Anyone venturing in the Aussie Outback knows it’s a punishing environment. The terrain, the isolation, and nothing for miles on end. You’ll need to go well prepared and expect the worst. A decently-outfitted 4WD to protect you from damage to your vehicle from rocks, debris and animals, and enough space for all your gear is a must. And this is assuming you don’t get stuck. No matter if you’re going alone, or with a few mates in other cars, you need the right equipment to pull yourself out of a sticky situation. And you’re sure to have a few of these along the way.
Before taking longer trips into the bush or any of the famed 4WD driving trails dotting the country, prep your vehicle for the task. Check the condition of the engine, oil and coolant levels, tyre wear, and any damage incurred from previous trips. You won’t want any issues requiring a quick and easy fix leaving you halfway out of nowhere. Also, check the chassis and the recovery points. These are what will get you out of trouble if you get stuck.
What is Recovery Gear?
Recovery gear is all the equipment to recover your vehicle when stuck in sand, mud, rocks, tree stumps, river beds, and thick bush. If your car won’t budge, then the right recovery gear 4WD for the situation will help. This encompasses a few basic things that you should take on any trip, and some heavy-duty gear when driving through extremely technical terrain.
Basic Items to have at all times
These provide for better traction to bogged wheels. They’re suited to sand, mud and snow and come in different sizes. Having a pair is essential. They’ll bear the weight of any fully-laden vehicle and won’t budge. Boards are cheap to buy and straightforward to use.
Shovels will help you remove soil, sand and rocks so you can place the recovery boards. Off-road shovels are smaller than your average gardening shovel and most can be folded so take up less space. Don’t leave home without one.
These are metal parts that attach to the appropriate openings in the chassis. Ideally, you’ll have a front and rear recovery point to get out of a rut in either direction. Look for rated recovery points that will be more than adequate to pull all the weight of a heavy bogged-down vehicle without any issues. These have a WLL or Working Load Limit stamp and heavy-duty connecting bolts. Most are rated at pulling at least double the weight of a fully-loaded 4WD. You’ll find recovery points for all 4WDs sold in Australia.
Serious Recovery Gear
If you’re only driving on light trails, then a shovel and a few boards might be all you need. However, for anything more demanding, you’ll need something with a bit more bite. This is when the recovery points rule the show, and are used to attach a few kinds of heavy-duty recovery gear.
Snatch Straps and Shackles
Snatch straps and shackles are attached to the recovery point of the bogged 4WD and the vehicle doing the pulling. A snatch strap is a durable, heavy-duty strap made of synthetic materials. It stretches under the pull of the towing vehicle, which when it comes to a halt, snatches the strap and converts the collected kinetic energy back to the towed car. Straps have slip-through openings to fit into thick metal shackles. These in turn are attached to the recovery points. As with recovery points, snatch straps and shackles are rated for pulling capacity, and you should look to variants with at least double the weight of your car. Most are rated at 4500 kilos or more. For more safety, dampeners pull the strap towards the ground in case it snaps.
Similar to recovery points, recovery hitches are large metal pieces with an integrated shackle that fit into the rear end near the tow bar and are bolted to the chassis with thick steel bolts. These too are rated for weight. They’re cheaper to buy than recovery points and are universal, so fit any vehicle. A worthy addition of any recovery gear 4wd set.
Winches and Winch Accessories
Having a fitted winch is essential when you’re out on your own. They’re also good where shackles and straps just don’t work in two-vehicle recovery scenarios. Winches fit into the winch cradle of the bull bar and are directly bolted onto the rails at multiple points. They are powered either by the car battery, or a better solution is a secondary battery just for safety’s sake. They have a steel cable or synthetic rope, with the second option being much safer. As with straps, use a dampener to ensure that a frayed or damaged winch cable or rope doesn’t injure anyone if it snaps. When vehicles can’t be recovered in a straight line, due to trees, branches or rocks obstructing the cable, then a snatch block helps. These are metal pulleys that redirect the angle of the pull-in recovery and using them puts much less stress on the winch. In self-recovery, you can use tree straps to attach to tree trunks and avoid any damage to the bark.
Jacks that can lift vehicles stuck in body-deep in sand or snow, or in between rocks and tree stumps are used with appropriate base plates. They can lift either end of the 4WD, up to a metre or more, aiding in recovering your vehicle.
Safety when Using Recovery Gear
Reports of serious injuries and even fatalities are common during vehicle recovery. Take care in all stages to ensure that you use the correct recovery gear 4WD in the right situation. Ensure that all parts are rated for your vehicle, have no cracks or fraying and everything is correctly connected. Take your time and stay safe.