Using Hitch Pins as a Recovery Point – Recovery Points on a budget. Buy a Recovery Hitch Reciever or a Hitch pin?
The other day, Max from Explore4R.com and I were talking about some mods when he pointed out an article on recovery gear was missing a bullet point.
It was a section on recovery points and specifically hitch points. We left out the actual hitch pin. The pin that slides through the tow hitch and receiver to lock it into place.
Such a minute detail, but we should always be as specific as possible. I wanted to go into a little more detail on the hitch pin and how it works as a recovery point.
Factory Recovery Points on the 4Runner
When it comes to recovery points on the 5th Gen 4Runner, you have a few options. You can use the two factory recovery points located in the front and the one recovery point located on the driver side rear.
Common Recovery Point Options
If you are looking to add a recovery point to the 4Runner, you have even more options. You can buy an upgraded front/ rear bumper with multiple recovery points.
You can also buy a hidden winch mount kit (some have built-in recovery points). Or, you can buy a hitch receiver with a bow/ D-ring shackle.
One common application for adding a recovery point on the 4Runner is a recovery receiver hitch, (2-Inch receivers for 5th Gen 4Runner) recovery point. Don’t get this confused with a ball mount receiver hitch. These are used for towing, and not meant for recovery.
There are many manufacturers that make nice recovery hitch options with built-in recovery points. They are like a tow hitch only there is no ball. Instead, they have an opening to add a D-Ring or Bow Shackle.
Most D-ring shackles are actually Bow shackles, everyone just calls them a D-ring shackle because they don’t know the difference (Google “D-Ring Vs. Bow Shackle” to see the difference).
Some of these recovery hitch options, like the affordable Smittybilt 29312B receiver, come with the Bow Shackle. Other more expensive options, like the Factor 55 Hitchlink 2.0 do not come with a shackle.
These are typically the “safest” and commonly referred to as “best practice” aftermarket recovery points on a budget.
Great hitch receiver options
- Smittybilt 29312B: Check Price
- Factor 55 Hitchlink 2.0: Check Price
Don’t you need a D-ring for recovery?
(pictured above is a guy using a screwdriver. Don’t be this guy. A hitch pin would be much safer than a screwdriver. Hitch pins are not the “safest” option guys – but they work better than a damn screwdriver)
Do you need a D-ring?
Well yes and no, but technically no. You just need the pin if you are in a pinch.
DISCLAIMER: This is not meant to be a post on the benefits of running a hitch pin as a recovery point. This is only a post to show you that it is an option if left with zero other options. If you do not have a welded on recovery point or a hitch receiver recovery points with a D-ring, and all you have is a hitch pin on board, it will work. And, it would be better than throwing a strap over a tow hitch or using a screwdriver, for example.
If you are reading this, do the right thing and go to ebay or Amazon right now and buy a hitch receiver recovery point with a D-ring or even a soft shackle. Buy the correct gear before you are forced to use the incorrect gear!
Proper Recovery Points with Labeled Breaking Strengths:
- USA Made 2″ Shackle Block with D-Ring and Pin: Check Price
- USA Made 2″ Hitch Reciever Shackle (hitch receiver only): Check Price
- Hitch Pin: Check Price
- D-Ring Shackle: Check Price
- Soft Shackle: Check Price
Back to Hitch Pins
If you can man up for a second and think about the worst-case scenario; out stuck in the woods with nothing but a hitch pin. Guess what? That little pin might just save your life.
Okay, so how does it work?
The pin that slides through your recovery receiver hitch to lock it into place will also slide straight through a recovery strap. Just slide your pin through your tow hitch and through a recovery strap. Pop the pin out the other side and lock it into place. You now have a secure recovery point to pull or be pulled from.
Don’t be an idiot
Let’s get a few things straight here. DONT BE AN IDIOT. If you are unfamiliar with the recovery process, then buy a recovery receiver hitch with a shackle. There may be less “user error” here when recovering a vehicle if it’s your first rodeo.
Shackles have a wider recovery angle than hitch pins alone. It’s never a good idea to recover at a severe angle. With shackles, you almost have a 90° angle when tugging someone out, depending on your situation.
This doesn’t mean that pulling someone out from a 90° angle is a good idea, you just have a wider angle to pull at in general.
With a hitch pin, you have a much smaller, 30-45° angle when tugging someone out, and this may even be pushing it in some cases.
The main point when using a hitch pin alone is to not let your strap catch the edge of your receiver. This may cut your strap, causing your strap to break and retract back in failure either breaking the strap or worse, damaging something or hurting someone.
Again, this all depends on your situation. Many people will argue the living daylights out of this point. Go for it. That’s what comments are for.
Use your best judgment
Downhill and uphill slopes along with the angle of pull play a huge role in where, why and how we recover. Common sense is paramount here. Using your best judgment on THE ANGLE of pull is of utmost importance. Check out this video on recovery with a hitch pin.
