A Guide To A Speedy Recovery
With winter here, members will more than likely run across the stranded motorist who has slide off the road. Assisting them is something that most club member naturally do. The following is good information on what to use to help extract a stranded motorist along with good advice that will carry over off road as well.
Getting stuck?Â It happens to the best and worst of us (some more than others) and to some it is nothing more than all part of the fun and to others it is a source of tremendous frustration. But, regardless as to whether you fall into the first or the second category, getting stuck is not something you should be afraid of, if you have taken time to prepare your vehicle and its equipment for use in getting you going again. With this in mind, I want to list what should be regarded as your vehicles minimum recovery equipment.
Front and rear recovery points
These speak for themselves as to what they are but, for the record, they are a means by which a rope or strap can be securely attached to either the front or rear of the vehicle.
A receiver hitch with a hitch pin through it is okay, but remember it may severely restrict your rear departure angle if it is attached to a drop plate and ends up acting like a plough, usually resulting in getting you stuck anyway! You can shove a looped strap into the receiver and use the pin to secure it,Â by the way.
At the front, care must be taken to ensure that the recovery point is correctly attached to the vehicle and for safetyâ€™s sake, this usually means either Jate Rings bolted through the front bumper bolts or fixed underneath the front chassis rails where they are designed to bolt through. You can use a tow ball on the front providing that you bolt it to the bumper at its thickest point, which is in front of the chassis dumb irons and you use a spreader plate inside the bumper to spread the tremendous loads generated by recovering a vehicle.
Under no circumstances should you use the front and rear lashing points to recover a vehicle. These were designed for tying down when in transit from the factory and are not at all suitable for vehicle recovery whatsoever. Using them if you were stuck in mud could have disastrous and even fatal results, as they can tear off your vehicle and the stored energy is converted into momentum that you do not want to be in the way of!
A tow strap
Having front and rear recovery points arenâ€™t of much use if you havenâ€™t got a tow strap to connect to them. Your strap should have a breaking strength of at least twice the weight of your vehicle, ideally, three times is safer as the forces generated can easily snap a light tow strap designed for road based vehicle recovery. If you are bogged down in mud it takes a hell of a lot of tug to break it free again as you have to overcome the suction exerted by the mud on the bodywork etc. The ideal length is about 20-35 feet, which gives you sufficient distance to stop without hitting the tow vehicle kind enough to give you a tug, thereby ruining the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
A Kinetic Energy Recovery Rope or KERR (snatch rope)
These folks are neither for the beginner or the faint hearted. A Kerr works like a bungee by catapulting the vehicle out of the mud. The stuck vehicle is pulled by the recovering vehicle getting as close to the other as possible, then the recovery vehicle drives off at speed which stretches the rope and the energy generated catapults the stuck vehicle to freedom. This should only be done by experienced off-roaders as up to 25 tons of force can result in all sorts of bits being torn off. I have seen a front mounted nato hitch torn free of its mountings and smash through a rear door, bulkhead and front windshield, without slowing down! On that occasion no-one was hurt, but the potential for serious injury is greatly increased when Kerrsâ€™ are being used.
Safety of spectators
As a rule of thumb you should stand a least as far away from the recovery as the length of the ropes being used. It is also a good idea to put something in the middle of the strap as should the rope snap, some of the excess energy is absorbed by the weight and prevents the loose ends going too far.
‘D’-Rings and Bow Shackles
The main purpose of either type of shackle is to allow you to connect the rope to the recovery point quickly and safely. Cheap shackles can be purchased for a couple of bucks, but I tend to buy the more expensive ‘ratedâ€™ shackles that have a loading limit stamped on them. They may cost $15-$20 each but I know they wonâ€™t break.
A Decent Spade or Shovel
This is a cheap and very useful piece of equipment to carry, that can get you out of all sorts of problems. An ex Army pointed entrenching spade can be purchased from an Army surplus dealer for about $20 and can be used for taking the tops off ridges youâ€™re stuck on, back filling holes that are too deep to drive through and even as a jack pad to rest your Hi-Lift jack on. Youâ€™re never truly stuck if youâ€™ve got a spade!
It might sound obvious, but a good pair of stout gloves when recovering vehicles saves a lot of skinned knuckles and muddy hands.Â When using any wire ropes or tow straps, they are essential to prevent catching the hands on any loose wire (painful). An old towel and some clean up wipes are a good idea too, as who wants to drive with mud all over the steering wheel?
The last piece of essential recovery equipment is the good old Hi-Lift Jack. It is probably the cheapest and most versatile recover item you can get for the $45 they cost. Its primary use is for lifting and slewing, which is when you jack a well and truly stuck vehicle out of the ruts and when itâ€™s clear, you push it sideways, causing it to fall clear of the rut you were stuck in. Do this front and rear and you can get up on the ridges and drive clear of the muddy section.
The uses to which a Hi-lift can turn itsâ€™ hand will be covered in more depth in a later issue but suffice to say, for very little extra outlay, it can be used for winching, bead breaking on tyres, clamping, body and bumper straightening and numerous other versatile applications.If you do buy one, make sure it is firmly fixed down in the vehicle as one hitting you in the back of the head when on bumpy terrain or a roll over can really leave a bruise!
These items are only a short list of equipment you can carry but, used cunningly, they will allow you to extricate yourself from most â€œDamn Iâ€™m stuckâ€ situations. If anyone needs any advice regarding any of the equipment or the correct attachment to the vehicle, donâ€™t hesitate to get in touch with the Safety Officer or seek any of the club members or experienced â€œstuckersâ€ out at the club meets, some of us even enjoy it, have been there and will tell you how we got out!
Most of all be safe, If you are not sure how itâ€™s done, thereâ€™s plenty of people who will willingly lend a hand to show you how to do it, seek us out!