tow straps vs recovery straps

Tow Straps vs Recovery Straps

Whether you’re an avid off-roader or maybe you live in regions associated with terrains or old roads that aren’t serviced or maintained frequently, equipping your vehicle with tow straps and recovery straps is an inevitable option. You see, just like other recovery gears such as a jack stand and a spare tire, tow straps and recovery straps are an absolute must as they help to recover your vehicle or that of a desperate motorist during a desperate situation. But, while most motorists are aware of the standard procedure of recovering a vehicle, what most of them don’t know is how to answer this preposition of tow straps vs. recovery straps.

If you’re a novice, it would be difficult to tell these two straps apart. In fact, most motorists believe that these two straps are the same and perform the same task. The truth of the matter, however, is that these two are totally different in terms of the design and the work they’re tasked to handle. So, if you’re desperate to learn more about tow straps and recovery straps, then don’t hesitate to read on as this short guide has covered everything you need to know about these two emergency straps.


Tow Straps vs. Recovery Straps: A Complete Guide


What are Tow Straps?


Just as their name suggests, tow straps are designed with one purpose in mind; to pull a disabled vehicle from its current position to a garage in case it’s nearby. Made from polyester, polypropylene, or Dacron webbing, these straps are relatively inexpensive meaning they’re easy to find in your local garage.

Now, the reason why tow straps are not tasked to recover vehicles is due to their stiffness. What this means is that if you attempt to use them for recovery purposes, the straps are likely to break when exposed to recovery-related pressure since they don’t have enough muscles to stretch.

In case the straps have metal hooks on the ends, then excess recovery pressure can break the metal hooks causing deadly projectiles to fly and hit those people on the scene. The fact that they’re less stretchy makes them the best for towing vehicles.


What is the Recovery Straps?


Recovery straps on the other hand are designed to recover a vehicle from a tough situation such as a muddy bank. Unlike tow straps whose job is to tow a vehicle to safety, a recovery strap only recovers your vehicle from a worse situation to a safer spot. In case the damages are minimal, then you can drive your vehicle to the nearest garage for an advanced checkup. In case the damages are substantial, then you’re supposed to either call a towing company to tow your vehicle or use a tow strap to have your vehicle pulled to the nearest garage.

Unlike tow straps that are made of polyester, polypropylene, or Dacron webbing, recovery straps are constructed from nylon fabrics to give them that stretchy characteristic. They’re also shorter in length which is considered a huge plus when you’re recovering a vehicle.


Fundamental Differences Between Tow Straps and Recovery Straps


Rating Factor

When it comes to the rating factor, a tow strap should have a pull rating that’s at least 3 times the weight of the vehicle being recovered. Remember, tow straps are not supposed to be used to recover a vehicle. Due to the nature of the materials used, trying to use them for vehicle recovery will only expose them to wear and tear which can lead to a disaster if the metal hooks on the ends break. Using a tow strap that has a greater pulling power also helps to reduce the rate of risks.

Meanwhile, recovery straps are designed with a much higher safety rating than tow straps. Since they’re made from stretchy nylon material, the safety rating should be at least 3 times the weight of the recovered vehicle to enhance maximum safety.

But, unlike tow straps, recovery straps require you to perform some calculations before choosing one. As a rule of thumb, 1-inch of the width is equivalent to 10,000 pounds. Therefore, 3-inches of a recovery strap will be equivalent to 30,000 pounds.

With this calculation in mind, it’s always wise to first check a recovery strap chart to compare the weight of your vehicle with the corresponding recovery strap size to determine which size will match your current situation.


Materials Used


When it comes to the construction, both tow and recovery straps have major notable differences. In the case of tow straps, these are typically made of polyester, polypropylene, and Dacron. The reason why these materials are used is due to their low stretching capabilities that don’t get beyond 5%.

Since they offer consistent pressure without stretching, the vehicle being towed will not jerk forward unexpectedly which can result in an accident. Also, lack of play on the tow strap allows both motorists to enjoy a more controlled drive to the nearest garage or a safer spot.

Recovery straps, on the other hand, are made of nylon material that’s known to stretch up to 30% of its original size. Now, this stretching action is one of the major reasons why recovery straps are considered for recovering a vehicle.

You see, when pulling a stuck vehicle, whether it’s on mud or sand, the elasticity on a recovery strap allows the recovery car to gain some momentum. In the process, kinetic energy builds up which is responsible for jerking a vehicle forward to release it quickly from its current position.


Loops and Hooks


Another major difference between tow straps and recovery straps is the use of hooks and loops. Now, most tow straps come with metal hooks attached to both ends. Since these straps are only intended to tow a vehicle, the metal hooks don’t pose any potential danger.

However, keeping in mind that tow straps experience minimal stretching, it’s recommended that you verify the strength of the metal used on the hooks to ensure that it’s strong enough to prevent bending and breaking during use.

Recovery straps, on the other hand, do not have any hooks attached. In fact, if you come across a recovery strap with metal hooks, just ignore it as it’s simply a tow strap. The reason why these straps shouldn’t have any hooks attached is due to their stretching characteristic.

Since the recovery process involves jerking the recovered vehicle forward in quick succession, any accidental breakage of the metal hooks will leave metal pieces flying dangerously which can cause severe consequences.

Due to this reason, all recovery straps are instead sewn with loops on each side. At least with such a design, there will be no risk of dangerous projectiles flying in the air in case of accidental breakage. In fact, the same is becoming a trend with tow straps where most manufacturers are ditching the traditional metal hooks in favor of the loops.



As you can see, there are notable differences between tow straps and recovery straps. Whether you’re an enthusiast off-roader or maybe you live in rocky and mountainous regions, getting ready for emergencies requires you to have the right equipment and a proper understanding of how to use them.

In the case of tow straps vs. recovery straps, you need to have both of these tools ready to help you under varying circumstances. Since we’ve discussed what each of these two emergency equipment offers, it will be much easier for you to differentiate them and know which one to use under which circumstance.

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