My four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicle has a thin, steel cable running from the roof rack, down toward the top of the front fenders, and I always get asked what it is for. Basically, it is an accessory used to deflect low-lying branches from hitting the wind screen. It is also used to prevent branches from brushing the face of the driver when driving through thick bush. This brings me our article for today, which is about lesser-known off-road accessories other than the lift kits, big tires and “fashion statement” snorkels.
Tow rings and hooks
Tow rings and hooks need to be attached to strong points of the vehicle to have a safe and proper recovery. Most vehicles have what looks like these anchor points. However, most of the anchor points are as tie-downs for shipping or ferry transport, and may not be suited for heavy recovery points. A more proper way is to install JATE rings that attach to the chassis of the vehicle.
Tow bars, two balls and tow hitches
These come in different shapes and forms and have their respective applications. The most commonly found here is the military-spec pintle hook, which is most suited for off-road towing use. The now more fashionable ball-towing hitch is suited only for on-road towing and comes in various levels of towing capacities. Do make sure that yours is suited for the intended purpose. The standard two-inch ball hitch has a 7,700-pound limit. These systems will limit a 4WD’s departure angle so if that is a concern, there are draw-type systems that can be removed when towing is not needed.
Tow ropes and straps
During one off-road foray with a bunch of newbies, we got a rather heavy 4WD truck stuck in mud. When I asked the owner to bring out a tow-strap, my jaw dropped when he pulled out one of those nylon tow-straps that can be bought cheap from those grocery-like auto accessory stores. Needless to say, the strap broke during the initial pull, and nearly injured a by-stander when it whipped just inches from him. As a rule of thumb, the breaking points of these straps should be one and a half times the weight of your vehicle. The most commonly used tow-ropes for off-road use are webbing straps that are at least two inches wide and 20 feet long. It should be secured with shackles on the towing point of the vehicle. Any tear will dramatically reduce the pulling capacity of the strap and should no longer be used for heavy recovery work.
Another effective towing strap is the kinetic energy recovery rope, which is more popularly known as bungee straps. No, these are not the straps used for bungee jumping. But they work with the same principle. These special traps are available from specialist off-road equipment manufacturers. Not-so-difficult recovery work is where these straps work best and do not put a lot of strain on the components where the strap is attached to when in use, because the stretching motion of the strap is where it gets most of the energy to pull a stucked vehicle.
If you have been following my articles, you may have heard of this often. Shackles are used for connecting ropes to two points as well as other points needed for pulling and towing. When securing shackles, they are never to be over tightened. A light-hand turn is all that is needed to secure the shackles, ensuring that no effort is needed when they are to be removed. Be wary of non-rated shackles and make sure they are used for their intended rating.
This is actually a pulley block that opens when a cable is installed to double the pulling capacity of a winch. In some extreme cases, two snatch blocks can be used to triple the pulling power of a winch. Do make sure the rest of the equipment to be used in a multi-snatch block pull is rated for the amount of load it will have to endure. Otherwise, you will have so many metal components under a lot of load that can shatter in all directions once the equipment gets over loaded.
A-frame tow bars
This tow bar is used for towing vehicles over long distances, without the need of another driver behind the wheel of the vehicle being towed. It gives the towing vehicle more control of the towed vehicle, and makes the towing vehicle the braking vehicle too. Do note that in most of our privately-operated highways, this system is not allowed to be used for some absurd reason. As always, caution and care must be taken when having it installed and used.