PSA for those who may not know...Tow balls are NOT recovery points!

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Ben Cleveland

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Good video on this for anybody who's not currently aware. Full disclosure, I grew up using equipment and towing all sorts of things out of the woods or being stuck, ALL with a tow ball. I'd consider myself as close to a farm boy as a city-grown boy could be. Things like towing, using heavy equipment, and safe practices are NOT new to me. But I didn't know this until I started learning more about offroad recovery in the 4X4 community. Just because you're experienced in the woods, or with vehicles doesn't mean you don't have holes in your knowledge.

Also, its pretty established that one of the simplest, safe solutions for a tow/recovery point is the hitch pin. Not necessarily the best for hard recoveries, but it is safe.

I'm not an expert on recovery, I have a lot to learn. But this is some super basic info that people need to know, so here's a reminder!
 
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Mike W

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Seems like most vehicles don't even have recovery points. Guy I work with just had to be pulled out of a snowy ditch due to a plow. He used his hitch. Pretty easy to pull the ball hitch out and use the pin in the receiver though.

Seems common for folks to use the tow (as in vehicle on flat bed being towed) points on the front or rear. Kinda scary.

I also see people with good ARB bumpers using the small hoops for recovery, even leaving shackles on them, those are for attaching hi-lift jacks. On the newer ARB bumpers they just have slots.

Here is a fun video of an L319 (LR3/LR4) Land Rover testing its recovery points, among other fun tests.


I love the stock points on my rig. Nice that they have them stock. I have yet to use them this year and that makes me a little sad, i need to take more trips!


 

James Deaton

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But the type of steel used is relevant... Any ideas how DOT grades the types if steel used in the tow balls?

Chinese steel is definitely different than US or Japanese steel...

James
 

Ben Cleveland

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While I definitely agree that quality of steel will change if or when a tow ball fails, that’s not really the point of the video. Big point is that the tow ball is NOT designed for shock load use (recovery) and can/will fail if abused. The worst part is that failure will produce a lethal projectile.

So, better to pull the thing out and just use the pin in the receiver. Why risk such a lethal accident when a simple hitch removal can avoid it altogether?
 

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Well that was instructive. :)

The Canyon and some models of Colorado come with 2 tow hooks up front which I'm thankful for. For the rear I use a hitch receiver and d ring like shown in the video.
 
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Little secret: I didn’t watch the video... lol... sorry guys. Didn’t realize it was being used for a snatch recovery :(

I prefer using the pin also. Trouble is that it would stink to snatch on a pin, bend it, then have to cut it out of the receiver :(

James
https://www.overlandbound.com/forums/threads/receiver-hitch-shackle-mount-or-just-the-pin-for-use-with-soft-shackles.21505/

This was discussed recently as well! As I said in this thread, pulling from the pin in an emergency should be perfectly safe, but you are absolutely right you could end up having to cut it out of the receiver after a hard snatch!
 

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https://www.overlandbound.com/forums/threads/receiver-hitch-shackle-mount-or-just-the-pin-for-use-with-soft-shackles.21505/

This was discussed recently as well! As I said in this thread, pulling from the pin in an emergency should be perfectly safe, but you are absolutely right you could end up having to cut it out of the receiver after a hard snatch!
This is why I’ve gone the route of dual rear HD recovery points. I don’t have to rely on my hitch for anything, and I’ve got a short tow strap that can be used for a bridle harness between the two.

I really think I may end up going with a shackle hitch too just because. Can’t have too much safety or recovery gear.
 

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Well that was instructive. :)

The Canyon and some models of Colorado come with 2 tow hooks up front which I'm thankful for. For the rear I use a hitch receiver and d ring like shown in the video.
See, this is where the confusion is. Those are tow points, NOT rated recovery points. You shouldn't be recovered from those front points.

see https://www.coloradofans.com/forums/169-2nd-gen-appearance-body/370241-wt-recovery-points.html#post4992961
From that thread...
Our trucks don't have rated recovery points up front; as noted, the rear tow point can be used for recovery with a 2" receiver-mounted D ring shackle (not the chain loops on each side) but up front, all some of us have is tow points. Tow points are not rated recovery points; "towing" and "recovery" are not the same; to do things safely, when using a snatch strap, it should be connected to a rated recovery point. I've found one for the Holden Colorado (of course) but not the North American one; the Aussie one may fit our trucks. We are still very poorly represented by the aftermarket manufacturers. ARB finally make a bull bar but they don't make rated recovery points for our trucks yet.
 
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demulsion

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I’ve never had a tow ball break, but I’ve had the loop of the tow strap pop off plenty of times...usually when I was pulling some sort of project vehicle that didn’t have working brakes.
 

