Nuts & Bolts: Hitch Pins as Recovery Point
Say No to Hitch Pins?
In the April 2016 issue Harry Wagner remarked that a strap through the hitch pin in a receiver works well in the rear of a vehicle as a recovery point (“Top 10 Recovery No-Nos”). I'd be careful with that. A receiver can be rated at a mere 3,500 pounds. A Jeep JK lifted with larger tires, trail gear, fuel, and passengers can weigh almost 6,000 pounds. Mine weighs 5,560 loaded for the trail. Pulling a stuck vehicle requires not only pulling the weight of the vehicle but overcoming the force of whatever is stopping its free movement. A receiver is not built for recovery. I'd recommend proper recovery anchors only over the risk of flying metal if the receiver comes loose during extraction. Don't hit the trail unprepared.
While you have a valid point regarding making sure your vehicle is equipped with proper recovery points, most of us have hit the trail at one time or another in a vehicle that doesn’t have them. Using a hitch as a recovery point is a perfectly acceptable practice as long as it is not one of those cheesy receivers that bolts to a bumper. While not ideal, it’s far safer to use a hitch pin in a receiver than wrapping a strap around a trailer ball, bumper, axle, leaf spring shackle, tie rod, and so on. While there are small, lightly rated receiver hitches out there, most of them are on cars and have a 1-inch opening that would be too small to fit a strap inside anyway. A proper receiver hitch is typically bolted to the frame in multiple places and provides a more secure anchor than most other improvised anchor points, which are usually sketchy at best. It’s always better to use a receiver pin than to attach a strap to the safety chain anchors on a hitch, and never wrap a strap around a trailer ball.