Meet Your Rig

Tow Points

If you are going onto unmaintained trails then sooner or later you are going to get stuck. When you do you need to be able to hook a recovery strap to your rig in order to get pulled out.   If your rig is a 74 chevy pickup you can just wrap a chain around the axle and yank on it as hard as you like, but modern vehicles are simply not up to this type of abuse.   Remember, you are not just pulling the weight of the vehicle, you are pulling against the resistance of whatever has the vehicle stuck. In the case of gooey mud this resistance can be far more than the vehicle weight.  You need good frame-mounted tow points and ideally you need them at both ends.  If you have to choose between front or rear then choose rear, since going back the way you came is usually the safer choice.  

In a perfect world you would upgrade to heavy duty bumpers with integrated tow points, but for the purpose of this article we are going to assume that is out of the budget. 

Sadly very SUVs these days come with good tow points.  Even on most Jeeps they are optional equipment.   Fortunately you can get tow hook kits for most popular SUVs and trucks, either from the dealer or from aftermarket suppliers.   Aftermarket ones will be less expensive, so for front hooks I would start there.    If you are lucky it's a simple bolt-on.  If you are not so lucky you may have to take the front bumper off your vehicle to do the install. 

In some cases, especially with luxury SUVs, there is no good way to add tow hooks.  Instead you get a removable panel or a small round plastic plug in your bumper hiding a threaded insert designed to take a special bolt that has a tow loop end.  If your vehicle didn't come with the tow loop you can buy them from the dealer or get them aftermarket. 

A common type of aftermarket tow point.  Three bolts into the frame make this solid and reliable. 
These loops are fine for when you just need a little help getting unstuck, but I wouldn't trust them if I was buried in mud. 

A nice high-clearance hitch with a shackle mount. 

For the rear of your vehicle the best tow point is a good quality class III (5,000 lb) trailer hitch.  It attaches to the frame on both sides so the strain is spread evenly, the connection point is in the center so it's easy to pull you straight back, and it serves the bonus purpose of being a trailer hitch.   Look for a design that has a one-piece 2" square crossbar from frame to frame and that tucks up as high as possible so as not to lose clearance. 

Do NOT put a strap on a tow ball!!  Ideally get a shackle attachment that goes into the trailer hitch.  You can stick the loop of a recovery strap into the receiver opening and put the hitch pin through the loop, however if you are not using a high quality strap with a reinforced end that is the same width as the hitch opening then you risk bending the pin.  Note that most of the new kinetic recovery ropes are not as wide as the receiver opening so you will center-load the pin and bend it.

For winching off a trailer hitch you should use a shackle attachment.