How to Use a 4WD Recovery Kit: Tracks & Other Bogged 4×4 Fixes 


Driving off-road is a fun thing to do, especially with friends and family. However, if you’re an avid 4WD enthusiast, getting bogged is always part of the adventure sooner or later. It’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’- when you venture off the beaten track with your 4WD, you will surely get stuck at some point.

4x4 Tips For Your First Time Offroad
4x4 Tips For Your First Time Offroad

So how can you unbog a 4WD vehicle yourself? First, don’t panic! With so many methods to get a vehicle out, you’ll find a solution for your situation. Nevertheless, having a basic 4WD recovery kit and gear at hand in your vehicle is a smart idea.  

When you get bogged in a 4WD, the best recovery techniques depend on your situation. However, the key is to gain momentum and traction. You’ll need to trial and error other techniques, but always start with the safest option. This often means adjusting the tire pressure. In most cases, a traction aid works the fastest. 

Knowing how to get your car unstuck in mud or boggy terrain is an important skill. It can help you get your 4×4 back on solid ground and even save your life when 4WD camping in remote areas. If you don’t think you can extract yourself safely on your own, though, then it’s time to call for professional help.

Read on if you want to know more about recovering a bogged 4WD and what should be in your recovery kit. 

What Causes A 4WD To Get Bogged? 

The ultimate cause of getting bogged in your 4WD, in most cases, is that the ground cannot sustain the forces your vehicle is exerting on it. This can be the result of loose sand, bulldust, excessive water or wet and slippery mud. 

If your tyres and the ground are not gripping well, then you won’t move anywhere. Not getting enough traction will cause your wheels to turn and your 4×4 to stay in the same spot. 

Your vehicle can also get bogged if you bottom out in deep ruts, on rocks and even on tree stumps. 

Another common reason to get stuck is having incorrect tyre pressures, particularly on beaches. If you’re beach camping with 4WD access, getting unbogged quickly before the tide comes in can be critical. 

Although a rare occurrence, your 4WD will also get stuck if you have broken something like an axle or a CV. Knowing what can cause a 4×4 to get bogged is useful to help you prepare for the right recovery technique.

What Is A 4WD Recovery Kit? 

Before you head out on your 4WD adventure, it’s important to prepare some recovery gear in case you get stuck. Basic equipment for a 4WD recovery kit includes recovery boards and tracks, recovery straps, winch and winch accessories, air damper, tyre pressure gauge and a humble shovel.

Other items that can be included in a 4×4 recovery kit are:

  • Jack and base plates for changing tyres and lifting the vehicle
  • Drag chains for dragging large logs or fallen trees out of the way
  • Air compressor and tyre deflators to help get the right tyre pressures
  • UHF radio for communication

Other valuable safety gear for 4WDing can include a distress beacon or EPIRB, particularly when hitting a 4WD track in a remote location. Don’t worry if you’re concerned with space, there are plenty of 4WD storage hacks to keep your interior spacious. 

It’s essential to have the right recovery gear with you before any 4×4 drive in case of an emergency. You’ll also want to have reliable 4WD recovery points installed to use your kit effectively. A 4WD recovery point provides a functional attachment point on your car that other accessories can attach to when getting your vehicle unbogged. 

Extreme strain can be applied to your vehicle when using 4WD recovery gear. Good quality recovery points are designed to withstand the powerful forces of a 4WD recovery, and if you have an off-road caravan, it should also have recovery points installed.   

Learn more about common 4WD recovery gear below. 

4WD Recovery Points 

This is something you will need to mount to your car before you begin your 4WD adventure. 

So, before you start collecting items for your 4WD recovery kit, be sure you have attached rated recovery points to your 4WD. This will ensure you can effectively use the rest of the equipment in your recovery kit and see the most success in your 4WD adventures. 

Recovery Tracks & Boards  

Recovery boards and tracks are reliable traction aids that can help get your 2WD unstuck. They aim to give your tyres reliable traction in ‘traction-less’ situations. This equipment is an effective way of self-recovery, providing better traction than rocks. 

4WD recovery tracks give your car’s wheels something to grip on to and provide a firm surface for traction. Different recovery tracks and boards can be used in sand, rocks, mud, snow, and even as bridging ladders. 

Winches

A winch is used to haul, lift and add tension to a rope so a 4×4 can be released from the bog. It’s powered by an electric motor that’s connected to either a power steering pump or to your vehicle’s battery. A winch will also need accompanying accessories for added functionality and safety. These include leather gloves for hand protection, a hook strap for holding a winch hook, a chain shackle to connect the looped strap ends and snatch blocks to the winch hook, and a snatch block or winch pulley for reducing the load on the vehicle’s winch.

