Should you use a hitch pin as a 4×4 recovery device? Is it a YES or NO answer?

Should you use a hitch pin as a 4×4 recovery device?

In a 4×4 recovery, can you use a hitch pin like this that’s fitted to a tow pack like that to connect a strap like this so that you can do that recovery? You might be looking for a yes or no answer. Well, it’s not as simple as that. So let’s unpack it.

When we’re discussing concepts like we are in this video, there are so many contributing factors that need to be covered off. So if you are looking for a quick to the point video, this is not going to be the piece of content for you. I’ve been discussing the use of the hitch pin with other four wheel drive recovery professionals and generally speaking, the opinion is that we don’t use these as the primary connection point for your four wheel drive recovery and I’ll unpack why in a moment.

My opinion is that you can use it in an emergency situation with great caution. So what do I mean by emergency situation and with caution? You’re driving home from work, it’s pouring rain. You come across a vehicle that’s bogged in the rapidly rising river. You don’t have your recovery equipment with you, but you do have a kinetic energy rope. So you connect it up to this and you connect it up to the vehicle and you do a very gentle recovery of that vehicle and you save their life. That’s an emergency situation. But if you are heading out for your mate with your mates for a wheeling trip on the weekend, you’ve got time to prepare and go and purchase the correct equipment. So you’re not going to be using this hitch pin as your primary connection point. Obviously I’m working up to explaining the correct equipment to you. Let’s just cover off what happens when we recover off this hitch pin alone.

There’s a couple of elements. Firstly that we have these four sharp edges on the receiver. Therefore, if we’ve got our recovery rope connected like this or we’ve got a kinetic strap in there under load, it is potential for getting cut on those four edges. So let’s say we’re pulling down below or above or off to the side under the extreme load, the strap could cut on this and then it would fail. That’s obviously not a good thing. So if this receiver was designed for four wheel drive recovery, which it’s not, it would have a beautiful radius in that section there.

The second area of concern is what we call the bend radius, which is the radius here around the pin. Because of the diameter of the pin, that bend radius will be tighter than this strap is designed to handle. Is it going to fail absolutely? Not necessarily, but it is a consideration and we are using the device outside of its design specifications. So that’s the second concern.

The next issue is that this pin is not in true double shear when it’s set up like this. What do I mean by double shear? Well, when this goes in here, we have double shear. It’s basically for this to come out of the receiver, we have to shear this 16 millimeter or five eighth pin here and here like a pair of scissors cutting it clean through and the forces to do that are phenomenal. So that’s why this design works great, but when we don’t have that hitch receiver in there, we don’t have that double shear strength.

Think about it like this. We’ve got the pin in there and we’ve got our strap connected onto this section of the pin. There’s nothing on this side of the pin to stop the pin from bending. When we have the hitch receiver in place, obviously we’ve got all of this material in place to support this side of the pin as it’s getting pulled forward and that’s what creates the extra strength of a double shear connection point.

So what can go wrong if we use a Hitch Pin?

Well, we can bend the pin. Is that going to give us an unsafe recovery? No. If it only bends, we’ve still stayed connected. It’s going to give you a pain in the neck job of getting bent pin out of your hitch receiver. What if the pin actually did fail and let go of the strap? Well, we’ve now got a strap that’s flying through the air at a great rate of knots, and is going to do damage. If it’s a recovery rope, they’re heavier than a kinetic strap, it’s definitely going to damage your vehicle. I don’t think it’s going to kill anybody, but it’s going to hurt if it hit anybody. So it’s a great concern.

The next thing is are we going to have any metal from this pin flying through the air? I’d say no. The chances are extremely low because this is where the pin’s going to break through. This arc clip here is going to make sure that that section of the pin there stays out here. And same on this side, you’ve got this bend, so this pin can’t come through into the center section there and become a projectile.
At the end of the day, it’s not designed for four wheel drive vehicle recovery. This is designed to hold a tow hitch in place in a tow pack and tow your trailer so don’t go for this as your default recovery point. Use it in an emergency with great caution. And that’s it.

I showed this video to Robert Pepper and he gave me some information which I think’s really compelling. He did some testing where he intentionally bent one of these hitch pins on a test bed, a certified test bed, and found out that they bend it around about nine metric tons. Now you might be thinking that’s huge. Well, when you consider that a snatch strap is rated at around 8,000 kilos, so one ton less and then factor in that this hitch pin is not designed for this sort of load and there’s no safety margin, I think that’s a fairly compelling argument to suggest we should be using the correct equipment for our recoveries.

We need to understand that it is a really dangerous process. Think of it like this. If a crane operator is operating, he has to be ticketed and qualified, as does his rigor. All of their equipment has to be certified and safety checked and there’s a whole process around it. And when they come to work, they’ve got their work headspace on, they know they’re at work, it’s a serious business and they take it seriously, and for the most part they’re very good at their jobs, they’re professionals. Then we come to the four wheel drive space. We have very little regulation across the world. We don’t need to be qualified and we don’t generally have an in depth understanding of the forces and energies that are involved in a four wheel drive recovery. What’s more? We’re out there having fun with our family on the weekend. And here’s one of the problems, I believe.

