This is Jocko's complete guide to safe 4WD snatch strap recoveries, basic and more advanced winching techniques like a double line pull, how to use a winch SAFELY - and different kinds of recovery gear, shackles, ropes & more!

Jocko dmax

Jocko runs through recovering a 4WD bogged on the beach, 4WDs stuck in crazy mud, winching up steep hills & keep yourself out of trouble.

Did you know that winching a badly bogged 4WD can put so much stress and load on your winch that it is the equivalent of winching vertically up a wall? You would never put your winch or your vehicle through this much stress when you are bogged, so here are a few of our safe and easy tips to recover your 4WD.

Theses tricks will not only keep you safe on the tracks, but they will make your winch and recovery gear live a much longer life – even one of our expert tips that reduces your winch load by over 50%


A snatch recovery uses kinetic energy to free the stuck vehicle by using a long stretchy strap – like a snatch strap – which is connected between two vehicles and as the recovering 4WD moves forward, the snatch strap will stretch and then contract, transferring the energy and moving the stuck 4WD out.

To simplify this, think of a rubber band tied to two toy cars. If you hold one still and move the other the band will stretch, then when you release the first car it will be propelled forward by the energy stored up in the elastic band. Snatch recoveries essentially work the same.

Snatch Strap Vs Kinetic Rope

Kinetic ropes are also used for the same 4WD recovery situations, and as they are made from rope, they provide a much greater transfer of energy.

Both kinetic ropes and snatch straps have their place, but Jocko and the rest of the 4WD 24/7 expert team choose a snatch strap as they pack down smaller for easier storage, easier to set up as well as easy to clean.

Safe Snatch Recovery Tips

-          Do I need to snatch? Ask yourself if this is the best recovery option. You are involving another vehicle, there is a lot of stress on both vehicles and the recovery gear, sometimes a quick winch or even a shovel and some MaxTrax can do the job quicker or safer.

-          Start gently driving gently, then apply more power each attempt if needed. Working up in momentum puts a lot less stress on your 4WDs components and driveline, while keeping the recovery controlled as you progressively increase the intensity.

-          Use rated recovery points. Ensure your vehicle has front and rear rated recovery points, if not make sure you fit some. They are inexpensive and essential, and they are made for almost any 4WD on the market.

-          NEVER use a tow ball as a recovery point. Tow balls are designed for constant load, not large amounts of sudden force that come from a snatch recovery. Using a tow ball as a recovery point can risk shearing the tow ball off, which can become a deadly projectile.

-          Recovery hitch. If your vehicle does not have rear recovery points, a cheap option would be a recovery hitch receiver that uses a shackle to attach your snatch strap. Just simply replace your tow ball hitch with one.

-          If needed, extend your strap with another strap. Joint 2 snatch straps/ropes together to get an extended recovery line if you are in a situation that extra length is needed. This can allow for example, the recovery vehicle to be on solid ground away from the stuck vehicle, rather than risking the recovery 4WD getting stuck as well. Just make sure you put something in between the 2 straps – like a towel or even a magazine – so they don’t get stuck together from the recovery.

joining snatch straps

When to Snatch vs When to Winch

Knowing when to perform a snatch recovery or when to use your winch is important as not every recovery situation is the same. We almost always opt to winch as it is much more controlled, and you can slow things down to suit the situation. We also do understand that not every 4WDer has access to a winch in their budget, so drive accordingly and recover with caution when you do not have a winch amongst your convoy.

The general rule is if you have the space to perform a snatch recovery, and limited options for winching like on a beach, a snatch recovery might be the go – just make sure you snatch in a straight line with no obstacles in the way of the vehicle you are recovering. If you prefer to slow the recovery down, a winch is almost always a better option.


Winch Load Ratings

The first step of winch recoveries is choosing a winch that is rated to your 4WD. When you buy a winch, it will come with a load rating in pounds. Most 4WD winches range from 9,000lb (4,082kg) up to 13,000lb (5897kg), and much larger rated winches are available for big 4WD trucks like a Unimog.

A winch can haul the most load when the rope is closest to the drum while the vehicle is on a flat surface, this is because this is where the most amount of torque can be applied to the winch line. Every extra wrap of the rope around the winch drum reduces the winches pulling power.

winch wrap rating

The winch rating strength is based on Wrap 1 in this diagram. This means, when you buy a winch rated to 9,000lb, it means that the safe working load is based on the winch pulling 9,000lbs (4,082kg) on the first wrap of the winch drum while your 4WD is on a flat surface.

