How to Pull a Vehicle with a Rope

If your car or van gets stuck in the mud or a ditch, a single person can pull it out with the aid of a rope, as well as a tree or a post. You're essentially setting up a pulley system that can more than double your strength. This can come in handy in a pinch, such as if there is no other vehicle available to pull the vehicle out for you, or in cases where pushing the vehicle isn't working (such as if your feet keep sliding on mud).

Steps

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    Tie the rope to the vehicle using a bowline knot. Do not tie the rope directly to your bumper. Use a tow hook or solid part of the frame.
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    Tie a loop in the rope, about 4 feet or 1.2 meters away from the bumper, using a bowline or figure of eight knot.
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    Feed the long end of the rope through the loop, thus creating a second loop, about 4 feet (1.2 meters) long.
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    Pass the long end of the rope around a tree or a post.
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    Thread the long end through the last loop created.
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    Grab the free end of the rope and start pulling in a continuous movement. Make sure your grip is good, and lean back. Once you overcome the inertia of the van or car, the rope should pull relatively easy.

Tips

  • Try this on a small vehicle that is not stuck first. There are some practical limits.
  • This is actually not the easiest way to move your vehicle with a rope. If you tie the rope as taut as possible between your vehicle and a stationary, firm object like a tree, traffic pole, etc., you can pull on the middle of the rope and enjoy a tremendous mechanical advantage. The tighter the rope and the further apart your vehicle and your anchor, the easier it will be to move.
  • A climbing rope is not ideal, because it is fairly stretchable, thus increasing the distance you have to travel (and the amount of work to stretch the rope initially). It also has a lot of friction.
  • If you have a carabiner clip, clip them to the rope wherever it rubs against itself, other objects or makes a corner. This reduces friction and the chance of the rope breaking. It will also make your job easier, and extend the life of the rope.

Warnings

  • Do not use a rope to tow a vehicle with another car. The best climbing ropes have a test strength of around 5,000 pounds. A light car moving more than few miles per hour creates more force than this, and a broken tow rope may cause serious harm to people or vehicles. Buy or rent a proper tow bar in this case.
  • If you are going to tow your car uphill, you should have someone sit inside the car, ready to apply the handbrake in case the rope snaps.
  • A rope breaking under tension can become a dangerous whip. Use caution.

Things You'll Need

  • Standard nylon or Polyester rope (the less it stretches, the better, in fact Polyester rope stretches less than Nylon, which is reported to stretch by as much as 40%)
  • Tree, or a post (you could always hammer a stake--or series of three stakes--in the ground where you want it, in which case you will need a sledgehammer. For a series of stakes tie your rope to the bottom of the first stake, the top of that stake to the bottom of the stake behind it, and the top of that stake to the bottom of the one behind it)
  • Tow hook
  • 2 carabiners (optional)

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