You can recover from rear to rear (two hitch pins) or rear to front (hitch pin and another recovery point). It is not typically a good idea to recover in reverse, though (front to rear or front to front).
When tugging someone out with a hitch pin, make your best effort to keep both vehicles as straight as possible. If you have to tug a vehicle out at a 90° angle, using a hitch pin may be a bad idea.
Use the right strap
There is a difference between straps and pulls. You have kinetic pulls and static pulls.
- Kinetic Pulls: Straps that stretch.
- Static Pulls: Straps and or chains that are not designed to stretch.
For example, let’s say we are doing a kinetic pull.
Make sure you are using a Kinetic strap (100% nylon – like the ARB strap) and not a tow strap (polyester) and never use a chain.
The whole point is to reduce the shockload on the recovery system (whatever system you are using – hitch pins for example here).
Using a nylon strap that stretches out to around 30% is going to be your best strap for this method. Nylon straps stretch more than polyester, which is about 5%.
Breaking strength comes into play on straps as well. The ARB nylon snatch strap is rated at 17,600lbs while some standard polyester tow straps are rated at 7,500-10,000lbs.
The Rhino USA straps have a breaking strength of 30,000lbs. But, the Rhino USA straps are not 100% nylon. Rhino straps are poly/silk and do not stretch to the same degree as a nylon snatch strap.
Different hitch pins will have a different class
- Class I
- Class II
- Class III
- Class IV
- Class V
The hitch pin with swivel head is class IV which is rated up to 10,000 pounds. The hitch pin with R clip on our tow hitch receiver is also a class IV. There is also a difference between load ratings when it comes to weight carrying and weight distribution.
Hitch pins class I and II are not designed for weight distribution. For a recovery situation, you want hitch pins with class III, IV, and V. If the hitch pin you are buying does not have a class associated with it, do not buy it.
These ratings are designed not to exceed the GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight). These ratings are also far below the actual breaking strength (4-5X 10,000 lbs = 50,000lbs for example) of the pin.
This means that the pin can actually handle more load in some cases. On a recovery system, these peak forces, or shockload should only occur in an instant or for a very short period of time.
Check out this article on recovery basics and then an overview of hitch pin classes.
Why hitch pins work for recovery
- They are under shear load (weight against the parallel plane “the hitch pin and receiver tube”)
- Similar if not the same diameter of shackles
- Slim chance of pin becoming projectile
- Bent hitch pin
- User error may result in many other extreme cases
Again, this is a common sense recovery point. If you are not comfortable or do not understand the concept, then don’t attempt it.
If you want to be a recovery guru, go check out My Off Road Radio. Tyler is a seasoned vet. I swear that guy just sits around and waits for people to get stuck so he can pull them out.
So, hitch pins for recovery?
This is by far one of the cheapest options when it comes to recovery points. Storing a hitch pin is also much easier than a hitch receiver.
When you are not using your hitch receiver, it will likely float around in the back of your 4Runner unless you have a designated spot for it like an off-road bag.
Storing a hitch pin is pretty simple. They are about 5″ long, sometimes shorter and can be thrown in your glove box or center console.
A pretty solid “piece of mind” addition to the 4Runner.
Options for Hitch Pins
If you have not pulled the trigger on a receiver hitch, at least grab a pin. It is always nice to carry a couple pins with you. One for you and one for the other vehicle. You have a few options here.
- Hitch Pin with Clips: Check Price
- Hitch Pin with Swivel Heads: Check Price
- Locking Hitch Pin with Keys: Check Price
We carry two on us at all times. We carry one pin with the R clip for our tow hitch and another pin with the swivel head.
Hitch Pin with Clips
The basic of basics. Most loaded ball mount hitches come with a hitch pin and clip. The clip is a large cotter pin style clip (R clips) but they can come in many shapes and styles. You can pick these up for super cheap. Like $1.
If you are going to recover with a hitch pin, you should generally buy a high-quality pin. I would stay away from pins that are 99 cents. Look at the $5-10 range for a high-quality hitch pin. At this price, you can’t afford to not have one. You can grab one at Home Depot or any Auto Parts store.
Hitch Pin with Swivel Heads
A pretty cool concept and incredibly easy to use. The pin with swivel head is one piece. You don’t have to worry about storing two pieces. Sure, the R pin can be clipped to the pin while you store it, but the swivel head pin is simply… simple. The one-piece slim design allows you to store it anywhere.
This is easiest to use and easiest to store pin I have used. We have both our pins stored on our MOLLE pouch on the MOLLE panels.
Locking Hitch Pin with Keys
If you want to leave your tow hitch and ball, recovery receiver, or hitch pin in place, grab a locking pin. The locking pins usually come with a couple keys. You can throw one on your key ring and another on your spare or in your console.
We have been towing around my buddies brand new 22′ steel trailer for the last few weeks while moving. The trailer was locked from jacking up, but if someone really wanted the trailer, they would have been able to steal it. A lockable pin makes it that much more difficult to steal as you would have to pick the lock, or Sawzall the pin and back the trailer out.
