When was the last time you got stuck? Have you ever had to use your recovery points? There’s a good chance you have (whether its to pull someone out, or get recovered!) at some stage. 4WD recoveries have gone pear shaped many times, and there are a number of things you can do to reduce the chance of something going wrong.
For a full list of deaths involving 4WD recoveries in Australia, check out 4WD recovery deaths in Australia.
Recovery points on your 4WD need to be rated, and they need to be mounted properly.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen people hook a snatch strap up to a tie down point, or throw it over a tow ball. These are just two of the practices that lead to people getting killed, or seriously injured. To start with, here are 20 things you should never do in a 4WD recovery.
Tie down points
Tie down points are designed for just that; tying onto. They are not designed to use with an 11,000 pound snatch strap, and are known to break off and fly through the air at a million miles an hour. When you compare a rated recovery point to a tie down point the difference is pretty obvious.
Tie down points are made out of thin steel that is not intended to take sudden loading! Have a look at how it bolts to the chassis; if it’s just two 8mm bolts then it most certainly isn’t rated for recoveries!
How do you know if its rated?
The vehicle manufacturer is a good place to start, or there are a myriad of forums online that you can go to and see what other people have done with their vehicles. If it doesn’t look very solid, there’s a good chance it isn’t! Rated recovery points are stamped on the hook or plate themselves, and are built considerably bigger and stronger.
How is the recovery point bolted on?
The next thing to consider is how the recovery point is attached to the vehicle. I’m going to say if it doesn’t have at least two M12 bolts (the shank is 12mm wide) going into the chassis, it’s not strong enough. Look at the hex head of the bolts, and make sure it says 8.8.
This is the grade of the bolt, and means that it is high tensile and will take considerably greater force to break than a standard bolt.
There’s no point having a nice rated recovery point on your four wheel drive if the chassis tears apart, or the bolts break on the first recovery. These things might seem finicky, but they have the potential to cause serious injury or death, and should be treated with the utmost of respect.
Hooks or recovery plate
Probably the most commonly used recovery points are the hooks, which are mostly rated to 10,000 lb (4535kg). These should be used in tandem with an equalizer strap if possible. Hooks are great because they allow you to attach a snatch strap without the use of a shackle. I would recommend the hooks over bent angle or plate, purely because of this.
How to install recovery points
The installation of recovery points is normally quite simple, and anyone with a general understanding of mechanics should be able to do it. However, the bolts need to be done up correctly, and its a good idea to get it checked over by a professional.
Is your vehicle rated for recovery?
Interestingly, 4WD manufacturers will not give you any paperwork documenting the fact that your 4WD is suitable for recovery. I suppose it has to do with liability, so remember in the eyes of your vehicle manufacturer, you are not covered for recovering with the vehicle.
That said, it has been common practice for years, and when done safely with the right gear you won’t have any issues.
Snatch strap or winching?
Every recovery is different, and you need to make a call based on the individual recovery. Snatch straps are great for many applications, but just remember they rely on the buildup of energy to work. If it breaks, you have a considerably greater amount of force involved than that of a winch. Winches will pull slowly, and have a much greater level of control.
Whichever way you go, take it easy! There’s no need to get a 10 metre run up when you are snatching another vehicle out the first time. Start off with a gentle pull, or about 1 metre of slack strap. From there, increase length of run up (if safe) until the vehicle comes out. Likewise with winches, if the vehicle is seriously stuck, consider a double line pull and anchor the winch vehicle to a tree or another vehicle.
Snatch straps are not designed for every 4WD recovery. They can be extremely dangerous, so When should you use a snatch strap?
Rear recovery points
If you don’t have a rear recovery point, one of the most common is known as a hitch receiver recovery point. These are just a block of steel that slides into your rear hitch, with a shackle that bolts through. They are strong, versatile and give you a recovery point in the middle of your vehicle. It is important to note that they need to be rated as well, and will usually take a 4500kg shackle.
Hitch receiver recovery points
I’m often asked what modifications should be done before you venture offroad in a 4WD, and I always suggest that you make sure the vehicle has at least one rated recovery point on the front and the rear of the vehicle.
The reason is simple; you will get stuck one day, and you may not have the luxury of a recovery in the direction of where your points are attached! On the rear of your 4WD, a lot of people install hitch receiver recovery points (about $45) which work very well. These are the most common rear recovery point that you will see.
Check your recovery points
4WD’s are exposed to some pretty nasty conditions, and need to be inspected regularly. I’ve pulled a few recovery points off different 4WD’s to find that the bolts were 50% rusted away, or they were bent badly.
If you don’t know what condition your recovery points are in, it pays to remove them and inspect them. At the end of the day, they are cheap compared to other modifications so don’t hesitate to bin them and replace them with a new set.
DO NOT RECOVER OFF A TOWBALL
If you see someone throw a strap over a tow ball for a 4WD recovery, please pass on how dangerous it is. Tow balls in 4WD recoveries kill people. They are designed to tow trailers, and do not take the sudden sheer load applied when used in a 4WD recovery.
They have been responsible for a number of deaths across the world, when they break off and fly through the air faster than you can even see. If you have no recovery point, the best option is to remove the hitch, slide the strap into the hitch receiver and put the pin through the holes (and through the strap). Remember to put the R clip back in place too.
4WD Recoveries without a recovery point
Every now and again you do come across someone stuck with no recovery points. This makes a recovery very difficult and potentially dangerous, so take the time to consider what can be done.
Most 4WD’s have towbars, and this is one way you can safely recover them. Simply remove the tow hitch (and tow ball), slide the snatch strap into the hitch receiver and put the pin and R clip back in. This is done regularly without any problems.
However, if the vehicle is seriously bogged, you risk bending the pin which makes it a mission to ever remove it again. Also, tow bars vary in strength and how they are bolted on, so just have a look before you attempt the recovery.
The bottom line
Ultimately, you are responsible for making sure that your 4WD recoveries are done safely. All it takes is a few extra seconds looking over the situation, finding out what recovery points are available and what the options are, and then executing it with a bit of thought. Too many people have been killed or seriously injured from 4WD recoveries gone wrong, so let’s work on safe recoveries!
If you’ve seen recoveries done in a dangerous manner, let me know below!