4WD Equaliser straps; what, and how important are they?

A 4WD recovery can put a significant amount of stress on a wide range of components, but a lot of people tend to forget all of that stress is transferred onto your chassis. I’ve yet to see a rated recovery point that is good for more than 5000kg, and yet people regularly use snatch straps that are over that rating.

In theory then, you are risking one of the recovery points breaking, as well as risking damage to the chassis.

If you want to know more about the forces involved in a 4WD recovery we have an amazing post here – 4WD recovery forces and sizing gear correctly.

Where ever you recover a 4WD from, you’ll be applying a significant amount of force. If you choose to recover a 4WD with one recovery point on one side of the chassis, you are applying a heap of force to the chassis on one side only, and that’s not a good thing.

If you have two recovery points on your chassis, combining them together gives you virtually double the recovery capacity and spreads the load. It also means that if you do have to recover on a bit of an angle, you reduce the amount of side loading on the recovery point.

Equaliser strap on an 80
An Equaliser Strap spreads the load much better

What is an equalizer strap?

An equalizer strap looks very similar to a short snatch strap, except they are designed not to stretch. They are usually 2.5 – 5 metres long, and can be attached to either side of the chassis with the winch, snatch strap or static sling hooking on in the middle, forming a little triangle.

A lot of people use lifting slings as equaliser straps, which are fine. Just make sure they are rated to the correct load, and they are the right length.

Dmax recovery Points
What angle does the strap sit at?

How long should the equalizer strap be?

I’ve found that many off the shelf equalizer straps are not long enough. The triangle formed is too stout, with the angles sitting at around 45 – 60 degrees.

The less side load put on your hooks or recovery points, the better. This is achieved by using a longer equaliser strap. You want to be pulling the vehicle’s recovery points forward, not inwards and forwards.

Hooks or plate?

Whether you end up with hooks or a piece of plate that is bolted to the chassis largely depends on what is available for your vehicle. Many of the hooks will not bolt directly onto vehicles chassis as the hole centres are different. The plate tends to be custom made for each vehicle.

What ever you get, make sure it is stamped, and comes with a WLL. The hooks are generally rated at 4500kg, with the plate being rated up to 10,000kg in some cases. I’ve seen loops too, which are even stronger than hooks, but you require a shackle to be used (like the plates), which I’m not such a fan of.

Rated recovery hook
What’s better; hooks or plate?

Hooks inward or outward?

After getting severely bogged near Esperance, and bending my recovery hook, one of the first jobs to be done when I got back was to replace the recovery hooks on my 80.

However, I soon found that due to the ARB bull bar, I couldn’t have the hooks facing outwards, like you would expect on most 4WD’s. I did a lot of research, and came to the conclusion that it doesn’t really matter, providing your equaliser strap is the correct length.

With a short equaliser strap, it will always pull up hard to both of the backs of the hooks, meaning it can’t come off, and will be on the strongest section.

However, if you use a long enough equaliser strap even if they face inwards, it doesn’t make much of a difference. It all comes down to your individual arrangement!

Snatch straps
Recoveries apply a lot of force, and distributing it evenly is important

Using a tree trunk protector as an equalizer strap

If its long enough, and rated, you can use tree trunk protectors, and even rigging slings. It’s all about the length, condition of the equipment and the rating. By the time you carry everything from a tree trunk protector to equaliser strap, winch extension, shackles, pulleys, snatch straps and other bits and bobs the recovery gear size and weight adds up, and that’s not doing anyone any favours.

Attaching the equalizer strap safely

Equaliser straps should be attached in a V shape, not a triangle. What I mean by this is one end of the trap should be on your recovery point on one side, and the other end on the opposite side.

Do not feed the strap through your points and create a literal triangle, as when you pull it will attempt to draw the recovery points together as a pose to pulling directly forward, like you want them to.

Reduce the use of heavy metal shackles where possible, ensure there are no sharp edges, get rid of any twists and when you do the recovery, try it gently first. The winch damper bags in a couple of locations are a great idea too.

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  1. Joseph Alberts says:

    Your 4 x 4 recovery info is well-presented! Thank you!