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A fairlead is necessary to guide and protect your winch line as it is being pulled in to the winch. There are two basic types of fairleads, roller and hawse style. Roller fairleads are used with steel cable winches. They use two horizontal mounted rollers and two vertical mounted rollers to guide the steel cable from any angle. Hawse fairleads are used with synthetic line winches. They are usually made from aluminum and feature rounded edges around the center opening. The synthetic line slides easily over these rounded edges as it is being spooled in to the winch.
There are some exceptions to the previously mentioned uses. By retrofitting a roller style fairlead with polyurethane rollers, it can safely be used with synthetic winch line. On the other hand, hawse fairleads should never be used with steel cable.