Whether you use 1″ ratchet straps to tie down a motorcycle in an enclosed trailer, or you’re a flatbed truck driver using 4″ winch straps, it’s important to regularly inspect straps, clean them, and store properly when not in use. Not only will these best practices extend the working life of the strap, they can also be the difference between a safe trip and a disastrous haul.
Inspecting a tie down strap
Besides holes, tears, and knots, check for these sometimes less-obvious indications of wear:
- Broken stitching in the stitch patterns
- Weld splatter, or any areas of melting or charring
- Damage caused from UV rays: color looks bleached or webbing feels stiff
- Small particles embedded in the webbing
- Burnt areas caused by acid, alkali, or other chemicals
- Cracks, pits, or corrosion on ratchets, cam buckles, hooks, and other fittings.
- Unusual wear patterns of webbing at the point of contact with the fitting
- Tag: work load limit information must be visible
If any of the above are visible, the straps should be removed from service. If in doubt, check The Web Sling and Tie Down Association (WSTDA) publication Recommended Standard Specification for Synthetic Web Tie Downs. It’s the gold standard for tie down maintenance guidelines.
After a thorough inspection, create a record with dates to keep on file. Write your notes in a notebook, or keep an electronic file on your computer; either way, it’s a good idea to also take photos of straps so you can refer to them if needed during the next inspection.
How often should you inspect tie down straps? The WSTDA suggests an initial inspection before the strap is placed in service; then again each time before the strap is used. Periodic inspections should be based on: how often the straps are used and the severity of the conditions the strap is used in. You can also use your experience of using tie downs in similar applications to know how often a strap should be inspected.
How to clean tie down straps
Keeping straps clean is one of the best ways to extend their working life. Mix a mild detergent with warm water and scrub with a quality scrub brush to loosen any dirt and debris. Avoid bleach-based cleansers or any with acid additives.
Even though the polyester fabrication of tie down strap webbing limits water absorption, it’s still best practice to hang straps to allow for thorough air drying.
Tie down strap storage
Straps can be hung on walls, stored in plastic bags or fabric bags, etc., but a good rule of thumb is to be sure and keep them in a dry area away from sunlight.
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