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Man dies trying to tow car from ditch in rural Rice County - Story | KMSP

Scenes like this are far too common. Improper recovery gear and techniques cost a man his life. I have personally lost someone due to unsafe gear and practices. This is something that hits close to home, and that I am passionate about. Now, much of the equipment I will be talking about is Bubba Rope. This is for no other reason than because I think it is the best, so it is what I use and am most familiar with. This does NOT mean that this is the only stuff you can use. But I will be calling out a few products for being inferior.

Recoveries can be split into two categories; Static and Dynamic. Static is essentially when the forces applied could be graphed on a straight line. You increase forces gradually and steadily until the stuck vehicle is free. Dynamic is when the forces are dynamic, almost explosive. Basically, getting a running start to pull the stuck vehicle. Dynamic recoveries utilize shock loading to free the stuck vehicle. That is why dynamic recoveries are so dangerous. Shock loading causes higher stress, explosive forces, and breakage.

Today I will be discussing Dynamic Recoveries in two sections, gear and techniques.

Gear:
Proper gear, as with all things in life, is essential. It allows us the ability to perform the job quickly and safely. To perform a safe dynamic recovery, you need:
1). A vehicle in good working order
2). Solid recovery points on BOTH vehicles
3). A kinetic energy rope
4). A method of attaching the rope to the recovery points

Let's break it down even more.
Vehicle. The vehicle pulling MUST be in good working order. You do not want mechanical failures during recovery. There WILL be stresses exerted on the vehicle.

Solid Recovery Points. Think Chassis. You want as solid of a connection as possible to reduce the likelihood of things breaking and flying around. YOUR TOW BALL IS NOT A VIABLE RECOVERY POINT. I REPEAT, YOUR TOW BALL IS NOT A VIABLE RECOVERY POINT. And companies like this irritate me to no end. The common misconception is that its unsafe to use the tow ball because you can't get a secure attachment and the strap can come off and fly around. But as the link at the top shows, they are not meant to see the forces exerted in a dynamic recovery. Tell me how that "tow dawg" crap would have saved that mans life? It wouldn't. Because THE TOW BALL IS NOT A VIABLE FREAKING RECOVERY POINT. I would also be cautious of using the factory screw in tow mount. Some vehicles are fine and they are rated to handle it, others are not. I need to look into the factory manual to see if I can find something on the Crosstrek. Also, you can still use the hitch. You just cant use the tow ball. How? Two ways. First is with a dedicated hitch adapter. Factor55 makes a great one. Second, in a pinch, you can remove the tow ball mount, and put the strap into the 2" receiver tube, and then pin the strap itself.

Kinetic Energy Rope. First thing to note is that there is currently nothing regulating the terminology of off road recovery in the US. A company can literally weave some 550 paracord together and call it a "recovery rope." It's absurd. They do, however, regulate it down unda in Australia. Tow straps are NOT meant for dynamic recoveries. They cannot handle the forces exerted during a shock load. You need a rope designed to be stretched during the recovery process. I like Bubba Rope. It is a double braided coated, not dyed, nylon rope. They have a variety of sizes available. I would recommend the Sidewinder with a breaking strength of 14,000 lbs for most of the Subaru world. If you are weighed down with gear, and/or go out wheeling with Jeeps, small trucks, etc often, then I'd go with the Renegade at 19,000 lbs. I do not like Voodoo rope. It is very popular due to the cost, but it really is an inferior product. It's a single braid, which is susceptible to abrasion and is scary easy to pull apart, even accidentally. It is also a dyed nylon, a process that actually weakens the nylon fibers. I also do not like flat web straps like snatch straps. While they do stretch unlike tow straps, they do not dampen the forces like a true kinetic energy rope does. But they are cheaper than true kinetic ropes, so they have a lower threshold of entry. If you cannot afford a true kinetic rope, just make sure you do your research on the snatch strap you choose. And never attempt a dynamic recovery with a tow strap.

Attachments. I do not particularly like metal D-Rings. They are very useful, and sometimes even necessary. When used correctly, they provide a solid attachment. When used incorrectly, they become a missile. Never side load a metal shackle. They are meant to pull perpendicular to the pin. When you start getting closer to parallel with the pin, that is called side loading. The max angle you can pull at is 45 degrees. Any more than that, and you begin to spread the "U" apart, which will snap it. And then it becomes the aforementioned missiles. Instead, I try to use soft shackles, like Bubba Rope's Gator Jaws. They are easy to use, light weight, and super safe. They are also more versatile than metal shackles, and cannot be sideloaded as they will rotate to the direction of the pull. Another huge benefit is that they are single piece (vs two piece metal shackles, the "U" and the pin.) so you don't run the risk of dropping the pin in the mud or snow. I have done this, and it is extremely frustrating. Soft shackles also float, so they wont sink in mud or water. I keep a couple metal and a couple synthetic shackles. I find myself using the metal less and less.

