How they work
When the recovery vehicle slowly and steadily applies a towing load via the strap to the immobilised one, the strap due to its elastic nature, stretches considerably. The energy thus temporarily stored in the strap helps to ‘spring’ or ‘snatch’ the bogged vehicle out.
The energy stored in them and the loads applied to the strap during recovery can make them extremely dangerous items, especially for bystanders. In fact, improper use has caused fatalities.
All straps must be permanently marked with prescribed consumer information and a warning statement.
Required information includes:
- the brand name
- identification of the Australian maker or supplier
- a batch code or serial number
- instructions for correct use
- minimum breaking strength.
The mandatory warning statement must highlight the danger of using vehicle attachment points, such as tie-down eyes and towballs, that are not designed for vehicle recovery.
It must also recommend that the strap be suited to the Gross Vehicle Mass of the lighter of the two vehicles involved in the recovery and that the minimum breaking strength be between two and three times the vehicle’s GVM.
Recovery strap selection
For a snatch strap to work as intended it must be matched to the GVM of the lightest vehicle involved in the recovery. If the strap is too light there is a risk of it breaking. If it's too heavy it won't stretch, and therefore won't provide the desired assistance and it may also increase the shock loading on the attaching points leading to increased risk of catastrophic failure.
- Always follow instructions supplied with equipment
- Only use the right equipment that’s in good condition and correctly rated for the vehicle masses and loads involved
- Don’t use straps that are cut, badly chaffed or otherwise damaged.
- Keep them in good condition by washing them in clean water to remove mud, sand, etc., then dry and store them in a canvas bag.
- Don’t use them as lifting slings or for conventional towing duty.
- Don’t write on them with marker pens.
Setting up for the recovery
- Carefully assess the situation, including the best direction for vehicle recovery (forward or reverse) and other possible hazards
- Clear mud or sand away from the stranded vehicle’s wheels and underbody, bearing in mind direction of the pull
- Position the tow vehicle in line with the stranded car (no more than 10° from straight) with the distance between them about two metres less than the un-stretched strap length
- Lay the strap out between the cars, removing twists and kinks. Attach to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended (consult owner handbook) or other properly engineered recovery points. DON’T use tiedown eyes, towballs/towbars, bullbars, suspension components – they aren’t designed for recovery loads. Vehicle damage and fatal injuries have resulted from failures!
- Form an S-shape loop in the ‘spare’ two metres near the strap’s middle. Place a recovery damper bag (inexpensive) or heavy blanket across the strap near its mid-point to act as a recoil damper.
- If shackles are required for vehicle connection, use only good quality load rated shackles (working load limit, minimum of 3.5 tonnes). Hand tighten the pin and back off ¼ turn to help avoid pin seizure
- Avoid joining straps where practical. If required, due to terrain etc., only use correct joining techniques. NEVER use metal objects including shackles - they can become deadly missiles if anything fails
- To join two straps, take the end of strap A up through the eye on strap B. Reach down through the eye of strap A and grab strap B behind the eye and lift it up through the eye of strap A. Continue pulling strap B’s entire length through. Pull the resulting joint tight with a rolled up magazine inserted across the joint between the two straps. See photo. This will allow the straps to be separated after use.
- Onlookers should not be in front, between or behind the vehicles and must be at least 1.5 times the strap length to the side.
- Choose which driver is to direct the process and agree on suitable signals.
Picking the right gears to use for both vehicles will need some judgement, but as a starting point use 1st gear for the recovery car and (depending on direction of recovery) 1st or reverse for the bogged vehicle. Vehicles with a transfer case should use 1st or 2nd low range.
- The recovery vehicle then steadily accelerates forward at about 10 –12km/h – a big ‘run and jerk’ isn’t necessary or desirable. Steady momentum and the elasticity of the strap does the job.
- As the slack in the strap just takes up, the stricken vehicle’s driver also attempts to drive out of the bog.
- Be smooth, avoid wheel spin and don’t use excessive speed or continual jerking.
- If the vehicle can’t be extracted in three attempts other methods such as winching may be necessary.