Even the best drivers cannot avoid issues with hazards on the road like snowstorms, slippery conditions, and muddy ditches. If you find yourself stuck because of any of these scenarios, it’s good to know how to use a recovery strap to get yourself out. It can save you money and time over having to call a tow truck and with a few tips and precautions, the process is easy and safe.
It’s important to note, however; that there are certain situations that can be dangerous or too difficult to manage with recovery straps and a professional tow truck driver will be required. That being said, the following info can apply to many roadside emergency situations that you can strap your way out of.
What are Recovery Straps and What Features Should You Look For?
Recovery straps, sometimes called snatch straps, are designed to pull vehicles from being stuck in snow, mud or a ditch. While you can find recovery or towing type straps made of metal chain, polypropylene or other synthetic fibers, the best quality straps are made of nylon. Nylon has more stretch, allows you to maintain greater control and is lighter than the other materials which makes it easier to keep with you.
Recovery Strap Width: Straps come in different widths from 2 inches to 6 inches. The thicker the strap, the more weight it can pull. For each inch, a strap can pull about 10,000 pounds. Now, it might seem like a good deal to get the widest strap possible to ensure you’re covered, but as the rope gets wider, it gets less elastic and if you try to pull something too light it will actually work against your efforts.
Tow Straps vs Recovery Straps
Though recovery straps may go by a few names, tow straps is not one of them. These items seem similar, but they have differences that make them suited for different situations and jobs. Why it’s important to use recovery and not tow straps:
- Recovery straps are more elastic, and this extra give makes them more resilient and able to withstand pulling the thousands of pounds they need to.
- This increased elasticity also makes the straps more pliable and allows for more delicate maneuvering because the strap will move with the vehicle.
When and How to Use a Recovery Strap
Recovery straps are like giant rubber bands. Consider what happens when you stretch a rubber band and let it go – the band instantly wants to go back into its original shape. By attaching a strap to the front end of a stuck vehicle and the back end of another vehicle that will be doing the pulling, you use that giant rubber band’s energy to help snap the stuck vehicle out of its place.
When and How to Use a Tow Strap
Tow straps will be rigged much the same way as recovery straps in terms of attaching the car to be towed to the other vehicle. The difference is, tow straps are only good for moving vehicles that are not stuck because they do not have the elastic rubber band quality. You would use these straps in situations where you simply want to move a car from one place to another, not pull it out of a tricky spot.
Safety Tips for How to Use a Recovery Strap
Though these straps are designed to make getting a car unstuck easier, there are several precautions you should take to ensure you and your car don’t get into any bigger trouble, including:
- Don’t Rush: Though having a stuck vehicle is a frustrating situation and it can be tempting to rev the engine of your pulling vehicle to get your car out faster, this will increase the risk of the strap snapping.
- Be Safe: Just like when there is an accident or other emergency, it’s important to not get so fixated on the task that you forget basic safety. In the case of recovering a vehicle, this means ensuring you keep your hazard lights on so other drivers can see you. It is also a good idea to keep some kind of brightly colored clothing or reflective, wearable items with you. Putting these on while you work with your car could mean the difference between getting home safely and getting hit by a driver who could not see you on the road.
- Clear a Path: If your car is stuck in snow of mud, try to move the materials surrounding the tires as best as possible. Add kitty litter or sand to your emergency kit and put this down as well to help improve traction.
Secure the Strap Properly
o For the vehicle being recovered: Often, tow hooks are not easy to find on some cars especially newer models. If you do not see the hook immediately, it may be hidden in the front bumper. Check to see if there is a small section in the plastic there that can be removed. If this still doesn’t produce a tow hook, then hook the strap to the frame.
o For the pulling vehicle: The strap will attach to the back of the towing vehicle, ideally onto a trailer hitch that is strong enough to withstand the pulling process – not to the ball of the trailer hitch though which is definitely not sturdy enough.
Additional Insurance: If possible, take cloth like a blanket or clothing and drape it over the strap. This will help slow it down should it snap in the process.
After the Vehicle is Recovered
Hopefully, you have been successful in recovering your vehicle but there is one more thing you can do to ensure your safety in the future: take care of your equipment. It can be easy to forget about the care of your emergency equipment after you have recovered your vehicle, but taking the time to inspect the strap and remove excess moisture from it before putting it away will ensure it’s ready the next time you need it. If you notice any fraying or other damage during your inspection, immediately replace your strap.