Roller Fairleads vs. Hawse Fairleads [Guide for Beginners]

If you drive on off-roads frequently, then most probably you already know about the importance of a winch. Having a good quality winch means you can easily save yourself or others if you get stuck in some trap or danger.

Fairleads are among the most crucial components of a winch as it helps your winch to work properly. Roller and hawse are the two widely used types of fairleads available to attach with the winch.

But, if you’re asked to choose the winner from roller fairleads vs. hawse fairleads, how would you make that decision? This is what we’ll cover today in this detailed guide.

What is a Roller Fairlead?


A combination of four rollers is used to make a roller fairlead, hence the name comes into existence. Two of them are placed horizontally, and the other two are placed vertically.

This roller placement helps to keep a balance of cable guidance. And they save the cable from taking any damage from sharp borders.

Most of the winches that come with steel cables have roller fairleads. You can also use it for synthetic lines, but you have to make sure that the roller is clean and doesn’t have any sharp edge.

Roller fairleads are quite durable and heavy. They don’t usually spin or bend even at high speed. Roller fairleads mostly come with galvanized finishes and weigh around 10-13 lbs. With a 10″ mounting distance, they’re pretty neat to use for steel cables.

What is a Hawse Fairlead?

Hawse fairleads are mostly made of aluminum and are used for synthetic lines. They offer less friction and contain no part that could move, which reduces the chance to break. It has a round edge in the center and a narrow opening.

An aluminum hawse fairlead weighs only around 2-3 lbs. which evidently reduces the overall weight of the winch. Although they come with a mounting distance of 10″, the typical stick-out is around 1″.

Now, if you’re not going to use synthetic cable and stick to steel lines, then aluminum hawse fairlead is not your best option.

Luckily, hawse fairleads are also available in steel which is great for steel winch lines. They are not as light as aluminum hawse fairleads, but surely lighter than roller fairleads.

Roller Fairleads vs. Hawse Fairleads: Differences at a Glance

Roller Fairleads Steel Hawse Fairleads Aluminum Hawse Fairleads
Weight 10-13 pounds 4-5 pounds 2-3 pounds
Mounting Distance 10″ 10″ 10″
Stickout 3.5″ 1.25″ 1″
Line Steel Steel Synthetic
Finish Galvanize Anodize Powder coat
Material Steel Steel Aluminum

Advantages of Roller Fairleads

  • Roller fairleads are made of several parts, which allow them to move freely
  • They support steel lines the most, but synthetic lines can also be used in an emergency
  • Roller fairleads cause almost no failure and create less friction
  • Roller fairleads are pretty durable and come with a sturdy build quality

Disadvantages of Roller Fairleads

  • Increases the weight of the winch
  • The moving parts create chances of breaking down

Advantages of Hawse Fairleads

  • It’s made of 1-piece metal, which leaves less chance to break
  • Extremely lightweight compared to roller fairleads
  • Comes with a narrow opening that offers better cable guidance
  • Much less stick-out than roller fairleads

Disadvantages of Roller Fairleads

  • Aluminum is less durable than steel
  • The narrow opening might create friction

Roller Fairleads vs. Hawse Fairleads: Which One is the Best?


Although both roller and hawse fairleads have their own set of benefits and drawbacks, the one you should pick depends on the winch cable you prefer.

If you are using a steel line, then roller fairlead is your option. For synthetic cables, hawse fairlead has no alternative.

But, we can still draw a conclusion based on several factors.

#1. Build Structure

As roller fairleads are built with four different rollers, there is a chance of the fairlead being broken apart under high pressure. But, a hawse fairlead is made with a single piece of metal. Thus, it has less room for breaking apart like roller fairleads.

Winner: Hawse Fairlead

#2. Durability

Roller fairleads are made with steel, whereas hawse fairleads are mostly made with aluminum. Aluminum is a softer metal than steel. So, it goes without saying that in terms of durability, steel has much more edges than aluminum.

Winner: Roller Fairlead

#3. Weight

Aluminum weighs much less than steel. Although it’s not as durable as steel, still aluminum as a material has huge benefits for fairleads.

Roller fairleads weigh around 10-13 lbs. whereas hawse fairleads weigh only 2-3 lbs. If you go with steel-made hawse fairleads, they’re also much lighter than roller fairleads due to the building structure.

Winner: Hawse Fairleads

#4. Versatility

Roller fairleads are suitable for steel winch cable. And hawse fairleads are perfect for synthetic lines. If you want to use the hawse fairleads for steel lines, then you have to find a hawse fairlead made of steel.

Now, roller fairleads have a unique feature that hawse fairleads don’t. You can also use roller fairleads for synthetic lines if you need them. Just make sure that the fairlead is clean and doesn’t have any sharp edges that might cause damage to the synthetic line.

Winner: Roller Fairleads

#5. Friction

As roller fairleads have moving parts, it causes less friction if there is added weight. With hawse fairleads, you will have increased friction due to the narrow opening and no moving parts. So, if you want less friction from your fairleads, roller fairlead is the way to go!

Winner: Roller Fairleads

Our Verdict

In the battle of roller fairleads vs. hawse fairleads, choosing the best one is quite daunting. They both have their own set of features that make them unique and useful.

But, since we are bound to announce a winner, we would go with the roller fairleads for durability, friction, and versatility.

However, if your only preferred winch line is synthetic lines, then you should choose hawse fairleads over roller ones.

Frequently Asked Questions

#1. Can I use a winch without any fairlead?

Answer: It’s highly recommended not to use a winch without a fairlead. If you want, you can use a winch without any fairlead.

But, your winch will wear out much faster and you won’t get proper cable guidance. So, you should choose a good fairlead depending on your requirements and winch line.

#2. Can I use hawse fairleads for steel cable?

Answer: Most of the hawse fairleads are made of aluminum. So, it’s not recommended to use hawse fairleads for steel lines. If you want to stick to hawse fairleads, then try to find the ones made of steel.

#3. What type of fairlead should I choose for synthetic cable?

Answer: Aluminum-made hawse fairleads are the most preferred option for synthetic cable. You can choose roller fairleads as well, but it has to be clean and free of any sharp borders.


Choosing the best fairlead for off-road driving is a must to use your winch in the most effective way to save your vehicle from danger.

While you have the option to pick a winner in the battle of roller fairleads vs. hawse fairleads, your preferred pick should match your requirements.

If you want a lighter winch setup and synthetic line, then you have to choose hawse fairleads without a doubt. For more durability and less friction, roller fairleads are the best option for you.

So, pick wisely depending on your preference. Safe driving!