When it comes to beach driving, it’s inevitable that sooner or later you are going to get bogged. Which means at some point you’ll need to use a snatch strap to pull someone out of a bog – it could be you, or a mate.
What is a snatch strap?
Snatch straps are such benign-looking things that few people really understand how much energy is captured by them and then released suddenly when they are being used. This often leads to disastrous situations!
A snatch strap, often referred to as a snatch-um strap, recovery strap or even a kinetic strap, is normally 8-10m in length and made of approximately 50mm-wide elastic webbing. While some brands and makes of snatch straps are longer and the occasional one is round in cross-section, all work on the same principle.
Once the strap is connected between two vehicles — one bogged, the other preparing to pull it out — and the tow vehicle takes up the slack, the snatch strap stretches by up to a third. Then, in conjunction with the effort of the tow vehicle, the strap’s stored energy is released (“kinetic energy”, to give it its proper term) and helps “snap” the bogged vehicle out of the mire. It sounds simple, which it is; it’s also extremely effective!
Beware the snatch strap!
What isn’t so well known or appreciated is the incredible amount of force being generated by the tow vehicle and the strap. Do anything wrong, have a worn strap, or a poor connection on either vehicle and you will have deadly missiles flying through the air.
Over the past couple of years a few people have been killed and a number maimed when a snatch strap recovery has gone wrong.
What happened in Tassie a couple of years ago is typical. A ute had got bogged on a beach and a LandCruiser was used to snatch it out. The snatch strap was dropped over the ute’s towball and connected to the front of the Cruiser. When the Cruiser tried to snatch the ute out, the towball snapped, smashing through the windscreen of the Cruiser and striking the driver in the head. The ball then passed through the vehicle and landed some 90m away.
There’s a lesson there. Never ever drop a snatch strap over a towball!
Another potential disaster is when people join a couple of snatch straps with a D or bow shackle. A few years back, I met a guy who was on the wrong end of a busted snatch strap and D shackle — his knee was basically blown apart when the shackle hit it.
Safety is key
Every 4WD magazine, club and training organisation in the country preaches and teaches the safe use of snatch straps. But still the message isn’t getting through, and I just wonder what you have to do to let people know how bloody dangerous recovery operations, whether it is with a snatch strap or a winch, can be.
Taking a drive along a beach is one of the great Aussie things to do, but if you get bogged or involved in a recovery operation, please play it safe. Even better, before you head down onto the sand, learn the correct way to recover another vehicle by joining a club or doing a course.
Check out the full feature in issue #84 January 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine.