Reader help: Do Toyota 4x4s have recovery points?
What is a recovery point and does the Toyota Fortuner have one?
QUESTION: Keep up the good work with the reviews. I have a question for you regarding the Toyota Fortuner. You comment in the review was that there are recovery points front and rear as standard. Was this your opinion on the points at the front or an official view from Toyota?
Reason being, I can’t seem to get anyone to confirm if the hooks at the front are good enough for a recovery. Everyone seems to not want to comment. I guess this is a legal position. I have tried to get a confirmation from Toyota and they would not (or at least the people I was able to speak with) would not comment. I would be very happy to use them if OK, considering ARB will charge around $400 to supply two recovery points for the front and even more for fitting.
I am not going to be rock crawling or heavily modifying the car, just some family touring and want to make sure we do it safely. By the way the manual calls them “emergency towing “ hooks and only specifies use on sealed roads and low speeds.
ANSWER: A tie-down point is used to secure the vehicle from moving while being transported. A tow point is used to tow the vehicle along a hard surface instead of it moving under its own power. And a recovery point is used to drag a 4X4 out of a problem, be that thick mud or up a steep slope, or both.
A tie-down point need not be very strong, and nor does a tow point. The effort required to shift a vehicle on flat bitumen is around 5% of its weight, so for a 2500kg vehicle like a partially loaded Fortuner = 125kg. Allow a bit more for hills and so on, but it’s not exactly a major load.
The problem comes with recovery points, because it is very easy for the forces to build up to the point where they exceed the vehicle’s weight, for example in thick mud on the level. Even on sand you can get to 50% of the force easily, and beyond if the car is truly stuck. On hills the forces increase rapidly too, and winching over a rock ledge can temporarily shoot forces well beyond the car’s weight. And then there’s shock loading too, as you find when using a snatch strap. There are various tables and formulas you can use to calculate forces, but that’s the sort of detail I go into in the 4WD Handbook, not on answers here.
So the recovery points need to handle a lot of force and that means if they break big problems are going to ensue. This is why they are so important, so you’re right to be concerned. The prevailing wisdom amongst 4X4 trainers is to solemnly intone that points “must be rated”, yet in fact very few are. In contrast, shackles, as hoisting equipment, are rated with a working load limit embossed on the loop, and stating the AS standard they comply to. Recovery points are typically not rated, yet everyone talks about ‘rated’ points.
To make things even less clear, it is safer for manufacturers to fit recovery points and then say they are tow points. That way, should anyone get into trouble, the manufacturer can say the points weren’t designed for recovery. This is the case with most manufacturers. Even though we guessed the answer in advance, we asked Toyota and they said:
“In relation to the vehicle tow points fitted to LC200, Fortuner, Hilux and Prado I can confirm that they are not designed for off-road vehicle recovery but to assist in the towing of the vehicle itself (should it ever require it).”
So you’re right, it’s a legal-driven answer. Most 4X4 owners make their own assessment; they look at the strength of the point and where it is on the vehicle – is it strongly welded or bolted to a chassis rail – and if so, they use it. People have been recovering Toyotas and other vehicles like that for decades. A good tip is to use a bridle to spread (not halve) the load between two front points, assuming there are two. At the back, the general practice is to use the tow hitch, but never slip a strap over the towball.
All that said, we have recently seen the emergence of truly rated aftermarket recovery points from ARB and others. Here’s an example:
This one is rated to 5000kg on a Ford Ranger PX2. The gross vehicle mass of the Ranger PX2 is 3200kg, so 5000kg is well in excess and that’s a WLL or Working Load Limit – the ultimate failure should be beyond 5000kg.
So you have two choices – look at your Fortuner’s points and make your own call, or find/pay for a company to make you a rated point as in the example above. Nobody is going to tell you it’s ok to recover off any other points, even if they will actually take the load.