So You’ve Ripped Off a Bumper: How You Should’ve Extracted That Car From the SnowFebruary 23rd, 2015 by Rachel Sheelam
It’s been one nasty winter for the Northeastern United States and Canada and the snow just keeps on piling up. If you own a 4×4, be it a Jeep, truck or SUV, you’re probably familiar with that spark of hope in the eyes of a sedan driver stranded in a snow bank when they see you driving past on the way to the store to purchase all of the milk and bread before the next storm hits. Unless they’re in a smart car (in which case you just need a few buddies to help you push), you’ll need the right recovery know-how and equipment to get in touch with your inner superhero and help get them out safely.
First Things First …
Before I tell you how to extract a snow-bound vehicle, it’s important that you know when and how not to. Take into account these safety considerations before attempting an extraction:
- Are you on a busy road? If the answer is yes, call a professional tow truck. In order to extract a vehicle safely, you need room to run without endangering yourself or other drivers.
- How is visibility? If it’s still snowing, obscuring visibility, do not attempt an extraction. If another vehicle is coming toward you and can’t see what you’re doing, you risk causing a potentially serious accident. The same goes for corners and obstacles which may obscure another vehicles’ line of sight to you.
- Can you reach them without getting stuck? It doesn’t do anyone any good if you run in after them and get your own vehicle stuck in the snow. Always attach your recovery strap to the vehicle you’re extracting first and make sure it can reach you in a place where you can get traction to pull.
- Does their vehicle have a towing point you can safely attach to? Many new passenger vehicles roll off the assembly line with removable strap-down points, which are taken off once they reach a dealership, leaving the vehicle devoid of a true towing point. We’ll talk more about dealing with this later.
- In what way are they stuck? Have they just lost traction or are they embedded in a snow bank? If it’s the latter, you may need to do some digging and if it’s the former you should lay down some traction for them to help drive themselves out.
“If they’re in a snow bank, them trying to drive out won’t help you, and once their tires start to spin they’re done, because they’ve formed a disc of ice beneath them,” says Upstate New York Resident Walter Bowes. “You also need to consider things they may have driven over that could tear up the bottom of their car.”
Consider how far off the road they are and how they’re trapped. Thoroughly check your surroundings and poke around with your shovel to make sure some hidden debris isn’t lying in wait to ruin everyone’s day. Even something as seemingly innocuous as a broken stick can punch through an oil pan and kill the car before you know what’s happening.
Finally, if you don’t have the right recovery equipment, don’t even try an extraction – call a professional. Using the wrong equipment is likely to, at the very least, break your vehicle or the stuck one and, at the worst, hurt somebody. For example, allow me to preface the next segment with this:
Do not try to perform a vehicle extraction with only a chain. Just don’t. They’re unforgiving, so when you run them out to their full length they’ll give a harsh, solid yank which is likely to rip something off your 4×4 or the stuck car. More importantly, if a chain is overstressed while taut and breaks, it will send shrapnel projectiles every which way at extremely high velocity. Bad for you, bad for the person you’re rescuing and bad for anyone else who happens to be anywhere near you. As a conduit between rope and vehicle, they can be very useful, however.
Instead of a chain, pack a recovery rope. What kind of recovery rope? Well, I’m glad you asked …
Bubba Rope is a brand of kinetic energy recovery rope (KERR) designed for exceptional strength and elasticity. It’s the perfect tool for snow, mud and sand extraction because when it’s stretched out, it uses its own potential (built up) energy to pull the stuck vehicle free. The elasticity not only means that extraction is easier, but it will also have a more gradual pull, making it less likely to rip off pieces of the car.
In addition to its elasticity benefits, the Bubba Rope boasts superior durability and strength to other forms of towing ropes and straps thanks to its three-rope design: an inner nylon core, a braided looser and a tightly-braided outer nylon jacket. The entire rope is dipped in a polymer base to give it a protective shell coating. Bubba Rope has some of the highest breaking strengths available on the market and is built to last with water, UV and abrasion resistance.
What Else Do You Need?
Now that you’re back from our retail page, where I’m confident you went and ordered yourself a Bubba Rope (If you didn’t, I’m telling my manager you did anyway. Here’s your chance to not make me a liar), what other recovery equipment do you need to toss into the back of your vehicle? While a beefy set of General Grabber AT2 tires would definitely help you get the traction you need to save the day, there are a few general items which can help as well.
