There are several precautions to take before using tow hooks and recovery straps with vehicles. As mentioned before, the placement of your tow hooks is very important. The only place on a truck or SUV that can really handle pulling the weight of another vehicle -- an object that typically weighs several thousand pounds -- is the frame. Bumpers, especially modern ones, are made out of plastic and other relatively soft materials, which bend easily. Trying to recover a vehicle by pulling on its bumper will either significantly deform the bumper or pull it straight off. Pulling from an axle also isn't recommended; although it may seem like a sturdy part of the car, but it can be easily bent or ripped off, as well.
It's important to use the right type of strap to recover a vehicle. Towing straps have metal hooks. If your friend's car gets stuck in the mud and you try to pull it out with a tow strap, there's a possibility that the metal hooks can snap away. If this happens, the strap can fly anywhere, and if someone is standing outside of either of the vehicles, he or she could be seriously injured by a flying hook. Recovery straps are designed for this special use. They don't have hooks, stretch and are much lighter than tow straps, so they're less likely to snap off and hurt someone.
It's also a good idea to check both tow hooks and recovery straps for wear and tear before you use them. Tow hooks should be free of rust, grime and any defects, and you should inspect recovery straps for any cuts, frays or dirt.
Finally, good driving techniques will effectively determine the outcome of the recovery. The person doing the pulling should drive slowly, not quickly, applying light pressure to the gas pedal. Quick, jerky movements can potentially damage the strap or either of the vehicles. There should also always be someone located in the driver's seat of the vehicle being pulled to provide better control once it's out of its spot.
For lots more information on protective towing equipment, see the next page.