Written by Adam Wood, Step 22
Ratings listed on gear are for NEW and UNUSED products. There are many factors that can alter original ratings and significantly reduce the integrity of your gear. Listed ratings will decrease as soon as a piece is put into use, even in the most ideal conditions. Proper labels should include:
Minimum Breaking Strength (MBS) – Also sometimes written as MTS, or minimum tensile strength. Note that sometimes “minimum” is replaced with “maximum” but in almost all cases is referring to the same break number. This number is determined by tests in a controlled environment. This rating lists the amount of force required to break the rope/strap. This number is DETERMINED by actual tests AND SHOULD NOT BE ALTERED UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE. Pay attention to MBS listed for un-spliced rope or specialty configurations when noted. Some manufacturers will list MBS for the webbing or rope before it is sewn or spliced. In this case the MBS should also be listed for the product once it has been sewn or spliced (the configuration that you receive).
Work Load Limit (WLL) / Design Factor – Work Load Limit is a calculation determined by the manufacturer, industry standards, or the end user. This might also be listed as “rated load” “rated capacity” or in some cases just “rated.” WLL is determined by dividing MBS by X. For most off-road recovery gear there is no “standard” for X. It is common to find gear rated with a design factor of 3:1, 4:1, or 5:1. Using 5:1 provides an additional safety buffer for novice users, those not familiar with proper rigging techniques or stuck vehicle assessment, lack of proper gear inspection, and misuse. Many companies use raw materials from the same mill to produce recovery gear. The MBS of products produced should therefore have very similar MBS ratings (based on final sewn/spliced testing). Different companies, however, can choose to use a different design factor resulting in very similar products having very different WLL ratings. When you know both MBS and WLL you can easily determine the design factor used (5:1, 4:1, 3:1, etc.). When you are only provided MBS you must determine your WLL on your own. When you are only provided WLL, you have no idea what design factor was used or what the MBS of that product is.
Avoid gear with missing information, improper labels, or labels simply listing “Rating.” There should be no guess work involved when examining your gear. Note that both MBS and WLL ratings change based on the configuration. A basket configuration will can bear twice the load of the same device used in a straight-line pull. NEVER tie knots in your recovery gear.
Marketing Terms – Best stretch on the market 30%!!! …uhhhhh no!
Bew cautious of misleading statements or marketing materials. For example, double braid nylon rope will stretch up to 30% at MBS… NOT WLL. With a WLL design factor of 5:1 nylon double braid rope will stretch +/-10%. Advertising 30% stretch for this rope can be misleading and indicates endorsement of working your gear to MBS which should always be avoided! A proper statement for this type of rope would indicate 10-12% stretch at WLL, and if 30% is noted, it should indicate that as stretch just before breaking (MBS). Can you see how the same product from 2 manufacturers can have different WLL and Stretch Claims and end up confusing end users?
Proper tags should list the material used, and the intended use of the product.
-Nylon, Polyester, HMPE, UHMPE, UHMWPE – These are examples of actual raw materials.
-Dyneema, Spectra, Plasma, Amsteel, Super Rope, Bubba Rope – These are examples of proprietary names given to raw materials or products by manufacturers once they have been processed and built into finished goods.
-Tree Strap, Anchor Strap, Recovery Rope, Tow strap, yanker strap, kinetic rope, winch extension – These are examples of material and product types/names, indicating the intended end use. Note that one manufacturer might use the name “tree strap” where another might call the same product an “anchor strap.” A “winch extension” and “tow strap” are often the exact same product and have more than one use. Given the lack of naming standards, it is important for you to have as much information as possible to be able to determine the intended and proper uses of any piece of gear. Do you know the difference between a D-Ring Shackle, an Anchor Shackle, and a Screw pin Shackle?
What gear is right for you?
Some things to keep in mind when you are building your recovery kit.
- What is your trail weight? The actual weight of your vehicle, with modifications, and loaded down with your average gear load. The sticker on your door is likely no longer accurate if you have a heavily modified rig.
- Where do you off road? What type of other vehicles do you travel with? Do you explore alone or with groups of other vehicles/people?
