The majority of wire rope problems occurring during operation actually begin during installation, when the rope is at its greatest risk of being damaged. Proper installation procedures are vital in the protection and performance of wire rope products.

Provide Proper Storage

Until the rope is installed it should be stored on a rack, pallet or reel stand in a dry, well-ventilated storage shed or building. Tightly sealed and unheated structures should be avoided as condensation between rope strands may occur and cause corrosion problems. If site conditions demand outside storage, cover the rope with waterproof material and place the reel or coil on a support platform to keep it from coming directly in contact with the ground.

While lubrication is applied during the manufacturing process, the wire rope must still be protected by additional lubrication once it is installed. Lubricants will dry out over a period of time and corrosion from the elements will occur unless measures are taken to prevent this from happening. When the machine becomes idle for a period of time, apply a protective coating of lubricant to the wire rope. Moisture (dew, rain, and snow) trapped between strands and wires will create corrosion if the rope is unprotected. Also apply lubricant to each layer of wire rope on a drum because moisture trapped between layers will increase the likelihood of corrosion.

Check the Rope Diameter Prior to Installation

Always use the nominal diameter as specified by the equipment manufacturer. Using a smaller diameter rope will cause increased stresses on the rope and the probability of a critical failure is increased if the rated breaking strength does not match that of the specified diameter. Using a larger diameter rope leads to shorter service life as the rope is pinched in the sheave and drum grooves which were originally designed for a smaller diameter rope. Just as using a different diameter rope can create performance problems, so can the use of an excessively undersized or oversized rope.

Measure the wire rope using a parallel-jawed caliper as discussed in Measuring Rope Diameter at the top of this page. If the rope is the wrong size or outside the recommended tolerance, return the rope to the wire rope supplier. It is never recommended nor permitted by federal standards to operate cranes with the incorrect rope diameter. Doing so will affect the safety factor or reduce service life and damage the sheaves and drum. Note that in a grooved drum application, the pitch of the groove may be designed for the rope’s nominal diameter and not the actual diameter as permitted by federal standards.

Use Proper Unreeling Procedures

Wire rope can be permanently damaged by improper unreeling or uncoiling practices. The majority of wire rope performance problems start here. Improper unreeling practices lead to premature rope replacement, hoisting problems and rope failure.

Place the payout reel as far away from the boom tip as is practical, moving away from the crane chassis. Never place the payout reel closer to the crane chassis than the boom point sheave. Doing so may introduce a reverse bend into the rope and cause spooling problems. Follow the guidelines highlighted under Unreeling and Uncoiling and Drum Winding. Take care to determine whether the wire rope will wind over or under the drum before proceeding.  If the wire rope supplier secured the end of the rope to the reel by driving a nail through the strands, ask that in the future a U-bolt or other nondestructive tie-down method be used; nails used in this manner damage the rope.

Take extra precaution when installing lang lay, rotation-resistant, flattened strand or compacted ropes. Loss of twist must be avoided to prevent the strands from becoming loosened, causing looped wire problems.

Keep Wraps Tight

The end of the rope must be securely and evenly attached to the drum anchorage point by the method recommended by the equipment manufacturer. Depending on the crane’s regulatory requirements, at least two to three wraps must remain on the drum as dead wraps when the rope is unwound during normal operations. Locate the dead end rope anchorage point on the drum in relation to the direction of the lay of the rope. Do not use an anchorage point that does not correspond with the rope lay. Mismatching rope lay and anchorage point will cause the wraps to spread apart from each other and allow the rope to cross over on the drum. Very gappy winding will occur resulting in crushing damage in multilayer applications.

Back tension must be continually applied to the payout reel and the crewman installing the rope must proceed at a slow and steady pace whether the drum is smooth or grooved. Regardless of the benefits of a grooved drum, tension must be applied to ensure proper spooling. An improperly installed rope on a grooved drum will wear just as quickly as an improperly installed rope on a smooth drum. If a wire rope is poorly wound and as a result jumps the grooves, it will be crushed and cut under operating load conditions where it crosses the grooves.

Every wrap on the first or foundation layer must be installed very tightly and be without gaps. Careless winding results in poor spooling and will eventually lead to short service life. The following layers of rope must lay in the grooves formed between adjacent turns of the preceding layer of rope. If any type of overwind or cross-winding occurs at this stage of installation and is not corrected immediately, poor spooling and crushing damage will occur.

On a multilayer spooling drum be sure that the last layer remains at least two rope diameters below the drum flange top. Do not use a longer length than is required because the excess wire rope will cause unnecessary crushing and may jump the flange. Loose wraps that occur at any time must be corrected immediately to prevent catastrophic rope failure.

The use of a mallet is acceptable to ensure tight wraps, however a steel-faced mallet should be covered with plastic or rubber to prevent damage to the rope wires and strands.

Treat Rotation-Resistant Ropes with Extra Care

Rotation-resistant ropes of all constructions require extra care in handling to prevent rope damage during installation. The lay length of a rotation-resistant rope must not be disturbed during the various stages of installation.  By introducing twist or torque into the rope, core slippage may occur—the outer strands become shorter in length, the core slips and protrudes from the rope. In this condition the outer strands become over- loaded because the core is no longer taking its designed share of the load. Conversely, when torque is removed from a rotation-resistant rope core slippage can also occur. The outer strands become longer and the inner layers or core become overloaded, reducing service life and causing rope failure.

Secure the Ends Before  Cutting

The plain end of a wire rope must be properly secured. If the entire cross section of the rope is not firmly secured, core slippage may occur, causing the core to pull inside the rope’s end and allowing it to protrude elsewhere, either through the outer strands (popped core) or out the other end of the line. The outer layer of the outside strands may also become overloaded as there is no complete core-to-strand support.

Secure the ends of the rope with either seizing or welding methods as recommended under Seizing Wire Rope. It is imperative that the ends be held together tightly and uniformly throughout the entire installation procedure, including attaching the end through the wedge socket and the drum dead end wedge

Use a Cable Snake

When installing a new line, connect the old line to the new line by using a swivel-equipped cable snake or Chinese finger securely attached to the rope ends. The connection between the ropes during change-out must be very strong and prevent torque from the old rope being transferred into the new rope. Welding ropes together or using a cable snake without the benefit of a swivel increases the likelihood of introducing torque into the new rope. A swivel-equipped cable snake is not as easy as welding the ropes, but this procedure can be mastered with a little patience and practice.