It's always safe to travel with another vehicle, bonus points if your mate has a winch. If not, never fear; snatch straps are a quick and easy way to get a buried vehicle back in action.
A snatch is a kinetic (or stretchy) piece of bound webbing. It's attached via shackles to a recovery vehicle on one end and the stricken vehicle on the other. When the recovery vehicle moves away, the snatch strap stretches and loads up with kinetic energy like a great big rubber band. That build-up of stretching force is the critical component that’s used to pluck the stuck vehicle from its peril.
It's important to remember that a loaded snatch strap can be dangerous, you need to ensure the gear is up to the task and not damaged in any way. Only use a rated snatch strap attached to rated shackles on proper recovery points.
Size and Rating
It’s a common misconception that bigger is better, but this is not the case with snatch straps. Your snatch needs to be strong enough to withstand the force of a recovery, but not so strong that the vehicles will be unable to stretch it. The strap should have a minimum breaking strength equivalent to twice the gross vehicle mass (GVM) of the lighter of the two vehicles involved in the recovery. For common recreational off-roader, this will be a rating of around 8,000 kilograms.
How To Perform a Snatch Recovery
First, grab your shovel, dig out the wheels and clear any other obstructions from beneath the vehicle. Let’s assume that the recovery vehicle is directly in front of the stuck vehicle and the recovery will require both to travel forward (this is the ideal scenario).
Attach the snatch strap to the front of the stricken vehicle first, using a rated shackle to an off-road recovery point. If possible, it’s best to use an equaliser or bridle strap to connect the snatch to both front recovery points. Lay the strap in a loose ‘S’ shape along the ground in front of the stuck vehicle, ensuring there are no twists or kinks. Now attach the far end to the rear recovery point of the recovery vehicle.
Lay a strap dampener over the middle of the strap, never preform a snatch recovery without doing this. If you don’t have one, use a heavy blanket or something similar. In the event that something breaks or the strap snaps, the dampener will help to prevent the loaded strap from whipping back and flinging broken hardware, making it a vital safety component.
Both vehicles should be in low range, first or second gear and have a line of communication (UHF radio is idea). Make sure bystanders are at a safe distance. At an agreed upon signal or command, the recovery vehicle will accelerate firmly and steadily. Do not accelerate quickly and suddenly shock-load the system. The stuck vehicle should attempt to match the momentum of the recovery vehicle, don’t slam on the accelerator. Once both vehicles are all clear, stop and detach the strap.
- Ruts and washouts
Do not use in sticky mud.
There’s one way to use a snatch strap safely and a lot of ways in which it can be done wrong. Always be aware that a loaded snatch is potentially very dangerous. Use a dampener and stand clear when they're in use. Never use snatch straps for towing or lifting. Snatch straps are not suitable for recoveries in sticky mud, as it can create a suction effect on the tyres and overload the system. Keep the strap clean, store it in a safe place out of direct sunlight, don’t drive over it and don’t let it encounter any chemicals. Inspect it regularly and if there’s any doubt as to its integrity, don’t use it.