The Difference Between Tow Straps and Recovery Straps and Other Interesting Facts

You may think that tow straps and recovery straps are the same, but in reality, they are very different. Each type has its own set of benefits. Most tow truck drivers always have both types available in case of emergencies. They are used to recover cars from ditches or secure a vehicle to the flatbed of the truck transporting it. 


Just looking at these types of straps it’s difficult to tell them apart because they’re similar in size, colour and length. In this article, we are going to look at the differences between a recovery and tow strap so you can identify which one is best suited for your requirements. 


Towing Straps Defined 

Towing straps are usually constructed from Dacron which is a material that doesn’t stretch. They have hooks at either end. These hooks are attached to the flatbed truck and used to secure the vehicle during transportation. 


These towing straps shouldn’t be used to recover a stranded vehicle, as too much force can cause the strap to snap. This could lead to serious injury to the person who is trying to recover a stranded vehicle with this type of strap.  


Recovery Straps Defined 

The main difference between the tow and recovery straps is the type of material they are constructed from. Recovery straps are used to rescue stuck vehicles. The strap is made from nylon so that it has a bit of elasticity which makes pulling the vehicle to safety much easier.


A recovery strap was designed to handle an immense amount of pressure without snapping. This makes a recovery strap ideal for getting vehicles out of ditches. 


Can I Use Chains for Vehicle Recovery 

What happens if the vehicle you need to recover is extremely heavy? For heavy vehicles such as trucks, recovery straps may not be strong enough to handle the weight. In these cases, it’s better to use chains, winches or cables to recover the vehicle. 


The recovery process needs to be carried out carefully. Chains don’t have any elasticity so they can break easily. Make sure you know the load limit of the chain before attempting to use it. 


Using Straps Safely 

When you’re working with tow straps you need to inspect them to ensure they’re not a safety hazard. If there are people watching you strap the vehicle, you need to ask them to step away in case the strap unhooks or snaps. Make sure that if the strap snaps it won’t injure anyone. Other factors to consider include:

  • Choosing the correct strap for the job
  • Finding the break limit 
  • Considering the length of the straps
  • Considering the width 
  • Checking for any visible wear and tear


Top straps that feature hooks can be dangerous if they are used incorrectly. 

  • Never use tow straps to recover a vehicle. Recovery straps were designed for this specific purpose. 
  • Make sure the recovery strap is in fact a recovery strap and not simply a tow strap that was labelled incorrectly.  
  • The strap needs to be constructed from the proper material. 
  • Look out for imported inferior products.
  • Make sure the eye hooks have passed an inspection. 


Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Steel Cables 

Other than chains, you could consider using a steel cable. There are advantages and disadvantages to using them.



  • Tough and long-lasting 
  • Better at distributing heat 
  • Less expensive than synthetic rope 
  • Weather-resistant 



  • Tremendously heavy
  • Can’t be moved easily 
  • Difficult to fix


Winches – An Alternative to Tow and Recovery Straps

If other tasks require a different application, then try using winches instead of tow or recovery straps. Here are some points to remember about winches:  

  • Winches only turn in a clockwise direction. 
  • The slack should always be removed before using it. This will stop it from riding, and in turn, protect your cable.
  • The rope should always be looped at least three times and pay attention to where the drum is to shield your fingers from being trapped in the device.
  • A winch rope can be used to remove stubborn tree stumps.
  • The cable or rope must be changed as soon as you detect any wear or tear
  • If you are a professional that uses winches and tow straps, you must learn how to use both devices correctly. 


Interesting Facts About Towing

  • Towing is one of the oldest professions and can be traced back to 1919.
  • The first tow truck was a Cadillac modified to perform a vehicle recovery. 
  • There are five different types of tow trucks. 
  • You can visit a tow truck museum and learn about the history of this fascinating industry. 


Final Thoughts 

Now that you know a little bit more about tow straps and recovery straps, you will know which type to use if you need to recover a stuck vehicle. You should always follow all safety procedures and ensure the equipment you are using is in a safe working condition.

Look out for fake products that have been named incorrectly and always inspect the equipment before using it. 


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