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Tow balls all have different tow ratings too. I learned that when I had to tow my sons Ranger back from college when it broke down. The ball I had was rated at 2500 lbs, I now have one rated for 7000 lbs. I also have one rated at 5000 lbs.
 
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I have multiple recovery points front and rear.. I also use a pintle hook instead of a ball and the set up is rated at 5 ton. I wouldn't dream of extracting anything with the hook, even a 5 ton rating may not be enough.
 

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This is a discussion on recovery, and right now everyone is still in the weeds stuck. The stinger receptacle, and stinger, is only designed as a tow point, not a recovery point! How well is that bumper mounted, the one with the receptacle and stinger, to the vehicle in question? 2 bolts on each frame rail? Was it factory installed or aftermarket? Can you get to the recovery points, on the stuck vehicle to work safely? Remember, both vehicles need to have safe recovery points! The tow point you are using as an recovery point, are we talking a 500lbs.work load, maybe even less. That’s not good! Working for a while with a towing company, we used special harden tow chains, going to points in the frame designed to be used as a recovery point. Not the bumper, or stinger receptacle! Talking on the vehicle being towed. Look up some YouTube videos on the bumpers being pulled off of vehicles when hooked to just the bumper. JCR builds some nice off-road bumpers! They also sell a frame reinforcement kit, to tie and to use your bumper as a recovery point. Both work together to safely use the bumper as a recovery point. On many new vehicles, it is even hard to find anything to use as a safe recovery point.
Most of the time the real recovery forces are not a problem. But get stuck and try to pull a vehicle that successfully is now sitting in the mud to the frame rails and the recovery force to free that vehicle is much greater. May sound like just a bunch of words, but recovery is not just hooking up to someone and a good yank and they are out. Know where your recovery points are and how to use them. That is half the equation. Be realistic about the recovery situation and do accordingly. Take the time to throw something over the tow line Incase the tow line, or recovery point you used break, even a floor mat. Have everyone away from the vehicles, at least to the length of the recovery line, further away even better for safety. Don’t take this all lightly, as you could be hurt or hurt someone unintentionally, by just being a good samaritan! Vance.
 
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Please don't recover using a towball. If you need to, pull the ball/reciever out and just use the pin to secure the dynamic recovery strap. If the Strap loop is too thick then a soft shackle will gitter' done. The pin is in double sheer, as opposed to a single sheer deathball. If you want to be prepared, carry a 5/8 Grade 8 bolt that is about 4.5 inches long. This is way stronger than the towball and a standard bitch pin and is much safer.

Sidenote: I used a reciever shackle but that's only rated to 4.5tons. If the going gets tough, I'll swap the shackle to my warn which is rated at 9T. But if its that bad, I'm normally winching with a snatch block.
The pic is my rear winch setup.
 

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But the type of steel used is relevant... Any ideas how DOT grades the types if steel used in the tow balls?

Chinese steel is definitely different than US or Japanese steel...

James
Not all tow-balls of the same size are rated the same. A class 3 or 4 (2"), ball might be rated at 3000 lbs, or be rated at 5000 lbs. It is not necessarily the steel, it is the design. The difference is in the 'shank' below the ball and above the nut. The 5000 lb will be beefier/thicker, and take more stress. If you pull at the top end weight of a 2" ball, make sure to use the HD design. This assumes you are not into a class 5.....2 1/4" ball size.

SIDE NOTE:
It took forever for GM to correct their hitches deficiency where they were offering a class 4 in their 2500/3500 trucks. It came out later that these hitches were actually a class 3. Their were reports of the welds coming apart with heavy use, like towing big boats, or heavy travel trailers. This was during their 'classic' trucks of 2001-2007, maybe into the 2012 era?. The last few years have seen them use a real class 5 hitch on their HD trucks.
 

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Not arguing against the point of video here, but I have never seen someone try and yank a vehicle out like that. A 5 mph roll and ease into it yeah, but never a full throttle 10-15' running jerk. Even in thick mud buried to frame rails that seems excessive, like you're just begging for something to go wrong.
 

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This is an interesting subject to me and I realize that each vehicle and tow is different.
On my F-350 I have a Class 5 hitch I believe and have been using the pin to hold my strap that is doubled over at the Loop so that it’s 2” wide and fits inside the receiver.
I just looked up the strength of a 5/8” pin and it is rated at 21,000 pounds. That’s more than twice what my truck loaded with the camper weighs so for me this is what I’ll continue to do....
The front of the truck has two tow loops that are bolted to the frame with several heavy duty bolts.