Locking pins are great for those shady d-bags who want to come by and snag your set-up real quick. One word of advice, you should never leave an unlocked hitch receiver, hitch pin, or D-shackle on your truck permanently. It will eventually get stolen. Yeah, they look cool but keep it in your bag until you need it, or you will replace it.
In a situation where I consistently had a really expensive drop hitch, bike rack, spare tire carrier, cargo carrier or trailer on my set-up, I would probably buy a lockable pin.
With this being said, if someone really wants your trailer or accessory, they can just chop the pin off. The locking pin is just an added layer of security.
What to buy?
If you have the money, buy a recovery receiver hitch with a bow shackle. This is going to be a “better” option than a pin alone. But, better is always relative here.
For pins, I like the pin with swivel head the best. I also have the pin with R clip for my tow hitch. Both are nice but I prefer the swivel head.
There are probably some guys out there who disagree and as always, to each their own. Do your research and find what fits your needs best.
They are all pretty cheap. You can spend less than $30 and probably get all three. For a recovery situation, you may want to carry two with you at all times. If this is the only method that you have for recovery, it will apply and suffice for many situations, but not all situations.
Also, check out an article on what not to do in a recovery situation. In this article, the writer touches on hitch pins as an acceptable method as well.
bad idea all the way around. spend the $$ for a real recovery point.
If you hook up any kind of recovery straps/rope as pictured in the first photo……you may have to cut it off, just loop the strap thru the shackle…… bad info here… just saying…. MJMcDowell
“just loop the strap thru the shackle…… bad info here” Thank you for the comment MJ. Let’s say the driver or driver(s) in a recovery situation don’t have a D-ring, and all they have is a hitch pin with a receiver. Maybe they will think back to this article and think “wait a second, I have a hitch pin” – the recovery here doesn’t look severe at all (WLL is well under breaking strength which is very common), this should get us unstuck and back home tonight. The most important part I mentioned there was “under breaking strength” and “back home”. This “info here” can save someone’s life and at minimum get some unstuck which is what ultimately matters. There are disclaimers left and right that say “be safe” and “use common sense” which goes a long way. Most readers of this site know how to use common sense here. Your comment didn’t help anyone. In fact, it may have discouraged someone from having an open mind to getting creative on the trail. I never respond to comments like yours but please man, have an open mind, and instead of discouraging people with a basic comment, maybe help out by saying something useful. Of course, if you have D-ring and a rated strap, use it!!. Especially if it’s your first time in a recovery situation. BUT, if you have experience and you know your equipment, then, by all means, you are welcome to recover a truck or SUV the best way you see fit in that moment. We are all at some unique level of recovery experience. This is not meant for use as the “industry standard” and I hope you all know that. This is meant for a situational environment where experience will play a pivotal role and this option is only that, an option. One more tool to give a possible advantage on the trail. Cheers, have a good one MJ.
Hi Guy’s, The hitch pin for recovery with a snatch strap works great just remember to file the internal edge of the receiver so it doesn’t fray the strap.
wow you guys sound like you really know a lot about wheeling i have a lot to learn for the most part my 3erd gen 4runner is a pavement princess and i would love to change that. i guess that i have a lot of gear to buy any one who can tell me where to start i have some stuff like a cb air compressor locking hitch pin bilstein shocks 2″ lift removed the running boards good trail tires completely rebuilt suspension half shafts bearings ball joints all oem toyota parts i do want to put a winch but i don’t want to remove the front bumper to add one any suggestions i want to keep the stock look because it is a beautiful truck and is going up in value every year. so any help would be greatly appreciated. larry b
Thanks again for a simple common sense approach. Wish I would have seen this a few weeks ago when I had to help a buddy get his car out of a ditch…..
We used this technique today on the trail to get our 4Runner unstuck from snow, worked like a charm. Thanks for the tip!
Jman! Whats up, yeah I use this method fairly often. Random, but I was talking to a guy about this and he said back in the day they used to use a bolt with a nut on the end. Life before Factor 55… lol.
Good write-up. Not that many people know about this one and I wish more would. I have used this recovery system for years. This method has been used by many guys with years of experience for a long time. Here is a good video where they don’t use Bow shackles or a receiver, just the pin and tow hitch. Thanks, Brenan
Dylan, yeah its quick, easy and fewer parts to fail compared to other systems. Not going to work for all situations but is often a good option to consider.
You mentioned that there are 2 front recovering point are you referring to the 2 tie down loop which is only use to tie down the vehicle for transporting , hitch pin recovery seem like a good idea but it probably a last resort thing
Bolo, the manual technically refers to them as emergency towing eyelets, not tie down loops. So they are more than tie downs, but not specifically meant for off-road recovery. In a pinch, you can absolutely recover with these. What else would you use if nothing else was available? Not sure what you mean by last resort. It’s actually the first option I would consider in some cases.