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Pulling other cars out of being stuck in snow?


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Hi, I was reading the other day a list of stuff to have in the car in winter, and one of the items that I noticed which I didn't have was "tow rope". I thought about it and it seemed like a useful thing to have, for, say, if I needed a tug out of a snow drift or needed to give someone else a helping pull. This started me down a bit of a rabbit hole. First, I discovered that it's not as simple as "tow rope" - apparently what I really need for this is a "recovery strap", since they have more "give" and are more elastic, and also they don't have metal hooks, but rather just loops on the end, which you secure with D-rings. Ok, so far.

 

But I have a couple of questions about this whole idea.

 

First, this is a 2012 Legacy 2.5i Premium CVT. Is it wise for me to be even thinking about pulling other cars out of ice or snow or whatever? To be clear, I wouldn't be trying to do anything major, like pulling another vehicle up out of a ditch. Just simple stuff, where the other car is stuck on ice or slid into a snow bank and needs a simple pull out to the road where it can get traction again.

 

But is this something my car can even do? I know CVT is kind of special, would it be able to deal with even mild stresses of doing this sort of work? Would I be trashing my transmission? Just wondering what the limits are here in terms of what I should be attempting, if at all.

 

The car has the tow bolt (or whatever it's called) that is stored in the spare wheel well. You screw it into the front or rear location on the bumper, apparently. However I also have a Torklift EcoHitch on the rear, which I guess could be used for some light pulling. I found an adapter on Amazon:

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01NCQN3G2/

 

I know it's not meant for heavy duty, nor is the hitch itself. It's this one:

 

https://torkliftcentral.com/2010-2014-subaru-legacy-ecohitch

 

So that's rated for 3,500 lbs towing weight. The hitch adapter above is rated for 2 ton working load limit. So I guess between them they could probably handle pulling a car off a piece of ice or out of a not-too-deep snow.

 

The recovery strap I'm looking at is this one:

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01M1SMPOS/

 

And some D-ring shackles:

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01LWMG41R/

 

But again, I'm wondering if all of this is even worth having for this car.

 

And if I do attempt this, what about the traction control? I have never had to use it, but I seem to remember this button which allows me to disable that. Would it be good to do that if pulling another car out?

 

And, if I can do this, what gear would be best? Automatic, or switching to one of the manual gears?

 

This is a sanity check. I'm not saying I *want* to do this, I'm wondering if I even *can* do this with this car. As a disclaimer right from the start I'll emphasize that I'm not planning on towing cars any distance, or pulling cars that are seriously stuck in ditches, or crashed cars. Just ones that need a little nudge, that's all. Or, I guess, be able to have the gear so that other cars could give me a pull out if I need the nudge.

 

And finally, can you tow with the recovery strap I linked above? I can't find any information on that. All you find is that it's not good to use a tow strap for recovery, but nothing much on whether or not you could use a recovery strap for towing.

 

Sorry to go on, any insights appreciated. Thanks!

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you can certainly help someone out of a small sticky situation with the CVT. like any additional load this will cause some amount of wear on your trans, but if you're not sitting there bogging it down for extended periods of time it will be minimal. i would recommend putting it in Low so the CVT isn't trying to get you better gas mileage while your trying to pull someone out, and if there are people to help push have them due so to limit the load your putting on the car. don't throw the loop over the ball if you're planning on using the hitch, stick the hitch pin through the loop instead and make sure you load the strap before pulling it. if using the pull hook you can give it a little pop without hurting much and this will limit slipping in your trans by using momentum
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Thanks. No ball on the hitch, see the link I posted before, it's a tow strap shackle mount adapter, 1.25" to fit my hitch. I'm aware of the danger putting the recovery strap over a ball hitch. They can become deadly missiles.

 

I tried calling Subaru NA and of course they told me what I thought they would say - no comment, since the car isn't designed for that. Of course, who would expect them to say anything else due to liability etc.

 

So then I called my mechanic, who is very good and I trust him completely (why - because a few years ago we took our '99 Legacy wagon to him to see if he could fix the check engine light that had been going on for years and nobody had been able to fix it, he said he knew what the problem was and would take about something over $1K to fix, so I asked if he was sure that this would fix it and he said yup so we said ok, and it didn't fix it, so he then spent about a year or more working on that car FOR FREE except for parts, and eventually ended up replacing part of the engine which finally fixed it - he got a customer for life after that, really showed himself to be someone who stands behind his word). So anyway he told me I should be able to do minor pulling, if I don't sit there thrashing it. Also to put it in 1st gear and turn off the traction control.

