Snatch blocks are handy devices that can help you pull your car to safety. While it is a portable device, you need to know how to use a snatch block properly. Doing it the wrong way could make the process more difficult.
While driving on a path, if you come across a fallen tree blocking your path, how do you pass the road? Perhaps the tree is too large for a chainsaw to cut through. The best thing to do is use a snatch block to attach the tree to your winch line and pull it off the trail. This way, you’ll be back on the road in a short time.
A snatch block is a specific type of pulley that makes it easy to pull or lift heavy loads without using much force. It is like a strengthening mechanism. Pulleys use a casing and spoil to hold a rope, but snatch blocks are different. They have a side plate also called a cheek plate. This plate opens for wires or cables to be added to it.
You use it to lift cargo and tow cars as well as a loading wire rope. The tools have extra connection points depending on the type of job you need them for. Also, snatch blocks have end fittings such as closed shackles, hooks, and grab hook assemblies.
Pulleys come in different materials and sizes. They have different mechanisms for opening their encasement as well as working load limits. To choose the right snatch block, you need to understand what you need it for. Will it be for overhead lifting, towing vehicles in a ditch, or horizontal towing? It also influences how strong a snatch box should be to do the task.
What Is a Snatch Block?
Snatch blocks are heavy-duty pulleys in metal casings and are used to handle heavy items and work as a pulley point. These devices are used to increase the pulling or lifting capacity of winches and wire hoists. Snatch blocks produce 100 percent lifting capacity in most cases.
This device allows the user to change the winch’s cable direction by offsetting its anchor point and allowing you to lift or pull in three-point motions. Snatch blocks are durable and sturdy and perfect for transferring heavy items over short distances. Most people use them in recovery situations. You can use it with a winch to increase the power of the winch for a smoother and easier pulling process.
How Does a Snatch Block Work?
Snatch blocks mainly serve two purposes: increase the winch’s pulling force and redirect the winch cable’s force to pull a vehicle from different angles. It is quite versatile as it extends the winch’s capabilities, allowing it to recover heavier items or stuck vehicles in challenging circumstances.
A snatch block bolsters the winch’s pulling force as it provides a mechanical advantage. This can be done by passing a winch cable around the pulley of the snatch block and to the vehicle. The snatch block can then be used to increase the pulling force from the winch where an anchor is used. The anchor could be a tree in most cases.
Here are some common recovery techniques using snatch blocks.
First Recovery Technique
The first technique involves extending a winch cable from the winch itself on the car through the snatch block. It also goes back to a recovery point on the car. As the snatch block reduces the winch’s pulling force, the anchor, which could be a tree, will bear the entire weight of the vehicle. It is a very common method of recovery using a snatch block and winch. It is possible to anchor to the tree using a recovery shackle rather than a snatch block. However, snatch blocks have an advantage over recovery shackles. It reduces the strain on the winch.
It is quite tricky to use in some cases. For instance, if the end part of the winch cable is attached to the tree instead of the car, the snatch block may be useless. It will not offer any mechanical advantage or reduce the strain on the winch. The line between the trees is static so the winch will be tasked with pulling the entire load of the vehicle. It could be the same as attaching to the tree saver without a snatch block.
Some people use this technique in situations involving two vehicles: one is stuck and the other tries to use its winch to pull the other out. The snatch box is often connected to the vehicle that is stuck using a shackle at a strong recovery point. Then, the winch cable is connected to the recovery vehicle with a shackle on the other stuck car. The second car plays the role of the tree mentioned earlier. However, this method is not usually recommended because it is a poor recovery technique.
Second Recovery Technique
This technique involves using multiple snatch blocks to increase the winch’s pulling power. This is necessary when the car is heavier than usual. A rescue vehicle is also used. The second snatch block is often attached to this vehicle while the cables pass it to the stuck vehicle. This alone could triple the winch’s pulling power and get the car out in no time.
Third Recovery Technique
This one is the snatch block angle recovery technique. It comes in handy when the vehicle is heavier than the winch’s capacity or it requires extra force to pull it out. It involves using the snatch block to redirect your winch cable. It may be difficult to use the winch from the rescue vehicle to pull out the stuck vehicle directly. This is why the snatch block is used to redirect the force from the rescue vehicle and pull the stuck vehicle out towards the right direction.
Fourth Recovery Technique
This technique involves a tree as an anchor. The rescue vehicle exerts pulling force on the car that is stuck at 90 degrees angle. Then, the snatch block is attached to the tree saver strap using a shackle. This helps prevent any damage to the tree during the process. The anchor is not limited to just trees. You can also use a stable stone or boulder. For this one, the snatch block does not reduce the required force by the winch to pull out the stuck vehicle. It does not offer any mechanical advantage.
How Do You Attach a Tree Saver Strap to a Snatch Block?
Tree saver straps can be used to anchor a boulder, tree, or any other sturdy object while recovering a stuck vehicle. The main function of this strap is to prevent damage to the tree when you use them to anchor the stuck vehicle. A tree saver strap can also protect the winch line from damage. When you anchor the winch line with a tree saver strap, the vehicle that was stuck can pull free.
These straps are flat and wide because they need to distribute the pressure evenly around the outer part of the tree. Unlike other snatch straps, a tree saver strap only stretches a little and this can help protect the tree. If a strap stretches too much, it could damage the tree’s bark when weight is added. The size of trees in your region will determine the type of tree saver to get. However, a 10-foot strap works well for most people. If your region has bigger trees, you may need to go larger.
To connect the snatch block to the tree save strap, you need to use a shackle to link the snatch block to a tree saver. Thread your winch line carefully around the snatch block sheave and then connect it to the shackle. This gives you the mechanical advantage you need to pull the car out.
Make sure that you only use rated shackles. In most cases, the manufacturer will list the shackle’s working load limit. Check the side of your metal shackles for the working load limit. It may be difficult to find it on synthetic shackles.
Also, do not sidelong the D-ring shackle because it is not designed to work that way. It actually weakens it with time. You also need to ensure that the shackle pin is thoroughly screwed. Even though it needs to be tightened lightly by hand, it should go all the way in.
How Do You Safely Use a Snatch Block?
There are so many weight and style guidelines for using snatch blocks. But first, you need to know what to consider before choosing a snatch block to use. One is checking the Work Load Limit of snatch blocks and wire ropes. If the Work Load Limit is incompatible with the pulley’s Work Load Limit, it can be risky to use.
Also, be sure to coordinate the sheave size in your snatch block to the wire rope’s diameter. If this wire rope is larger than the sheave, it can crack during the process. A good ratio, for the rope and sheave, would be 12:1. This allows it to hold the wire while under load. Always take note of the numbers because the snatch block can divide the direct pull load into two. Only choose rigging pulleys that have ratings of double the winch’s pull when you are using it.