A recovery strap can be used all year long, but they're especially handy in the winter months when roadsides become flooded with spun-out vehicles.
The best way to get a car out of snow quickly (without the cost of a professional tow truck) is by rigging a recovery strap to a tow hook or recovery point on the vehicle and slowly dragging it out. Between the type of vehicle, weather conditions, and distance from the roadway, there are many variables that make each vehicle recovery situation different.
Use the steps below as a general guideline for how to pull a car out of the snow, but know your limits and never push the capabilities of your vehicle or yourself.
1. Make yourself visible to others
2. Make the recovery as easy as possible
If the car that's stuck in the snow is really buried in, you might want to spend some time shoveling snow away from the tires and from underneath the car. Putting sand or kitty litter under the tires will also help ease the strain on the strap and make the pull a whole lot easier. If you have them, applying tire chains will add even more traction.
3. Secure the strap to the recovery vehicle
Make sure the strap you're using is rated high enough. A good rule of thumb is for the vehicle weight to be half the break strength of the strap.
Next, attach the strap to the rear of the towing vehicle, somewhere with plenty of structural support like a trailer hitch with steel loops for mounting a tow hook or a shackle. Anchor shackles are one of the best and safest ways to secure a recovery strap. Refer to your vehicle's owner's manual for guidance on safe strap rigging.
Never attach the strap to a trailer hitch ball. This can cause bending and breaking which could result in serious injury.
4. Secure the strap to the stuck vehicle
This is where it can get tricky. If you're lucky enough to be pulling a vehicle with clearly visible tow hooks, secure the strap to those. Many smaller vehicles and newer model cars don't have the best tow hooks, or they are often hidden.
Before resorting to hooking onto the frame, check the front bumper for a small square section of the plastic that's removable. Many newer vehicles have removable tow hooks stored with the car jack.
Never attach a recovery strap to the bumper, axle, suspension, or steering rods.
Lay a tarp or some jackets on top of the strap to slow the recoil of the strap if it were to break.
5. Reduce slack then pull slowly
Once the strap is safely secured, the recovery vehicle should slowly pull forward to reduce strap slack and prevent snapping. Then, with drivers in both vehicles and no people near the strap, the recovery vehicle can start accelerating slowly and gradually. The recovered vehicle should be in gear and once they're moving the driver should apply some gas and steer the vehicle out.
6. Inspect equipment and get home safe
Pull the car out of the snow and back on drivable land. After that, inspect your recovery strap and all hardware before heading home. Clean the strap when you get home and store it in a dry and cool place.
Why you need to use recovery straps
Make sure to use recovery straps for stuck vehicles and not tow straps. Recovery straps stretch more than tow straps that prevents it from snapping when tugging on the vehicle. Recovery straps also provide a more controlled pull compared to the tow straps. Without getting too scientific, the stored kinetic energy from the strap stretches then recoils back to its natural length. This provides control and prevents the strap from snapping.
Learn more about the recovery straps and tow straps.
Best Recovery Straps