Snatch straps aren’t all equal, as our recent snatch strap comparison test proved convincingly. But straps aside, what extra precautions can you take to ensure you get out of that sticky situation safely? Here’s seven things to consider before you jump into your next snatch recovery.
1 It’s not a weightlifting contest
Unlike the weightlifting term of ‘snatch, clean and jerk’, in 4X4 terms it’s paramount to ensure your gear (snatch straps in this case) is ‘clean’ before the ‘snatch and jerk’. In fact, keeping all your recovery gear clean and free of sand, mud and any other grease and grime is super important if you intend to get more than one use out of it.
If you’ve been unfortunate enough and needed to use your recovery gear in anger, chances are it’ll be dirty, dusty or caked in mud. So, before you pack it away in the back of the garage, take five minutes to clean it up … so it’s ready to use next time.
Whether it’s a snatch strap, tree trunk protector or a winch extension strap, drop them into a bucket of warm water to soak for a few minutes before hosing them off and hanging them up, out of the sun, to dry. Roll them up and pack them away, ready to take out on your next trip.
Look after your gear and it’ll serve you well when you need it most!
2 Forget Cross Fit… buy a good shovel
Before you consider any type of recovery, whether it be snatching or winching, the first thing to do is see if you can help dig your way out. Quite often, spending five or ten minutes on the shovel may well negate the need to use any other form of recovery technique at all. Digging the mud, sand, snow or other debris away from the front of all four wheels will allow you to attempt to drive out initially; and if this fails, at the very least it will lessen the stress of the recovery overall.
Additionally, digging a strap trench to allow the strap direct access to the recovery point will also aid in reducing pressure on the strap itself.
3 Rating the recovery
The challenge in every recovery is that no two recoveries are exactly the same. The angle between vehicles will almost always be different, the vehicles themselves will often be different (as will the attitudes of the people driving them), all combining to create different forces on the gear being used.
Always use rated recovery gear – it might save your life!
Rated recovery points, rated shackles and rated straps are certainly confusing – to say the least. The main reason these ‘rated’ aftermarket products exist is to try and address some of that confusion by providing safe working load limits within which the gear is designed to function. Rated recovery points, shackles and recovery gear should be clearly marked with their working load limits; and if you’re uncertain, don’t use them!
4 Lessen the load
Recoveries put huge amounts of stress onto all the recovery components being used, through the sheer force placed onto both the moving vehicle and the stationary vehicle being recovered. One way to lessen the stress upon the recovered vehicle is through the use of an equaliser strap. The equaliser strap does exactly as its name suggests by spreading the load across two recovery points, dramatically reducing the likelihood of component failure through the shock of the recovery.
5 Steady as she goes
Who has seen recoveries where the recovering vehicle takes a run-off and blasts full-tilt forward with all four wheels spinning at a great rate of knots? This type of recovery attempt places unbelievable force on both vehicles as well as the recovery gear … and the truth is, most recoveries can be achieved through a ‘steady as she goes’ approach.
Start off slow, and take up the slack of the recovery strap to see if a more gentle recovery attempt works first of all. Leave a metre or two of slack strap on the second attempt, before progressively getting quicker if the first couple of efforts don’t work.
6 The Don’ts
Never join two recovery straps with a shackle. If either the shackle or one of the straps breaks, the shackle then becomes an airborne missile.
Be careful snatching out of really deep mud. The mud can often act like a vacuum around the vehicle’s wheels and chassis, creating a situation that is better suited to winching rather than snatching. Recovery tracks can often be a better option here, too.
Never, ever, ever recover off a towball. They are simply not designed to withstand sudden sideways shock forces and can very quickly become metal missiles. Unfortunately, there have been numerous instances of serious injury and death in Australia and overseas through broken towballs.
Recoveries are not a spectator sport. They can be dangerous. Therefore, don’t allow people to stand around watching the action. This can be done politely by asking people to stand at least two lengths of a strap away from the action, and preferably to the side.
7 The Do’s
Make sure your recovery gear is in good working order. Straps should be whole and not torn or frayed. If in doubt, throw it out!
Always use a strap or winch dampener in the middle of the strap or winch rope in order to reduce the recoil, should something fail in the recovery. Don’t have a dampener? Even an old jumper or a couple of beach towels will work a treat.
Relax! Stress does nothing to create a safe and secure recovery. If you find yourself stuck, then take the time to think things through. Have a cuppa; sit down and consider which recovery technique might work best.
A day out in your 4X4 should be fun for everyone… and from time to time, you may well get stuck. Recovering your vehicle can be part of a great day out, if executed correctly and safely. Take your time, do it right and enjoy it!
Words by Tim Stanners