A recovery of any kind is dangerous if not performed carefully and with correct safety precautions. Not everyone realises that when stuck, it’s not just the weight of your car that is on the strap, but also the weight of the vehicle that is pulling you, as well as extra weight depending on how you are stuck. If you are stuck to the chassis in mud, the mud causes suction and can make the recovery harder, and make the forces applied to your vehicle and straps stronger.
A recovery with a snatch strap is basically a transfer of kinetic energy; the strap is designed to stretch, which aids the recovery and allows the transfer from one 4WD to the other while the recovery vehicle is in motion. The stretch also allows a gradual transfer, whereas if a tow rope or the wrong strap was used, it would give a snapping type pull. This kind of pull is not only bad for the people in the vehicles, but is also bad for the vehicle.
I think that 4WDers also need to realise that a snatch strap should be thought of as a fuse. By this I mean that if a recovery is to go bad and you are to break something, it is best to break your snatch strap, as it is the cheapest thing to replace. Using an 8000kg snatch strap should get you out of all situations if used correctly, but loading your vehicle with heavier duty straps may mean that you may break something more important rather than a cheap snatch strap.
All recovery gear should be rated. Straps, shackles and even the points that we connect the straps to on our vehicles should be rated. Simply connecting the strap to the front of the bullbar is risky and unsafe.
A proper recovery point is a specially designed hook or attachment point that is fixed to the chassis of the 4WD, where it can be most secure. Now we’re not talking about any old hook that you can knock up in your home workshop. A correct rated recovery point has been specifically engineered to fit to a certain point on the vehicle’s chassis that can handle the loads that it is designed for. A good recovery point will also come with a set of fitting instructions outlining step by step fitment, which is either printed and supplied with the recovery point, or can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website.
Many people still think that their bull bar is an acceptable point from which to perform a recovery, although this is a serious misconception. A bull bar has crumple zones built into it that are designed to fold down on impact during an accident, absorbing some of the force in order to protect the people in the vehicle as well as the other vehicle that may be involved in the collision.
Crumple zones are not designed to withstand the forces of winching, as most winches are mounted onto a separate plate that is bolted directly to the chassis. Forces that are applied during a snatch recovery will most likely have not been tested. Even when winching while using a snatch block, the cable should always be run back to a rated recovery point. Snatching from a bull bar is dangerous as the bull bar mountings may not be able to handle the forces, and there is a high likelihood that you will end up damaging your bull bar.
There is nothing more dangerous than a bull bar that has just been pulled off its mounts and is flying through the air. Just because you have fitted a rated recovery point doesn’t automatically mean that it is safe to recover from any position. Common sense is still required. Check around the wheels, and digging or clearing the tyres out a bit will help reduce the forces applied to your straps and recovery points. Using an equalizer strap between two recovery points is a good technique as it dramatically reduces the force applied to each point.
Roadsafe advises that recovery points be fitted by a qualified motor mechanic, as some fitments can involve the removal of the front bumper or bull bar. They also advise that a bridle or equalizer strap should be used for every recovery.
In my opinion one of the most important and sensible upgrades you can do on your 4WD is to fit proper rated recovery points. Make sure that you’re using rated recovery equipment at all times, always use dampeners during recoveries and make sure any spectators or camera people are well out of the way.
Qualified motor mechanic Adam Adler has spent half his life under the bonnet of a 4WD and has worked for some of the top accessory companies and workshops. He knows what it takes to get your vehicle out there and back home in one piece. He runs the online aftermarket store www.nutsabout4wd.com.au.