Top 9 Off-Road Recovery Tips
You own a 4WD so you’re going to take it off-road, am I right? I hope so. The thing about 4WDing is that one day you will get stuck and need to recover. Doing it right might not make it easier, but it will certainly make it safer.
1. Carry the appropriate gear
If travelling in a convoy, there is no need for everyone to bring a full recovery kit as it can be shared amongst the group. It is important that you each carry a couple of recovery tracks, a couple of shackles and a snatch strap as it could stretch a friendship if you don’t have any of these and you break someone else’s snatch strap or tear the lugs of their recovery board. You won’t all need to carry shovels, winch extension straps, pulleys and tree protectors however each 4WD must have rated recovery points front and rear.
If travelling solo, it is advisable that you carry a comprehensive recovery kit that includes all the gear required for self-recovery. It is also important to know how to use all the gear as well. This includes a recovery board for every wheel, a decent long-handled shovel, at least four shackles, a winch, a winch extension strap, a rope retention pulley, a tree protector, a snatch strap and at least one dampener.
2. Boil the billy and make recovery plan
Unless your 4WD is stuck in quicksand on the west coast of Tassie or drowning in a river on Cape York, the first thing you should do when you get stuck is boil the billy. This will allow time to chill, reduce anxiety, and let your brain fully assess what needs to be done to get unstuck, calmly. This also allows you to formulate a recovery plan that includes what to expect and how to stay safe during the recovery.
3. One person in charge
There is nothing worse than having two or three people trying to tell you what to do during an offroad recovery. Choose one person to oversee the recovery and make it either yourself or the most experienced person available. Call them the “incident controller” as they will supervise the connections, the winch point/s, when to winch, whether the driver should use the accelerator to assist the winch, the best wheel alignment and most importantly keep onlookers well away from the recovery.
4. Use the correct shackles
A rated D-shackle is the most dangerous piece of 4WD recovery equipment you can use. They are heavy and become lethal projectiles if something breaks. These days soft shackles are the way to go, being lightweight and simple to use. It’s still important to make sure that the ones you carry are correctly rated for the work they need to do.
5. Don't use damaged equipment
Inspecting recovery gear for damage is something that should be done BEFORE heading offroad so that it can be replaced before it is needed. Using defective equipment can cause damage to your 4WD or increase the risk of injury or death during a recovery.
6. Keep your recovery gear clean
An offroad recovery is never a clean environment, so your gear is going to get dirty. Contaminants can shorten the life of your ropes and straps. Dirt and sand are abrasives that will wear away within the ropes and straps, shortening their lifespan. Clean your gear as soon as you can but don’t use chemicals, a hose down a soak in a bucket or the laundry sink should do the trick.
7. Do a recovery course
Attending an offroad training course is something that all 4WDers should do at least once in their life as they are a great place to learn some 4WDing skills as well as how and when to use recovery gear. In most cases, a successful offroad recovery has more to do with experience, confidence, and trust than anything else. 4WD Clubs and some Tag Along Tour businesses offer courses and it will be money well spent.
8. Reduce your tyre pressure
It’s hard to believe the number of people who choose not to drop tyre pressures when off-road because it takes too long. Reducing air in your tyre lengthens the contact point with the ground which in turn offers better traction, handy in a difficult situation. Care must be taken when 4WDing with reduced tyre pressures as the tyre can be damaged at speed or unseat itself from the rim. In a recovery situation, in most cases, pressures can be dropped to 15PSI or less but it’s advisable to pump some air back into the tyres once the recovery is complete.
9. Pick a different line
Sometimes it’s wiser to not tackle that track or take the chicken track through the river or just reverse and pick a different line. Getting stuck isn’t fun and staging an off-road recovery is a dangerous event so if you can avoid getting stuck by being shrewder your adventure might be more enjoyable.
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