4x4Car Advice

Gear You Need: Snatch Strap Recovery

When you have two or more vehicles travelling together, a snatch recovery can often be the easiest and fastest way to get a stuck vehicle unstuck. To perform a safe snatch recovery, you’re going to need the right gear.

THERE ARE numerous recovery methods that can be used to retrieve a 4×4 from a stuck state, and none are more straightforward than using a snatch strap. Of course, this recovery method cannot be performed unless there are at least two vehicles travelling together, because you need one vehicle to pull the stuck vehicle out of its predicament.

In addition to two or more vehicles, you’re going to need a snatch strap and a method to connect it to the vehicles. You’ll also need some safety gear and the knowledge to be able to perform a snatch strap recovery safely.

Knowledge

Knowing when a snatch strap recovery is possible and the best way to conduct it comes from training and experience. Even if you have two or more vehicles and all of the gear required to perform a snatch recovery, this extraction method is not always the best option, and sometimes is not even possible.

The principal behind a snatch strap recovery is that the vehicle being recovered is pulled out of its predicament by another vehicle via strap that acts like a big elastic band. The snatch strap is attached to both vehicles, then the recovery vehicle gets a run up and pulls on the strap, which stretches by about 20-30 per cent and then contracts, using stored kinetic energy to hopefully yank the stuck vehicle out of its bogged state.

A snatch strap recovery can only be performed if there’s enough space available for the recovery vehicle to get a good run-up, and if the recovery can be performed by pulling the stuck vehicle forwards or backwards, NOT to the sides.

If a snatch strap recovery does not suit the scenario, another recovery method will have to be employed, whether by simply using a shovel, a set of recovery tracks or a winch.

If you want to learn how to conduct safe snatch strap recoveries, you should attend an accredited 4×4 training course. There are several private instructors and many 4×4 clubs also run accredited training courses.

Snatch straps

Most snatch straps are made from a nylon webbing that’s designed to stretch under load. Snatch straps range in length from six to 12 metres, with most around the 9m mark. Width will vary between 60-80mm depending on the maximum breaking strength, which will usually be between 8000kg and 11,000kg. The correct breaking strength for a snatch recovery should be around two- to three-times the Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of the lightest of the two vehicles.

Most traditional nylon snatch straps have eyes (loops) at each end, and these will be reinforced and covered with a sleeve to protect the strap’s eyes and seams.

The snatch straps described above need to be attached to each vehicle with rated shackles, although there is another style of recovery strap that doesn’t require the use of shackles at all. The SpeedStrap used to be marketed in Australia by Staun, but these days you’ll have to go straight to the manufacturer in the USA to pick one up. This unique snatch strap allows you create a loop at both ends by simply feeding it through the vehicle’s rated recovery point and then weaving the strap back through itself; negating the need for a shackle makes snatch recoveries much safer.

Shackles

Traditional rated bow shackles are made from steel and are used to connect the snatch strap to the vehicle. These are available in different load ratings, which will be clearly marked on the shackle itself.

A 3.25-tonne bow shackle is a high enough load rating for most snatch strap recoveries, and this size shackle will be compatible with most rated vehicle recovery points. Larger shackles with a higher load rating can also be used for snatch recoveries but may not fit through the vehicle recovery point. Make sure your shackles are compatible with your vehicle’s recovery points before you leave home.

Soft shackles have recently become available in Australia and although more expensive than steel shackles, they are lighter, more compact and a much safer option. Soft shackles are made from special synthetic ropes and feature a big knot at one end and a loop at the other. They are fed through the eye of the snatch strap and the vehicle’s rated recovery point and the knot is then fed through the loop. Voila! You have a way to connect the snatch strap to the vehicle without a heavy steel shackle.

Rated Recovery Points

Both the recovery vehicle and the stuck vehicle must be fitted with rated recovery points to perform a snatch strap recovery. Vehicle tie-down points, or shipping points, should never be used in snatch strap recoveries as they’re made from mild steel and will fail, potentially flying through the air and hitting someone when they do. Likewise, NEVER, EVER connect a snatch strap by looping it over a tow ball. The tow ball could fail and become a lethal missile.

If your vehicle is not equipped with rated recovery points, there are several manufacturers of such items, and reputable 4×4 outlets will be able to affix them to your vehicle’s chassis with high tensile bolts so you can perform safe snatch strap recoveries.

Dampers

Snatch straps will occasionally fail, and when they do the kinetic energy that’s been built up as they stretch is released very quickly, and usually with a loud crack. I once saw a failed snatch strap put a mighty big ding in the tailgate of a LandCruiser wagon… without a shackle attached to it.

The best way to ensure this kinetic energy is released safely in the event of a strap failure is by placing a damper over the strap. Most 4×4 accessory manufacturers and distributors offer dedicated cable dampers, which have pockets for ballast such as sand.

Radios

There should only be two people involved in a snatch strap recovery: the driver of the recovery vehicle and the driver of the stuck vehicle. Everyone else should be standing back at a safe distance.

It’s important that both drovers discuss how the snatch recovery is going to take place before they get in their vehicles and that they can also communicate with each other throughout the recovery process. The best way to do this is via UHF radios, either in-vehicle units or quality (5W) handheld units.


Dean Mellor

Dean Mellor