Four Wheel Drive Concepts
Offroad Driving Techniques
Vehicle Recovery Techniques
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Vehicle Recovery Techniques
Snatch Ropes

Snatch ropes are useful as towing ropes and as tools in vehicle recovery. They can also be used as tree protectors when winching. Their primary use is to duplicate an elastic-band effect to "snatch" bogged vehicles out. Snatch ropes are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and weight ratings, and most are nylon straps or ropes.
Snatch rope There are two main types of snatch ropes: one is a tow rope, the other a "snatch" rope. Snatch ropes (also called recovery or kinetic straps) are often longer and will therefore stretch more. The general rule of thumb is to pick a snatch rope with 3 to 4 times the weight rating of your vehicle's Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW). The table below provides an indication of snatch rope types.
 Length   Width  Weight Rating
30 Foot 2 Inch 15,000 to 20,000 pounds
30 Foot 3 Inch 20,000 pounds
30 Foot 4 Inch 40,000 pounds
35 Foot 6 Inch 60,000 pounds
How Snatch Ropes Work
The combined weight of both vehicles, the vehicle motion and the elasticity of the snatch rope combined can be used to multiply the potential energy, which is converted to kinetic energy when the recovery process takes place. When the recovery vehicle accelerates, the slack is taken up, the rope stretches, and the energy produced snatches the bogged vehicle out, thus multiplying substantially the amount of available energy that is used to recover the bogged vehicle.
The Dangers of Snatch Recovery
The procedure begins with knowing and respecting the dangers of snatching. As described above, kinetic energy is used to multiply the force used for recovery. It also multiplies the danger if the snatch rope snaps or a towing point tears loose. Imagine what a 3 pound hunk of metal, travelling at over 160km/h will do at the end of a rope if a tow hook was to come off your chassis!
DANGER! Serious injury or death can occur!
  • ALWAYS USE EXTREME CAUTION AND STAND CLEAR when using snatch ropes. If the strap breaks, becomes disengaged or towing fixtures tear loose, the strap will snap and whip wildly.
    WARNING! May cause serious injury or death!
  • NEVER ATTACH A SNATCH ROPE TO A VEHICLE'S TOW-HOOK OR BUMBER. Tow hooks and bumpers are not designed to withstand the stresses a snatch rope produces. Use the vehicle's recovery points.
    WARNING! May cause serious injury or death!
  • Only use shackles to attach your snatch rope to a vehicle. DO NOT USE PORTABLE HARDWARE such as hooks or chain to attach snatch ropes to vehicles. NEVER JOIN TWO SNATCH ROPES TOGETHER USING SHACKLES.
    CAUTION! Beware of unsafe practice!
  • PROTECT SNATCH ROPE FROM SHARP EDGES, ABRASIONS AND HEAT. Wash in warm water after use. Replace immediately if cut, worn or damaged.
    CAUTION! Beware of unsafe practice!
  • DO NOT USE THE SAME SNATCH ROPE MORE THAN 10 TIMES. Snatch ropes loose their elasticity after each use and are weakened. Confirm recommended maximum number of recoveries with your manufacturer.
    CAUTION! Beware of unsafe practice!
  • NEVER PERFORM SNATCH RECOVERIES WITH VEHICLES OF DISSIMILAR SIZE. The energy produced during a snatch recovery can jerk the lighter vehicle into the heavier vehicle, causing a collision.
    Complete tow hook and pintle recoiled through front and rear windscreens of this Range Rover. Miraculously there were no injuries. So long as the driver can see the controlling marshaller (see below), raising the bonnet can be a useful ad hoc safety shield during snatch recoveries.

    This pic © Tom Sheppard's excellent book, Off-Roader driving (ISBN 0-9532324-2-5, Desert Winds Publishing)
    Snatch rope damage
    The Snatch Recovery Procedure
    Move the recovery vehicle in front or behind the stuck vehicle (take a look first to see which is optimal). The distance between the two must be about half the length of the snatch rope. Ideally, a third person should be used to marshall the entire procedure.
    Attach the snatch rope securely to recovery points on both vehicles, using shackles. Open the stuck vehicle's bonnet, and lay a blanket or coat over the snatch rope to dampen the whip should the snatch rope snap.
    Move the vehicle to within half a length of the snatch rope
    Both drivers now get into and start their vehicles. Passengers are asked to step out of the vehicle and join the bystanders. Bystanders are warned of the dangers of vehicle recovery, and asked to stand well back. The driver of the bogged vehicle will engage gear and assist the recovery vehicle by attempting to drive in the direction being pulled.
    Accelerate gently
    The recovery vehicle then GENTLY accelerates, until the jerk on the strap is felt. Let the snatch rope bring you to a stop. The nylon webbing of the snatch rope will stretch up to 20% and then recoil to its original length.
    Let the snatch rope bring the vehicle to a stop
    When the snatch rope has recoiled, the bogged vehicle should have inched forward a bit. You will be amazed at just how little momentum is required. Remember to keep some tension on the strap to avoid abrasion from the road surface. Gently repeat this process until the bogged vehicle is freed.
    Attachment Points Bridle with safety lanyard
    Recovery points should be military specification on both vehicles. Where twin recovery or attachment points are available, a bridle should be used, with safety lanyards, attached respectively to the tow hitch and eye of the snatch rope. This evenly distributes the strain onto the chassis, and halves the load on each recovery point. The lanyard with restrain any metal from flying through the air should a recovery point tear off the chassis.