A Complete Guide to Vehicle Tiedown Straps for Beginners

Be prepared for towing and recovery operations by reading our guide on vehicle tiedowns.

You may be wondering how to secure a stuck vehicle to your vehicle or trailer without the risk of damage to any vehicle. Or, you may want to see what recovery equipment is right for your job. After all, a sudden stop, damaged tiedown, or lane change is the only thing between a safe delivery or destroyed cargo. Regardless of what you’re hauling, having the right tiedowns is incredibly important to ensure your cargo is delivered safely.

Continue reading to learn the difference between recovery straps and tow straps, the various types of vehicle tiedowns, and how to use them.

What are Recovery and Tow Straps Made out of?

using tow strap to stuck vehicle

First, let’s learn what they are made out of so you can determine which tiedown is right for your job.

The most common materials used to make vehicle tiedowns are polyester webbing and nylon webbing. The difference is what you should be using in recovery and towing applications.

If you’re in the towing industry or tow a lot, we recommend using straps with polyester webbing. Our Ratchet Straps with RTJ Cluster Hooks are extremely useful because the cluster hook combines three hooks into one chainring, providing multiple options to securely tie down any vehicle. Tow Ratchet Straps are perfect for towing because they have minimal stretch to ensure a firm hold on your cargo.

For recovery operations or quick vehicle recoveries, we recommend using nylon straps. Our 1-Ply and 2-Ply Recovery Straps have high-quality nylon material that contains pliable webbing to conform and support the load. It also has CORDURA® loops (or “eyes”) on each end, providing more resistance to cutting than nylon fabric. This will work well with tow anchor shackles to offer a strong connection point with the ease of a quick-release pin. 

Wait, What’s the Difference between Recovery and Tow Straps?

The main difference between a tow strap and a recovery strap is the fabric and their ability to stretch. The tow strap’s polyester webbing stretches less than nylon, and simply tows a vehicle behind another. 

You should not use tow straps to recover a stuck vehicle. They’re less flexible and are to pull a load that freely moves. 

The purpose of a recovery tiedown is to “recover” a vehicle from a tight situation like mud, rain, etc. These tiedowns have loops on each end and you could use them for both towing and recovery operations. However, it’s important to take special precautions when using these straps for towing. The stretch can cause a bit of a rubber band effect, which can sling-shot the vehicle at uneven speeds. 

Learn more about the differences between Recovery and Tow Straps.

How Do I Find a Tiedown that Safely Secures My Vehicle?

using nylon recovery strap to stuck vehicle

The answer is simple – you’ll want to start by finding the strap that fits the weight of your vehicle best. There are multiple ways to find your vehicle’s weight. You can locate this through your owner’s manual, a sticker on your driver’s door, or even through a Google search.

Once you discover the weight of your vehicle, this can help you determine the Working Load Limit (WLL) and Break Strength (BS) of the tiedown you’ll need. In other words, the amount of weight that’s safely rated for your car tiedowns. A good rule of thumb is for the vehicle weight to be half the break strength of the tiedown.

Confused about what Working Load Limit and Break Strength mean? Read Working Load Limit, Breaking Strength & Safety Factor: What Do They Mean?

Then, you can determine which tiedown is right for the job whether it’s for recovery or towing operations. Read below the different types of vehicle tiedowns.

Different Types of Car Tiedowns, or for Other Recovery Applications

different types of car trailer straps to use

While this isn’t a complete list of vehicle tiedowns, these are common tiedowns to use for recovery and towing operations.

1-Ply Recovery Straps

Made with a single layer of high-quality industrial grade nylon material, 1-Ply Recovery Straps are useful for pulling vehicles out of a tight spot and are an essential tool for anyone to have in their vehicle.

2-Ply Recovery Straps

Made with two layers of high-quality industrial grade nylon material, 2-Ply Recovery Straps are stronger recovery straps than 1-Ply Recovery Straps. 1-Ply has a single layer of nylon material with a break strength of 16,000 – 96,000 lbs, while the 2-Ply has two layers of nylon material with a break strength of 96,000 – 128,000 lbs.

These are heavy equipment recovery ropes and are one of the best ways to get a vehicle out of tough situations like water, snow, mud, or other road debris

Tow Ratchet Straps with RTJ Cluster Hooks

Ratchet Straps with RTJ Cluster Hooks are perfect for towing cars and other vehicles. The strap has polyester webbing, having minimal stretch to ensure a firm hold on your cargo. The RTJ hooks give you a variety of options to securely tie down any vehicle.

The R Hook – Ford Vehicles

T Hook – GM and Chrysler Vehicles

J Hook – Foreign Vehicles (these have parts made and assembled outside the country)

Axle Straps

Axle Straps attach around the vehicle’s axle to secure it to trailers of flatbeds for transit. This helps create a securement point to prevent your vehicle from moving or becoming unsecured. Axle straps are easy to use and are made with 12,000 lb. industrial-grade polyester webbing for maximum strength and durability.

