Help me win an argument on why NOT to use a chain for vehicle recovery.

smlobx

Adventurist
#1
Hi guys-

I can’t believe that I have gotten myself into an online “discussion” on why you shouldn’t use a chain in an off-road recovery on another forum. I did a quick look online but my Google Fu must not be working this am. I know some of you are “experts” so please put me on the right track.

I think this other forum has a lot of less experienced off-roaders/overlanders on it and I want to make sure they are not steered in the wrong direction.

Thanks!
 
#2
Chain is unforgiving. Unlike straps or ropes there is no stretch, and chain is more likely to shock load the components leading to damage to the anchor points or to the rigging itself.

Additionally, modern ropes and straps are as strong as or stronger than chain. 3/8 Grade 70 chain has a Working Load Limit (WLL) of 6600lbs. They usually have a safety factor of 3x so figure a breaking strength of 19,800lbs. 7/8 plasma rope will usually have a Minimum breaking strength of 21,000lbs. Ropes and straps are also lighter, and easier to handle.

Chain is heavy AF.


Those are some reasons.
 

Dave

Adventurist
Founder
Senior Staff
Editor
#4
Chain is unforgiving. Unlike straps or ropes there is no stretch, and chain is more likely to shock load the components leading to damage to the anchor points or to the rigging itself.

Additionally, modern ropes and straps are as strong as or stronger than chain. 3/8 Grade 70 chain has a Working Load Limit (WLL) of 6600lbs. They usually have a safety factor of 3x so figure a breaking strength of 19,800lbs. 7/8 plasma rope will usually have a Minimum breaking strength of 21,000lbs. Ropes and straps are also lighter, and easier to handle.

Chain is heavy AF.


Those are some reasons.
This.

Once upon a time, I was a chain guy. Because that’s what we had. I’ve seen chains break and hurt people too. Chains on trailer hitch balls are VERY bad ju ju, sadly people are still doing it.

The only legitimate use for a chain IMO is for dragging logs off the trail, or for trail side repairs using it to secure something for “limp mode” home. Or, MAYBE using it in a recovery scenario where I have to drag line across rocks or rough ground. My kit does include a 10 foot choker chain.

That said, newer technology has made chains obsolete for 99.9% of recoveries. I’d recommend replacing the use of chain with a KERR (Kinetic Energy Recovery Rope). There are many decent brands out there, I recommend Safe-Xtract.

76368BAB-42C7-4C42-BD98-73BAA8AF142B.jpeg

Chains are obsolete.
 

Dave

Adventurist
Founder
Senior Staff
Editor
#10
The referenced post was sinking to FB oblivion. Direct link.
Full text posted here in case FB disappears it later, AAV agrees 100% with Montana Overland on this:

"OFF-ROAD 201: WHY NOT USE A CHAIN?

We have often posted: "DON'T use chain for snatching recovery." However, we seldom fully explain why a chain is a poor choice. Let's see if I can clear this up a little.
First, we must touch on the term, "Best-Practice".

A Best-Practice is a way of doing something that produces superior results to those achieved by other means. It does not mean other ways never work, but it is the way that gives the best results in most circumstances. In our case, we want to use best practices that produce the safest, surest way of getting the job done.

Not being Best-Practice, or even close to one, is why we can't recommend the use of a chain in bogged vehicle recoveries. It is not that a chain can never be used to successfully pull a bogged vehicle out of a hole. We all know that we can use a chain, now I will try to explain why we shouldn't.

Some reasons using a chain is not "Best-Practice":

1. Strength. What is the minimum breaking strength of YOUR chain? Do you have any idea? Most people don't. Not knowing if your recovery equipment is up to the task is needlessly allowing dangers that simply don't need to be part of this process. Chains, even those the same physical size, come in several grades/strengths which are often not easily identifiable visually. What grade your chain is, can make a substantial difference. For example, a 5/16" Grade 30 chain has a minimum breaking strength (MBS) of just 7600 pounds. The same size chain, but in a Grade 80 rating, has a breaking strength of 18,800 pounds. That alone could be the difference between a successful tug and a broken chain. In comparison, most snatch straps are rated at either 20,000 or 30,000 pounds MBS. Even if you know the grade and strength of your chain, there are other reasons not to use it. Read on.

