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Recovery Tools, Tips, And Tricks

Posted in How To on March 17, 2011
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Getting stuck is part of ’wheeling. After all, what would a good trail story be without talking about who got stuck the worst and what it took to dig him out? While getting stuck can be a real pain in the rear, it also offers us a chance to practice necessary recovery techniques and better familiarize ourselves with our 4x4s. It also reminds us of what skills and tools we may be lacking. If you ’wheel it, you’ll eventually get it stuck. The better prepared you are for it the better both you and your 4x4 will fare.

What can you say about an always-on-the-ready tool that sits at the front of most trail-ready 4x4s? It is just about the most useful piece of recovery gear that you will ever purchase. Winches are easy to use and with practice can be utilized for many types of vehicle recovery. From simple pulls to being used as a hoist to remove a failed engine for repair in the middle of nowhere, a winch can help you get you and your vehicle back from most stuck situations.

Misusing a winch can hurt, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your winch and related equipment before reaching a situation in which you need to use it. Even if you’ve used your winch extensively and consider yourself skilled at extraction and recovery methods, take the time to perform a few practice pulls per year just to make sure the winch and equipment are still functioning properly.

Hi-Lift Jack
Using a variety of available accessories a Hi-Lift Jack can be used for a lot more than just lifting. It clamps and spreads for repair needs and can even winch for recovery situations. The handle can be used to sleeve a bent tie-rod in many vehicles or even as a pry bar to complete repairs or move trail obstacles. The Hi-Lift Jack handle can also be used over a ratchet or breaker bar to create more leverage in order to remove stuck bolts. We’re certain that there are many other uses for a Hi-Lift Jack that we haven’t yet discovered; surely necessity will someday help us learn these uses.

Carrying a Hi-Lift Jack in your 4x4 is a great way to avoid walking home. In addition to its ability to raise a vehicle for a tire change or repairs, it can also be used for winching (using the Hi-Lift Off-Road Kit). Hi-Lift’s X-Treme jack is shown. It features a charcoal metallic powdercoat finish and is equipped with gold zinc-coat hardware. Additionally, it uses a unique winch/clamp/spreader attachment that replaces the clamp/clevis on standard Hi-Lift Jacks.

Winching with a Hi-Lift is less like winching with an electric winch and more like raising and lowering a Hi-Lift Jack multiple times; your arms are the motor and it can get pretty darn tiring. The length of the jack dictates the length of the pull and you’ll typically have to reposition the jack and chain tensioner multiple times in order to fully extract a vehicle. It’s hard work but when your other option is staying stuck in the middle of nowhere, it’s well worth it. As with a winch, practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to get out your Hi-Lift before you need it to familiarize yourself with the jacking and winching capabilities. It also pays to inspect your Hi-Lift for damage after use and before a trail run, so it will always be functioning properly when you need it.

Since a Hi-Lift Jack is typically mounted outside a 4x4 and is subjected to the elements, it’s a good idea to keep the jacking mechanism covered so it will always be functioning properly. The Hi-Lift Jack neoprene cover is ideal for this use and offers a snug fit that helps to seal out dirt, mud, and debris.

It can keep a leaf spring or steering box attached to a frame rail. It can be a tow strap. There are so many uses for a length of metal chain; all you need is the situation to call it to duty. Most well-packaged winch accessory and recovery kits include a length of chain, but you can also pick up chain at most hardware stores, as well. You’ll want to carry about 8 to 10 feet of chain with hooks at each end. One safety issue that should be noted is that chain should never be used as a snatch strap. Though it can used to lash two vehicles together for emergency, low-speed, off-road towing situations, if utilized as a snatch strap to yank a stuck vehicle, the chain can break and result in vehicle damage or serious injury.

Hi-Lift’s Off-Road kit helps turn a Hi-Lift Jack in to a winching device. The kit includes a nose attachment and chain tensioner that allows a Hi-Lift to act as a come-along-style, hand-operated winch. One end of the jack is secured to an anchor point and the other end is attached to the vehicle or object to be winched via the chain tensioner. The kit also includes an 8-foot tree-saver strap, a pair of gloves, and a canvas storage bag.

Tire Plug Kit
A true necessity on the trail, a tire plug kit can have a flat tire repaired in minutes. Most kits are packaged in a small plastic case that’s easy to fit aboard any 4x4. We’ve seen plugged tires last multiple trail runs (with air refill), meaning you can extend the life of damaged yet expensive large-diameter tires for a season or more of ’wheeling.

The Ironman tire repair kit is packaged in a hard carry case and includes everything necessary to keep your tires rolling. In addition to a digital tire gauge, the kit includes 30 self-vulcanizing repair cords, an Alloy T-handle reaming tool, an Alloy T-handle eyelet string insertion tool, lubricant, and Allen keys.

