A guide to wire rope replacement

By Matt Florjancic09 November 2021

Replacing wire rope on a crane is a comprehensive process that involves many factors.

Buying new crane ropes is a detailed and thorough process. While it may be time-consuming, wire rope replacement prioritizes safety for your workers, minimizes downtime on a jobsite, maximizes the lifespan of the crane and avoids the costly and time-consuming process of getting correct rope onsite and respooling your crane.

While it may be time-consuming, wire rope replacement prioritizes safety for your workers, minimizes downtime on a jobsite and maximizes the lifespan of the crane.

Sometimes, it can seem like the wire rope buying process is overly complicated. This is done on purpose to avoid as many issues as possible when the new rope is installed. The reason for that is so buyers avoid putting the wrong types of ropes on cranes and unnecessarily increasing the risk of injuries to workers or damage to loads being lifted. The processes are to make sure to prevent that added risk and put the correct rope on the correct machine, per Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) specifications.

When making the initial contact regarding wire rope replacement, be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • Is your crane down?
  • Is this a routine replacement or is this an emergency?
  • What type of crane is the rope going on?
  • What model crane is the rope going on?
  • What diameter and length is the replacement rope?
  • Is there an end fitting?
  • Which winch is it that’s being replaced?

Wire rope specialists ask these questions to understand your circumstances and what your needs are. With this information, they are better prepared to get the absolute correct rope.

For some small cranes, new wire rope installation could take as little as 45 minutes. For larger cranes, installing new wire rope could be a several-hour process.

Crane rope on drum

Most of the time, the customer should have access to their crane’s operations manual that will show what rope diameter and length is specified. The customer may have to measure or come up with his own calculations on length. The crane manufacturer is going to make a specific drum for that specific type of wire rope.

The rope has to be specific to the lagging of the drum for that machine, which is why there are multiple variations for each size of wire rope because each kind is specific to the type of crane, and it shouldn’t be substituted. Mazzella will only install the rope that is the correct brand and tolerance on a particular crane.

Ordering the correct crane rope will prevent crane rope damage. The wrong rope could cause damage to the equipment, and at worst, boom failure. On the less severe side, you will have bad performance or it might not work at all. You could have twist and/or spooling issues. That could lead to the crane failing altogether, which creates downtime as you wait for the correct wire rope to be ordered/delivered and installed.

Many crane owners are working for somebody else when they’re doing jobs, so if the rope doesn’t work, they’re paying for work that is not getting done and falling behind schedule.

On the more severe side, you could total your crane and/or irreparably damage the load being lifted if you use the wrong wire rope. In the worst-case scenario, using the incorrect rope could result in severe injury and/or the loss of life.

Sometimes, customers assume that there’s a one-size-fits-all replacement, that if it’s a non-rotating rope, it should work on every application. There’s a lot of misinformation on what will work and what won’t work. With our experience and access to all brands of wire rope, Mazzella guarantees we can get you the right rope for your cranes. If Mazzella isn’t comfortable with the project, we won’t supply the wire rope.

Ordering the wrong rope

If the wrong wire rope is ordered and delivered, it could be hours or days before the correct rope is on location. Especially with a lot of the larger cranes, manufacturers are shipping model-specific ropes all over the country, and depending on location and money, that could cause delays on your jobsite.

With our large inventory of rope, Mazzella can have a new spool of wire on a truck and out for delivery in a matter of hours. Avoid the pitfalls of ordering the wrong crane rope and you’ll have a new spool of wire rope on its way. Once the order process is done, what can your company do to prepare for delivery and installation?

As much as Mazzella can be prepared on our end, the customer needs to be ready for installation so the process can go as smoothly and safely as possible.

You have to make sure the technicians have the requisite space to perform their duties. The easier it is for the installers to get on-site, get to work and finish their responsibilities, the faster your company can get back up and running.

If a brand-new wire rope on a crane is not broken in properly before lifting a large load, it potentially could damage the rope and render useless the equipment that was just installed on the crane.

It is a good idea to give management the proper notice of when the installer will be on-site, have the necessary technicians on-site to help the installer with the rope replacement and make sure the installer/technicians have a clear working space.

There’s a lot of downtime associated with making a mistake in the preparation process, so the more prepared you can be for the install, the better. You don’t want a situation where your crane is inactive because of an oversight or completely avoidable situation.

Also, Mazzella recommends you measure your sheaves with a sheave gauge. A sheave gauge will help you measure the wear of the root, the amount of wear on the groove wall and the diameter of the wire rope.

Installing new wire rope

After ordering the correct rope and having the requisite space and approval for installation, how long will it take to remove and replace the old rope when the technician, assistants and supplies arrive onsite? For some small cranes, the timeframe could be as little as 45 minutes, but for larger cranes, removing the old rope and installing the new one could be a several-hour process.

The installation process is very specific to:

  • the application
  • the location
  • what’s being installed
  • what winch it’s being installed on

There’s a lot of factors that go into a successful crane rope installation. The most important thing is the quicker your supplier responds to your order and gets a rope on location, the quicker that rope gets installed properly, saving time and money. Downtime is the key, and it could cost companies tens of thousands of dollars per day if their crane(s) are inoperable.

Testing after installation

Once a new crane rope is installed, a break-in period or tension period is recommended to make sure everything is performing correctly, and help you avoid shock-loading the newly installed wire rope. The break-in period is recommended because installation and spooling equipment are not going to put adequate tension on the rope. A break-in period consists of putting a low percentage of the working load limit weight on the rope for several lift cycles, and running the blocks up to the boom length (working height) and back down. For the most specific guidelines on the breaking-in process for your new wire rope, refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

If a brand-new wire rope on a crane is not broken in properly before lifting a large load, it potentially could damage the rope and render useless the equipment that was just installed on your machine.

The quicker your supplier responds to your order and gets a rope on location, the quicker that rope gets installed properly.

When Mazzella fulfills a crane ropes order, it is not just about the sale and the bottom line. While we’re in the business of selling crane ropes, we’re also in the business of building relationships and trust. We are committed to making sure you get the correct products for the right applications.

Crane rope issues don’t just happen 9-to-5 during the normal work week. They happen Friday nights, holidays, weekends and early mornings. They’re always on the clock, and it is just about being honest with the customer and letting them know, they type of rope that is required. That honesty and trust is of utmost importance for the safety of your workers and the proper maintenance of your cranes.

Mazzella has one of the largest crane ropes inventories in the United States. The company provides wire rope assemblies and manufactures bridge cables, crane cables, steel mill cables and thousands of OEM assemblies in sizes from ¼ to 3-inch diameter and 9 to 52 millimeter diameter, domestic and non-domestic and in stock and ready for same or next-day shipment.

Mazzella Companies can also manufacture assemblies with standard or custom end fittings. Special testing and tolerance requirements are also available when necessary.

This article was excerpted from a blog post and is reprinted with permission of Mazzella Companies. © 2021
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