Posted by: towmasters | August 8, 2009

Slippery When Wet (Or Dry): Lubed Wire Lasts Longer

As part of our company-required maintenance procedure for our tow wire we are supplied with and apply PreLube 19 preservative lubricant (from PureLube) to it during retrieval thusly…..


…..using a plastic pump sprayer. It’s a low-viscosity biodegradable oil that eventually dries to a sort of waxy coating that stays put fairly well and is specifically designed for this use. The person doing the spraying, a deckhand or the engineer, is also carefully looking over the wire for damage or defects that would compromise the wire’s strength and need to be brought to the attention of the master or mate. Consider this to be another one of those “best practices” that should be an industry-wide standard, and you can expect to see this included in the safety management systems that will be a part of the eventual towing vessel inspection regulations. On a practical level, it’ll make the wire last longer and be less likely to fail at some inopportune moment. It’s all good…..


  1. Way back in my youth, when wire rope was made
    here in America, and it was spliced with a spike, vice and hand by a couple of guys named “Armstrong”, I had the opportunity to speak to the representative of a wire rope manufacturer.

    As the Able Seaman I was the one who had to dress the wire. There was no set standard by the company. Each boat and captain had their own idea. And some of them were quite messy and laborious.

    When I inquired about the best way, the representative told me that simply rinsing the wire with fresh water as it is coming aboard will
    best prolong the life of the wire. When you dress the wire without rinsing, the corrosive salt isn’t necessarily removed. And he reminded me that an active wire has a limited life span anyway.

    As a wire rope salesman, he wasn’t interested in prolonging the life anyway, but I think he was honest.

  2. We, too, are supposed to rinse off the wire with fresh water before applying the lubricant/preservative. I have my doubts, however, about how effective this really is. It would have to be a pretty thorough washing to really get rid of all or most of the salt. The standard quick rinse with a garden hose seems pretty marginal at best. Since oil naturally displaces water I figure that periodically giving it a good spray down with the PreLube 19 as the wire is retrieved forces about as much of the moisture and salt out from within and between the strands as you’re ever going to get without hot-water pressure washing and a hot-oil bath, which we (and most other boats) simply don’t have the practical ability to do. Installing a pressure washer in the engine room and plumbing it to the hot water system could be feasible on many tugs, but I doubt that many companies would want to spend the money for it unless there was compelling evidence that it would make a significant difference in the wire’s longevity. For all I know pressure washing could make things worse by driving the salt deeper into the core and increasing corrosion instead of lessening it but, to my knowledge, no one has ever studied this so who knows?

  3. In regards to the pump sprayer, clean the sprayer VERY good after each use or it will be deemed useless as the Prelube tends to gel up after sitting in the fidley. I prefer to use a 5 gallon bucket with a 1/8th or 3/16th hole drilled near the bottom. I stick the bucket on top of the levelwinder and fill the bucket about 3/4 the way full (you can stick a bolt or screw in the hole while filling) . Line the hole up, “pull the plug” and run the wire in accordingly. Too slow and the prelube will drip off the wire. When the bucket empties, fill it up and do it again until the wire is lubed. Maybe not an industry standard but works well.

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