4wd Vehicle Recovery. Driving out, Snatch Straps and Winching

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are any number of different methods of recovering a 4wd vehicle when it’s stuck. Some are more dangerous that others when not performed correctly, and risk of damage to people and vehicles can be quite high.

The other day, I was lucky enough to be included on a 4wd awareness day with the 4wd club that I am a member of. We met up at Wilbinga Grove, which is a road-side parking bay about 45 kms north of Wanneroo and, after a discussion on basic 4wd equipment and driving techniques, we headed off towards the coast.

Now in Western Australia, one thing we have a lot of is sand. And our Wilbinga adventure was not going to be an exception. Sand, sand and more sand.

And of course, with sand comes being bogged. And a couple of us experienced this first hand. But it was all part of the fun, and learning about the effects of changing your tyre pressures and how to drive on sand was the whole idea of the day.

One of the other major learning activities of the day, and the subject of this article was 4wd vehicle recovery.

Recovering a 4wd vehicle that is bogged is not difficult if done correctly. And it’s not dangerous if you do it properly.

However if it is not done correctly then the situation can become extremely dangerous. All too often I see articles in the news paper or on the internet about someone who has become injured or even died because they did not use proper techniques to recover a stuck vehicle. So read on to find out what I’ve learned about vehicle recovery. The intention of this article isn’t to provide you with all the answers. And nothing replaces real-life education. So read this, but make sure you also get out and get some experience with someone who knows what they’re doing.

Different types of 4wd Vehicle Recovery

So you’re out there on the tracks with your 4wd and your good friends. Either your taking your family on a nice trip down to that secret beach location, or your plowing through deep mud on your favorite bush track. You feel your car start to struggle and you give it a little more from the right foot. Before you know it, you’re losing momentum and grinding to a halt. Stuck. Bogged. So what do you do now?

Well the first thing you should do is get into your car fridge and pull out a non-alcoholic beverage. Slow down, relax and have a think. Our first reaction when we’re stuck is that our adrenaline starts to pump and we grab the nearest snatch strap and start yanking. But take your time. It’s very rare that a vehicle needs to be recovered immediately. In most cases, the car’s not going anywhere so take your time. Think first about your safety and the safety of others and perform your recovery effectively.

In real terms you have endless options. But in more general terms, there are only two. These options I’m going to call Single Vehicle Recovery  and Multi-Vehicle Recovery. These are terms I’ve made up myself through my observations of 4wd vehicle recovery. There are probably better names for them but we’ll go with this for now.

Single Vehicle Recovery

Lets start with Single Vehicle Recovery. In this case the only vehicle involved is the one that is stuck. It is probably the most physical on you, but is also what I consider the safest of the two options. Basically, it involves using strategies such as:

  • Reducing tyre pressure
  • Getting the shovel out and digging
  • Using a high-lift jack so that you can pack branches and leaves under the wheels
  • Getting the Max Trax off the roof and giving them a shot
Basically, using anything possible that does not involve another car, and does not involve the massive and potentially life threatening forces that accompany the other methods of recovery.

Multi-Vehicle Recovery

Multi-Vehicle Recovery are dangerous if they’re not performed correctly. But more of that in a moment.

In a Multi-Vehicle Recovery, the stuck vehicle is quickly and violently moved in some manner. Most commonly this will be with a snatch strap connected to another vehicle. But could also be with the use of a winch or some other method.

Unfortunately, the Multi-Vehicle Recovery method is what most people go for first. But if you think about what is actually involved in these kinds of recovery strategies, you’ll probably start to lean towards the slower but safer recovery methods.

Lets consider the very common strategy of using a snatch strap. You connect two very heavy vehicles together, one of those is stuck already. You strap them together using a large elastic band (your snatch strap). You prepare yourself by attaching your strap to your recovery points. You communicate with each other and you’re ready to go. The leading car revs it up and suddenly the tension on the snatch strap kicks in. It stretches a significant amount and is under some very significant tension.

Stop there…

Just think about the dynamic forces at play here. Two heavy vehicles… One stuck to the axles in mud… One yanking hard on a giant elastic band… Place this kind of force on your car regularly and eventually something’s going to break. What if that recovery point bolts were a little rusted? What if you didn’t see where the other person connected the shackle and they actually attached it to the factory tie-down point? What if the snatch strap was attached to a tow-ball instead of a proper recovery block?

BANG! As whatever it is breaks, the slingshot effect takes over and launches the heavy, metal object through the air. And where is it going to head? Well straight along the line of the snatch strap, straight towards the other vehicle… Like a bullet… Do a Google search for 4wd recovery death and you’ll see that it’s a very, very real risk if it’s done incorrectly and without thought.

I’ve also included using a winch in Dynamic Vehicle Recovery because it still involves moving the vehicle using something other than the vehicles own power, so to speak. Once again, when using a winch, there are tremendous forces put on your vehicle, and there is the potential for launching razor sharp winch cable through the air like a slicing whip.

So when I’m out getting bogged, my first recovery strategy will always be my trusty Max Trax.

 

 

RedArc Dual Battery System Installation

RedArc SBI12 Dual Battery System Isolator

Over the past few months, I’ve gradually been collecting all the gear I need to install a RedArc Dual Battery System into my Mitsubishi PB Challenger. It’s the biggest modification to the vehicle that I’ve taken on myself. But it won’t be the last.

RedArc SBI12 Dual Battery System Isolator
Installing a RedArc SBI12 Dual Battery System

The RedArc dual battery system that I’ve purchased is the RedArc SBI12 solenoid. The instructions couldn’t be simpler. Basically all I need to do is bolt it on and connect some wires!

