Should you use your towbar for off-road recoveries?

By Evan Spence 6 Min Read

Recovery points fitted to the front and rear of your four-wheel drive is the only way to travel. Without a reliable and rated recovery system, you could find yourself bogged without a way to be recovered safely. Now, that’s not what I’d call a great time at all. It’s a rather bad time, really. 

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The reality is, recovery points are that important. Most four-wheel-drive clubs insist they be fitted or they won’t let you attend off-road trips. And that’s fair enough.  

Fitting recovery points to the front end of most popular makes and models of four-wheel drive is a straightforward affair these days. There are so many bolt-on kits on the market, we really are spoilt for choice. The rear of the vehicle is somewhat trickier, that is unless you have a quality towbar bolted up. 

Towball recoveries – please don’t 

Now I’ll start by saying, please never ever use the towball on your towbar as a recovery point. Towballs are for towing and bashing your shin on in the dark. Nothing else. 

There have been occasions during a vehicle recovery where the towball has sheared off, acted as a giant projectile, and sadly resulted in injury and deaths. Let’s avoid this altogether and please just never use a towball in a four-wheel drive recovery. Okay?

Pull the pin instead 

From my experience, the most common practice when using a towbar as a recovery point, which I’ve done many times before, is to remove the towbar hitch from the equation altogether. To do this, you’ll need a spanner or socket to back off the anti-rattle bolt (if there is one). 

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With this bolt loosened, you’ll need to pull the retainer pin going through the hitch pin. Then slide the hitch pin out, allowing the towbar hitch to be pulled out and put away somewhere safe.

I’d recommend doing this every time you head bush for two reasons. Firstly, when fitted the towbar hitch will reduce the departure angle of your four-wheel drive and scrape when four-wheel driving. Secondly, if you do need to be recovered from your towbar, it will be faster and easier to hook up a recovery strap or a winch. And how do you do this?

What I’ve always done, is to use the hitch pin as a recovery point. Slide one looped end of the snatch strap (for example) into the towbar, put the pin through the strap eye, and don’t forget to put the retainer pin back into the hitch pin. 

In a winching scenario, my preferred method here is to use a soft shackle. Put the hitch pin through the soft shackle, and connect the winch hook to the soft shackle. 

Rated recovery points

Some towbars on the market, like the X-Bar from Hayman Reese take things to the next level, with built-in recovery points. And to be honest, this is a bloody great innovation for four-wheel drivers. 

In the case of the X-Bar, there are three recovery points integrated into the towbar. These recovery points are soft shackle friendly too, thanks to a chamfered edge all around. 

The recovery point bolted in the middle is rated to 8,000kg, while the recovery points found on the driver and passenger side of the towbar are rated to 4,000kg each. If you link them with a bridle strap, which I’d recommend in most cases, there is now an 8,000kg load rating depending on the rating of your bridle strap. 

So, should you use a towbar in a recovery?

In my opinion, and I’m not an engineer, but yes it is fine to use the towbar in a recovery if done with care. If you use the hitch pin method as described above. As mentioned, I’ve done it many times before and will continue to do so. In saying that, I’d also be inclined to recommend a towbar with integrated and rated recovery points as the preferred method of recovering a four-wheel drive from behind. 

This way you know you are using gear that has been rated for the loads experienced during a vehicle recovery. If you are in the market for a new towbar, I’d definitely recommend choosing one that offered these rated recovery points as standard. If there’s nothing wrong with your current towbar setup, keep on using that hitch pin. 

Just please, please… never use a towball in a four-wheel drive recovery. You’re better than that, and I respect that about you. 


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