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Hitch Receiver Recovery Shackle Explained

Hitch Receiver Recovery Shackle Explained

December 11, 2020

Agency 6 Shackle Block

What is a Hitch Receiver Recovery Shackle and Why Should You Carry One When Off-Roading and Overlanding?

If you are off-roading often, having a safe recovery point is a must have. These recovery points must be attached to the frame to ensure a safe recovery.

One of the easiest recovery points to use is the trailer or tow hitch receiver which come standard on many 4x4 applications. Although a standard trailer ball hitch might sound like a good way to recover yourself or someone else, it is not.

Thankfully, there are many different products offered for safe vehicle recovery, such as shackle hitches and recovery shackles. These products are designed to either work on your stock tow points (receiver hitch), or with your aftermarket bumpers with welded on gusset recovery points. Each of these frame-mounted recovery points are a safe and reliable way of performing an off-road recovery.

Having trouble locating your factory recovery points?

The stock recovery points (if you have them) will always be directly attached to the frame of the truck. Most of the time they are a closed end loop or in the shape of a hook. Tow points are usually located on the front and the rear of the truck, one on each side of the frame but not all trucks and SUVs come equipped with rated tow points. Please check your owner’s manual to see if your truck comes equipped with load rated and tested vehicle recovery points. Do not get these confused with vehicle tie-down points. Tie-down points are not recovery points and should never be used as recovery points.

Whatever you decide to use as a tow point (welded on frame, welded on bumper or shackle hitch in receiver) on your truck, you need to make sure that it won’t break under the stress it is going to endure. This means inspecting your equipment and never going past the stated load range. When something breaks or goes wrong during a recovery, someone is likely to get hurt.

What Recovery Points Can I Use?

Never use a tow hitch with a ball. Instead you need a recovery point that is welded on to the frame of your vehicle, bolted on the frame of your vehicle in more than two locations, gusset points welded onto a bumper or a load rated and tested recovery shackle hitch with a Bow shackle or soft shackle.

What is a Recovery Shackle Hitch?

What is a Recovery Shackle Hitch?

A shackle hitch is a device that is placed into the factory hitch receiver. The shackle sits on the end of the hitch and is used to winch to, tow from or tug/snatch from.

One of the things you need to consider before using a shackle hitch is the load rating for which it is rated for. Most of the time the product provided will state the tow rating on the hitch itself and it is imperative that the stated load is not exceeded.

The great thing about these products is that they are extremely universal. They come in a range of sizes for varying receiver sizes. And as long as the vehicle it’s being used on has the corresponding receiver, the shackle hitch will be able to assist in recovery.

Agency 6 offers top of the line - USA MADE Hitch Receiver Recovery Points (Shackle Blocks) that almost anyone can add to their hitch receiver.

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What is not a Recovery Shackle Hitch?

Tow Hitch (Tow Hitch Ball) Recovery Shackle DONT

Just because something plugs into the hitch receiver, does not mean that it should be used for recovery. A great example would be a standard ball hitch. It is important to realize that ball hitches are designed for towing, not recovery.

Ball Tow Hitch

When you loop your tow strap or snatch strap over the ball on your tow hitch, you have nothing to lock it in place. There is nothing holding the strap onto the ball which is extremely dangerous. If you attempt to tug or snatch a vehicle while using a ball hitch, then you risk having the strap come loose which can potentially damage your vehicle or worse, hurt you or someone with you.

Vehicle Tie-Down Points

Also, you may notice two small little loops, one on each side of the receiver on your vehicle. Although it may look like you could easily loop the end of a hook through one of those loops… do not! These are your vehicle tie-down points – not recovery points. They are not designed to support any level of stress and they will break.

Types of Shackles you can use Recovery Hitch

Recovery Bow Shackle aka D-Ring

When it comes to choosing what kind of shackle to use, there are a couple of options. The most popular is the bow style. One of the reasons this style is so popular is the fact that they come in pretty much every size imaginable, and they are incredibly strong. Although they are technically “Bow Shackles” many people refer to them as “D-Rings” so you may hear us reference that term throughout. When we reference the term “D-Ring”, we are referring to the “Bow Style”. You can learn more about the differences between Bow and D-Rings here.

You can find the D-ring style in any size from as small as 5/32” all the way to 1-¼”. This is a really great feature because it makes it easy to find the right size for any application.

You can buy bow style shackles in our store in both domestic and import steel. 

D-rings are also a very safe method of recovery because they are made of thick steel and often times are a close loop circuit.

How to use a D-Ring?

