Off Road 101: Recovery Demo Run

Off Road 101: Recovery Demo Run

{tab=OR 101: Recovery Demo Run}

One of the most important aspects of being in the wilderness is recovery. What I mean by that is having the proper gear and know-how to get yourself (or a companion) out of a ‘stuck’ situation.  Many times this knowledge goes unused, but it is crucial to being self-sufficient in case of an emergency.  Having the right equipment is essential and learning how to properly use it is the next step.

We took the opportunity to brush up on these skills during a “Recovery Run” with the Colorado FJ's.  We practiced a few recovery techniques that some of us had heard of but have never done.  It’s highly recommended that you make yourself familiar with these recovery techniques prior to actually having to use them on the trail.  A demonstration run is the best way to get people together to pool ideas and techniques that you may use down the road.

While we were not able to practice every technique you may have to use in different situations, we did cover the use of the most popular recovery devices: the Hi-Lift jack and the winch. Both of these devices (and their associated accessories and attachments) should only be used while following the manufacturer’s instructions. Appropriate safety precautions and gear must be worn at all times, and do not attempt anything you’re unfamiliar with.

We once again took one for the team and managed to get the TRD buried axle-deep in snow. We enlisted the help of a fellow Colorado FJer to winch us out from the front. After a couple of tries, his aging Mile Marker winch with synthetic line was able to pull the TRD out of the snow. For the sake of this demo, we didn’t assist the winch by trying to drive out of the snow, we just let him pull us out. Once we were free of the snow, we unhooked everything & began to rewind the winch. Since the winch line was old and not used much, it didn’t want to wind back on the drum properly. The line ended up binding on the drum & that took a good 20 minutes to get worked out. By that time the winch had over heated and the motor kept giving out. The good news is that we were recovered; the bad news is that the winch was out for the rest of the day. Please see the sidebar on winch choice & maintenance.

Any discussion about which winch to choose will undoubtedly spark a roaring debate. The fact is that there are dozens of great winch vendors out there, and which one you choose will depend on your expected use patterns, budget, and FJ setup. There will never be one universal choice for everyone. Whichever winch you choose, make sure you maintain it properly. While synthetic line is stronger, lighter, and in some cases less dangerous than wire winch rope, it does require a little extra care. When you wind it on to the drum, it must have a proper load (usually around 500lbs) to seat properly. Failure to provide a good load can result in the line binding on the drum. Regardless of the type of line or brand of winch, you should always keep it as clean and dry as possible. Also, inspect the winch regularly for proper operation, and follow all manufacturer guidelines for preventative maintenance.

Probably the most common recovery device among off road enthusiasts is the Hi-Lift. It’s inexpensive, durable, and very versatile. Just like all recovery gear however, if you don’t practice with it you will be at a disadvantage when it comes time to use it. For our demonstration we used some of the most common accessories for the Hi-Lift: The WabFab slider adapter, the Off-Road Base, and the Lift-Mate.

The slider adapter fits over the tongue of the jack and bolts on so you can safely lift from the rock rails. There are several adapter sizes available, ours fits the stock rails perfectly. Failure to use this type of adapter can be dangerous, as the truck can slip right off the jack, greatly increasing the chance of injury. We were able to lift “Fa-Jay-Jay” very well using the adapter, with no chance of slippage at all.

We then added the off road base to the demonstration. Its purpose is to provide a larger footprint for the jack, which makes it much more stable and will minimize how far the jack sinks into the ground. Since the base is so much larger than the jack base, it may require a little digging to get it to site properly on the ground. If you’re in soft dirt, sand, or snow, the off road base can really save the day.

Lifted FJ’s with big tires pose another problem to the Hi-Lift (especially the 48” version). Lifting from the bumper or rails may not give enough height to properly recover the vehicle. That’s where the Lift Mate comes in. The lift made is an attachment for the Hi-Lift that allows you to lift from the wheel, directly at the axle. We were able to lift the FJ quite a bit higher off the ground using the Lift-Mate. That extra height allowed us to shove enough rocks under the tires to keep the skid plates off the ground, allowing the truck to drive right off the obstacle.

One test we didn’t perform with the Hi-Lift is using it as hand winch. Hi-Lift sells a winching kit that includes everything you need to use your jack as a winch. While it’s much slower than a powered winch, it’ll certainly work in a pinch. You can find a great article on using your Hi-Lift as a winch in the March 2009 issue of Off Road Adventures.

Some of the items we didn’t get a chance to test still need to be mentioned. A good recovery strap is an essential part of any recovery kit. You’ll want to choose a strap that has a very high maximum load, around 20,000lbs is a good place to start. Also look for a strap that has loops (rather than hooks) on the ends, these can be used with a quality shackle to attach the strap to the vehicle.

The other item we ran out of time to test is the X-Jack, by ARB. This jack can be placed virtually anywhere under the vehicle and inflated to raise the vehicle as needed. It supports two methods of inflation: via the exhaust from the FJ, or with onboard air/CO2. We look forward to testing it in the near future, so look for our take in an upcoming issue of FJC Magazine.

Whether or not you find yourself on difficult trails, it’s very important to practice recovery techniques before you have to use them in an emergency situation. Planning & attending a recovery demo run is a great way for you and your local group or club to brush up on these skills in a ’controlled’ environment. If you have a recovery story to tell, e-mail it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., we’d love to hear how you did!


Hi-Lift Jack
-Off Road Base
Mile Marker Winch
Warn Winch
Superwinch Winch
Recovery Strap


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