How to Use Recovery Straps and Shackles So You Don’t Die

How to Use Recovery Straps and Shackles So You Don’t Die

If you ever have a stuck vehicle, you may need to use a recovery strap to get it unstuck. These additional Bronco accessories are made of strong, elastic material and can be attached to the frame of your vehicle. They're also often used with shackles, which are metal loops that attach to the straps.

Before using a recovery strap, it's important to understand how they work and how to use them safely.

This article will teach you everything you need to know to use recovery straps for safe vehicle recovery.


What Is a Recovery Strap?

If you've ever been off-roading, you know there's a good chance you'll get stuck at some point. Because it can help you get unstuck, a recovery strap is an essential tool for any off-road enthusiast.

Recovery straps are designed to help vehicles that are stuck in mud, sand, or snow. They are made from strong nylon webbing and have tow hooks on each end, which are used to attach the strap to the vehicle's frame or axle.

Recovery straps are an excellent way to safely get your vehicle out of tough situations, and they can also be used for other purposes, such as towing a vehicle that has broken down, although you should never use them for towing on the highway.

Different Types of Recovery Straps

There are two types of recovery straps:

  • Snap straps
  • Kinetic recovery ropes

Snatch Straps

Smithybilt recovery strap

Snatch straps are the most common type of recovery strap. They are made of flat nylon webbing and have a loop on each end. The loops are used to attach the strap to the vehicle's frame or axle.

A snatch strap is designed to stretch up to 20% of its original length, which allows it to store energy. This energy is released when the strap is pulled, which helps to pull out the stuck vehicle.

Kinetic Recovery Ropes

Orange and black bundle of recovery straps

Kinetic recovery ropes are made of similar materials to snap straps, but they are designed to stretch up to 30%. They also have a loop on each end, which is used to attach the rope to the vehicle's frame or axle.

This type of recovery strap is often used in pairs, with one rope attached to the left-hand side of the stuck vehicle and the other attached to the right. This allows the ropes to work together to provide a more powerful pull.

Tow Straps vs. Recovery Straps

Tow straps and recovery straps may seem similar, but they are designed for different purposes.

Tow straps are made of rigid, heavy-duty material and are designed to be used for towing vehicles on the highway. They are not meant to stretch or store energy, so they should never be used for recovery purposes.

Instead, you would use a tow strap for towing a vehicle that has broken down or for moving a vehicle that is blocking the road after a breakdown or car accident.

What Are Shackles?

Shackles are metal loops that are used to attach the recovery strap to the vehicle. They have a pin or bolt that goes through the loop, which is then secured with a nut. This prevents the shackle from coming undone while in use.

Ford Bronco recovery strap shackle

There are two types of shackles: flat and bow.

Bow shackles are the most common type for vehicle recovery and often come standard on new vehicles. A bow shackle is a metal hook shaped like a horseshoe. Where the horseshoe ends, a pin goes through the top, allowing it to connect to the recovery strap.

How Do Recovery Straps Work?

Recovery straps work by using the elasticity of the nylon webbing to provide a pulling force. When the strap is pulled tight, it stretches and stores kinetic energy. This stored kinetic energy is then released when the vehicle starts to move, providing a pulling force that can help to free the stuck vehicle.

It's important to note that recovery straps are not made of a hard material like metal, so they will break if too much force is applied. For this reason, it's important to use recovery straps correctly, never use one that is frayed, and never exceed their maximum load capacity.

Step-By-Step: How to Free a Stuck Vehicle With Recovery Straps

Now that you know the basics of how a recovery strap works, let's go over the steps for using one.

1. Make sure that you have the right recovery gear.

In addition to the recovery strap, you'll need two shackles (one for each end of the strap) and a way to attach the other end of the strap to the second car. The type of shackle you use is very important! Do not try to use a standard tow hitch to recover your vehicle.

2. Make yourself visible to others.

If your vehicle is stuck on the side of the road or around other vehicles, it's important to make sure that you and your car are visible to oncoming traffic. You can do this by turning on your hazard lights and setting up flares or reflective triangles around your vehicle.

3. Inspect the recovery gear and ensure safe conditions.

Before attaching the recovery strap, take a few minutes to inspect it for any damage. Look for frayed edges, holes, or other signs of wear and tear.

