Skip to content


Your cart is empty

Comparing Nylon and Metal Pulleys

When it comes to something like pulleys, their brilliance truly is in their simplicity. They’re used to reduce the effort required to lift heavy objects or change the direction of the force you’re applying. They are also commonly used throughout various manufacturing and construction industries.

Because pulleys are nothing if not versatile, they are typically made from a number of different material options for you to choose from depending on your needs. Two of the most common of those are nylon and metal. Both are very different and bring with them their own unique advantages that are absolutely worth exploring.


One of the major benefits that nylon pulleys have over their metal counterparts has to do with weight. Nylon is simply a lighter material than most metals, which makes it easier for installation purposes – something that is particularly beneficial when working at great heights.

Other than being lightweight, nylon is also known for its excellent wear resistance. When properly manufactured and installed, nylon pulleys tend to have very long lifespans.

Another distinct advantage of nylon pulleys has to do with their general safety during routine operation. Naturally, when metal wire ropes rub against one another, sparks are generated that could potentially endanger those in the immediate area. At the very least, people will need to take care and wear protective safety gear. With nylon pulleys, this is less of a concern – although people should always take precautions in any manufacturing environment no matter what.

Finally, nylon is known for being self-lubricating, which means that it can enjoy a long lifespan even when operating at extremely low temperatures. This, coupled with its high wear resistance and generally high-quality materials, means that it is great for long-term outdoor applications in particular.


Of course, metal pulleys have their fair share of advantages as well – chief among them being the fact that they can withstand even the harshest environments. They don’t tend to warp in extremely hot temperatures and are less likely to deform than other types of materials.

Different types of metals also have their own benefits. While steel pulleys are significantly heavier than nylon, for example, you can close a bit of that gap by going with a lighter material like aluminum.

Metal pulleys in general are also known for being malleable. They can be easily shaped and designed, which makes them great for experimentation and prototyping purposes in particular. Finally, metal is durable and easy to maintain. It presents less of a concern about issues like corrosion. Metals like aluminum are known for being low maintenance in general and can go longer periods of time without being replaced when compared to other metals.


One of the biggest reasons to use nylon pulleys has to do with applications where cost is a primary concern. Not only can nylon help save you money on the initial cost of purchase, but that cost-effectiveness will continue as the pulleys are worked, adjusted, and experimented with, too.

Using nylon pulleys would also be recommended in any application where noise is a factor. Because you’re not dealing with metal on metal (and the massive amount of friction that normally happens as a result), nylon pulleys operate smoother and quieter than many of their counterparts.

Finally, if you need a pulley to last as long as possible, nylon would be the way to go. Even though most metals have a long lifespan, nylon will typically beat them with the proper care and maintenance.


Naturally, the number one situation to use a metal pulley has to do with those where strength is a consideration. If you plan to put extreme weight on the pulley to do some very heavy lifting, metal would be the way to go. If the amount of weight you’re working with doesn’t cross into the definition of “extreme,” you can probably get away with nylon pulleys.

Likewise, metal pulleys (and specifically those made from materials like aluminum) are ideal when you need a low-maintenance option for your project. Not only are metals naturally corrosion-resistant (something that can be increased when properly treated), but they can also be finished in a number of ways to enhance the overall look and appearance.

In the end, understand that there truly is no “one size fits all” answer to the question of what type of material you should use for your pulley construction. As always, you need to let the needs of the application dictate which decision to make. Consider your requirements on a situation-by-situation basis and use that to find a solution that will meet your needs. Don’t arbitrarily pick a material type and hope it will just work out – this is often just a recipe for disaster.

If you have a big project coming up and are in need of pulley stock, don’t worry – we’re here to help. At Illinois Pulley & Gear, we have years of experience with custom timing pulleys and related projects. We’re capable of manufacturing a large variety of items in an on-demand capacity right at our very own US-based facility. This allows us to produce an unlimited volume of pulleys, gears, and related items, all to your precise specifications.

All you need to do is pick your material (which we can help you with once we understand your needs), your tooth profile, and the number of teeth. We’ll get to work on producing it, regardless of how complicated it may be. We can even manufacture pulley replacement parts if your equipment is no longer being supported by the OEM. Furthermore, we can also reverse engineer any replacement parts you need to make sure your bases are always covered.

If you’re interested in finding out more information about the intricacies of nylon vs metal pulley stock, or if you’d like to talk to a trusted partner about your upcoming project, please don’t hesitate to contact Illinois Pulley & Gear today.