA 12 has a whole long list of features and benefits, which give many
advantages over and above the use of wire rope. One very small disadvantage
is that a very high temperature would naturally affect the product.
As I understand from Nick, he threw the book away, he took a chance, and he knew
the risks of lowering out under load for far too long With The PLASMA equipped
G12 on his well-sorted Discovery; he lowered firstly another vehicle down a very
steep drop for 20 metres or so (50’), turned around, re-rigged, then lowered
himself down the same drop off. That’s 40 plus metres - around 100’ at
consecutive lowering and under load.
And the book says DO NOT POWER OUT FOR MORE THAN 6m (20’). No wonder the winch
drum got hot. I’m surprised it wasn’t glowing! In fact it is a tribute to
our GOODWINCH G12 that he didn’t break the winch! LRO stated that ‘ the
steep drop soon saw the electric winch motor overheating’. What editorial
rubbish, our ‘BOWMOTOR 2’ is far from touching the PLASMA 12. In any case,
you couldn’t find a cooler running motor, especially our 24-volt version as
fitted to Nick’s winch.
It was the ridiculously hot winch drum that melted the surface of the PLASMA
rope, not the motor!
LRO then go on to say ‘if it had snapped, Nick could have been seriously
I can tell you, that if a wire rope snaps under load through becoming damaged in
use, it is the flailing broken end of a wire rope, which could cause
serious injury - or worse. My father nearly lost his leg during the Second World
War when a heavy hawser crossing a ravine broke and catapulted it’s end like a projectile
towards him and his REME colleague. 60 years later he still suffers from
bolted and pinned bones in his leg that got caught by the rope.
If PLASMA 12 is literally cut in use, it will only drop, as it is so
lightweight. I know, I’ve put it to the test with an axe over a block of
wood under load.
The PLASMA 12 was not at fault, neither was the motor, or indeed the G12.
Nick caused the problem, and he took the risk of failure as I have stated
Then so would many of you out there, having travelled a long way from home.
To be part of a fantastic event with the sole aim and goal - I want to win, or
at least get a high placing. Incidentally, Nick and Ray came 13th out
of 48. Well done to the pair of you.
Thousands of us each year, compete or simply enjoy events, green laning or
having fun on an off road site, and we take risks. I know we shouldn’t, but we
do. We think we know better. Maybe we should have used that snatch block to
halve the load or use a bridle when we should have known better.
But we all learn from our mistakes. The classroom session, or watching the
video is only part of the story. Hands on, out there, doing, achieving and even
breaking it, will teach us all, and to teach others less fortunate to have the
knowledge of how to ‘do it’ safely for all those concerned.
Let’s face it, if you drive your beloved 4X4 into the deepest mud filled mill
pond you can find, and the engine coughs, splutters, goes bang and dies. Is it
the vehicle’s fault? No, It’s human error. Oh we
who think we have all the wisdom in the world.
Sorry LRO, but Fiona Spencer was emphatically asked by Nick Field not to
photograph or make mention of his embarrassing problem. And Editor Dave
Phillips, you should have known better than to publish those photographs and the
I have to say, that in 20 years of publishing and training in one form or
another (yes it’s 20 years this Christmas that I set the ball rolling to
found and publish Britain’s first 4 Wheel Drive magazine – Overlander
4X4) that I have never tried to consistently knock someone for six, as EMAP has
treated me. It would be very easy for me to publish the many grievances and
heartaches that have been jettisoned from Peterborough!
Throughout my career in these last 20 years I have done my utmost to help,
advise, train and teach the correct methods and safe ways to drive off road and
how to use equipment to people throughout the world. Whether this be Club
life, off-road enthusiasts or the Public Utility and Authority fields.
I especially enjoy helping those ‘New to the Game’. My off-roading started
40 years ago, but I never stop learning.