Ratchet Straps
These are great to carry to handle many tasks. From securing cargo to helping seat a tire bead ratchet straps are easy to stow and easy to use. Ratchet straps are especially helpful when using a Hi-Lift jack; a strap can be used to keep the suspension from extending during jacking, so you can get a wheel off the ground before running out of jack height. Ratchet straps can also be used similar to a chain for temporary field repairs, such as securing a leaf spring in place should a leaf-spring hanger or shackle become damaged. Ratchet straps are also helpful in many other repair situations.

Recovery straps should be carried in every 4x4. This 3-inch-by-30-foot Procomp strap is rated for 30,000 pounds and is well up to the task of pulling a full-size truck out of a trouble spot. Smaller straps are also good to have on hand for times when a vehicle needs help staying right-side up. A strap can be wrapped around a roll cage and held tight by anyone assisting in the recovery.

Recovery Kits
You do not want to hit the trail without one of these. You can assemble your own kit, but many manufacturers already offer prepackaged recovery kits that are ready to rock. Most kits include a tree-saver strap, a recovery strap, D-ring shackles, gloves, a snatch block, and chain all packaged in a handy storage bag. We usually pack extra D-rings as well, as they seem to get lost when you need them. One item that is usually sold separately but makes a great addition to a recovery kit is a receiver hitch D-ring mount. This makes attaching a recovery strap to your 4x4 an easy process. In fact, on many trail runs we’ll leave a strap hooked to the rear receiver D-ring for the whole run so it’s always on the ready. It’s often great insurance that we won’t need to use it at all.

A snatch strap is used in place of a recovery strap when you need some extra pulling force. A snatch strap is designed to stretch and store kinetic energy that in turn recoils to help thrust a stuck vehicle in the direction of the pull. The Smittybilt snatch strap is capable of 20 percent stretch under load and can handle up to 17,000 pounds of force. Unstretched it measures almost 18 feet and stretches to 30 feet.

Bring a Buddy
One of the easiest ways to ensure that you will get stuck is to go ’wheeling solo. We’ve been guilty of doing so on more than one occasion and luckily only had to walk out for help just once. It’s a dumb thing to do and it begs for something to go wrong. At the very least, put an able-bodied buddy in the passenger seat, or even better, travel with a second vehicle. In the eventuality of recovering a vehicle, you’ll have a much easier time of it with help than you would attempting it solo. Before you begin winching remember to establish hand signals for spool in, spool out, stop winching, and start winching. Using a winch isn’t all too difficult or hard to learn, but we still consistently see misuse that could easily result in injury or even death.

Know your 4x4, Know the Trail
What is the easiest way to get unstuck? Don’t get stuck in the first place. How do you do that? Work on your driving skills. We’re not one to point fingers at other drivers, but we see a lot of incorrect lines taken that result in sticky situations and difficult extractions. By taking your time and examining an obstacle from multiple angles you can typically decipher the best line to travel so as not to get stuck.

Winching Checklist:

  • Know your equipment
  • Assess your situation
  • Plan your extraction
  • Always wear gloves
  • Establish safety zones
  • Establish hand signals
  • Use secure anchor points
  • Use a tree-saver strap when necessary
  • Use the proper equipment/rigging
  • Inspect equipment for reliability
  • Take your time
  • Be safe

The Smittybilt winch accessory kit includes everything you’ll need to carry out winching maneuvers. The kit includes a tree strap to protect a tree used as an anchor (as well as your equipment), a snatch block for double line and side anchor pulls, a shackle kit, a choker chain, and gloves. All is packed in a 600-denier storage bag.
PhotosView Slideshow

Winches & Accessories

Superwinch Talon 9.5i SR Winch
Equipped with synthetic line, the Superwinch Talon 9.5i SR winch features a sealed motor. Talon winches are available in load ratings that range from 9,500 pounds all the way to 18,000 pounds.

  • Includes a limited lifetime warranty and a three-year warranty on all electrical parts
  • 62-fpm line speed at a low 75-amp draw
  • 3/8-inch x 80 foot synthetic rope rated at 17,600 pounds
  • 100-percent load-holding brake design provides zero drag on cable in and is located inside the gearbox away from the drum to eliminate heat transfer to the synthetic rope
  • The VS4 Solenoid will keep out water, mud, snow, and dust and has a patented venting feature that allows the contacts to resist water

For more information, contact:
(860) 928-7787

Black Mountain Winch
Black Mountain winches feature a permanent magnet DC 12V motor with a 1.8hp output. Each winch includes 95 feet of 5/16-inch steel cable.

  • Both 8,000- and 10,000-pound models are available
  • Winch includes cable, hook, and controller

For more information, contact: Black Mountain Suspension
(972) 941-0640

Mile Marker SEC8 Scout
The Mile Marker SEC8 Scout 8,000-pound capacity winch features a 4.8hp series-wound motor and a 152:1 gear ratio. It includes an integrated kill switch, 94 feet of synthetic rope, and an automatic load-holding brake.