- Do you rely on your winch for recovery or do you rely mostly on other vehicles, or both?
- Are you prepared for different types of recovery, where 2 different type of kits might be required?
- Construction/Material – Do you wheel where is it muddy? Dry and rocky? Wet? Is abrasion often a factor?
Storage and Inspection
When not in use store all recovery gear in a cool/dry/dark location, free from mechanical and environmental damage.
- UV Damage – Strength loss can be 30-60% after 12 months exposure. With continued exposure to UV, Nylon will continue to full degradation. Keep all gear clear of UV exposure whenever possible.
- Moisture – Nylon has approximately 15% strength loss when wet. Strength returns when completely dry.
- Remember to check under sleeves and wear pads for debris and related abrasion
Inspect frequently! Look AND Feel, you can’t always SEE damage. Gear MUST be removed from service if you find any conditions which cause doubt as to the strength or integrity product. Off-road recovery gear is regularly used outdoors and should, in general, be permanently removed from service after 2-4 years.
- Initial inspection – Do not trust ANY gear just because it is “new.” Confirm labels for material, ratings, intended use, etc. Do not remove tags/labels, you will need that info someday.
- Frequent – Before/During/After – Inspect gear before leaving for a trip, just prior to use, during use, and at the end of a trip.
- Periodic inspection by qualified party. Qualified individuals may find damage that you have overlooked or are not trained to find.
- Everything wears out eventually!! Treat your recovery gear like you do your tires. You do not wait for a tire to blow before you replace it. Don’t drive on unsafe tires…. Do not rely on unsafe recovery gear. Worn and damaged recovery gear can be deadly!! Do not wait until it is too late!
Some types of damage to look for include, but are not limited to:
- Tears, cuts, snags, holes
- Embedded materials. Remember to check under sleeves/guards
- Broken or worn stitches
- Crushed webbing/rope or excessive wear
- Signs of UV damage/degradation, fading, discoloration
- Distortion, melting, charring, or glazing – Heat Kills!
- Inconsistent Diameter (reduced beyond 10% = retire/replace)
“My 3 Inch webbing strap only has a little ¼” nick in it…. It’ll be fine to keep using as that little nick won’t make a difference, right?” WRONG!
“Minor” damage is a MAJOR problem! Example:
- 3 Inch Strap with a rated break strength of 24,000 lbs. (test control break at 26,050)
- Break strength after a 1/8-inch cut – 22,150 lbs.
- Break strength after a 1/4-inch cut – 18,090 lbs.
- Break strength after a 3/8-inch cut – 15,480 lbs.
While it might be hard to retire a new piece of expensive equipment after only a few uses, you cannot afford to keep damaged or faulty equipment in your recovery kit. One day your life might depend on your equipment working as intended.
Shock Load – A sudden change in tension from a state of relaxation or low load to one of high load. Many types of fibers have a memory that will retain the effects of being shock loaded or overloaded. Shock loading a rope/strap can translate to 3 or more times the amount of force applied in a static load. Ropes/straps that have been overloaded can have a significantly reduced MBS and can fail later when used within the original designed Work Load Limits.
Go as slow as you can, and as fast as you must. You might not always recovery a stuck vehicle on the first try but avoid a bunch of slack in the line and “gunning it” with a bunch of speed the first go at it (yes, some manufacturers actually promote this type of recovery, but you should AVOID it). Broken recovery points and flying objects never end with a positive outcome.
Acceleration – change in rate of velocity
Force is proportionate to acceleration
SHOCK LOAD – AVOID IT!!!!
- INSPECT OFTEN (as previously described)
- Keep all gear clean and dry
- No UV – Avoid sunlight on your gear whenever possible
- Properly store during transit and at home
- Do not use cleaners or cleaning agents, NO bleach! Simple green works well for many products when water alone will not do the trick, rinse WELL. Always check with the manufacturer before using ANY cleaner agents on your gear
- Do not use pressure or a pressure washer. This only pushes abrasive dirt and grime further into the material
- Allow to completely dry before storage. This means COMPLETELY dry!