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Adverse effects of car fluids on mountaineering ropes

Climbing trips to distant places make an integral part of a climber’s life. In addition to climbing gear, it is frequently necessary to add fluids that are consumed by the car during the journey and that have to be replenished currently.

After several days of living in such a vehicle, one can find a jumble of provisions, clothes and climbing gear as well as oil, antifreeze, brake fluid and other necessary fluids inside. And it frequently happens that when taking the climbing gear out, we find out that it is doused with an unknown liquid. A rope stained with brake fluid or antifreeze which we are carrying in the car since winter, for instance, is a complication. Is it necessary to visit the nearest climbing gear shop and to buy a new rope for a successful outcome of the trip or is that OK and all we have to do is to wash the rope only (or can we forget all about it)?

Effects of the most commonly used car fluids on ropes

Procedure of the test

We dipped the rope into the respective liquid for 24 hours and left it under the influence of that product for another 72 hours. After that we washed the rope with a special cleaning agent for ropes (TENDON Rope Cleaner) according to instructions. Then the rope was dried for 14 days in a dry room without direct sunshine and without direct heating systems.

We tested always two samples with identical contamination and compared them with a clean, washed rope.

The tested ropes were new – thus the test does not include reduction of strength caused by climbing, falls and normal wear.

The results show that all the chemical products reduce the number of falls.

A considerable reduction of the number of falls can be seen with the brake fluid, the antifreezing mixture for radiators and the summer windshield washer fluid. If a used rope is contaminated with those chemicals, we recommend not to use it any longer. The reduction of the number of falls due to wear and subsequent contamination could have fatal consequences.

As to the other chemical products used in the test, the strength reduction is not so significant and a contaminated rope may be washed and duly dried up. As those products are rather viscous liquids and form an unpleasant layer on the rope surface, the washing is more or less necessary.

It is always necessary to dry up the rope duly after washing, which may take, as mentioned above, even 14 days. If you do not have enough time to carry out the entire process thoroughly, we recommend to replace the rope with a new one.

TYPE OF CONTAMINATION NUMBER OF FALLS
Clean, washed rope 6 | 6
Petrol 5 | 5
Diesel oil 6 | 5
Oil 5 W40, synthetic 5 | 5
Oil 10 W40, semi-synthetic 5 | 6
Oil for power steering and autom. transmissions 5 | 6
Brake fluid DOT4 4 | 4
Antifreezing mixture for radiators 4 | 4
Summer windshield washer fluid 5 | 4
Winter windshield washer fluid 5 | 5
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