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.

WSTDA COVID-19 Guidance For Synthetic Slings and Tie Downs

WSTDA releases guidance for COVID-19.

The Web Sling and Tie Down Association (WSTDA) recently released guidance on disinfecting synthetic slings and tie-downs to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

In general, it is not recommended that web slings and tie-downs be washed or disinfected as it can lead to a loss of strength. Many chemicals and cleaners commonly used to disinfect other inanimate household objects could have adverse effects on synthetic slings and tie-downs.

We understand there are a lot of questions and unknowns when it comes to the Coronavirus pandemic and encourage our customers to read the full release from the WSTDA on their website.

At US Cargo Control, we care about our customers and getting them what they want, when they need it. If you have any questions about our products, give our team a call at 866-444-9990.

Stay safe everyone!

Polyester Slings vs Nylon Slings: Which Web Sling Type is Better?

Are polyester lifting slings better than nylon lifting slings? This is a question our lifting and rigging product experts commonly get and the answer, as it often is with rigging gear, is that it depends on the job at hand.

Before we dive into the key differences between nylon slings and polyester slings, there are many similar advantages to these two types of synthetic slings that are important to know.

Advantages of Synthetic Webbing

1. Ideal for delicate loads

One of the most common reasons for a rigger to use synthetic slings instead of wire rope slings or chain slings is th fact that they won’t scratch or crush your load. That’s why synthetic slings are extremely popular in the construction industry and with ship haulers.

2. Cost-efficient

Synthetic slings are also an attractive choice due to their lower cost. If you’re wondering whether nylon slings are cheaper than polyester slings, don’t. The prices are more or less the same, and your focus should be on choosing the right sling for the job.

3. Lightweight

Compared to wire rope and chain, synthetic slings are much lighter, making them easier to transport and handle. Again, nylon is typically a little heavier than polyester, but it’s not much of a difference when you consider the weight of chain and wire rope.

4. Strong

It’s true that nylon is stronger on an individual fiber level, but a polyester sling can be made just as strong as a nylon one by adding more threading. And both types can easily lift several thousand pounds. So while it’s important to use a lifting sling that’s rated for the load your lifting, this won’t affect your choice between nylon and polyester.

Physical Differences

Now that you know how they’re similar, let’s look at the differences between the physical characteristics of nylon and polyester to determine which material type is best for your job.

Nylon has more stretch

This is one the most important differences between nylon slings and polyester slings. While nylon slings have more give to them (about 7 to 10 percent stretch when at WLL) that does not mean they are weaker than polyester (typically 2 to 3 percent stretch at WLL). The main reasons you would want more or less stretch when lifting a load include overheight lifting room and the potential for “snapback”.

If you have height limitations, polyester is probably the better choice. If your load could bounce around a lot, the extra stretch of nylon will reduce the danger of the strap snapping back at you or others. This difference in the stretch is why you typically see recovery straps made of nylon and tow straps made of polyester.

Polyester is softer and more flexible

Both nylon and polyester slings are good for delicate loads, but if you’re wondering which one is best for the most delicate loads, it’s polyester. The chemical coating on nylon webbing gives it a slightly more coarse texture.

Polyester is also a bit more flexible than nylon. By flexible, I’m not talking about stretch but rather the ability to wrap tightly around a load and grip the most surface area.

This is an important difference, especially when choosing between nylon endless slings and polyester endless slings. It’s also important to note that there is a difference between flat web polyester slings and round polyester slings.

nylon round endless lifting sling
Nylon Endless Sling
polyester round endless sling
Polyester Endless Sling

Environmental Differences

Another key question to ask when choosing between nylon slings and polyester slings is, what are the environmental conditions? There’s a reason why ship haulers and those in marine environments prefer polyester slings, they absorb less water and are just a bit more resistant to UV rays. But, you also need to consider the differences when it comes to chemical resistance.

Nylon slings can’t resist acids or bleaches

Avoid using nylon slings if you’re operating anywhere near sulfuric, nitric, hydrochloric, or phosphoric acids. Nylon is also unresistant to oxidizing bleach agents such as sodium hypochlorite, hydrogen peroxide, sodium percarbonate, and calcium hypochlorite.

Polyester slings can’t resist ethers or alkalis

On the other hand, polyesters Achilles heel is ethers and alkalis. Among other chemicals, this includes diethyl ether, dimethyl ether, sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, calcium carbonate, and magnesium hydroxide.

Polyester Slings

best eye to eye lifting sling

browse all polyester sling

Conclusion

In short, synthetic lifting slings are a great choice due to their ability to handle delicate loads, lower cost, lightness, and impressive strength. In the polyester sling vs nylon sling matchup, the winner is whichever one meets the demands of your specific job best.

Nylon slings have more stretch but can’t be used near acids or bleaches. Polyester slings are softer and hug to load surfaces better but can’t be used near ethers or alkalis.

If you have any additional questions about nylon slings or polyester slings, give our rigging product experts a call at 800-404-7068.

Cargo Webbing: What’s the Difference Between Nylon and Polyester?

Cargo webbing is used for a variety of tie downs, cargo nets, seat belts, etc., but there’s a difference in the fabrication of the webbing. Polyester webbing and nylon webbing are the two major categories, along with another polyester fabric webbing that’s known in the industry as seatbelt webbing. While all three may seem similar, some differences will make one better than another for certain applications.

 Nylon webbing

Nylon Cargo Webbing
Nylon Webbing

 

Nylon webbing offers a good combination of both stretch and strength. It has the ability to stretch about 5% to 7% at rated capacity and approximately 30% at break strength. This snap-back quality makes nylon cargo webbing a great choice for recovery straps because of its ability to recover stuck vehicles.

Nylon tie downs should not be used in temperatures above 194 degrees F (90 degrees C) or below -40 degrees F (-40 degrees C). It should also not come in contact with objects above or below those temperatures, including anchor points, the cargo being secured, or a vehicle.

Polyester webbing

polyester cargo webbing
Polyester Webbing

 

Like nylon webbing, polyester webbing is strong and durable, but it lacks the ability to stretch the same way nylon does. This makes it ideal for tie-down applications where cargo must stay secure and not be allowed to bounce: ratchet straps, motorcycle tie downs, cargo nets, etc. Polyester cargo webbing is also versatile as you can add your own tie-down hardware to create your own custom tie-down straps.

Like nylon, polyester webbing should not be used in temperatures above 194 degrees F (90 degrees C) or below -40 degrees F (-40 degrees C), or come in contact with objects (anchor points, cargo being secured, or vehicle) above or below those temperatures.

Seatbelt webbing

Polyester Seat Belt  Cargo Webbing
Polyester Seat Belt Webbing

 

Seatbelt webbing is also a polyester webbing so it offers the same benefits of strength and little stretch. While still a tough, high-quality webbing, it is a less expensive option because it’s offered in just one size and three color options. Seat belt webbing also has a thinner profile than typical polyester cargo web, so it’s great for lighter duty applications such as bag handles, life jacket straps, etc.

When using seatbelt webbing for any application, you should also follow the maximum and minimum temperatures guidelines outlined above for polyester webbing.

Sizes and strengths of cargo webbing

Webbing ranges in widths from 1” to 12” and various lengths. It’s important to keep in mind that a longer strap will not increase the break strength ability, but a wider width will. Each strap width should include tensile strength information, which is the maximum amount of stress a strap will take before failing or breaking. The work load limit will vary by the use or application.