I employ everyone in this very pleasant 4X4 hobby, pastime and interest, always
think before you ‘press the button’, ‘let the clutch out’ or press
’enter on the keyboard’
This document will be attached to our PLASMA 12 literature during this Thursday morning, and will also go into general circulation, as we are very conscious of losses
in sales of Plasma 12 through misrepresentation of the product in question.
12 Strand: The Real Story!!
article in LRO magazine and the ensuing controversy has prompted me to write
this article on behalf of the Irish Four Wheel Drive Club who have now been
using Plasma in ‘anger’ for just over a year.
In October of 2000 our club chairman Mervyn Colton with his wife Sarah visited
Bill Burke’s ‘On the Road’ event in Moab, USA.
The club had heard of a new type of winch rope known commonly as Amsteel,
which was being used, but the rock crawling fraternity in the States.
Mervyn while browsing the trade stands came across Master Pull who had
Plasma 12 Strand as a winch cable replacement. The specifications for this light
winch rope were astounding and Mervyn decided to purchase an extension rope
50’ long in 5/16th. The
ratings for the 5/16 were far superior to the normal 3/8 wire ropes we normally
use. Following their return form
the event Mervyn showed the new rope to the rest of us and we decided to put in
an order for four 100’ lengths for 3/8 Plasma 12 strand. Two of these cables
were to go on Milemarker winches and the other two were for Goodwinch G10’s,
which were on order from David Bowyer.
point I have to admit we were all a bit sceptical of the Plasma but considering
it’s advantages we were willing to take a chance. But after our first days off
roading with the Plasma any concerns we may have had were put to rest.
is in my mind the only safe option for off road winching. There are a number of
factors, which make it far safer and easier to use than the equivalent wire
rope. The fact that it’s so light is a big factor not only for ease of use but
from the point of weight on the front of the vehicle. The Plasma weight only 6kg
for 100’ plus hook against 18kg for the equilevant wire rope. Safety is also a
big plus for the Plasma. The Plasma strands are braided instead of being wound
in the case of wire rope. This means that when the cable is under strain there
is only a fraction of the energy build up in Plasma towards wire rope. If Plasma
fails it will simply drop to the ground instead of recoiling towards the
major concern with Plasma and electric winches, which was raised by LRO
magazine, was enough heat being built up so that the Plasma melts. Some of my
off road colleagues and I have used the Plasma on electric winches for the last
year and have found no problems with melting or for that matter failure of the
Plasma. David Bowyer’s point about not winching out under load for long
periods is a golden rule with electric winches wheither fitted with Plasma or
not. Under the load of 100’ of winching out under load with wire rope, what
condition would the wire rope be in? You dare not try feed it back into the
winch without heatproof gloves! I
would suggest if you are buying a winch and intend to use it for a lot of
winching out under load wheither you are fitting Plasma or wire rope something
in the line of a worm and wheel electric winch or a hydraulic winch may be the
comment that the Plasma melted but didn’t break leads me to wonder if indeed
the Plasma melted through of was it just a tightening of the fibres which is
common in appearance to melting! The
solution to this ….. simply press the Plasma between two fingers and it
bounces back into shape!!
in all in our opinion, having used the Plasma 12 strand in various conditions
over the past year we wouldn’t go back to the wire rope for anything.
It is far superior to wire rope for both safety and ease of use reasons
when as with all equipment it is used properly.
Anyone wishing for more information on our experiences with Plasma 12
Strand can visit our web site at www.ifwdc.com
Synthetic Rope Technology Has Arrived!
it comes to winch recovery exercise, everyone knows what it is like to use this
ultimate “escape” accessory. It
means, firstly, having to pull and drag the high tensile steel wire cable, which
is often greasy and heavy, up a hill or through muddy stretches, even before one
could use the winch power. To find
a correct anchor point across awesome obstacles is already a feat in itself, but
having to bear the weight of the cable, tree trunk protector and snatch straps
as well, could sapped the energy of even the most able navigator or co-driver (a
50metre of steel cable alone easily weighs 15 kgs). Terminator Hill, of
Rainforest Challenge (RFC) fame, is a very good example of this extraordinary
exercise, just to hook the cable to an anchor point.
from its weight, a steel cable also has a whipping action effect if it breaks
under extreme pressure, woe to anyone in its path!