Recovery Slings and Straps

These are essential recovery gears that you shouldn’t forget when you go off-roading. Recovery straps have a variety of types: 

  • Snatch strap – When connected to a stuck 4WD and a pulling recovery vehicle, this strap keeps kinetic energy under load from the pulling vehicle. That energy will then be used to free the bogged vehicle which can’t move using its own power.
  • Equaliser strap – This strap helps in equally distributing the load on the vehicle over two connection points. Consequently, the load is divided, and the potential damage or breakage to the vehicle gets reduced.
  • Tree trunk protector strap – With a wide polyester webbed strap, a tree trunk protector strap can even the weight load and avoid damage to the winch cable and trees when winching.
  • Winch extension strap – When your electric winch or your hand can’t reach the 4WD you’re trying to recover, a winch extension strap can offer additional length.
  • Tow strap – A tow strap is specifically made to tow a vehicle over short distances. This is ideal for use when towing a 4×4 from the bush into a public road where it can be collected by a tow truck. 

Air Damper 

An air damper will reduce the coil of a recovery strap or winch rope in case of failure. This device contains pockets that can be filled with soil or sand to increase its mass and improve its effectiveness in holding up a broken rope or strap.

Anchor Shackles 

Bow or anchor shackles with a large O-shaped loop can help adjust loads. However, be sure to have those that meet Australian standards and are durable enough for the heavy load.

Tyre Pressure Gauge 

One way to get your vehicle unstuck is to adjust the tyre pressure. You can decrease the pressure to increase the surface area of your tyres and enhance their contact with the mud or sand. This will help you gain the traction needed to get out of the bog. Once you have successfully recovered your 4×4, you’ll need to re-inflate to the recommended pressure. This makes a tyre pressure gauge a necessary addition to your off road kit.

Shovels

This tool is not just handy around camp, but it can also make digging out of a bog much easier. When you’re bogged in the sand and your wheels have spun on the spot, you can use a long-handled shovel to clear the sand away from the front and behind the 4×4 tyres, around the chassis rails and any part that looks partially buried.

How To Recover a Bogged 4WD With A Winch

Getting bogged is a quick way to ruin your 4WDing fun. Be as prepared as possible by learning how to unbog your car with a winch. This way you can get back to your adventures as quickly as possible.

Step 1. Prepare the Winch

If your car won’t get unstuck even after you have tried shovelling out the wheels, it’s time to use the winch. Start by finding something nearby that you can attach the winch to that is strong and sturdy, and isn’t likely to move. A thick tree is always a safe bet. When you are looking for something to attach the winch to, make sure it is directly in front of the winch instead of on an angle. 

Step 2. Attach the Winch 

Roll out the winch so it can easily reach your anchor. If you are attaching your winch to a tree, using tree trunk protectors will reduce the damage done to the tree in the process. Once the anchor is wrapped with the protector, connect it to the winch using a set of D-shackles. 

Step 3. Clear the Area

Even if your winch is rated for heavy loads, sometimes your anchor won’t be as strong as your winch. Making sure everyone is a safe distance from the winch is essential as winches can be dangerous, as either the anchor could break or shatter, or the winch itself could come flying off. 

Step 4. Engage the Winch

Once everyone is a safe distance away and the winch is completely secure, engage the winch and have it slowly pull your car out of the bog. Remember that it’s best to have the winch pull slowly, as going too fast can cause the winch to fly off, or for your car to get more stuck. Slowly accelerating while using the winch will help you get unstuck more efficiently. 

How To Recover a Bogged 4WD with Recovery Tracks 

Betting bogged while offroading can be scary, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar area, you’re solo camping or you’re running out of light. But if you stay calm and follow this guide, you can get unstuck and on your way in no time at all.

Step 1. Reduce Type Air Pressure

There are safe psi levels for tyres driving on any terrain, but reducing those levels will give your tyres more traction and allow you to get your car unstuck more easily. Slowly reduce air tyre pressure, ensuring you have a way of re-inflating them once you are unstuck. 

Step 2. Shovel Out the Tyres

Using your collapsible shovel, start digging out the tyres. In some cases, digging out some of the loose sand or mud around the tyres is enough to get the traction your car needs to get out. Engage your differential lock and gradually try to accelerate out. Don’t go too fast, you don’t want to make things harder if shovelling out the tyres didn’t help.

Step 3. Use Your Recovery Tracks or Boards

If shovelling didn’t help, it’s time to get out the 4WD recovery boards or tracks. Use your shovel to dig out around your tyres as much as possible, so the end of the recovery track is secured under the tyre. When you begin to accelerate, the tyres will roll onto the track, and give you enough traction to get out of the bog. 

Step 4. Return Your Tyres To a Safe PSI

Making sure your tyres are full of air is important for driving on roads and there are different ideal tyre pressures for different terrains. Now that you are completely unstuck, it’s essential to return your tyre psi to a safe level. Following a tyre psi guide will let you know how much air pressure you need to add for the terrain you are in.

How Do You Get A Bogged 4WD Out Of Mud?

Using traction boards and a winch, you can dig yourself out if your 4×4 is bogged in mud. Reduce the psi in your tyres and dig out the mud from around your tyres. Wedge the recovery boards under the tyres and connect your winch to a nearby tree or rock. 