Now on to Techniques:
First and foremost, get people out of the way. Like, WAY out of the way.
1). Bring the recovery vehicle close to the stuck vehicle. You want to be in as straight of a line as possible.
2). Attach the kinetic rope to both vehicle using SECURE recovery points. And remember, DONT USE THE TOW BALL!
3). Position the recovery vehicle about 5ft from the stuck vehicle.
4). Begin driving away from the stuck vehicle briskly, but don't just floor it. You want a controlled speed. (This is the "dynamic" part of it, creating the Shock Load")
5). If the vehicle is freed, you are done. If not, reposition the recovery vehicle.
6). Wait 45-60 seconds. The pull creates friction which creates heat. You don't want to melt the rope.
7). Attempt another pull, increasing speed over the first pull.
8). Repeat until vehicle is freed.

There may be circumstances where repeated pulls do not free the vehicle. At this time, you must concede that a dynamic recovery is not working, and it is time to move to a static recovery.

I am likely forgetting some info. Please ask any questions you may have, I'm happy to answer them. I will also try to add in photos later to show the equipment and whatnot. I am going to be conducting an on-trail training for Overland Bound San Diego at some point this year. I am hoping to record that so I can post it as well.
 

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Great write-up RB. Lots of good and crucial information. Many people do not reallize the inherent risk of using recovery equipment, let alone doing it improperly. This will very helpful.
 

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Good info. I’ll add a few things from my “training day” and experience.

Never try doing a recovery in reverse. You can damage the rear diff.

The weight limit of the rope need only exceed the weight of the lighter vehicle. For instance, I used my Tacoma to pull an Expedition out of snow (they were stuck in a measly 4”). The expedition is heavier than a Taco but the max load will not exceed the Taco. (I bet if you’re a logical thinker that it’ll make sense as to why).

For snow situations, you’ll almost always need to do a dynamic recovery to break the stuck vehicle free (since you’re most likely doing so while on snow yourself).

When using a winch or other strap, all spectators must be 150 percent further away than the length of rope/cable.

Don’t buy/use those tow straps with metal hooks on them!

X2 on the gator jaws!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Good info. I’ll add a few things from my “training day” and experience.

Never try doing a recovery in reverse. You can damage the rear diff.

The weight limit of the rope need only exceed the weight of the lighter vehicle. For instance, I used my Tacoma to pull an Expedition out of snow (they were stuck in a measly 4”). The expedition is heavier than a Taco but the max load will not exceed the Taco. (I bet if you’re a logical thinker that it’ll make sense as to why).

For snow situations, you’ll almost always need to do a dynamic recovery to break the stuck vehicle free (since you’re most likely doing so while on snow yourself).

When using a winch or other strap, all spectators must be 150 percent further away than the length of rope/cable.

Don’t buy/use those toe straps with metal hooks on them!

X2 on the gator jaws!
Yes! Great catch on choosing the correct rating for gear.

For straps, you typically want at least 2x the lightest vehicle.

For kinetic ropes, however, you want approximately 3.5-4x the weight of the lightest vehicle. This is because the rope is meant to be stretched. When you get that running start, the rope won’t just see the weight of the vehicle, it will see a multiplication of that weight. And you do not want to approach 100% if it’s breaking strength often, you want the ceiling for longevity. However, with kinetic ropes, there is such a thing as “too much.” If you choose a 2” Rope for your Subaru, you simply won’t have enough weight to properly stretch the rope, effectively turning the rope into a strap.


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All good info here. I've been Jeeping for decades and all of this advice is what we follow there too. Attaching the straps securely to the chassis is critical. While it's easier on a Jeep because you can attach to an actual frame, I've seen too many people do it wrong there too. Too many people cheap out when installing their recovery equipment. I've seen a number of Jeeps and pickups driving home with their fancy bumper in the back because they didn't bother to use more than the factory bumper bolts when installing it. I've seen more than one Jeep with an axle ripped out from under it because some dingleberry thought it was fine to wrap a strap around the axle and give it full throttle.

I haven't seen anyone killed but I have seen old, well used straps give up and send bits flying. Beyond having the right gear, it's important to make sure it's still in good shape. I replace the synthetic rope on my winch every 5 years or so and I replace my recovery straps at the same time. When it comes to the energy involved in a recovery, there's no reason to do it with marginal junk when a new strap isn't really all that expensive.
 

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So are the built in recovery points on a Crosstrek up to snatching? Or are they simply for towing onto a flatbed? I’m talking about the eye bolts that screw in to the frame through the plastic bumper. I’ve not found a good answer out there.
 

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All good info here. I've been Jeeping for decades and all of this advice is what we follow there too. Attaching the straps securely to the chassis is critical. While it's easier on a Jeep because you can attach to an actual frame, I've seen too many people do it wrong there too. Too many people cheap out when installing their recovery equipment. I've seen a number of Jeeps and pickups driving home with their fancy bumper in the back because they didn't bother to use more than the factory bumper bolts when installing it. I've seen more than one Jeep with an axle ripped out from under it because some dingleberry thought it was fine to wrap a strap around the axle and give it full throttle.

I haven't seen anyone killed but I have seen old, well used straps give up and send bits flying. Beyond having the right gear, it's important to make sure it's still in good shape. I replace the synthetic rope on my winch every 5 years or so and I replace my recovery straps at the same time. When it comes to the energy involved in a recovery, there's no reason to do it with marginal junk when a new strap isn't really all that expensive.
Nice J10. Grille looks great.