 

I don't know if this will ever even be needed, but I just like to have thought these things out in advance a bit so I'm not standing there one day in a blizzard wondering if I can help someone or if I'll be trashing my car's transmission or whatever. Sounds like I can do really minor pulls to help people get out of sticky situations, but then again I also have to have traction in order to do it, so if they slid off the road it's possible I won't have enough traction to pull them out, by definition, it's icy. I don't run winter tires usually, just regular all-season or whatever they are called (these ones are from Costco because they had a good price - BF Goodrich or something like that).

 

Another quick question - if the road is ice, can I use the snow chains on the tires when pulling someone off the ice? Any reason why snow chains would mess things up?

 

Anyway, thanks for the tips.

Edited by NeilGunton
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Thanks. No ball on the hitch, see the link I posted before, it's a tow strap shackle mount adapter, 1.25" to fit my hitch. I'm aware of the danger putting the recovery strap over a ball hitch. They can become deadly missiles.

 

I tried calling Subaru NA and of course they told me what I thought they would say - no comment, since the car isn't designed for that. Of course, who would expect them to say anything else due to liability etc.

 

So then I called my mechanic, who is very good and I trust him completely (why - because a few years ago we took our '99 Legacy wagon to him to see if he could fix the check engine light that had been going on for years and nobody had been able to fix it, he said he knew what the problem was and would take about something over $1K to fix, so I asked if he was sure that this would fix it and he said yup so we said ok, and it didn't fix it, so he then spent about a year or more working on that car FOR FREE except for parts, and eventually ended up replacing part of the engine which finally fixed it - he got a customer for life after that, really showed himself to be someone who stands behind his word). So anyway he told me I should be able to do minor pulling, if I don't sit there thrashing it. Also to put it in 1st gear and turn off the traction control.

 

I don't know if this will ever even be needed, but I just like to have thought these things out in advance a bit so I'm not standing there one day in a blizzard wondering if I can help someone or if I'll be trashing my car's transmission or whatever. Sounds like I can do really minor pulls to help people get out of sticky situations, but then again I also have to have traction in order to do it, so if they slid off the road it's possible I won't have enough traction to pull them out, by definition, it's icy. I don't run winter tires usually, just regular all-season or whatever they are called (these ones are from Costco because they had a good price - BF Goodrich or something like that).

 

Another quick question - if the road is ice, can I use the snow chains on the tires when pulling someone off the ice? Any reason why snow chains would mess things up?

 

Anyway, thanks for the tips.

 

I have 0 experience with chains, as i have dedicated snow tires/wheels, but if they are ok to be used on the car in general (see owners manual) they'll be fine for pulling someone out.

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Just an update on that "recovery strap" I linked to on Amazon earlier - I have since come to realize that it's not really a kinetic recovery strap at all, it's just a tow strap that has no elasticity to it. I'm really annoyed, actually, because that was the first result that came up when I searched for "recovery strap", and it says "recovery" in the title, but it's really just another tow rope. When you dig into the Q/A and reviews that becomes apparent. Also I feel a little bit offended by the fact that the description ("Father and son team in California, USA company") really makes it sound like it's "Made in USA", but actually it turns out to be just another Made In China product. Not that there's anything automatically wrong with China stuff, just that I find the description a little bit misleading. So it's going back. Instead I'll be getting an actual kinetic recovery strap that is made of braided nylon and has 30% stretch, and is a little thicker at 7/8".

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B072N1GVR2/

 

It's made in China too, but at least they aren't trying to dupe you into believing you are buying something made by a "father and son team in California". Sorry, I'm just annoyed when I get suckered like that.

 

I'm also going for different shackles now just on principle.

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01CLXR452/

 

I figure the load rating on those should be more than enough for my purposes - they are a little less hefty than the Rhino ones I originally ordered, and only 3/4" pin as opposed to 7/8", but again the rest of my equipment (the car, hitch) are the limiting factors here so I'm thinking these will be fine - and also at a little less in width, they are more likely to fit the attachment points on more vehicles if need be, which might be useful come the day when I have to tow or be towed.

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I would leave the traction control on, unless it seem to be hindering your ability to tow the other vehicle. The traction control can activate the rear individual brakes when it detects tire slippage which helps the rear open differential get traction to both rear tires. (ie Subaru uses TC electronics to get some benefits of a LSD rear, it is not perfect though.)
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The Legacy rated for 1000# of towing, same generation Outback is rated for 2700#. The Outback has an additional oil cooler. I would think for a very short tow it would be OK, but obviously this exceeds Subaru towing recommendation, so use at your own risk and assessment.
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I would leave the traction control on, unless it seem to be hindering your ability to tow the other vehicle. The traction control can activate the rear individual brakes when it detects tire slippage which helps the rear open differential get traction to both rear tires. (ie Subaru uses TC electronics to get some benefits of a LSD rear, it is not perfect though.)

