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When you’re out using your 4x4 for what it’s intended, there may come a time when you find yourself stuck. Usually, with a little common sense plus a shovel and some elbow grease, you can recover the vehicle and be on your way. However, sometimes things are a bit more serious, and specific pieces of equipment (and perhaps other vehicles, too) are needed to get you moving again.

When you start tying vehicles together, or using equipment that is specifically designed for an off-road recovery job, there are a few important points to remember… especially when it comes to the proper use and maintenance of your gear.

1. Use the correct tool for the job

You may be tempted to use the biggest, meanest-looking tool for a recovery situation, but doing so can be dangerous. Safety should always be your first concern, and using the correct equipment is generally more effective and far less risky.

2. Never use a tow strap for kinetic recoveries

Tow straps should be used only in straight-line static recoveries. Even a little yank to get a vehicle unstuck could damage the strap and make it unsafe to use.

3. Keep your hi-lift jack clean

Hi-lift jacks have moving parts that enable the mechanism to climb up and down the rail of the jack. If this mechanism fails at the wrong time, you can damage the vehicle or hurt yourself. Because these jacks are usually stored outside the vehicle, dirt tends to build up on them. Check your jack frequently, cleaning off dirt if necessary, and protect it from corrosion. Storing your high-lift jack in a bag of some sort isn’t a bad idea, either.

4. Don’t use damaged equipment

Do a thorough visual inspection of any equipment that you are about to use, to make sure that there are no defects and that it has not been damaged. Doing so could prevent damage to a vehicle, reduce the risk of injury, or even save a life.

5. Use the correct shackles

Sure, D-shackles are cheaper to buy; but they’re not designed for vehicle recoveries with straps and ropes, and can potentially cause the strap to bunch up and be damaged in the process. In contrast, bow-shackles offer a greater range of motion in the pulling angle, which makes them ideal for a multitude of off-road recovery situations. Shown below: bow shackle on left, and D-shackle on right.

6. Re-roll your winch after use

If your winch cable has been spooled out of the drum, and then wound back on again during a recovery, there’s a good chance that it won’t be spooled on neatly. The moment this happens, you run the risk of pinching the cable and causing a weak point where a future failure may occur. Take the time to re-roll your winch cable neatly; and while you’re at it, use the opportunity to inspect the cable for kinks and frays.

7. Keep your equipment clean

In most cases, mud and dirt will be part of any off-road recovery, and sand and grime on any strap can shorten its lifespan considerably. The grains of sand that get in between the weave of the strap can have an abrasive effect, leading to a breakage at some point. Be sure to clean your recovery equipment as soon as you can.

8. Use your own gear

Try to use your own equipment in the event of your vehicle needing recovery. If you maintain your gear correctly, you have a smaller chance of equipment failure.

9. Think outside the box

Some pieces of recovery gear can be safely used for purposes other than those for which they were intended. A hi-lift jack, for instance, can be used as a manual winch, or as a clamp when welding, or as a makeshift brace for a broken leaf spring. If the emergency calls for it, try to think outside the box.

10. Never rush a recovery situation

Accidents happen when people hurry, and forget important yet simple safety aspects of a recovery. Always avoid the temptation to take short cuts: it’s NOT worth it. The moment you shy away from hard work, or worry about your clothes getting dirty, the chances are good that you’re going to cut a corner or two – and in the process, make the recovery situation a whole lot worse.

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