  • Includes a black anodized aluminum hawse fairlead and a durable powdercoated clevis hook
  • Clockable gear side
  • Rugged planetary gear sets

For more information, contact:
Mile Marker
(800) 886-8647

ENGO Industries
The ENGO Industries E10000 winch uses a 5.5hp series wound motor and offers a 10,000-pound pulling capacity. The winch includes a four-way roller fairlead and a remote control with a 12-foot wire lead.

  • Lifetime limited warranty
  • Automatic load holding brake
  • Three-stage planetary gear train
  • 265:1 gear ratio

For more information, contact:
Engo Industries
(360) 642-0079

Warn 9.5cti Winch
The WARN 9.5cti features a durable, high-performance contactor control pack inside a sturdy integrated housing. The motor offers thermometric technology for temperature feedback. A newly designed remote is also included.

  • 9,500-pound pulling capacity
  • Three stage planetary gear train

For more information, contact;
(800) 910-1122

Warrior Winches
The Warrior EWX electric winch is now available in the USA. It is fully sealed and includes an integrated wireless remote and a remote with a 12-foot wire lead.

  • Includes a stainless-steel roller fairlead

For more information, contact: Warrior Winches

Comeup Industries DS-9.5rsi Winch
The DS-9.5rsi winch features a remote control with a thermometric LED indicator on the hand-held switch that automatically alerts when the motor is over-heated. It offers an aluminum alloy housing that is fully sealed and completely submersible.

  • 5hp series wound motor
  • Three-stage planetary gear train and a 159:1 gear ratio
  • 9,500-pound capacity
  • Includes 100 feet of 3/8-inch synthetic rope

For more information, contact:
Comeup Industries

Desert Rat DRX8000
The Desert Rat DRX8000 is an 8,000-pound, 12V winch with a heavy-duty steel housing and frame components. It features a 5.2hp series wound motor and an automatic load holding brake.

  • Free-spooling clutch for quick wire rope deployment
  • Hand held remote control, roller fairlead, and 100 feet of 5/16-inch cable are standard equipment

For more information, contact:
Desert Rat Off-Road
(866) 444-5337

Rough Country Recovery Systems
Rough Country winches are offered in 9,500- and 12,000-pound line pull capacities with 5.5hp and 6hp series wound motors respectively. They offer a 265:1 gear ratio and a three-stage planetary gear train.

  • Features either steel cable with a four-way roller fairlead or synthetic rope with a Hawse fairlead
  • Includes a wireless remote and a replaceable Clevis hook

For more information, contact:
Rough Country Suspension Products
(800) 222-7023

Camel 4x4 Winch
Camel 4x4 winches feature air-cooled motors and three-stage planetary gear trains. They are offered in 9,500- and 12,000-pound capacities and are waterproof.

  • Feature dual remotes, wireless and with wire lead
  • Damper blanket included
  • Automatic cam lock in the drum
  • Low profile clutch handle

For more information, contact:
Camel 4x4 & Outdoor
(800) 698-6976

Master Pull Superline XD
Master Pull’s Superline XD synthetic winch line starts as a larger diameter line and is heated and stretched down to its final diameter, just like our regular Superline. This process gives the Superline XD an excellent breaking strength since it has the strength of a larger diameter line in a smaller diameter. The pre-stretching also gives the rope better abrasion resistance compared to normal Dyneema winch ropes.

  • Powder coated crush proof tube thimble
  • Available in 3/8- and 5/16-inch diameters in 50 to 150 foot lengths
  • Abrasion and UV resistant
  • Optional HD Sling Hook or Safety Hook

For more information, contact:
Master Pull
(877) 797-0202

XHD Recovery Gear Kit
The XHD Recovery Gear kit from Rugged Ridge includes all of the trail recovery necessities, including a 20,000-pound snatch block, a 2-inch-by-30-foot recovery strap, a 3-inch-by-6-foot tree strap, and a pair of 9,500-pound zinc-coated D-rings. A winch line damper and a pair of gloves are also included, all packaged in a durable gear bag.

For more information, contact:
Rugged Ridge
(770) 614-6101

Warrior Alumi-Rollers
Warrior Alumi-Rollers are replacement winch fairlead rollers designed to replace the steel rollers in your winch’s existing roller fairlead. Cut from solid aluminum stock and CNC-machined to a smooth finish the roller kit is ideal for use with a synthetic winch line upgrade. Rollers are available in clear, red, or black anodized finishes.

For more information, contact:
Warrior Products
(503) 691-8915

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Compton, CA 90220
Hi-Lift Jack Company
Bloomfield, IN 47424

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