All of a sudden the vehicle is bogged. I believe in that moment we need to shift our head space from a fun having head space to a work head space. And when we do that, we will start to approach our four wheel drive recoveries with a greater respect. And so I just wanted to make that point and have a think about what I’ve just said when you are out there doing your recoveries next time.
So once again, be aware in our four wheel drive recoveries that there’s a lot going on. We’re dealing with an extreme amount of force, especially when we start doing kinetic recoveries and the equipment we are using is not designed for that sort of job.

So when we are doing our recoveries, especially when we’re doing kinetic recoveries, we are generating significant forces that all of this equipment has to be able to handle since some of the equipment does not handle the job. For example, a tow hitch like this is not suitable to be involved in any form of recovery. You need to have the correct equipment that’s been designed and tested to do the job.
I’m well and truly aware of using air dampers on snatch straps or kinetic ropes and wind ropes and all of that sort of stuff. And if you’d like to see some of my videos on that, there’s links down below and we did a bunch of testing on their effectiveness. Now let’s start talking about correctly connecting up to your vehicle for a four wheel drive recovery.

So this hitch receiver is the right tool for four wheel drive recoveries. It’s been designed and tested to do the job. Let me give you an example, try and help you understand what I’m getting at here. If you had a really tight bolt to undo, are you going to use the ring spanner, the open end, the shifting spanner or crescent wrench or vice grips to undo a tight bolt? You’re going to use the ring spanner every day of the week or you’re going to get a breaker bar and a socket. You’re not going to use these because they don’t do the job properly, do they? They wreck the bolt head and they probably won’t get it undone anyway. So with our four wheel drive recoveries using the right tool that’s been designed to do the right job just makes sense.
So this is why this hitch receiver is the right tool for the job. Firstly, it’s solid alloy and it’s just solid. I don’t know what else you can say about it there, but it’s been designed to do this job. It’s been tested in these hitch receivers to do this job and it’s got a 9,000 pound test rating on it. So it’s good for the job. And the reason it’s good for the job is there’s a number of features in it.

When it’s in the hitch, our pin comes through it like this and it’s in true double shear. So as I was saying earlier, for this to come out of this receiver, it literally has to cut this pin clean through like a knife. Well, the force required to do that is massive and if you are doing kinetic recovery safely, which are the highest energy vehicle recovery method, if you’re doing them safely, this pin is not going to fail when it’s attached into your receiver like this. So it’s a good designed solution for us.

The other thing is these particular hitch receivers, there’s different variants in the world and you can get them from different suppliers, but this particular one is designed for soft shackles. It’s got a nice radius here on the inside of the receiver. So that bend radius I mentioned earlier in the video is addressed by that.

You can also use these hitch receivers with a rated bow shackle. So this bow shackle comes through there and you can connect like that. And that as well is a excellent rated recovery point. Now you might be saying, but you don’t want a chunk of steel to come flying at you. That’s a fair comment. But given that you assemble this together, this is not going to fail in a kinetic recovery assuming you’re doing a kinetic recovery safely. And I’m using that example because again, that’s the highest energy recovery we do. There’s other factors in there and all of this subject matter there is so much I could talk to you about, but we would honestly be here for hours unpacking that.

So I will continue putting out videos to help you learn and I’d encourage you even on other channels, go and learn about this sort of content so that you are well educated in doing your recoveries safely.
The next video I want to put out is actually one specifically on the hierarchy of recovery. And that’s where we unpack how to think about your four wheel drive recovery.

I want to leave you with one last really key piece of information that’s going to help you do your recovery safely. But before I get to that, if you want to get hold of any of this sort of Factor 55 recovery gear, which is the gear that I use, head to the MadMatt 4wd website and you can get your hands on some of the gear and it does support our channel, which is greatly appreciated. It allows us to keep giving you good information like this.

So here’s the tip! When you’re doing a kinetic recovery, you might be wondering, how much force do I put into the kinetic energy rope? Well, your first attempt is as slow as you can go with the vehicle, see what happens. The second attempt, go a tiny bit faster. The third attempt, attempt a tiny bit faster again. Get out, check the equipment, make sure everything’s okay. Then you’ll go for your fourth attempt, et cetera. Just slowly keep building up your attempts, but don’t exceed 15 kilometers per hour or around about 10 miles per hour. Once you go past those numbers, the amount of energy that you are generating in your kinetic energy recovery is going to start overloading all of the equipment. Even this world class leading gear is going to start getting overloaded. So that’s a tip for you. I think that’s going to help you be safe out there in your four wheel driving.

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