Tow Slings at Work or Play A tow strap is a very useful device made from nylon webbing. It is stretchable under tension. A tow strap allows one vehicle to assist another through a difficult spot from a distance of 20 or more feet away. By connecting the strap between the two vehicles, quite often winching can be avoided. When attaching the recovery strap to a vehicle, always use the towing hooks. Tow straps come in various sizes, from 2" wide to 4" wide and lengths of up to 30 feet. A good high quality strap is preferred. The recovery strap should be thought of as a large energy storage device. The strap will convert the kinetic (or speed energy) of the towing vehicle momentarily into spring potential energy. If all goes well, this energy is largely converted towards pulling out the stuck vehicle. However, if the anchor breaks loose, all of this massive energy is converted to high velocity energy of whatever weight remains attached. For example, if the towing vehicle weighs 3,000 lbs. and is moving at just 10 mph when the anchor breaks, a 3 lb. shackle will become a cruise missile flying at over 300 mph. “Just as a piece of straw can penetrate through a telephone pole at this speed during a tornado”. So will the cruise missile strap blast through a vehicle. The message here is: If you're going to use the recovery strap, know how it works. Broken recovery strap: This is not uncommon, especially if the nylon strap has been dragged over rocks or scraped across a sharp metal bumper edge and then put under severe stress. The temporary fix is a safe series of knots tying off damaged areas. When using a clevis with straps, make certain that nylon material rubs against the inside of the looped end. Otherwise, fraying and damage to the strap will result. Strap Ratings Web Capacity 15,000 lbs 20,300 lbs 22,500 lbs 30,500 lbs 40,700 lbs 61,000 lbs Rated Capacity 15,000 lbs 20,000 lbs 22,500 lbs 30,000 lbs 40,000 lbs 60,000 lbs Wd x Lg / App 2" x 20' Mid-size trucks, jeeps 2" x 30' Mid-size trucks, jeeps 3" x 20' Mid-size trucks, jeeps 3" x 30' Large 4 x 4 trucks 4" x 30' Tractors, heavy equip 6" x 30' Tractors, heavy equip Towing with chains In a word...don't. Towing with a chain, in most cases, can be dangerous. Unlike a tow strap, a chain does not stretch. Under the tremendous loads of towing, something needs to have a little flexibility, hence the tow strap. By using a chain, there is nothing in the loop that will give a little. What this means, simply, is the weakest part will break once sufficient stresses are imposed. Can you imagine the force behind a chain link being thrown at you by a force of 8000 pounds? Chains have their place for the off-highway driver, but not in towing. Tow hooks Well mounted and well placed tow hooks are a necessity for any four wheeler. There is usually a great possibility that they will get used. Factory or aftermarket front and rear frame-mounted tow hooks require high-tensile strength bolts and self-locking aircraft quality nuts. Never mount directly to the bumper. Hooks are available with spring clips to prevent straps from slipping off. These are especially useful for one-person operation. Mounted upward, downward or sideways, tow hook bolts should align in the direction of pull. Determine mounting location by the frame height, with the safest pull being a relatively straight line. Preventive Maintenance Inspect all attaching hooks and straps. Make certain clevis pins are free of moisture, and lubricate them lightly. Dry out your nylon straps before storing them. Check tow hook and winch mount bolts and nuts for tightness and signs of fatigue. Inspect closely for bending or possible fatigue cracks on any parts affected by the winch loads. Recovery Operations Tow straps with hooks should not be used. The hook could come loose from the stuck vehicle and become a dangerous projectile towards the towing vehicle. Straps with looped ends should be used with the loops placed on the hook. Hooks should have retaining clips to keep the strap from sliding off. A towel should be placed over the strap between the vehicles to keep it from snapping back if the strap breaks. Warnings Use common sense, do not use tow line if line is beyond repair. Take care when cutting with sharp blades. Consider why your first rope broke in the first place. If the rope snapped under pressure, the rope is now so stressed and damaged that it should be retired. If on the other hand the rope broke because it was sliced accidentally over a sharp edge, the rope may be strong enough to keep using. Recovering a stuck vehicle is very different from towing a vehicle that is not stuck. The forces exerted on the rope are much more severe. Ropes and their connection points have been known to break loose and fly through windshields, injuring vehicle occupants and bystanders. HOW TO CHOOSE A RECOVERY STRAP Estimate the weight of the disabled vehicle being towed or rescued. Then choose a Keeper towing product with a Max. Vehicle Weight designation greater than the total vehicle weight. MUST READ BEFORE USE 1. Working Load Limit - represents the maximum vehicle weight a Recovery Strap can safely handle and still accommodate the added stress caused by sudden jerking, tire suction, friction and angle of pull. For this reason Keeper recommends that the maximum weight of the disabled vehicle not exceed the limit shown on the strap that you are using. 2. ALWAYS USE EXTREME CAUTION. Stand clear! If strap breaks or becomes disengaged, it will snap wildly. 3. Not recommended for highway use. 4. Protect strap from sharp edges or heat. Replace if cut, worn, frayed, melted or abraded. 5. Do not use for lifting. OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS 1. Attach only to vehicle frame or hitch strong enough for extreme towing stress. DO NOT USE PORTABLE METAL HARDWARE such as hooks or chain to attach strap to vehicle. 