I love Jeeps.
 

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I've got a stock trailer hitch on mine, so the eye bolt is covered up on the rear. I've got a shackle set up vertically in a ball tongue so it swivels if the pulling force is off center.

artosa
 

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Discussion Starter #12
You made a point of saying to not use the tow ball. What do you think of using the towing receiver shackle arrangement like StupidChicken installed?
That is fine. I would personally remove the metal shackle and just use a soft shackle to eliminate as much metal as possible. But that hitch adapter is built specifically for recovery. Hitch ball mounts are not.


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So is there anything like a good recovery point at the front of our Crosstreks?
Lots of talk in this thread about what's no good, and it's good info don't get me wrong.
But what about those of us that don't have a receiver hitch, and/or need to get snatched out?
If the factory impact beam-mounted eye bolts supposedly aren't up to a snatch recovery, what is?
 

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One other thing I always do. On the recovery rig I always raise the hood before the pull. The hood will stop the missile if something breaks.
 

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So is there anything like a good recovery point at the front of our Crosstreks?
Lots of talk in this thread about what's no good, and it's good info don't get me wrong.
But what about those of us that don't have a receiver hitch, and/or need to get snatched out?
If the factory impact beam-mounted eye bolts supposedly aren't up to a snatch recovery, what is?
Not sure if it is technically rated for snatching but in the past I have used what appear to be tow points to the chassis for wrecker situations. Here’s a picture of me using a ratchet strap to one to assist in skid plate install. There is an identical one on the other side. I would use a strap between the two points to distribute the load a bit but they appear to be very solid points.


298548


I have heard of people snatching from hooks around the control arms but I just don’t trust the stock controls on this car that much.
 

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I've seen more than a few hooks go through raised hoods and still go through the windshield. It may slow it down some, but definitely won't stop it. A friend of mine owns a tow company and has sent more than a few pics of failed recoveries. I've helped him on many as well, some which I wish I hadn't. Tow companies and recovery rigs see some nasty things unfortunately. Been hunting/camping/wheeling/offroading all my life in multiple vehicles, all recovering many out in the woods. It is incredible the amount of force a hook has when something lets go. Through windshields, through the head rest and out the rear window, finally coming to rest laying in bed of truck. Others through the tail gate and front wall of bed and stuck partly pierced through the cab. Scary what can happen with old/poor quality gear and lack of common sense trying to free themselves.

Different vehicles have different recovery points and different methods of recovery. Our Crosstrek is no different. I really wasn't happy with the car in factory form with recovery in mind. Knowing what we do as a family and where we go, the ability to recover ourself when necessary was critical. Granted this car is not my heavily modified Jeep and it will never go places I would take the Jeep but still- in the Pacific Northwest, and if you venture off pavement, it's not "IF" you get stuck but "when". Being prepared is essential.

I am personally not a fan of "snatching" at all. Sometimes it's necessary and the only option, though I try to avoid it at all cost when ever possible. I personally don't like raising the hood either. I like and prefer full visibility of anything and everything around the scene. Far to often with hood raised and poor visibility, you'll never know when something is going wrong then wind up in worse scenario than you started. Seeing what is going on, and recovering in slow, controlled manner is your best bet to ensure a safe and efficient recovery.

While there is no "perfect" solution and every vehicle will be setup different, I outfitted our 2019 Crosstrek with Warn's new winch mount and an Axon 55-S winch with synthetic line. Without getting into a debate over steel cable vs synthetic rope, I will say there is time and place for both options. I keep steel cable on various rigs for various reasons, and synthetic line on others. For the crosstrek and what conditions the crosstrek will see, synthetic line is my preferred method on this vehicle. I am also a huge fan of "closed loop" winching technique. I just picked up a few pieces of essential recovery gear for the Crosstrek specifically to keep in this car all the time. Knowing the guys at Factor 55 and how and what they do, their recovery gear was the obvious choice. I went with the Factor 55 tree saver, the XTV flat link, 5/8" crosby shackles to fit the Warn mount recovery holes and a rope retention pulley with soft shackle. I will get pics up in my build thread shortly but for now, links to these products are here:

Factor 55 tree saver:

Factor 55 XTV flat link:

Factor 55 rope retention pulley and soft shackle- this is NOT the exact one I have-this is the full size one, they just came out with a brand new XTV size which is same design only a bit smaller/lighter-pics of my actual one in my build thread shortly. This is full size RRP:

And crosby shackles:

I will pick up additional soft shackles and tow strap once funds permit. For now this is a good start. This gear will get you out of most situations you'll encounter off pavement in the PNW for where the Crosstrek will go. On the rear of the car there really is no good factory option there either. I put a Curt receiver on there and carry a hitch receiver shackle with either crosby shackle or soft shackle there to ensure a closed loop pull if necessary. While nothing is ideal and everything is a compromise, you do the best you can with what you have to work with in a slow, controlled and calculated manner. Good quality gear in good condition and common sense goes a long way to ensure a safe recovery.

Best of Luck,

Mike
 
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