Lasso Straps

Car haulers use Lasso Straps as a universal car tie-down strap. They’re especially convenient and often used when low clearance is a concern. When using a Lassp Strap, just thread the strap around the tire and secure it with a ratchet or winch

Tree Saver Straps

Tree Saver Straps are great for protecting your winch cable and the tree from damage when freeing a vehicle from a stuck position. To use, you simply wrap the strap around your tree (or other anchor points) and lock your winch hook into the eyes of the strap. Our 3″ x 6′ Tree Saver Strap is made of durable 3″ wide nylon webbing with a tensile strength of 30,000 lbs., so it’s strong enough to pull vehicles rated 12,000 lbs. or less.

How to Use a Recovery Tow Strap

Using heavy duty tow straps

Choosing the right tiedown for your towing or recovery application is critical. As we mentioned earlier, finding out the weight of your vehicle first will help you determine what tiedown you’ll need to use. Read the steps on how to use a recovery tow strap:

  1. Attach the strap to the rear of the towing vehicle, somewhere with plenty of strucural support.
  2. Secure the strap to the stuck vehicle. If you need help locating the exact mount to place the hook, make sure to refer to the owner’s manual.
  3. Once both hooks are secured, the drivers of both vehicles can get behind the wheel. The recovery vehicle can start accelerating slowly and gradually, straightening the strap to its full extent.
  4. The vehicle being recovered should be in gear, and once they’re moving – the driver should apply some gas and steer their vehicle out.
  5. The recovery vehicle can continue at a slow, safe speed to the nearby destination.

If you’re stuck in snow, learn How to Pull a Car out of Snow Using a Recovery Strap

Helpful Hints for Using a Tow Recovery Strap:

Before you start using car hauler straps, make sure to keep these tips in mind.

  1. Always inspect towing and recovery straps for damage prior to use. If you’re new to this operation, stop every once in a while when driving to check your work and see if the strap is holding up well. 
  2. When using tow straps, wrap around an appropriate frame point and thread the towing strap or snatch strap through the eye of the other end to choke the frame. 
  3. For tow strap recovery use, always securely attach the hardware to the recovery vehicle. Our anchor shackles are great for recovery vehicles.
  4. Get rid of any debris or material that may cut or damage the tie down.
  5. When using a recovery strap, a good rule of thumb is for the vehicle weight to be half the break strength of the recovery strap. 
  6. When choosing heavy-duty nylon recovery & tow straps, you should choose one that is strong enough, but not so strong that it won’t stretch. It is essential for the recovery strap to stretch so the memory of the nylon webbing will help “snap” the vehicle out and take some of the shock out of the initial pull. This tow strap strength is important in knowing how to use recovery straps for the best results.

Getting You What you Want, When You Need it

Recovery straps and tow straps are invaluable pieces of equipment whether you are in the towing business and need a heavy tow strap, off-road recovery straps for recreational use, or truck tow straps for emergency situations.

If you have any questions about what strap is best for your application, or if you need a custom strap, call us at 800-969-6543 and we’ll be happy to help you.

At US Cargo Control, we want you to have the highest quality products so you can get the job done. If you have any questions about our products, give our team a call at 866-444-9990.

Extracting a Stuck Vehicle

When extracting a stuck vehicle, many factors can affect the actual pulling force needed. Read on to learn what they are.

How to Calculate Minimum Winching Effort & Minimum Working Load Limit

extracting a stuck vehicle calculation formula

When extracting a stuck vehicle, many factors can affect the actual pulling force needed, as well as selecting recovery equipment with high enough load ratings.

During a recent Iowa Corn Growers Event hosted at US Cargo Control headquarters, Tim Sanders, a Trucking and Transporation expert, and USCC business development specialist, gave an informative overview of what goes into effectively extracting a vehicle that’s stuck in the mud, sand, gravel, snow, etc.

When work needs to get done, it may seem tempting to just grab a strap or chain and pull until something happens. However, if you take a few minutes to do some simple calculations, you’ll likely save time in the long run and more importantly, help ensure the safety of those around the extraction scene.

The formula for calculating the required minimum recovery capacity

Total vehicle weight (W), additional rolling resistance (ARR), and additional gradient resistance (AGR). Once you have these calculations, you can quickly determine the recovery equipment strength you will need:

  1. What does the stuck vehicle weight, including all cargo, attachments, trailers, etc.?

    This is the “W” part of the formula.
  2. What factors will add to the pulling effort and safe working load limits required to pull the total weight of the vehicle?

    When we say “additional factors” we’re mainly talking about two things: additional rolling resistance (ARR) and additional gradient resistance (AGR)

Minimum Capacity Required = W + ARR + AGR

tim sander USCC sales and trucking gear expert
USCC Business Development Specialist, Tim Sanders, shares how to determine the minimum recovery equipment capacity required for extracting a vehicle to a crowd of Iowa Corn Grower Members

Calculating additional rolling resistance

Additional rolling resistance (ARR) is essentially the surface in which the vehicle is stuck or will need to get over in order to become free. Different surface types have different multipliers that, when multiplied by the total vehicle weight, give you the “ARR.”

Keep in mind that these calculations assume the wheels are level with each other.

how to calculate additional rolling resistance by surface type
This chart shows the multipliers for different surface types. Multiply the total weight of the stuck vehicle by the appropriate multiplier to get total “ARR.”

