Wire Rope Wear: Understanding Wire Breaks

Like all industrial equipment, aircraft cables and wire ropes wear while in service, and will require replacement. Though the cycle life of each cable varies based on construction and application, factors such as load and pulley condition can actually reduce this lifespan by triggering wire breaks.  Not all wire breaks look the same, and understanding these differences can help detect issues in your system before they damage additional cables, or put human lives in danger. Here is a quick guide to help you understand where wire breaks occur (crowns vs. valleys), and three common examples of wire breaks (tension, fatigue, and abrasion).  


Wire breaks typically occur in two different locations on the outside of wire rope or aircraft cable. The first location is on the crowns of the strands, which are the highest points with the most surface area exposure. The second location is the valleys, or the spaces between the strands. Though crown breaks typically result from normal wear and tear, valley breaks are more suspicious and may indicate issues with the pulley system or wire rope itself.


Wires that have been worn to a knife-edge thinness are characteristic of abrasion breaks. Abrasion can occur from a number of different sources, but sheaves are the most common. Remember to check sheaves for signs of wear, damage, or deformity and replace as necessary.


If you notice one end of a broken wire is cupped, and the other end resembles a cone, your wire rope likely experienced a tension break. Tension breaks result from excessive loading, causing the wires to stretch beyond their limits until they snap. Once one wire break appears, others will continue to occur if the cable is not addressed.


Fatigue damage is usually represented by zig-zag breaks with square ends. Like abrasion breaks, fatigue breaks can be triggered by a broad range of factors, including incorrect pulley size and excessive vibration. Check for worn pulleys and slack in the system to prevent issues from exacerbating.

Once you have replaced your damaged pulleys, or removed sharp obstructions in your system, begin your quote for brand new wire rope at https://strandcore.com/contact/. Our wire rope craftsmen can help you select the ideal wire rope for your application, and oftentimes provide a better solution for your existing setup. Browse our selection of wire rope and aircraft cable online, and do not hesitate to contact our sales team at sales@sanlo.com if you have any questions.

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