2. To attach to frame, form a loop around the frame by passing one end loop through the other (as shown in the photo to the left). Or attach to tractor hitch pin or frame mounted tow hook strong enough for extreme towing stress. 3. Tie a rag around strap to protect from sharp edges. Be particularly careful of sharp edge on bottom of bumper. 4. DRIVE SLOWLY away from stuck vehicle until strap stops stretching. The strap will recoil and free the stuck vehicle. USE EXTREME CAUTION and STAND CLEAR. 5. To reduce potential whipping, lay blanket or coat over the strap after vehicle attachment. REMEMBER, if the strap is overloaded or improperly fastened, it could snap loose like a rubber band and cause injury. 6. At stop or when slowing down, keep tension on the strap to avoid abrasion from road. How a Recovery Strap Works The strap works like this. Say for example you are pulling out your friend, so you attach your recovery strap to the back of your vehicle and then to the front of his. As you drive away from him the recovery strap stretches just like a rubber band. The strap wants to go back to its normal size, so it has no other choice than to transfer the energy to the stuck vehicle, pulling it out. Because the straps are made of Nylon, they stretch. They are safer than chains, easier to use, and not nearly as heavy. Specifications I've seen recovery straps come in lengths of 20 to 40 feet and widths from 2 to 6 inches. A general rule of thumb, each inch of width will allow you to pull out about 10,000 lbs. So if I have a 3 inch wide strap, it would be rated to tug up to 30,000 lbs. Many will then ask, why not go all the way up to a 6" wide recovery strap? The problem is that the strap becomes less elastic the wider it gets, which means it will not work properly. Typically a 2" or 3" wide recovery strap will suit all of your needs. Tips for Recovery Strap Use do the Hazard Assessment on the Strap Before ever using the strap, make sure it is in good condition ( no cuts, frays, or broken stitching.) Make sure the hardware being used is free of defects and rust. This includes your tow hooks or front hitch and the hardware on the other vehicle. If possible, the recovering vehicle should place the recovery strap to its rear end, which would be the safest place if the strap happens to break. When using a clevis with straps, make certain that nylon material rubs against the inside of the looped end. Otherwise, fraying and damage to the strap will result. Some vehicles actually have tow hooks, but if not you must use your own judgment. Never attach a recovery strap to a vehicles bumper, axles, suspension, steering rods, or a trailer hitch ball. The attach points must be to a secure place on the vehicles frame. Do not place the recovery strap on another vehicle in a way that it may be cut. Never, ever, attach a recovery strap to another vehicle with a knot. You should pass one end of the strap through the loop at the other end of the strap to secure it on. Incase the strap may break, lay a tarp or some jackets on top of the recovery strap. When the strap breaks (lets hope for the best, but prepare for the worst), the jackets or tarp will slow the recovery strap down before it hits someone. To help protect the strap from tears, make sure all logs and large rocks are removed from the recovery path. Everyone should stand clear of the recovery strap when it is in use. When pulling the vehicle out, drive very slowly. Sudden tugs may lead to damage to either of the vehicles or the strap. Once the vehicle is safely removed, inspect your recovery strap and hardware and hit the road! In addition to these recommendations, read the instructions your recovery strap comes with. To protect your strap, store it out of sunlight and away from heat and keep it clean. Dirt, mud and debris embedded in a tow strap actually damages the fibers over time and can decrease its strength. After a muddy day of wheeling and recovery, always clean your straps by hosing them off and spray horizontally across the strap as not to push the debris into the strap fibers. Some General Pointers: If you feel yourself getting into trouble -- stop the vehicle (assuming it is safe) and put your brain into overdrive. Don't keep moving into deeper and deeper trouble. It is always easier to get out of a small problem than a big giant green booger of a problem. Don't let your ego (or your friends' taunting) get you into a dangerous situation. I'm not talking about just breaking your equipment -- if that's what you want to do, just clean up after yourself -- but people do die doing this stuff. Don't be one of them. Remember that you have to roll over objects, you can't pull through them. If you are stuck in deep mud or behind a rock or in a rut, remember that even the strongest winch probably can not pull your vehicle straight through a solid object. You have to get your wheels up and rolling over (or around) what ever you are trying to get out of. A tire that has no traction has no traction in any direction. This is an important point, one that is also driven home if you have tried to steer in a panic stop with your brakes. If your tires are not rolling and/or have no traction then as soon as you start to move them (or when you start pulling the vehicle) you can't count on it going in the same direction that the tires are pointing. The vehicle will take the path of least resistance, following the forces exerted on it. Gravity Don't forget to factor in GRAVITY. Remember, it is always going to be pulling down, this is an incredibly important factor that is too often overlooked when winching across slopes, or when a recovery vehicle located above a stuck vehicle tries to winch it out, only to find that it is being pulled down towards the stuck vehicle instead of the other way around. Safety First and Foremost! This can't be emphasized enough. Make sure that you are familiar with all of the basic winching safety precautions and that you heed them all. Don't let 30 seconds of carelessness cause a lifetime of regret?