That’s why a dampener is a compulsory item in RFC safety rules, to
minimise the impact. Wear and tear
of the steel cable results in kinking, broken wire (fish hooks) and compression
damage, all of which are disadvantages which off-roaders have to bear with.
The traditional cable is also an additional weight factor to the forward
of the front axle (in excess of 30 kgs).
inconvenience of using the steel cable will be a thing of the past, it seems,
for technology has kept pace in this area too. From the USA comes Plasma 12
Strand – the highest strength synthetic rope available, manufactured from
Honeywell Spectra Fiber, enhanced by Puget Sound Rope’s patented
recrystalization process. Plasma 12
Strand is at the apex of the synthetic rope technology, and now it is available
commercially. They are in use by a
wide range of end users, including N.A.S.A, the Australian and American Armed
Forces, Race cars, Hot Air Ballons and Racing Yachts.
It was originally developed for N.A.S.A three years ago.
the four wheeling industry, the plasma 12 is already in use in Australia and USA
as an alternative to steel cable. In highly competitive events, like RFC, or
even for recreational purpose, safety aspects are of paramount importance.
Plasma 12 stretches only 2-4 %, and if overloaded, and breakage occurs,
it will fall to the ground without any whipping action. This is indeed a plus
point for safety.
safe and user friendly attributes quoted from the manufacturer are its light
weigh status (9 mm diameter rope weighs only 5.5 kg / 100metres), soft feel,
abrasion resistance, easily and quickly spliced, non kinking, reduction of drum
diameter thereby increasing winching power, non twisting, minimal kinetic
energy, reduces hand injuries, environmental safe- no lubrication needed, non
absorption of water and, it is generally 40% stronger than the same diameter
wire cable. With its melting point at 284 F (90 C) and critical temperature at
150 F (48 C), its performance should not be greatly affected in the “heat from
4x4 battle for supremacy.”
this coming RFC (25 Nov – 5 Dec), Plasma 12 Strand will be officially allowed,
for the first time, as an alternative to steel cable. This will be the ultimate
testing ground, because only the best will emerge triumphantly after a grueling
10-day event. The rest of the world
will be watching how it will perform in RFC, which is an event “for the
toughest off-roaders,” as quoted from LRO International, March issue.
TO GET PLASMA 12 ROPE.
the distribution is through Ruftraks UK based in Glasgow. Contact: Andy
Thomlinson. Tel: 0141-563-7972 or email: Andy
TECHNOLOGY for RAINFOREST CHALLENGE 2001
The world, it
seems, cannot live without technology, nor seem to have enough of it.
From everyday workplace right down to recreational activities, nothing is
left untouched. In the world of 4x4, where man and machines challenge
themselves to the extreme for the glory of conquering their endurance and skills
in awesome obstacles, the latest in-thing is the Plasma Rope.
of technology was developed for N.A.S.A three years ago and now, it is available
commercially for end users. Plasma 12 Strand is the highest strength synthetic
rope available today. It is
manufactured from Honeywell Spectra Fiber and enhanced by Puget Sound Rope’s
patented recrystalization process.
What has this
rope got to do with 4x4? Basically, it can be used as an alternative to the high
tensile steel cable for recovery by winch. The winch is considered the ultimate
recovery accessory for a 4x4 vehicle to escape from very difficult situations.
