How to use a snatch strap safely

By Unsealed 4X4 10 Min Read

Chances are you saw our little write up around exactly what a snatch strap is, and how it works. If you missed it, you will find it here. Now, it’s time for a few safety tips on safely using your snatch… strap.

Keeping it clean

If you’ve used your recovery gear more than once, chances are it’s going to be cake in mud, dirt and dust. Before you pack it away, it’s a solid idea to clean it up beforehand. A wash down with the hose, and hang it up (out of direct sunlight if possible) to dry for a day. This will ensure it will last longer, and you’re working with nice clean gear when you need to use it next time.


The old saying ‘look after your gear and it will look after you’ is the trick here.

Help your gear help you

Wherever you can, make the snatch recovery easier. Where possible, get your wheels straight, so they offer the least amount of resistance, and clear out as much mud, dirt, rocks, whatever from in front of your tyres. Yep, this will require getting the shovel down, and doing a bit of manual labour, but making the recovery as gentle as possible limits the amount of risk of using the strap in the first place. You can also dig a little trench to your recovery point for the strap to sit in, so it’s as straight-line as possible to your recovery point; reducing the loading of the strap so it’s as straight line as you can make it.

Not only will you reduce the loading on your strap, but also your recovery points – remember everything is rated, and wherever you can reduce the amount of strain on things, the longer they will last you, and the less chance there is of something going proper pair-shaped.

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Rated recovery

USE RATED RECOVERY GEAR! There… I said it. That includes your recovery points, your straps, your shackles, the works. This will keep you safe, and hopefully, stop anything going skew-whiff on you.


The ratings are something you’ll need to keep in mind too. Sure, you’ve got a nine-tonne strap and five-tonne shackles, and your four-wheel drive only weighs three-tones, all good right? Not so much. When you’re using a snatch strap, you’re going to be shock-loading all of the recovery gear. It’s impossible to work out specific weight loadings when recovering someone, simply due to how badly they’re bogged, suctioning into the mud, weights of vehicles, angles, the works; but it’s a lot higher than you’d imagine. Always err on the higher side of ratings when you can.

Using properly rated gear can and will save your life. Rated recovery points, shackles and recovery gear should be clearly marked with their working load limits; and if you’re uncertain, don’t use them!

Lessen the load

Next on how to use a snatch strap safely, look at halving your weight on a recovery point. Recoveries put huge amounts of stress onto all the recovery components being used, through the sheer force placed onto both the moving vehicle and the stationary vehicle being recovered. One way to lessen the stress upon the recovered vehicle is through the use of an equaliser strap. The equaliser strap does exactly as its name suggests by spreading the load across two recovery points, dramatically reducing the likelihood of component failure through the shock of the recovery.

You can get specific equaliser bridles and straps; however a tree trunk protector will work in most cases; especially as they’re usually rated even more than your snatch strap, and because they’re a short static strap. There’s no stretch or rebound in them. Connecting this between two front recovery points will halve the strain on those points.

Steady as she goes

Who has seen recoveries where the recovering vehicle takes a run-off and blasts full-tilt forward with all four wheels spinning at a great rate of knots? This type of recovery attempt places unbelievable force on both vehicles as well as the recovery gear … and the truth is, most recoveries can be achieved through a ‘steady as she goes’ approach.


Start off slow, and take up the slack of the recovery strap to see if a more gentle recovery attempt works first of all. Leave a metre or two of slack strap on the second attempt, before progressively getting quicker if the first couple of efforts don’t work.

Interestingly enough, a lot of the time, you can get someone out (so long as they’re able to drive forward as you pull), just by ‘leaning on them’. Take up the slack of the strap, and just try to drive off; it’ll usually get you there.

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The Don’ts

Never join two recovery straps with a metal shackle. If either the shackle or one of the straps breaks, the shackle then becomes an airborne missile that starts life directly between each vehicle. If a strap brakes with a metal shackle attached to each vehicle, it’s only the length of strap flying.

Be careful snatching out of really deep mud. The mud can often act like a vacuum around the vehicle’s wheels and chassis, creating a situation that is better suited to winching rather than snatching. Recovery tracks can often be a better option here, too.

Never, ever, ever recover off a tow ball. We shouldn’t need to say this, but we’re still seeing it being done! They are simply not designed to withstand sudden sideways shock forces and can very quickly become metal missiles. Unfortunately, there have been numerous instances of serious injury and death in Australia and overseas through broken towballs.

Recoveries are not a spectator sport. They can be dangerous. Therefore, don’t allow people to stand around watching the action. This can be done politely by asking people to stand at least two lengths of a strap away from the action and preferably to the side.

The Do’s

How’s about some ‘Do’s’ of using a snatch strap safely? Make sure your recovery gear is in good working order. Straps should be whole and not torn or frayed. If in doubt, throw it out!

Always use a strap or winch dampener in the middle of the strap or winch rope in order to reduce the recoil, should something fail in the recovery. Don’t have a dampener? Even an old jumper or a couple of beach towels will work a treat.

Relax! Stress does nothing to create a safe and secure recovery. If you find yourself stuck, then take the time to think things through. Have a cuppa; sit down and consider which recovery technique might work best.

A day out in your 4X4 should be fun for everyone… and from time to time, you may well get stuck. Recovering your vehicle can be part of a great day out if executed correctly and safely. Take your time, do it right and enjoy it!

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Never snatch in reverse

Sure, it’ll be a pain in the ass turning around on a tight track to pull a mate out, but if you like having teeth on the crown-wheel and pinion of your diff, don’t snatch in reverse! See, the teeth on your crown-wheel and pinion are cut a certain way; where there is the most amount of contact when you’re going forward – most of us drive forwards more often, right? So if you’re snatching in reverse, the load up is against a smaller contact area, so there is more physical force on a smaller area – ergo, a greater chance of snapping teeth.

And this, is how you use your snatch strap, safely.


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