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What is a Hoist Cable?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 17, 2024
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A hoist cable is the braided steel cable that runs from the cable drum of a crane, up through the mast, and to the hook. The cable is comprised of thousands of very small diameter steel wires that are braided together to make it very strong. A hoist cable can also be located on an overhead electric crane that operates on a section of I-beam. In both cases, the hoist cable provides the lifting and also is responsible for the lift rating of the hoist.

When braided together, fine steel strands or wires become extremely strong and durable. The cable is easily rolled onto a winch drum and spooled out when called upon to lift and move a load. The cable typically has a large steel hook attached to it. This hook is placed in a lifting sling or a chain that is placed around the object to be lifted. The hoist cable is then wound back onto the winch drum, which causes the load to rise.

While the hoist cable is traditionally made of steel wire, technology has created fiber cables and ropes that are equally as strong. The benefit of a fibrous cable over a traditional wire hoist cable is the safety factor. Fiber cables typically do not injure workers as they fray. Steel cables fray and produce small, very sharp wires that can cut and injure worker's hands. Many of these frayed pieces of cable can poke through protective leather gloves.

A hoist cable made with fiber rope does not produce the injury-causing steel frays. The fiber cable is also much lighter in weight than a comparably sized steel cable. This allows a worker to move and manipulate the cable much easier than its steel counterpart. Often, the fiber cable is much more cost effective when compared to a steel cable. This makes it a popular choice from a cost analysis as well as a safety analysis.

When used on an overhead crane, the fiber cable is often preferred over the steel hoist cable due to its smaller diameter. The smaller diameter fiber cable allows the crane spool to be much smaller and compact than that of a steel cable design. This in turn allows for a smaller overall crane size in an often crowded work area. The fiber cable is often a much quieter cable to use than a rust-prone steel cable which tends to squeak and creak under the stress of a heavy load.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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