Either for competition or for recreational outings, it is very useful to be
equipped with one. However, a 100 meter steel cable easily weighs 30 kg or more,
it needs strength to pull and drag it to the anchor points, which can be quite a
distance from a trapped vehicle. It also means having to carry the heavy load
together with a tree trunk protector, straps and shackles across mud, landslide
or steep and slippery uphill in order to hook it to the anchor point.
the weight issue, extra caution must be exercised in handling the steel cable
during recovery. At the moment of breakage, if it is overstressed, the cable has
a whipping action effect, which can have dire consequences for anyone caught in
its path. In competitive 4x4, like
in Rainforest Challenge (RFC) and its related events around the world, a cable
dampener is a compulsory item in the rules, for safety and to minimize its
On the other
hand, Plasma rope has advantages in both aspects. It is much lighter than steel cable (9mm rope is 5.5 kg/100
metre) and it does not have any whipping action if it breaks. In fact, the rope
stretches only 2-4%, and if it does snap, it merely falls to the ground,
harmlessly. According to its manufacturers, the other features are its soft
feel, abrasion resistance, higher breaking strain of approximately 7,850 kg as
opposed to 5,000 kg for steel cable, non kinking, minimal kinetic energy, non
twisting and easily spliced. With such attributes, it seems that Plasma rope has
arrived on the 4x4 scene.
the rope is being used by American and Australian Armed Forces, Race cars, Hot
Air balons, Racing yachts and not excluding N.A.S.A. In the four wheeling industry, it is used in USA and
Australia as an alternative to wire cable. In 4x4 competition, it was seen in
action in the Outback Challenge 2000, the Ateco Warn Challenge, New Zealand Warn
Challenge and the recent RFC qualifying round in Queensland.
weight, strength and safety aspects are the major attractions why I use the
Plasma 12 rope,” commented Kym Bolton, a tough and regular participant in 4x4
events from Queensland. Kym and his co-driver, Robert Marks were also in RFC
last year, and clinched 9th position overall, a commendable
achievement. “On the negative side, however, when spooling the rope, it tends
to bind up on the drum more so than steel cable.
I have also seen it knot very easily.
Both these problems can cost the team serious loss of time. In the competitive format of RFC and Outback Challenge, where
you can win or loose a Special Stage (SS) by only tenths of a second, every
moment counts,” he added. “I am
pleased that we can use Plasma rope this year in RFC, we are looking forward to
testing it out to the extreme in the Malaysian jungle.”
champions Wayne and Trent also triumphed at RFC Queensland recently, using
Plasma rope. “It was under the highest loads we have ever had, in this event,
our rope did not snap even when we were stalled quite badly in the mud. But, in
the same situation, the next competitor broke their wire cable and again in two
other SS,” they commented. Apart from its weight, safety and strength, Plasma
is also chemically inert to a wide range of chemicals.
“On low mount winch, the temperature can go beyond 140 degrees F, this
is due to the break assembly at the end of the drum. At this temperature, the
Plasma rope tends to loose its strength. However,
for high mount, that is not a problem,” they added.
advantages or disadvantages, the Plasma Rope will be officially recognized for
the first time in this year’s RFC. Apart
from being an event for adventurers under the most extreme conditions, the RFC
is an event for manufacturers to test out their equipment and accessories. Simex
Jungle Trekker II and its off-shoot, the Extreme Trekker aka the Centipede, is
the classic case of this, both were “battle proven” in the event and bore
their distinctive mark as “Born in the RFC.” Warn winches and ARB off-road
accessories also saw their products went through the “baptism of fire” with
distinction in the grueling 10-day jungle event, undoubtedly, the toughest
terrain for man and machines. Other products related to the motor and adventure
related industries will be using this “battle tested” branding in the not
too distant future. For the moment, one more product is added in to “RFC
testing to the limit and beyond,” the Plasma 12 Strand rope.
attracts the attention of the 4x4 fraternities worldwide, Plasma rope will be
under the watchful scrutiny of everyone from the Pacific to the Atlantic.
This synthetic rope technology will be one of the side stories of RFC
2001, which will take place from 25 Nov-5 Dec, where the state of Pahang will
play host to participants and press from 35 countries.
and further info on plasma rope can be obtained from Ruftraks UK