Make your own 4WD recovery tracks

January 20, 2014

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.