Make your own 4WD recovery tracks

I fairly regularly drive off road and occasionally on the beach. The best 4WD advice is to avoid taking risks – look before you leap. The second best advice is to go prepared. I made my own recovery tracks out of scrap wide timber boards.

Yes, I was not actually bogged.

Yes, I was not actually bogged.

Fancy plastic recovery tracks costs hundreds of dollars and rarely get used. The way I see it, plastic recovery tracks are made for taking money off cashed-up bogans:

  • They are expensive pieces of fibre-reinforced plastic.
  • They are brightly coloured (for people who want others to notice their accessories).
  • They sell them at Supershit Auto and other auto accessory chain stores.
  • They are usually sold in pairs (how many wheels does a FOUR wheel drive have?)

A recovery track is essentially a hard, flat surface that can be placed under a wheel. Timber boards are easy to work with. New timber is expensive however, so look hard for some free or very cheap recycled stuff. Cheap plywood is rather flimsy and would not last long. Form-ply is strong but has a smooth, slippery surface. I had some rough wide pine boards in the shed that I found on the beach. The boards should be a bit wider than your vehicles tyres (not super-wide or they are difficult to place in wheel ruts), lightweight (not thick hardwood) and rigid.

I cut the boards to the maximum length that fits in the tray of my ute (pick-up). Longer boards are better, if you have somewhere to mount them. Next, I bolted timber onto the bottom to help the boards grip sand and soft ground.

Detail of a home made recovery track - rough and ready!

Detail of a home made recovery track – rough and ready!

I have used these tracks to recover a Landcruiser sitting on his axles. He had a high-lift jack and was searching in the bush for something straight to pack under his wheels. The tracks can also be used as a jacking base.

Myself, I have played with these tracks when driving over sand crests: place the tracks behind each of the four wheels, reverse on to them and then drive up and over the crest. Some surprisingly effective momentum can result, even though my tracks are short. The alternative is to reverse down and make another run.

Advantages of timber boards for recovery tracks are:

  • Low cost.
  • Can be cut to custom lengths and widths.
  • Biodegradable (can also be used as firewood).
  • Easily replaced.
  • Less bulky than plastic tracks.

Disadvantages are they are not strong, they can’t be used as a bridge and I’m not sure how well they can grip in mud.


9 Responses to Make your own 4WD recovery tracks

  1. Anonymous says:

    Very Well Said and Much Appreciated!

  2. bulumakao says:

    Yeah, and I’ve been using these again on the beach in coarse sand, like river sand – the worst kind.

  3. ajithkgshk says:

    Cool. Very easy and Simple.

    I guess for mud, you can try drilling random holes and putting a Bolt through each of the holes and securing them using nuts. That should add something for the tyre to bite on to and the nuts on the bottom can bite into the mud. It might increase the weight of the board. But a good thing about nuts and bolts are that you can remove them and keep it separate. Board won’t get too heavy and when in need you can put the nuts and bolts back in for added traction. Right?

    On the flip side, adding holes might make the board less strong.

    • bulumakao says:

      Yes, much fun can be had experimenting with recovery tracks. For my 4WDriving, stiff boards, a long-handled shovel and 20 psi in the tires solves most problems.

  4. Uteopia says:

    You sound jealous of the people that can afford Treds and Maxtrax recovery boards, sorry to say your timber board idea wont work in mud, oh but look here those cashed up bogans with there Treds and Maxtrax recovery boards can use them in mud and sand and they can be used as are bridge.

    Don’t hate on people Because someone can afford the real deal, if you cant afford it then keep it to yourself or get off welfare benefits and make are contribution to society instead of bumming off it.

    • bulumakao says:

      Actually I have used timber boards to recover vehicles stuck in mud twice. The first was the Toyota Landcruiser mentioned in this post. More recently, I had to recover myself after driving onto soft, waterlogged ground (I used some odd boards I had picked up off the beach).

      Timber boards can be also be used as a bridge if thick enough. But I’m not interested in better and best, just fit for purpose. Different people have different needs. The late Tom Kruse drove a 1936 Leyland Badger truck and he used sheets of roofing iron to cross sand dunes on the Birdsville Track back in the 1950s.

      I am a self-funded retiree. I am not a dole bludger. I can afford a big new truck, plastic recovery tracks, etc. but none of those toys are going to make me a better person. And yeah, I hate cashed-up bogans and weekend warriors. They are dickheads and a public nuisance!

  5. benski99 says:

    Great article mate! Im of the same mind, I drive a 1980 bj40 swb cruiser and im all about saving money and diy where I can. love the idea and I may just have to make some myself! Uteopia sounds like he/she missed the whole point of the article alltogether haha! ive started my own blog at its a bit of everything really, 4×4 camping, shooting and paracord gear. drop us a line and let me know what ya think. you can find me on instagram @97knives and fb page under the same name.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Great post..enjoyable, informative reading.

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