Calculating gradient resistance

Gradient resistance (AGR) is simply the degree of slope that the extraction may take place on. The greater the slope, the higher the multiplier. Again, you will take the total weight of the stuck vehicle and multiply by the appropriate multiplier.

chart for calculating gradient resistance when extracting a stuck vehicle
This chart shows the multipliers for different degrees of slope. Multiply the total weight of the stuck vehicle by the appropriate multiplier to get total “AGR.”

Example Calculation

Let’s say the total weight of the stuck vehicle is 42,000 lbs., and it’s stuck in the snow with a 15-degree slope. Can you figure out the minimum capacity required? Remember the formula is:

Minimum Capacity Required = W + ARR + AGR

See below for the answer.

example calculation of minimum capacity required
Assuming all the factors on the left side of this chart, here is how to calculate the minimum capacity required for extracting a vehicle

Selecting the right recovery straps

Make sure the working load limit of the recovery equipment is greater than the minimum capacity required. Additional resistance could be encountered when the stuck vehicle is deeply submerged, or there is damage to the vehicle that prevents it from moving. When in doubt contact a vehicle recovery expert.

More Vehicle Recovery Resources

If you’re needing to pull an automobile out of snow that’s close to a public roadway, there are specific steps to take to ensure safety beyond just recovery capacity. Click the link above to learn what they are.

We also have resources that cover the common questions our team gets like how to choose a recovery strap and auto-recovery straps vs. tow straps.

If you have further questions on recovery straps and safe vehicle extraction, give Tim or anyone on our team a call at 800-969-6543.

NOTE: This article contains important safety information about the use of synthetic web slings. However, it does not contain all the information you need to know about handling, lifting, and manipulating materials and loads safely. Sling use is only one part of a lifting system and it is your responsibility to consider all risk factors prior to using any rigging device or product. Failure to do this may result in severe injury or death due to sling failure and/or loss of load

Auto Recovery Straps vs. Tow Straps

We get a lot of questions about which straps to use when hauling and towing a vehicle versus the best straps for recovering cars from ditches or other situations. There is a difference between recovery straps and tow straps, and each type has its benefits.

Recovery Straps, Snatch Straps, Tow Straps
Situational usage of recovery straps.

Recovery Straps

Recovery straps are best used to “recover” a stuck vehicle. Say your car or off-road recreational vehicle gets stuck in the mud or a ditch and you’re not going anywhere no matter what you try. If you don’t want to call a tow truck, you can use another vehicle and recovery straps to do the job.

Recovery straps are made of a nylon fabrication that stretches when necessary. These straps, also called “snatch straps” since they can snatch a vehicle out of a sticky situation, have loops on each end.

3x20 strap with looped ends and Cordura eyes
Recovery straps have loops on both ends.

To use a recovery strap you attach the strap to the back of the vehicle performing the recovery at an appropriate frame point, and also to the front of the vehicle being recovered. Thread the strap through the eye of the other end to choke the frame. Make sure the strap is not rubbing against any sharp edges. If you need hardware to secure the strap, anchor shackles are great for recovery vehicles. As the first vehicle begins to move forward, the strap stretches and pulls the stuck vehicle free.

Recovery straps are safer for this type of usage than chain, they’re easier to use and they are not nearly as heavy. Making sure your recovery strap is in good shape is very important before using. Any straps that are frayed or warn increases the likelihood of breakage during a recovery. Straps with faded color are also more apt to break during usage. Store straps out of sunlight and away from excessive heat. Straps perform well in cold temps as well as heat, but should not be used in temperatures in excess of 194 degrees Fahrenheit. To clean your strap, spray with water and do not use chemicals.

Tow Straps

The biggest difference between a tow strap and a recovery strap is the stretchiness of the fabric. A tow strap is made of less-stretchy polyester, and is intended for the towing of a freely-moving vehicle behind another vehicle. Typically, tow straps have metal hooks on each end. Tow straps should not be used in the recovery of stuck vehicles simply because they are less stretchy and can more easily break under the pressure a recovery entails. Traditional tow straps and chains are similar in their towing applications.

Strap Safety

No matter which type of strap you’re using, there are standard safety protocols. Because straps can snap, or break, and launch through the air at a high rate of speed, it’s a good idea to keep any bystanders at least the distance of the length of the strap away from the application.

Choosing the right size strap is also very important. US Cargo Control straps come in widths from 2” to 12” with break strengths from 20,000 lbs. to 400,000+ lbs., and can be made to any custom length since we manufacture them in-house. We can also layer the strap from 1- to 4-ply designs, so you can get the width you want with the strength you need. More plies allow for a narrower strap with greater break strength than single ply.

Our straps are designed with CORDURA® at the eyes of the strap for better resistance to wear and tear. It’s important to note that US Cargo Control straps are manufactured with high-quality, heavy-duty nylon designed for both recovery and towing uses.

If you have any questions about what strap is best for your application, or if you need a custom strap please call us at 866-444-9990 and we’ll be happy to help you get you what you want, when you need it.