Some basics to remember are gloves, a receiving point on your vehicle to hook the Bubba Rope to and a shovel. You may also want to consider carrying:
- A bucket of sand: if the vehicle you’re recovering is spinning out on ice, a little sand can give its tires something to dig into so they can drive themselves out of it. An old area rug or some debris like small branches and sticks can also help to add traction when you need it.
- A UFO light: in addition to turning on your emergency lights as well as those of the vehicle you’re retrieving, a UFO (universal flashing object) safety light is the safest emergency flare you can use to let other drivers know you’re there. Plus, the look on that Prius owner’s face when you tell them, “I can get you out, let me just grab my UFO” is priceless.
- A short length of chain: while you shouldn’t attempt extraction with a chain, a short length of it used cautiously can be extremely helpful when hooking up the vehicle you’re retrieving. As you’re about to find out, the best attachment location for your Bubba Rode on a passenger vehicle that doesn’t have towing points on it is also the spot most likely to cut your rope.
Where Do You Tow From?
If you aren’t confident about your ability to tow the vehicle out safely, don’t risk it, call a tow truck. However, if you are attempting a retrieval, here are the steps to hooking up their car for towing:
- 1. Make sure to convey to them that there is a likelihood that what you’re about to do will break something on their vehicle.
- 2. If possible, get under the vehicle and hunt around for a towing point. It’s likely that there will be a tie-down point underneath the car from when it was transported from the manufacturing plant.
- 3. Once you’ve settled on a place that’s safe to pull from, do not attach your Bubba Rope: have them hook it up themselves to help minimize your liability if something breaks.
If there are no tie-downs or towing points on their vehicle and you can’t access a good location on the frame itself, your best bet is to loop your bubba rope around the control arm, close to the body of the car. This will keep it from getting wrapped in the wheel and gives it a strong place to tug on, because the control arm is attached directly to the frame in two places. If you do use a control arm, consider attaching a short length of chain to it then hooking your recovery rope to that, because otherwise, if the car bounces, it could damage the rope.
Places not to tow from:
- CV shafts and other suspension pieces
- Body parts like mirrors, seat belts or by closing the rope into a door or the trunk (yes, it’s been tried. Not by us.)
- A trailer hitch ball, which is likely to break off under the extreme tension and work much like a slingshot with a massive steel pellet aimed straight for your 4x4’s rear windshield
Once You’re All Hooked Up …
You’ve found a good towing point, now it’s time to save the day! Step one is, of course, to don the brightly colored tights you keep under the seat for just such heroic occasions, and step two is to pull forward until you’re out of slack. When you feel your vehicle hit the end of the rope and things have reached a standstill, get on the brake and let the rope do its thing. As the car is pulled out, the tension in the rope will decrease, which is when you creep forward again, until you’ve freed the vehicle.
“You’re not towing so much as you’re just holding tension,” says Bowes, “You just keep maintaining the tension, and if they’re driving themselves out then it allows for them to keep any advantage they’ve gained instead of sliding back in.”
The elasticity of the Bubba Rope will serve as a strong but gentle, steady pull to excavate the trapped vehicle. If the car isn’t budging, take extra steps to add traction with sand or debris beneath their tires and dig out any snow and debris which might be effectively chocking their tires. Another important note: make sure their emergency brake isn’t on.
Want to know more about Bubba Rope? Check out their website for even more information like usage and maintenance tips.
Rachel Bowes is a Northeastern USA survivor, having escaped to warmer climes where she can happily write articles like this one for 4 Wheel Parts from the comfort of a heated blanket in an office in Southern California.
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About the Author: Rachel Sheelam
The 4x4 and off-road lifestyle was all new to me when I first joined this team, but in the year since then I have developed a true passion for the automotive industry. I've learned more than I knew there was to know about trucks, Jeeps and SUVs - from suspension articulation physics to which types of tires are the best for wallowing in the mud. Whether it's the latest in automotive technology or the best 4x4's in film, I'm always on the lookout for the next big learning curve or news to share. You can keep up with me on my adventure into 4-wheeled life on Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+RachelBowesatTAP/posts