My Dual Battery System Design

I wanted a dual battery system that is robust and reliable when in the vehicle, but also one that was somewhat portable. Well, not the entire system, but the battery itself. I want to be able to remove the battery from my vehicle when I arrive at a destination so that I can lug the battery and the fridge away from my car if I need to. This will also allow me to remove the battery easily when I’m at home so that I can run it on my battery conditioner when it’s not in use. And also reduce the weight that my vehicle will need to lug around when driving around the city.

Eventually, we may purchase a camper trailer that will need another battery in it. So my dual battery system installation will need to be expandable to extend to a trailer as well.

With that in mind, I looked through the RedArc website and found the RedArc SBI wiring guide that best suited my needs. Now this design in itself isn’t perfect for my requirements.
1 RedArc SBI with 2 Aux Batteries

If I want to be able to remove my first aux battery then I need an additional Anderson plug connecting to my first Auxiliary battery. But this is a very, very minor change to the overall design and shouldn’t cause me any real problems at all.

Installing my Dual Battery System

So I began by collecting all the gear I’d need to do the installation. This included:

  • 6B&S Cable (Red and Black) – This was recommended so that I’d get minimal voltage drop over the cable.
  • Lugs to connect cables to batteries
  • Anderson plug. One initially, but a 2nd to connect between the car and the future trailer
  • RedArc SBI12 Dual Battery Isolator.
  • Heat Shrink Tubing
  • Conduit
  • Tools of the trade (including a big swaging tool to crimp up the lugs)
  • 100 AH AGM Battery to go in my boot (See my un-scientific test on Battery life and my ARB 78L Fridge).
  • 2 x 60 amp circuit breakers to protect everything. The wiring guide recommends 100 amp fuses so I may change these to 100 amp breakers at a later date.

From there, I decided to start with what I thought was the easy bits; Finding a location for, and installing the RedArc SBI Isolator. Looking under my bonnet, there isn’t very much room and every surface seems to already have something on it! Eventually I decided on placing it high up, on the drivers side. It’s further from the cranking battery than I’d like, but I don’t really think I had much choice.

RedArc Dual Battery System IsolatorAs it turns out, these were indeed the easy bits. Installing it was pretty simple really. Just a couple of self tapping screws. To get a really good earth, I used a grinding drill bit to grind back to bare metal then popped a screw in and sprayed over it with some rust preventing paint. Quick and simple.

Once that was installed, I started making up the cable I needed to connect it to the cranking battery. This was simply a matter of measuring the correct lengths, using the swaging tool to crimp the lugs on when needed, and installing the circuit breaker.

 

RedArc Isolator all lit up
RedArc Isolator all lit up

Dual Battery System Circuit Breaker

At this point I tested the system in a couple of ways. The first was with a multimeter which told me that it was all working perfectly. The 2nd was to turn on my engine and run it for a while. Once the main cranking battery was fully charged (which didn’t take long) the RedArc isolator turned on. This means that if a 2nd battery was plugged in, then it would now be charging as well.

I then turned off the ignition and noted that the RedArc isolator remained on. So I turned on my lights to drain the main cranking battery just slightly. The RedArc isolator detected the voltage drop after a short time and turned itself off. So this means that if I had a fridge attached to the 2nd battery, the RedArc isolator would have cut the connection back to the main cranking battery, leaving the fridge to run only off the second battery. Perfect.

Installing the second battery

So for this part I needed some help. Not because the electrics were going to be harder, but because I had no idea about how to get cables from the engine bay to the boot. As it turned out, this was quite simple.

Firstly, to get from the engine bay to the passenger compartment, I had to run a cable through the firewall. There are little rubber grommets that you can use to push the cable through. I used a drill to make a hole in the rubber grommet. Once you’re in the passenger area, pulling up the trim is quite simple. You get your fingers under it and give it a bit of a yank, basically.

Running cables under the trim was easier that expected
Running cables under the trim was easier that expected

I’d been advised that running the earth cable all the way back to the cranking battery was a good idea. Apparently this helps prevent voltage drop. So if you were to use the override button and start your vehicle from the second battery, you’d have more chance of success.

And so now I have my dual battery system completely set up and working. My second battery can sit in my boot, but is removable if required.

Negative cable connected to cranking battery
Negative cable connected to cranking battery
My second battery is in the boot
My second battery is in the boot

Some Lessons Learnt

Lesson 1:  To get the cable through the grommet from the engine bay into the passenger compartment, I had to remove the RedArc isolator from where I’d installed it. When I put it back in again, I resprayed the area where my earth wire was with my anti-rust spray and carried on installing. When it was all done, I turned the engine on expecting the RedArc to light up as it always had before. Nothing… Oh oh… What have I done…

After some playing around with the multimeter which didn’t really help, I decided to pull it all off again and see what was what. When I pulled it off, I noticed that the anti-rust spray paint had got down between my earth cable and the body work. So I got out my grinding drill bit and ground the paint back off again.

This time, when I turned the engine on, the RedArc behaved as it should and the whole system started working. Phew! So make sure you’ve got a good earth from the RedArc SBI12.

Lesson 2: There is an awful lot of room behind the trim in the boot area. I’m seriously considering permanently mounting the battery behind there at some stage. It’d save a whole lot of space in my boot. The battery wouldn’t be removable anymore, but I’m sure I could live with that.

Lesson 3: Take your time and do it right. Make sure you do a proper job of it from the start. And once you’re done, make sure you have time to sit back and look at it. It’s very satisfying doing things like this yourself, so take the time to pat yourself on the back when it’s done.

Lesson 4: So I was reading through the warranty information for the RedArc Dual Battery Isolator and I noticed that is says that the warranty is void if it’s purchased from an online auction site from a non-authorised reseller! So if you’re buying online, make sure the person you’re purchasing from is an authorised reseller. Autoelecau (where I got  mine) is an authorised reseller.

See Part 2 of my RedArc Dual Battery System installation