Slowly accelerating onto the recovery boards while using the winch to pull you out of the bog is the most efficient way of getting unstuck from mud. 

How Do You Get A Bogged 4WD Out Of Sand?

For off-road sand and beach recovery, getting the shovel and digging is usually the first step.  However, if shovelling won’t work, try a snatch strap. A winch is not the best option in this situation as it can result in another bogged vehicle because it can’t provide the momentum needed. 

If you get stuck on a razorback dune, a winch is a better technique than a snatch strap. It can slowly and safely pull a 4×4 that’s stuck at the peak. A snatch could damage it because it will be suddenly pulled.

The potential of getting bogged is one reason why it’s important to beach camp legally, rather than venturing into off-limits areas. If you end up in a difficult or dangerous position, help may not be able to reach you in time, or you may be caught out in an illegal area. However, your safety always comes first – if you need assistance, you should always seek it, regardless of the circumstances. 

Don’t let the risks put you off, though – read our beginner’s guide to beach camping to get you started! 

Recovery Boards Vs Winches: Which Is Better? 

Winches are a far more consistent and powerful form of 4WD vehicle recovery. However, a winch requires something to hook onto and not all vehicles can support a winch. They are also harder to use and more expensive than recovery boards, which is why some people opt for 4WD recovery boards instead. 

Different situations will require different recovery methods, but having both recovery boards and winches can come in handy. Instead of trying to determine which will work better between these two common recovery gear, better understand how they work and where they can be used.

Recovery boards are simple tools that are made of durable moulded plastics and covered in hard ridges. They give friction beneath the tyres of your 4WD and act as a ramp for steep approach angles, a hill climb traction aid and as a bridge over huge gaps in the track. These boards can also be used as shovels when clearing sand or mud away. Also, if you want to make winching your 4WD easier, use recovery boards. 

Meanwhile, winches can get your 4×4 unstuck in scenarios where recovery boards won’t work. However, they need to be installed before they can be used, and you should use a winch dampener to weigh down the rope and stop it from flying back if snapped. Given that winches are driven by a motor, there should be a 30-second interval when winching to prevent draining the battery. 

You can use winches to pull out your vehicle or that of someone else and remove tree stumps from your track. They are easy to use if there’s another 4×4 nearby that can help, but if you’re camping alone you’ll want to ensure you can rescue yourself if needed. 

How To Avoid Getting Bogged in a 4WD

While there are many ways to get bogged, there are also a lot of things you can do to avoid it in the first place. Here are some of them:

  • Do not suddenly brake or accelerate and avoid sharp turns. Assess your location.
  • Decrease tyre pressures when driving on the beach. Make sure they are suitable for the vehicle and its load. 
  • Equip your 4×4 with top-notch quality all-terrain tyres.
  • Give your vehicle adequate clearance. 
  • Engage four-wheel drive when you are driving off-road.
  • Avoid routes that are risky to you and your vehicle. Use the existing tracks and ruts, and drive where your 4×4 is suited.
  • Learn four-wheel driving with a credible trainer to know the skills needed when driving off the bitumen. Also, make sure to understand your vehicle, its systems and how they can help you get the vehicle unstuck in case it gets bogged.
  • Adjust your tyre pressures for the terrain. 
  • Be sure to have rated recovery points on the front and rear of your 4×4 before you head off-road.


Related Questions

How Do I Drive On Sand Without Getting Stuck? 

When driving on sand and beaches, it’s important to recognise surface conditions so you’ll know what you should expect. Below are some tips to help you drive on sand without getting stuck.

  • Follow the natural contours when turning to maintain your momentum and avoid sharp turns, as well as wheel spin. 
  • Avoid wet sand because it can be bottomless.
  • Keep gear changes to a minimum.
  • Be sure to use low tyre pressures.
  • For long beach runs on hard sand, use a high ratio 4×4. For soft sand, avoid overheating transmission by going in for a low ratio 4×4.
  • If you’re trying to ascend a sand hill, use a controlled momentum. To descend, remain vertical to the sand hill and avoid brakes. You should accelerate only when needed to facilitate descent.

Following these tips will help you stay safe when beach camping in Australia with your 4WD. 

Do You Need A Recovery Kit If You Have A Winch?

If you have a winch, you will still need other essential items in a recovery kit. A winch won’t be useful in all situations and recovery techniques. It is best to have other recovery gears to get you out in case you get stuck in the middle of nowhere.

Disclaimer:

This article is published for general informational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. Any action you take upon the information you find on this website is strictly at your own risk. Information provided does not consider all circumstances and variables. 

James Mitchell

Hi, I’m Jimmy Mitchell and I love exploring this great country with my wife and two boys. I have a 2015 Sterling LX that is the Mitchell Family camping machine. Lets Getaway is the website where I share things about my trailer as I learn them, and help other camper owners to enjoy their RV even more.

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