If you regularly use your 4×4 for what it’s intended, there may come a time when you find yourself bogged down. In most cases, with a little common sense, a shovel, and some elbow grease, you can recover the vehicle and be on your way.
However, sometimes, the situation can be a bit more serious and specific equipment (or perhaps other vehicles) are needed to get you moving again.
When you start strapping vehicles together, or using equipment that is specifically designed for an off-road recovery, there are a few important points to remember; especially when it comes to the proper use and maintenance of your gear.
1. Use the correct tool for the job
Don’t be tempted to cut corners and use the incorrect tool for a recovery situation. This includes your choice of recovery points. Tow-bars, tow hooks, or strap-down points are not recommended recovery points when using a snatch strap or kinetic rope. Safety should always be your first concern, and using the correct equipment is generally more effective and far less risky.
2. Never use a tow strap for kinetic recoveries
Tow straps should only be used in straight-line recoveries where there isn’t significant load. Even a slight yank to get a vehicle unstuck could damage the strap and make it unsafe.
3. Keep your hi-lift jack clean
Hi-lift jacks have moving parts that enable the mechanism to climb up and down the rail of the jack. If this mechanism fails at the wrong time, you can damage your vehicle or injury yourself. Because these jacks are usually stored outside the vehicle, dirt tends to build up on them. Check your jack frequently, cleaning off dirt if necessary, and protect it from corrosion. Storing your high-lift jack in a bag of some sort isn’t a bad idea, either.
4. Don’t use damaged equipment
Do a thorough visual inspection of any equipment that you are about to use, to make sure that there are no defects. Doing so could prevent damage to a vehicle, reduce the risk of injury, or even save a life.
5. Use the correct shackles
D-shackles are cheaper to buy, but they’re not designed for vehicle recoveries with straps and ropes, and can potentially cause the strap to bunch up and be damaged in the process. In contrast, bow-shackles offer a greater range of motion in the pulling angle, which makes them ideal for a multitude of off-road recovery situations. Shown below: bow shackle on the left, and D-shackle on the right.
6. Re-roll your winch after use
If your winch cable has been spooled out, and then wound back on again during a recovery, there’s a good chance that it won’t be spooled on neatly. The moment this happens, you run the risk of pinching the cable and causing a weak point where a future failure may occur. Take the time to re-roll your winch cable neatly after the recovery; and while you’re at it, use the opportunity to inspect the cable for kinks and frays.
7. Keep your equipment clean
In most cases, mud and dirt will form part of any off-road recovery, and both these contaminants can shorten the lifespan of your equipment. Sand can have an abrasive effect if its accumulated within your recovery strap, and potentially, lead to a future breakage . Be sure to clean your recovery equipment as soon as you can.
8. Use your own gear
Try to use your own equipment in the event of your vehicle needing recovery. If you maintain your gear correctly, you’ll have more confidence in the recovery situation. Not knowing the condition of someone else’s recovery gear, is a gamble that’s not worth taking. Not if you can avoid it.
9. Think outside the box
Some recovery gear can be safely used for purposes other than what it was designed for. A hi-lift jack, for instance, can be used as a manual winch, a clamp, or even as a makeshift brace. If the emergency calls for it, try to think outside the box.
10. Never rush a recovery situation
Accidents happen when people rush a recovery and forget important safety aspects. Always avoid the temptation to take short cuts! The moment you shy away from hard work, or dirty clothes, the chances are good that you’re going to cut a corner or two – and in the process, make the recovery situation a whole lot worse.
11. Get proper training
Admittedly, this should be point number one. Attending an off-road training course is an essential investment, more so than buying equipment you may never need. A reputable instructor will guide you on your equipment needs, as well as how (and when) to use each item.
In most cases, a successful vehicle recovery has a lot to do with experience, confidence, and trusting your plan / equipment. An advanced driver-training course will expose you to several recovery techniques. It can also save you money in possible vehicle damages, or more importantly, save a life.
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