Winch Rating Tests

For example, Jocko’s Pony Hilux weighs 2.1tonnes, on a flat road this 9,000lb winch would pull the 4WD along easily as it is on wheels. If you were to air your tyres down, it would be more difficult to pull the vehicle due to the increased rolling resistance of the lower tyre pressures. Even more load to the winches pulling capabilities comes when you are going uphill, through mud or over rock steps, as more resistance is applied.

pony mud bog winch test jocko

Jocko tested how much force is applied when winching his 2.1T Hilux through deep mud. The force measured during this test was consistently between 2.0-2.1T of force, essentially the winch was pulling the whole weight of the 4WD. the more force you are required to recover your vehicle means the more stress on your recovery gear and it is less safe.

Winch Rating Guide

As a general guide for fitting the right sized and rated winch for your 4WD is that the winch should be rated to handle roughly twice the weight of your 4WD. So, a 10,000-13,000lb winch would suit most 4WDs here in Australia.

Using Jocko’s Hilux as an example, loaded with water, fuel, passengers, food and more, we will round the weight to 2.5T. Double this weight becomes 5T, which is equal to 11,000lbs. This Hilux currently runs a 12,000lb winch, so it should never have any issues with strength.


Single Line vs Double Line vs Triple Line Pull

Winch Line pull comparison

The significant differences in load on your winch in the same scenario between the single line (1.4T), double line (0.75T), and triple line pulls (0.38T) shows that this is clearly the number 1 way to make winching with your 4WD safer and easier.

Single Line Pull

This is the most used winching style, where the anchor point is as close to the front of the vehicle as possible, and you are winching in a straight line. While this is effective, it puts a lot of load on your winch – so be conscious about where your anchor point is and the angle of the winch pull.

Double Line Pull / Triple Line Pull

To help reduce the load on your recovery system, we can introduce a winch ring or pulley for a mechanical advantage. These are ideal if your 4WD is very stuck, or you are towing because the weight on your winch is reduced by 50% / 67% and allows for extra pulling power.

The trade-off for using this style of recovery is that this will slow down your winches to 50% / 33%, and you will use more of your winch rope so be mindful of your anchor point’s distance.

Triple line pulls are rarely used but are effective when they are needed to be applied. For every 3 metres of rope, your vehicle will only move 1 metre, so again be mindful of the distance of your anchor point. The first anchor point should be directly in front of the 4WD, then back to the vehicle via a pulley, then to another anchor point via another pulley.

Critical Angle

Critical Angle refers to the angles of the winch rope going to and from your vehicle, from the point of the winch ring. If the winch rope is coming back to your 4WD, parallel to the outgoing rope, the load will be spread evenly. The greater the angle between the outgoing and ingoing lines, the greater load on your system – so try to keep this angle as close to 0 as possible, and no further than 90 degrees.


-          Raise the recovery anchor point to lift the nose of your 4WD. This can be used to lift and pull in your vehicle out of where it is stuck, but it does increase the load on your anchor point, rope, and winch.

-          Prepare for a recovery in advance when tackling hard tracks where you are more than likely to get stuck, speed up your recovery by prepping your anchor – but just don’t drive off without it if you actually do make it!

-          Put your winch dampener over the heaviest part of the recovery because if your winch rope breaks, heavy metal parts of your recovery line (like a shackle or a winch ring) can go flying and become very dangerous, so the dampener will help mitigate this.

-          Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast! There is no point rushing recoveries or sprinting on the track with recovery gear in hand as this is when mistakes and injuries can happen. Assess the situation and slow down for the best and safest recovery.

-          Synthetic rope over cable lines as nowadays synthetic or other high strength ropes are just as strong as cable, yet are lighter, safer and can even be tied back together if it does snap, unlike cables.

-          Use a set of recovery boards in bog holes or other situations to ease the load off your winch.


Use only environmentally friendly rope or harness wash as this will not harm your ropes and straps. Regular detergent can damage your gear.

Put your rope cleaner in a bucket with some water, and dunk in your gear and mix it around. Do not rub hard on your ropes and straps when washing because this can push dirt and sand further into the material. You can let it soak overnight to break down the dirt, and then wash out the rope wash with just water and let it dry out of the sun.

Inspect Your Gear

While you are cleaning, have a look for any tears or damage, as sadly even the smallest tears mean it needs replacing – but replacing it is better than having your recovery gear fail when you desperately need it most.


Just remember that the more you perform recoveries properly, the more confidence you will have and the better you will get. The key things to remember is to be safe above everything else, be prepared, and use properly rated recovery gear – slow is smooth, and smooth is fast!