What is a Snatch Block? 

To put it simply, a snatch block is a special type of heavy-duty pulley that has a side plate that swings open. Typically, it is made of metal and designed for pulling heavy and large loads with less force.

As it comes with a flexible side plate, you can thread the cable of your winch through it to double the pulling capacity of the winch.

On top of that, you can also change the direction of the winch cable using a snatch block. Primarily, a snatch block can be used to lift cargo overhead or haul heavy loads without additional tools. However, in the automotive industry, a snatch block is used as a winch accessory in recovery situations.

How to Use a Snatch Block?

How to use a snatch block

Using a snatch block is very easy. However, for safety reasons, you should be very careful while using it. You can use a unit in many different situations. But here we will tell you how to use a snatch block to recover a stuck vehicle easier. Here’s how:

  • First, park the towing vehicle on a stable and flat surface if possible
  • Then disengage the clutch on the winch so that you can pull out the rope/cable from the winch
  • Pull the winch cable until you have reached the stuck vehicle. Then, open the snatch block’s side plate and thread the winch cable through and close it as usual. Make sure it is fully secured
  • Now, you have to connect and secure the heavy-duty shackle to the snatch block
  • At this point, you need to connect the heavy-duty shackle to a sturdy and reliable anchor point on the stuck vehicle
  • You can then pull the winch rope through the snatch block and connect it (the hook) back to the recovery vehicle’s anchor point
  • Finally, engage the clutch on the winch and put line dampeners on the winch cable for safety reasons
  • Then simply start winching and let the snatch block working its magic
how to use a snatch block

What Types Of Snatch Blocks Are There?

Snatch blocks can be classified into many categories depending on the size, design, and mechanism. But primarily, based on the mechanism and design, we can say that there are 3 types of snatch blocks.

Those are ones with a hook, snatch block with a shackle, and snatch block with a flexible side plate (swing block). Among them, the swing block type is the most commonly used snatch block for recovering vehicles.

How Does a Snatch Block Work? (Three Ways to Use)

If you are creative, you can use it in many ways. But, primarily, you can use it in 3 ways. Those are using it for overhead lifting, to recover a stuck vehicle, and to tow a broken down vehicle on the highway. Later in this post, we will elaborate on this topic.

How Do You Attach A Snatch Block?

Typically, a snatch block has a side plate that can be opened. Then you can easily thread the cable/line from the winch through it. Finally, you have to close it and make sure the wire is secured well.

How Do You Increase The Pulling Power Of A Winch?

how to increase the power of a winch

By simply using a snatch block pulley system, you can increase the pulling capacity of a winch up to twice its default pulling capacity (or even more, depending on how many snatch blocks are you using).

What Are The Benefits Of Using A Snatch Block For Overhead Lifting Or Vehicle Recovery?

First of all, a snatch block can increase the pulling power of a winch. Secondly, using a snatch block would also put less stress on the cable.

So, the rope will last longer than usual. Also, you won’t have to buy any other heavy-duty equipment like crane motors or winch winders if you have a snatch block.

How to Recover a Vehicle from a Ditch or In the Woods

A snatch block would come in real handy if you want to recover your vehicle from a ditch or in the woods. Here’s how to do this…

  • Before you begin, you should park on a stable and flat surface (of course this is only if there is another vehicle around that can be used as an anchor)
  • Next, you have to connect the grab hook and the chain to a rugged, reliable, and stable anchor point. It will be best if you connect it to a 3rd vehicle or a nearby tree
  • Now, you have two options. First, you can loop the chain around the anchor point and then attach the chain back to itself with the hook. Or else, you can also connect the hook to the anchor point directly
  • At this point, you have to disengage the clutch on the winching vehicle. Next, pull out the cable/line from the winch and thread it through the snatch block
  • Next, connect that end of the cable to a grab hook end-fitting. After that, you have to attach the end-fitting to the anchor point of the stuck car
  • Unfortunately, if there is no anchor point on the stuck vehicle because of wreckage, you can use a recovery sling or tow strap to loop it around a sturdy part of the frame of the broken down or stuck vehicle
  • Simply, start the engine of the recovery rig and begin winching as usual

In this case, you will be needing a few other accessories such as wire rope, a recovery sling, a chain-and-grab-hook end-fitting, and a winch winder for easy winching.

Other Tools You May Need

A snatch block pulley system is best used with a few other pieces of equipment. Some of the notable ones are a shackle, a winch winder, a hook end-fitting, line dampeners, tow straps, a chain-and-grab-hook end-fitting, and so on.

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Snatch Block Pulley System Safety

Like any other automobile gear, a snatch block can be a dangerous tool if not used correctly. Thus, you must be aware of what you are doing. We already said that there are multiple types of snatch blocks that are suitable for different kinds of jobs. 

You know that it is possible to increase the pulling power of a winch twice using a snatch block.

That means all of this extra force will be on the block itself. Plus, the anchor point, vehicle, and wire cable should also be capable of hauling such load.

In addition, every snatch block comes with a specific maximum load capacity. So, make sure, you are not exceeding the rated line pull while using the snatch block to get a vehicle unstuck.

Remember to use a line dampener while using a snatch block and winch for recovery purposes. If you are following all the safety rules while using a snatch block, you could avoid a disaster.

Conclusion

Snatch blocks can be a great addition to your overlanding vehicle recovery kit. The market is full of different snatch blocks from different brands. So it will not be difficult to find one that meets your requirements.

But make sure you are getting the high-quality ones so that you can rely on them in a tough situation.

Ferenc Elekes overlandsite

Ferenc Elekes has been a devout Overlanding enthusiast for many years. During that time, Ferenc has explored 75 countries on six continents, with overland travel involved in 40 countries on three continents. From his trusty 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado with a roof-top tent, he’s blogged about experiences that can only be found in the remotest regions on Earth. Along the way, he's gained in-depth knowledge of the novel challenges overlanders encounter and practical ways to meet them. On his website, he shares informed opinions about everything from the best overland gear to how to get a vehicle unstuck. Ferenc has also written for Ih8mud, the Expedition Portal, the Overland Journal, and he is often invited as a guest to outdoors-related podcasts.


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Off-road recovery - snatch block guide