Off-Road Recovery 103 – How To Size and Use Shackles!


When using a winch for off-road recovery, shackles can be a valuable accessory to getting a good recovery effort.

In this 3rd segment of our 4-part series on off-road recovery, learn about shackles, how to use them, and how to choose the right size for your needs.

With a little planning, having a few shackles and some other accessories in your recovery kit, you will be more likely to turn a seemingly impossible winch recovery into a safe and successful one!

Use A Winch With Shackles for Off-Road Recovery

Shackles are an essential recovery accessory that every off-road driver should keep in their recovery kit because of the many ways they can be used.

Available as either bow shackles that have an enlarged and rounded end or D-ring shackles that are shaped like a D, these devices have screw-in pins and are designed to bear loads on the loop end while the pin end stays secured to an anchor.

When doing a winch recovery off-road, there are different ways you can use a shackle:

  • Winch Cable and Recovery Straps - You can use a shackle at the end of your winch cable to receive loops from the recovery straps. In many cases, a shackle that screws tightly closed can be safer than using a winch hook.
  • Winch Cable Direct to Shackle Hooks - You can attach a D-ring shackle directly to a shackle hook tow point on the stuck vehicle or install a shackle on the shackle hook, then connect the winch hook to the shackle for a safe pull.
  • Snatch Blocks and Pulleys - When using snatch blocks and pulleys to configure your winch to increase winching power or bypass obstacles preventing you from making a straight pull, a few anchored shackles holding the blocks or pulleys are what can make it possible.

How to Correctly Use A Shackle

No matter how you use one, there are a few standard rules to follow when using a shackle with your winch during an off-road recovery:

  • Inspect for Damage - Always carefully inspect any shackle you plan to use with your winch as damage like cracks, damaged threads, wear, twisting, etc. can all be dangerous once the shackle starts to bear weight as the winching begins. Avoid using a shackle that shows any sign of damage or excessive wear.

  • Pin Must Seat Fully - After the shackle is loaded, screw the pin in all the way. The pin must seat fully and not roll under the cable or rope while in use or it could unscrew while under tension.

  • Load the Ring End - Always use the ring end of the shackle for recovery straps and cables while attaching the shackle to the winch cable or hook from the pin end to keep the shackle evenly loaded for the safest recovery once tension is applied.

Choosing the Right Size Shackle for The Job

To ensure safety with your winching, it’s critical that you buy a shackle that can handle the job:

  • Buy Rated Shackles - Quality shackles designed to be used for critical load lifting are rated according to how much load they can handle and generally stamped with the following: load limit, shackle diameter, manufacturer name, and the letters SLW (Safe Work Limit).

  • Buy the Right SWL Rated Shackle - Rated shackles are generally tested to be anywhere from 3 to 5 times stronger than their rated hoist limit. For example, a shackle with a rating of 5 tons can technically hoist 15 to 25 tons safely, depending on the manufacturer, so buy accordingly. Give yourself plenty of extra leeway for the size and weight of the truck you are winching and choose a shackle that’s stronger than you think it needs to be.

  • Diameter and Material - Since some materials are stronger than others, standard shackle size for winching is ¾” for carbon steel and ⅝” for alloy or if you want to go even stronger to reduce your breakage risk, â…ž” for carbon steel and ¾” for alloy.

Shackles - Winch’s Best Friend!

When planning your recovery kit and collecting all the things you need for a safe off-road recovery, be sure to add a few heavy-duty rated shackles to your kit.

Used with a bumper-mounted winch, a shackle will give you the secure connection you need for a safe recovery, even in more challenging circumstances.

Now that you know about shackles and how to use them, learn more about snatch block pulleys in Part 4 of this series: Off-Road Recovery 104 - Winches and Snatch Block Pulleys!

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See Also: Off-Road Recovery 101 - What Forces Are Involved?
See Also: Off-Road Recovery 102 - Shackle Hitches And Limitations!