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How to Safely Recover a 4WD

photo by DannerB via iStock

4WD recoveries should be taken seriously. The forces involved can exceed several tons and the last thing you want is a tow hitch going right through your window.

To avoid that, you could follow some 4WD training, but sadly, it doesn’t exist. Your best friend here is the internet. So, grab a cold one, and let’s dive into a few steps you can follow to ensure your recoveries are performed safely. 

What is the Main Risk in a 4WD Recovery?

Broken equipment from a 4WD recovery

photo by undefined undefined via iStock

The biggest risk here is equipment failure. This can be a broken snatch strap, shackle, winch cable, or recovery point. When these fail, the forces released are something you do not want to be near!

How to Safely Recover a 4WD: Careful Planning is Key

4WD in a flooding river

photo by pamspix via iStock

The worst mistakes are made in moments of panic. A rushed decision can lead to your 4WD getting even more bogged or someone getting injured. 

Therefore, assess the situation before beginning the recovery. If possible, lower your tire pressures, and check what recovery points you have available. Keep in mind that the best way to safely recover a 4WD is the one that’s easiest and safest. 

Use Recovery Dampers

Jeep being recovered with smoking tires

photo by avian75 via iStock

If you are using a winch or snatch strap to safely recover a 4WD, at least one damper should be used. The job of a recovery damper is to help minimize recoil in the event of breakage. This can go a long way in protecting everyone around the recovery or even your 4WD itself.

The tensile forces are so strong that a snatch strap can break windscreens – you don’t want to be standing in front of that. 

Learn More:

How to Safely Recover a 4WD: Use Traction Boards First

man recovering a 4WD stuck in high water and mud

photo by shaunl via iStock

Traction board recoveries are by far the safest. There is no cable or strap to break. Using them to aid a snatch or winch recovery is also great practice. They will provide traction to the vehicle which will then decrease the stress on the cable or strap. 

Never Stand Near a Recovery

person standing near yellow rope

photo by WaldemarWellmann via iStock

When a snatch strap or winch cable breaks, the chances of you avoiding them are slim. They move at a rate well beyond what you can avoid. 

You should be at least 1.5 x the length of the strap or winch rope away from all vehicles involved. If you can be even further away, then do it. 

How to Safely Recover a 4WD: Use Rated Recovery Points

recovery point on a 4WD

photo by hirun via iStock

The majority of 4WDs come from the factory without rated recovery points. The hooks visible are tie-down points and will most probably fail during a 4WD recovery. 

Rated points can be purchased from the after-market. They are usually stamped with a safe working load rating and will come with high tensile grade 8.8 bolts. All well-known 4WD stores will have them, and you should have at least one upfront and one in the rear to safely recover a 4WD. 

Reduce the Stresses Involved in the Recovery

shovel in front of an SUV that needs to be recovered

photo by undefined undefined via iStock

A bit of digging can go a long way in making the recovery easier on your equipment. Furthermore, lowering your tire pressures (if you haven’t already) will provide more grip. These two methods might even be enough to get you out without using any other recovery methods. If not, they will most definitely reduce the stress involved and allow you to safely recover a 4WD from many situations. 

How to Safely Recover a 4WD: Join Snatch Straps Together Correctly

correctly joined snatch straps for 4wd recovery

There are plenty of occasions where just one strap isn’t long enough. One of the safest ways to join two straps together is with a soft shackle.

Use Two Recovery Points Instead of One

large metal hook in metal loop

photo by DA69 via iStock

If you are stuck to the point where a gentle recovery won’t be enough, using two recovery points connected with an equalizer strap can help decrease the load both on your recovery points and chassis. 

How to Safely Recover a 4WD: Be Gentle at First

Jeep being lifted out of a river with and small wench

photo by Terryfic3D via iStock

When performing a snatch recovery, start gently and slowly work your way up to the force necessary to get the other vehicle unstuck. Why apply more force through the equipment if there is no need to? 

I am not one to promote having the latest and greatest gear. However, there are some things we need to have no matter what as they are a matter of safety. Rated recovery points and snatch straps should be something you invest in if the tracks you are planning on driving will present even the slightest chance of getting stuck. 

Traction boards are also crucial as they can help get you out of sticky situations easily and safely. 

Other accessories can reduce the risk even further, but those can come in a bit further down the line. Get the crucial ones first. 

I hope this article has helped you get an idea of how recoveries can be performed safely. Do you have any further tips?

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