How to Repair Steel Cable


Steel cable, also called wire rope, has uses in many facets of the automobile, industrial and construction industries. Wound steel cable, because of its strength, has uses for lifting heavy objects, pulling loads and holding immense weights stationary, as in the case of the large steel cables used to hold suspension bridges. Steel cable has different specifications that involve diameter, load and stretch factors. It also has different grades, like mild plow steel, plow steel and improved plow steal. Right, left and reverse lays indicate the winding direction, while steel cables also have various strand numbers. Fixing a steel cable usually involves repairing its connection joint, and cable clips remain one of the easiest repairs for the layman.

Things You'll Need

  • Steel cable specifications chart
  • Cable cutters
  • Thimble
  • Thin bailing wire
  • Cable clips (three or more)
  • Electrical tape
  • Socket set
  • Ratchet wrench
  • Torque wrench
  • Locate the break point of the steel cable. Because eye-loop joints carry roughly 80 percent of the load factor, the break will normally be in this area. Use cable cutters to cut a clean section of cable away the frayed section, a part that has a clean wind and no damage, well in front of the break. You will cut into a good portion of the cable called the "live" end.

  • Use your fingers to re-twist any strands on the live end that dislodged and flared upward. Pull your finger off the tip of the wire strands as you twist it, not toward the sharp end. Refer to a cable-specifications chart for the cable clip size and type you will need.

  • Use some thin bailing wire to wrap about 1/2-inch of the live end of the cable. Make the winds tight. Snip the wire end with cable cutters and slip the wire under a previous loop and pull it tight. Cut any excess wire and tape the end with electrical tape.

  • Make a loop out of the cable, heading it back over itself for about a foot in length. The portion of foot-long length identifies the "dead" end of the cable. Place an eyelet thimble inside the loop and pull the cable tight over it. Place the U-bolt part of the clip over the top dead end of the cable (short cable).

  • Push the saddle part of the clip up into the U-bolt studs, with the serrated size of the saddle facing upward. Screw two nuts onto the stud ends by hand, then tighten them firmly with a socket and wrench, rotating equally from one nut to the other. Make sure you pull the cable tight, leaving no slack in the thimble eye.

  • Place another cable clip about midway down the dead end of the cable. Install it like the first one. Tighten the nuts with a socket and wrench. Install a third clip about 1/2-inch from the end of the dead end cable. Tighten the nuts on the clip with a socket and wrench. Refer to a cable specifications manual for the proper amount of torque in foot-pounds to be applied to the clip nuts. Tighten all the clip nuts to specifications with a torque wrench.

Tips & Warnings

  • You will have to repair your cable end according to the fitting that is used on it. Some cable ends require "wedge socket" fittings, and they install similar to the cable clips. For pressure or "crush" fittings on large-diameter cable, you will need to transport the cable to a shop that has an industrial press, which requires multiple tons of force to press the fitting into place.
  • Should you need to join two steel cables end to end, you will have to refer to the cable specifications book on how to wrap multi-strand wire and loop in around the cable core. A professional cable expert can perform this task, since it can be beyond the skill of the layman.


  • Photo Credit steel cable image by Lytse from
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