How to Use a Snatch Strap

The Snatch Strap is an essential piece of recovery equipment if you plan on taking your 4WD to places you may not be able to return from without help. It’s generally considered good form to present your own snatch strap as you beg for a tow out of the predicament you got yourself into.

snatch strap and shackles
The Last Resort

Recovery by using a snatch strap should be a last resort when all other avenues such as winching, digging, pushing etc. have been exhausted.

The act of recovering a vehicle by towing puts enormous strain on components and consequently exposes them to failure. With the possibility of achieving breaking strains of over 8 tonnes while ‘snatching’ a four wheel drive care needs to taken in the execution.

Typically a Snatch Strap consists of an 8 - 10 metre Nylon Webbing Strap somewhere between 60 and 75 mm wide. Unlike similar looking straps a Snatch Strap has a built in elasticity that sees it stretch to around ten percent.

Snatch Straps are sold in various tolerances and should be matched to the vehicles using them. Too light a strap will see a potentially dangerous breakage while too heavy may see equally dangerous tow points ripped from the vehicle.

Giving It a Chance

Before attempting to recover a vehicle by snatching give the equipment the best chance of performing properly. The most valuable piece of recovery gear is a long handled shovel. Use it to dig the sand from around the tyres, clear dirt and obstructions from the belly of the car. If necessary use a hi-lift jack to raise the vehicle first.

The Snatch Strap needs to be connected to the vehicle at properly engineered tow points not bull bars, suspension components or tow balls. Connection should be made with minimum rated ‘D’ shackles of 3.5 tonne. Hand tighten the shackles and back them off ¼ of a turn to avoid seizing. All recovery/towing equipment needs to be in good condition without cuts and abrasions.

Taking Care

No metal pins, shackles or otherwise should be used to join towing/recovery straps or ropes. If a strap or rope fails during a recovery, any metal union potentially becomes a lethal projectile. Similarly, a Snatch Strap, upon failure, can break windows, dent panels or take out eyes.

Avoid having passengers in either vehicle and maintain a distance of 1.5 times the length of any spectators and the recovery area.

The Technique
slack loop in snatch strap

Both vehicles should be aligned as straight as possible for the recovery. Any more than about 10 degrees variation in a straight line and the procedure should be reassessed.

Connect the cars and allow approximately 2 metres slack in the Snatch Strap. Coil the slack into an ‘S’ figure ensuring there are no kinks or twists the entire length of the strap.

Throw an old blanket, or similar, across the middle of the strap. This acts as a recoil damper if breakage occurs, helping absorb the release of tension down the line.

Communication should be agreed upon at this point whether it is via CB radio or hand signals.

Both vehicles should select a similar gear ie: ideally both in low range 1 or 2 or both in reverse.

The lead car should move off at 10 – 12 kph and as the slack in the strap is taken up the bogged car releases the clutch and delivers power to the wheels. The exercise should be one of controlled momentum rather than a violent jerk. Avoid any excessive wheel spin and jerky or shuddering movement.

The action is quite slow and smooth - the elasticity of the Snatch Strap almost ‘sucks’ the bogged vehicle from its position.

If the vehicle can’t be recovered on the first attempt then try increasing the slack to about 3 metres or increasing the take-off speed a little.

If the vehicle remains firmly rooted after 3 attempts its probably time to contemplate another plan of attack.

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