To use one, you simply unscrew the pin, loop your tow strap into the ring and screw the pin into the recovery point and the shackle simultaneously. If you have a winch with a hook on the end of it, you could easily loop the hook through the D-Ring, sometimes without even removing the D-ring from the tow point.

How to Use a Soft Shackle? 

A similar style is the soft shackle. These can be used as a lightweight alternative to the bow style. Although many of these options may be rated at the same load capacity as D-rings (if not more), they can fall apart or deteriorate over time which is why it is important to take good care of them.

It is rare for this to happen, though—it’s just something to keep in mind. Soft shackles come in many different sizes with many different load ratings. You have lots of options here. It’s recommended to have at least 1-2 soft shackles with you when out wheeling, along with D-rings.

How to Use a Hitch Receiver Shackle?

Do you Need a Shackle Hitch?

The recovery hitch shackle is very user friendly. Even if you’ve never used one before, it is super straight forward.

First you need to verify that your receiver is the same size (typically 2"). Then you just insert the Shackle Block and slide the ⅝” pin horizontally through the receiver and the hitch. It is very important that you do not forget to put the retaining pin on the end of the bigger sized pin.

Once the hitch is in, you decide on which ring (soft or hard) you want to use and attach it to the hitch. When the time comes to execute a recovery, the tow strap or winch will then attach to the soft or hard shackle. No matter if you’re pulling out a car half your size or a truck that’s larger and heavier than you, it is important that you make sure all the parts involved of the recovery are secure and you are not exceeding any load rating on any of your gear. 

One of the unique features of the Agency 6 Shackle Block is that you can do a vertical mount as well as a horizontal mount. This allows you to pull off more effective ways of recovering a vehicle.

General Pros

Having a hitch-mounted recovery option is almost a necessity for your recovery gear. Not only is it lightweight but it’s extremely durable. This is the most affordable vehicle-mounted recovery point you can add to any vehicle. Since the block is held in place by a load rated pin inside the hitch receiver, this is the easiest, most secure location for a recovery point. Agency 6 offers this style of in a wide variety of colors, along with a couple of different sizes.

Recovery Hitch Receiver Pros

  • Frame mounted
  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Not vehicle specific
  • Vertical and horizontal application
  • Working load limit of usually upwards of 10,000 lbs
  • Available in multiple colors and styles.

General Cons

Recovery should always be taken seriously as a lack of judgement could result in injury. With that said, it is important to invest in quality recover gear. There are many different companies that offer hitch shackles, but many of them are made in China. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that these companies produce junk items, but I try and buy from American companies whenever I get the chance

Recovery Hitch Receiver cons

  • Can be dangerous if inexperienced
  • Lots of options (not made in USA) – be careful what you buy
  • Some products are not load rated
  • Must have receiver
  • Might bottom out

Do you Need a Shackle Hitch?

Types of Shackles Used for Recovery

They really are a great recovery tool to have in your arsenal. Not only do they provide an excellent recovery point from the back of your vehicle, but they are also universal. With that said, if you have some sort of aftermarket bumper that has recovery points on it, then maybe a Shackle Block isn't for you. Regardless, they’re so inexpensive it doesn’t hurt to have an extra piece of recovery gear with you, especially when recovering multiple vehicles.

Even if a shackle hitch isn’t for you, it’s imperative that you realize the differences between proper and improper recovery techniques. You need to visualize a solid recovery point, one that is mounted to the frame and that is load rated and tested. It’s also important to make sure you’re aware of the location of each recovery point on your vehicle.

How to Find Your Hitch Size

To find your hitch size, take a tape measure and measure across the bottom of your open receiver from inside to inside. The size of the hitch will go off the size of the receiver.

Adding Recovery Shackles to Your Recovery Box

Lastly, you’ll need to decide what type of shackle you’re going to use; bow or soft. 

Personally, I like the bow style better. I’ve never broken one (knock on wood) and I have never been in a situation where I found myself wishing I had a different style. 

However, the soft shackles have their place as well and are growing in popularity. You may find yourself in a situation where a bow shackle isn’t going to do what you need it to do.

If you’re serious about off-roading, getting stuck is inevitable. The more you have in your recovery gear, the better. A recovery hitch receiver option is a great place to start since they’re cost effective and are extremely easy to use. Not only will your recoveries be an easier task, but they will also be a lot safer.

Grab an Agency 6 Shackle Block Today!

Agency 6 offers top of the line - USA MADE Hitch Receiver Recovery Points (Shackle Blocks). Don't take our word for it, you can read some of the many reviews that off-roaders have written about our products. We offer free returns within 30 days if you are not satisfied with an item. 

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