Check the rating to make sure that the strap has the correct load rating for the weight of your vehicle, and make sure that the shackles are properly secured. A good rule of thumb is that the vehicle weight should be half (or less) of the strap's break strength.

You'll also want to look for rated recovery points on both vehicles. These are typically located on the front bumper or under the vehicle, and they're designed to withstand the forces generated during a recovery.

A snatch strap recovery is only possible if there is enough space for both vehicles to move, plus additional space for the recovery vehicle to pull up. If there isn't room to maneuver, you'll need to use a winch line instead.

4. Attach the recovery strap to the vehicles.

Once you've inspected the gear and ensured it's safe to proceed, it's time to attach the recovery strap to the two vehicles.

Recovery strap used correctly

Start by attaching one end of the strap to the front or rear bumper of the stuck vehicle using your rated shackles. The other end of the strap should be attached to the tow hook, trailer hitch, or another recovery point on the second vehicle.

Recovery strap used incorrectly

Never attach your recovery strap to the axle, frame, or any other part of the vehicle that isn't specifically designed for towing or recovery. And never attach a snatch strap to a tow ball.

5. Get the recovery vehicle into position and start pulling.

The second driver should now pull the recovery vehicle up so that the strap is tight. Once the strap is taut, have the second driver slowly accelerate while you keep an eye on the strap.

As the recovery vehicle starts to pull, the kinetic energy stored in the strap will be released, providing additional force that can help to free your car.

Keep in mind that throughout this process, nobody should be standing between or near the two vehicles in case the strap breaks or comes loose.

6. Once your car is free, drive away safely.

Once your recovery situation is over, be sure to drive away slowly and carefully. Avoid sudden stops or turns, and inspect your equipment for any damage that may have occurred during the recovery process.

If you notice any damage to the recovery gear, make sure to replace it before going on any future adventures.

Best Practices for Freeing a Stuck Vehicle

While the steps above will help you safely free a stuck vehicle, there are a few other important things to remember for each vehicle recovery situation.

  • Ensure clear communication between you and the second driver. Before starting the recovery process, agree on a set of hand signals or another way to communicate so that there are no misunderstandings during the process.
  • Never try to free a vehicle by yourself. Two drivers and an additional vehicle are essential for successful vehicle recovery.
  • Never try joining two straps using hooks or shackles. There is a way to connect two or more snatch straps using a special device called a bridle, but this should only be done by experienced users.
  • Consider purchasing aftermarket recovery points. Whether or not your vehicle is equipped with rated shackles, aftermarket parts can make the process of recovering your vehicle more secure.
  • Never attach a rope to a tow ball. A trailer hitch ball is not connected at a rated recovery point and does not have the strength to withstand the forces generated during a vehicle recovery.
  • Do not try to tow a heavier vehicle than the one doing the pulling. It won't be strong enough to do the job, and it could result in a broken strap or equipment damage.
  • Do not exceed the rated capacity of your recovery gear. Using a strap with a lower rating than what's required for your vehicle weight can result in breakage, which could seriously injure nearby people or damage property.
  • To gain even more traction, use a set of recovery tracks. These devices can be placed under your tires to give you added grip when pulling out of a tough spot.

Use Aftermarket Shackles for the Ultimate Snatch Strap Recovery

The Archetype S.I.T.H.-R 7075 Rear Recovery Shackle and Receiver are made of 7075 billet aluminum and e-coated to resist corrosion.

As opposed to steel, billet aluminum stretches and deforms when pushed to its full capacity, preventing the "snap-back" effect that can be so dangerous when executing a recovery.The S.I.T.H.-R Shackle contains four pin detents that stabilize the shackle, so it doesn't swing while you're driving or on a trail. If you want the shackle to dangle with a slight angle, that's possible too.

The shackle is positioned at an upward angle to make it easier to install a soft shackle. This way, you don't have to hold the shackle up with one hand and thread the soft shackles with your other hand.

For the ultimate snatch strap recovery performance, pair the S.I.T.H.-R rated bow shackles with the proper-length snatch strap.

Final Thoughts On Recovery Strap Safety

Using a recovery strap can be dangerous if you don't take the proper precautions. Be sure to follow the steps and best practices outlined in this article to ensure a safe and successful recovery operation.

By following these guidelines and using the right equipment, you can help to prevent serious injuries, damage to your vehicle, and damage to other property.