How to Use a Tow Rope for Kinetic Recovery

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NOTE: Before reading on, please be sure to see our blog from a couple of days ago about the primary importance of taking a recovery class from an offroad driving trainer certified by I4WDTA. More important than even knowing how to do a recovery is learning how to avoid getting stuck in the first place. A proper trainer will teach you the fundamentals.

Since there are so many variables to handle in real life recoveries, it is best to learn how to handle them with hands-on training. The instructions below are meant only for the purpose of giving you preliminary information and are NOT to be relied on as your complete source on how to do a kinetic recovery.

That having been stated, below is the general idea of how to do a kinetic recovery.

VEHICLE TO VEHICLE RECOVERY BASICS

  • Check that you have the right equipment
  • Check that you have good recovery connection points on both vehicles
  • Know how to pull with a kinetic recovery rope
  • Know what not to do with a kinetic recovery rope
  • Check that you have the right equipment
    • (correct rope, ¾” shackles, good recovery points)
  • Check that you have good recovery connection points on both vehicles
    • Generally, these are hitches, factory recovery points on steel bumpers or factory tow points rather than the tie-down points that are used for car transport. If in doubt, check with your local trainer.
  • Know how to pull with a kinetic recovery rope
    • See guidelines below
  • Know what not to do with a kinetic recovery rope
    • See guidelines below
    • Don’t shock load rope
    • Don’t connect to winchlines
    • Don’t connect 2 ropes with a shackle or metal objects in the center
    • Use ¾” shackles or larger, never smaller
    • Use only rated shackles – must say what the strength is IE 4.75 ton WLL
    • Keep everyone a minimum of 50 feet away who does not need to be there including pets, and no one directly behind or in front of the vehicles who does not need to be there.


Properly Match the Vehicles, the Tow Rope and Shackle

Be sure that the recovery vehicle and the vehicle that is stuck are in about the same weight class and that you have recovery rope and screw pin bow shackles with the appropriate minimum breaking strength (MBS) for those vehicles. If the vehicle weights are not close, then be sure that the rope is appropriately matched for the smaller of the two vehicles. A great weight mismatch with a rope that is suited only for the heavier vehicle can be dangerous. The difference of a 5,000 Lb. vs. 4,000 Lb. truck doesn't matter that much. Examples of a mismatch, however, are Jeep Wrangler to an ATV, monster truck to a Jeep, or a dozer to a pickup.

What happens if the rope or connection points break? Which one lets go? Usually, it is the weaker one on the weaker vehicle. Accordingly, it is most important to know the limitations and be very careful that the shackles or other hardware do not break off and launch like a missile at the individual that is stuck or the one that is doing the pulling.

You just have to be extremely careful using a recovery vehicle that is the weight of something like a military Humvee on a Toyota Tacoma (or for that matter, a Tacoma to pull out a UTV) with a rope that’s only suited for the heavier vehicle. The smaller vehicle in such situations typically does not have recovery points that can withstand the impact of a dynamic recovery from a rope that is made for a significantly larger vehicle. A rope that is too thick, and used to recover a small vehicle, will not offer enough elasticity to the recovery points on that small vehicle.

Set Up the Recovery System

Take an appropriately-selected screw pin bow shackle and unscrew the pin. Insert that bow shackle through the eye/loop of one end of your recovery rope. Appropriately choose your rope and shackles as described below. The resistance level (working load limit or WLL) of your rope and shackle will depend on the weight of your vehicle. We normally use the ultimate breaking strength for ropes because there is no industry standard for WLL, or SWL (Save Working Limit). So a 1” rope that has a 33,500 MBS (Minimum Breaking Strength) will be nicely matched to a typical 4.75 Ton shackle with a WLL factor of 4, which is about 38,000 lb.

Having slipped that unscrewed bow shackle through one eyelet of your recovery rope, now slip that same shackle through a recovery point that was made by your truck’s manufacturer and which you know was intended to be a recovery point. Screw the pin back into your shackle so that your screw pin can no longer tighten by hand, then unscrew it with only a quarter to half turn back out (helps keep your screw pin from getting locked in after the extreme forces of a recovery have their effect). Next, follow these same steps with another shackle (same WLL) at the other end of that tow rope, connecting it to the other vehicle.

Execute the Recovery

Put a distance between the recovery vehicle and the vehicle that is stuck. That distance will start as the length of the tow rope. In the case of Viking Offroad Tow Ropes, that distance will be 30 feet. See if you can pull the stuck vehicle out with a gentle pull. If not, back up just a little, and give it a little bump on the gas. If this does not work, move the recovery vehicle toward the vehicle that’s stuck, pulling the rope to the side until you see it in your rear view mirror. Now set the rope back in the middle. This is a good way to measure the slack so you don’t have too much slack. The more slack the more danger of breaking something. This distance should be no more than one quarter the length of the tow rope. In the case of our tow ropes, you would be moving the recovery vehicle toward the stuck vehicle about 7 feet so that now, the vehicles are 23 feet apart.

Place the vehicle that needs recovery into the neutral gear, but keep the vehicle on so you can be sure to steer it when necessary. Shift the recovery vehicle into first gear and gently press the gas to eventually eliminate the slack in the recovery rope and hopefully create a gentle tug on the other vehicle well enough to pull it out. If that tug was not enough, repeat the process but press the gas only slightly more next time. Note that you SHOULD NOT bring the recovery vehicle closer with each successive try.

Repeat the process of placing the vehicles 23 feet apart and gently pressing the gas pedal on the recovery vehicle. Continue to repeat the steps only until the other vehicle is recovered or you see that the force being applied from the recovery vehicle is beginning to reach a level at which you are eliminating the slack in the rope with greater and much more sudden impact. That is the point at which kinetic recovery begins to no longer be safe. Discontinue the kinetic recovery and change to a static recovery. If you do not have a winch with a winchline, seek out a vehicle that has one; don’t continue with a recovery that is crossing a safety limit.

ADDITIONAL SAFETY WARNINGS

NEVER use tow ropes or tow straps (kinetic snatch straps etc.) with winches. Never connect ropes or straps end-to-end with other kinetic ropes or straps, with shackles or metal connectors. It is VERY dangerous to use a snatch strap or kinetic recovery rope with a winch line. That is like putting a giant rubber band on the end of something that can input 9,500lbs of power into the lines ready to launch. This is why kinetic (dynamic) and static lines can never be mixed when pulling with a winch, it is a recipe for serious injury or death.

For your safety, you should also never shock load the rope. For example, you should never create too much slack on the recovery rope while connected to any other vehicle and then floor it, creating a shock load. This would put you at serious risk.

Ultimately we recommend taking a recovery class to gain better understanding and practice of the principles of recovering vehicles safely and efficiently.