2. Weight matters. My recovery kit includes both a 30,000-pound snatch strap and a 33,000-pound kinetic rope, but I suspect it is more common to have a 20,000-pound recovery strap. To get close to, even this lower Minimum Breaking Strength, we would need to use at least a 3/8", Grade 70 chain which would have an MBS of 18,800 pounds. That chain will weigh about 1 pound per foot. So a 30-foot length will be about 30 pounds. A chain closer to the 30,000-pound MBS of my strap would require a 7/16", grade 70 chain weighing more than 40 pounds for 30 feet. In comparison, my 30K strap weighs about 8 pounds and it rolls up neatly for storage.

3. A chain is harder to secure for recovery. Standard chain hooks do not secure the chain well enough for uses where the chain may go between tension and slack several times in the course of a bogged-rig recovery. Simply, hooks make for an unsafe situation during the recovery of a bogged rig.

4. SHOCK: So, you ate your Wheaties and dug out your 40-pound, recovery chain and are confident that your chain hooks will somehow magically stay in place for the duration of the recovery. But, is there enough traction for the recovering vehicle so that it can slowly take up the slack and then recover without shock-loading that chain? If not, you should not be using a chain. This is important because the chain has ZERO elasticity and the entire impact of a running start will, , when you come to the end of that chain, be experienced, by both the vehicles and their occupants. You will be much more likely to experience damage to one or both vehicles in any situation where you need a running start and use a chain. If you still cannot quite picture how the lack of elasticity can cause damage, think of it this way: If you were going bungee jumping off a high bridge ( jumping off a low bridge has its own hazards...lol, sorry, I digress ), what do you think would happen to you if that stretchy bungee cord was replaced with a chain? Ouch!! That impact would not do your 4x4 any good either.

So, in this case, using the "Best-Practice" means we are better off with a true recovery strap or rope that has some stretch, can be fully secured, takes up less space, weighs much less, and is considerably less likely to cause damage to the involved vehicles, with normal use. In other words, using a strap that is DESIGNED for recovery is...wait for it...Best-Practice.

Make no mistake, a chain has its place. Chain's resistance to abrasion means it can be ideal for dragging objects like rocks or logs out of the trail. These jobs could quickly destroy a strap or rope and don't (or shouldn't) normally cause shock-loads on the chain. Chain's lack of elasticity also makes it better for jobs like using a Hi-Lift Jack to winch yourself out of a jam.

I am not saying that a chain can never be used for recovery. I "AM" saying it is a poor choice for the job and far less safe than using properly rated recovery gear. In other words, using it is not even close to being a "Best-Practice" and can be quite a dangerous practice.

Now, hopefully, you know a little more of why a chain is a very poor and dangerous choice for bogged vehicle recovery."

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#13
Last chain extraction I was involved in resulted in a peened roof after it snapped and went sailing onto the top of the mired vehicle. Turns out the owner of the chain had used a quick link in the middle.

These look fun:
 
#15
I believe chains "had" their place in recovery @ one point in the past, but with all the new technology today in the recovery industry with synthetic rope’s, straps have greater flexibility, easier to handle, low weight & are much safer in use in a recovery situation. I've used chains on the farm I grew up in California pulling stumps & saw what a chain can do when it breaks w\o a warning. I still use chains on my farm & I cringe every time when i use one. Good quality chains are expensive were IMO good quailty recovery strap or kinetic recover rope is much cheaper in cost & more practical IMO.
 
#17
I'd say they have their niche, but that it's very limited these days. You need to know your expected working loads and figure in a safety factor but they can be used safely with a shot of common sense- which doesn't seem to be at all common these days. I've still got mine but I can't recall the last time I put that heavy thing in the truck. Similarly, if anyone breaks out a set of J hooks or a(n improperly named) tow hook cluster, run.
 
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