 

I have found more often than not TC cuts engine power, especially on slipper surfaces.

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it is faster to attach the drawbar to the hitch than it is to screw in the tow hook...

 

Yes, that's why I ordered the hitch adapter. I usually carry a bunch of stuff in the trunk and don't really want to have to take it all out to access the spare wheel well just to help someone off some ice. Of course I could just keep the tow hook somewhere more accessible, but you still have to remove the panel, screw it in, then unscrew it after... just putting the adapter in the hitch would be very quick and easy.

 

I generally do not pull people out unless they are elderly
Right. To be honest all of this is more of a thought experiment than anything practical. I certainly don't intend to be roaming the countryside when it's icy looking for people to rescue from the snow with my Subaru Legacy. I just have a (maybe bad) habit of thinking about scenarios, and I've never really thought about what I'd do if there was a situation where someone just needed a little nudge to get free, that's all. It's one of those things where all that's needed is something maybe very minor, but before I started delving into kinetic straps and D-ring shackles and the like, I actually had zero clue about what I would do or how it works. At least with the stuff I'm now looking at, I'd have the ability to better judge if it's something I can even tackle, and if so, then I can tackle it with foreknowledge rather than standing there not knowing what to do. Flipping through the user manual's "towing" section for the very first time in a blizzard isn't my idea of fun.

 

And, of course, it would be nice to have this stuff so that someone else could pull me out, should I ever need it. Honestly before this I wasn't even aware of the tow hook or what it was for or where it went (I did wonder in the past about what those little panels in the bumper were for, but I assumed that they were for some option that I didn't get). So simply having more knowledge about the whole towing process is good, I think, and also I learned about kinetic straps, which sound extremely cool, much safer than simple tow straps, it seems, less likely to damage the tower or the towee.

Edited by NeilGunton
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The Legacy rated for 1000# of towing, same generation Outback is rated for 2700#. The Outback has an additional oil cooler. I would think for a very short tow it would be OK, but obviously this exceeds Subaru towing recommendation, so use at your own risk and assessment.

 

I'm not even thinking about towing. Just simple extraction of a few feet for someone who's stuck on ice or snow with their wheels spinning, that's all. I am not considering towing anybody any distance at all with this car. Literally just a nudge to get them out of trouble, IF it's not too deep and not too stuck.

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I have found more often than not TC cuts engine power, especially on slipper surfaces.

 

Probably because its purpose is to stop the wheels from spinning. So if the wheels are losing traction, cut the power until the traction is regained. I don't know if that would be a good thing or not when I'm trying to nudge someone out from the ice or snow, but then again it's not much use if you have power if the wheels are spinning. One thing is that the kinetic recovery strap has elasticity to it, so it's supposed to be able to stretch up to 30%, thus reducing the jarring effect of having the rope go taut and stopping the towing vehicle in its tracks. Hopefully if you go slow, then the kinetic strap will gradually stretch, reducing the chances of the traction control cutting off power entirely since the strap will reduce the force that is trying to stop you from going forward. I guess it would take some experimentation in the moment, hopefully as long as you're careful and don't try to thrash the engine or transmission for any length of time, no damage will be done. If someone's really well and truly stuck, then I'm not interested in trying to do anything anyway, to be honest. I was mainly thinking about the case of the BMW who I helped off some ice some years back on my street. Our subdivision doesn't get ploughed, and so when it snows the snow tends to get compressed to ice pretty quickly. I came across this BMW who was stuck in the middle of the road, wheels spinning. I ended up digging him out with my shovel, until his wheels could contact the road surface and he was able to get off the bad patch. It's simple situations like that I'd think about trying to help, not a car that is physically down in a ditch where lifting would be required, or even a really deep snow drift. In fact the range of situations where I could actually help another vehicle is probably vanishingly narrow, but it's still good to at least know how it all works, and be able to judge a little better when I can maybe do something. Also, to have the stuff so someone else can pull me out with a truck if I'm the one who gets stuck.

Edited by NeilGunton
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I wouldn't be concerned with wheel slippage, in fact i would rather the wheels slip than they didn't when you are tugging on something that may not move. In our vehicles traction control serves a limited purpose given the symetrical drivetrain layout.
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when it comes down to it every situation is different and sometime TC helps because it does keep the ELSD active which no doubt helps with traction on slippery surfaces and probably should be used in a pulling someone out situation. i often turn mine off to get out of things myself like being snowed in or being parked in deep snow. that said if your looking to save your trans TC off will certainly help since your not fighting the brakes.
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