Words Dean Mellor
All vehicle recovery operations can be fraught with danger, especially when performed without the proper training and/or the right equipment.
Good quality vehicle recovery kits always consist rated equipment: rated snatch straps, rated tow straps and rated shackles, which means the gear has been tested to exceed the extreme loads that can be expected in a vehicle recovery operation. But having good quality rated recovery gear is of little use if you don’t have somewhere to safely attach it to your vehicle.
Let’s get this out of the way early: never, ever use a tow ball as a recovery point on a vehicle. A tow ball is simply not designed to handle the extreme loads that can be generated in a vehicle recovery situation and, if it fails, it can become a lethal projectile, and too many serious injuries and deaths have occurred as a result of this often-committed mistake.
Likewise, never attach recovery equipment to vehicle shipping points. These eyelets are often confused for recovery points, but they are actually only fitted to secure a vehicle when it’s in transit, such as on a ship, a train or the back of a truck. Like tow balls, shipping points are not designed to handle the extreme loads generated in a vehicle recovery operation and, like tow balls, they can become lethal projectiles if they fail.
While some vehicles are equipped with rated recovery points from the factory, many are not, so you’ll have to look to the four-wheel drive aftermarket for a solution. Fortunately, there are many companies out there that manufacture rated recovery points that can be affixed to your vehicle, but it’s imperative you only fit properly designed, engineered and tested recovery points to your vehicle.
Most aftermarket rated recovery points designed to fit the front of a vehicle are manufactured from substantial steel plate or are forged steel hooks and they are attached directly to the vehicle’s chassis using high-tensile bolts. Many will be supplied in pairs, which is handy if you find your vehicle in a predicament where you can only access one side to attach recovery gear. Having a pair of rated recovery points also allows both to be used when possible in conjunction with an equaliser strap, to evenly spread the recovery load across the vehicle’s chassis.
As their name suggests, rated recovery points are rated to handle a specific load, and they will be designed to accept up to a certain rating of shackle. Most aftermarket recovery points will be able to accept rated shackles up to 4.75t. This means they will have a large enough hole in them to accept the relevant shackle.
It should be noted that some recovery points are only rated for a straight line pull, which means they’re not designed to handle extreme lateral (sideways) loads. Some, however, are rated to handle angled recoveries, and in the case of ARB recovery points, up to the maximum turn angle of the vehicle’s front wheels. This is why ARB recovery points have a long slot, as it allows the bow of the shackle to be fed through recovery point so it can pivot, while the recovery strap rests on the pin.
No matter what brand of recovery point you opt for, try to ascertain how the manufacturer has tested it. TJM, for example, replicates the front part of a vehicle’s chassis and performs a test with up to 8 tonnes of load to ensure the way the recovery points are mounted does not distort the vehicle’s chassis.
Some front recovery points look like little more than a bent piece of steel, while others are very complex designs to suit modern vehicles equipped with airbags, and the manufacturer will have examined the vehicle’s crash pulses etc. to ensure proper deployment of said airbags in the event of a crash.
Down the back
If your vehicle is equipped with a standard 50mm hitch receiver, there are several rated recovery point options available to you. One method is to simply remove the towing hitch, slip the end of the recovery strap into the hitch receiver and replace the hitch pin. On the downside, the strap could rub on the sharp edge of the hitch receiver and be damaged or, in extreme circumstances, the hitch pin could bend, making it difficult to remove.
A better option than relying on the pin alone is to remove the towing hitch and replace it with a specially designed recovery hitch, which is designed to accept a rated shackle.
Rear recovery point options for vehicles not fitted with a 50mm hitch receiver include fitment of a pintle hook or rated recovery point bolted directly to the vehicle’s chassis with high tensile bolts. Another alternative for cab-chassis vehicles is the fitment of a Hayman-Reese X-Bar, which incorporates a centre recovery point that’s rated to 8000kg, as well as two outer forged recovery points rated to 4000kg each.
Once you’ve done your research and selected the right rated recovery point solution to suit your vehicle, ensure there’s enough space for it to accept your chosen rated shackles and that the location of the recovery point won’t see the recovery strap rub or foul on any part of the vehicle. Fitment of other accessories, such as a bull bar or under vehicle protection system, can sometimes hinder access to recovery points, so always check the status of your equipment before heading bush.