How Tos & Tutorials

Techniques for Off road Rollover Recovery

There it goes, your life flashes before your eyes as your 4×4 starts to tip after losing tire grip when climbing a very steep surface! Should you succumb to panic immediately or is there still a way to turn the odds to your favor during the aftermath?

In this article, we teach you the proper way of handling an off-road rollover recovery when the shocking and sometimes deadly scenario hits you before you can even react.


what is a rollover
Photo Credit: Jamain via Wikimedia Commons

A rollover recovery is like a rescue mission to help a vehicle get back to its upright position after being turned upside down due to the impact of hitting something on the trail; thus, majority of rollover fatalities (69%) occur in single-vehicle crashes.


While nobody wants to be in a rollover accident, here are some reasons why rollovers still happen:

  • Distracted driving
  • Lack of driving experience
  • Highly-modified vehicles
  • Obstacles are too big or challenging
  • Oversteering


Getting caught in a rollover can instantly put you in a disoriented, panic mode. But no matter what happens, you should never lose your focus, take a deep breath, and do the following.

Say the Rollover Warning

truck rollover warning sign

If you get very unlucky, your 4×4 can instantly turn upside down the moment it loses its balance. However, there are instances when the rollover happens gradually. In this case, the driver shouts “Rollover” repetitively.

This gives the passengers an idea of what they’re about to face and their quick response should be to put their arms in crisscross form holding on tight to their seat belts. Doing so eliminates the risk of arm movements out of the window, which can be crushed in the dizzying event.

Of course, the same thing applies to you as the driver. The only difference is that you should hold on to your steering wheel, until the rollover finally stops.

Observe Vehicle Safety Shutdown

vehicle safety devices

By the time the rollover is finished, make sure that you turn off engine ignition. Completely turn off everything that may result in your vehicle from suddenly moving again. Check if you can see smoke coming out of your 4×4 or be wary if you smell something foul or burned because the circuits and wiring have been destroyed.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (ANFPA) via SafeRide4Kids, only 3% of fire-related accidents are caused by a rollover but they certainly make up more than half of the 283 number of deaths at 58%, from year 2003-2007.

When everything is clear, that’s your que to carefully move yourself out of your vehicle and help others do the same. Assess each of your passenger’s condition, is there a concussion? This normally manifests in a couple of days or weeks after the incident and a doctor might advise the person to take Tylenol or other pain relievers. If the damage is worse than expected, it can also lead to surgery.

If there are minor cuts, a first aid kit with band aids should do the trick. Although the same can’t be said for someone who’s wounded, and you must automatically call for backup.

Take note, never put your 4×4 back into place literally if you know you’ll have a hard time pulling out a passenger as you could risk aggravating the severity of his or her injury.

Before you proceed with the recovery, you slowly approach your 4×4 and give it a little nudge to check if it stays still.

Find a Stable Point on Your 4×4’s Frame

square body 4x4 frame

Once the coast is clear, you may now tie a rope around the hard point of your vehicle’s chassis where the pulling mechanism will serve its purpose. To make sure that your vehicle doesn’t move sideways or cause further rollover, you can use two winches to pull the vehicle; one will restore it in upright position and the other will serve as a support so it won’t roll back in case a tension or difficulty in moving it arises.

Carefully connect the other end of your recovery strap to the top side of the vehicle (usually the B pillar) that’s lying on the ground. You have to use a soft shackle that corresponds to the weight of your vehicle and of course you also need a tree trunk protector for your reference point.

Just a reminder about the vehicle pillars. They’re sections of your 4×4 that connect the body to its roof. So when you look at your vehicle in a normal position, the first one you’ll see near the driver’s steering wheel, is called the A pillar. The one in between the driver’s seat and passenger area is the B pillar, while the other at the back of the passenger’s seat is known as the C pillar. The longer your vehicle is, the more pillars it has.

vehicle pillars
Shown above are the pillars that you’ll usually find on your 4×4.

In terms of off-road rollover recovery, the B pillar is the preferred tying spot. It’s the most stable out of all the pillars due to the fact that it’s the thickest portion between your vehicle’s body and roof. A and C pillars don’t share this feature because they’re quite thin and angular which makes them prone to damage.

Proceed with the Winching

vehicle winching
Photo from 4 Wheel Parts

Whether your 4×4 has minor or major damages, you need to use a pulley block to avoid pulling it at an angled position. This is because by the time your vehicle moves, there’s a potential for it to spin which can add more damages to it.

But first, you have to find a tree that’s perpendicular to the vehicle where you can tie your strap, as well as attach the pulley block, and soft shackle. See to it you insert the soft shackle into your strap then do the same with your winch rope and pulley block. Once it’s settled, the winch rope creates a straight line for an even pulling method.

On the side of the vehicle, you can connect another soft shackle and attach it with a thimble. The good thing about a thimble is it’s a ring as opposed to a hook that has an opening which can cause it to suddenly detach to your vehicle.

The moment it’s fixed, you can now take the slack on your winch, while adding load to both vehicle and winch. Remember, when the winch starts running, don’t forget to make the hand signal for “winch in” that happens to be a rotating hand with the index finger and thumb pointing up. When the winch line goes up and creates a straight form, it means it’s ready to go.

For the second winch on the other side of your vehicle, use the strap as a choker on the frame area. This produces the support needed to move your 4×4 back up in conjunction with the purpose of the first winch. Afterwards, throw it back on the other side making sure that the straps are properly aligned and close. Attach the kinetic rope to the strap with a pin bow shackle.

If you think your vehicle has a chance to incur further damage because of the presence of the pin bow shackle, you can put a mat in between it and your 4×4’s surface to reduce the effect of abrasion.

Then, attach the hook to the eye of the kinetic rope. The kinetic rope due to its elasticity, provides just enough leeway so as not to put additional damages on certain parts of your vehicle including the roof. Again, you have to make the hand signal “winch in” to alert a friend or assistant.

Use Winch Dampeners and Carefully Guide the Rollover Recovery Situation

winch dampener
Photo from

The moment the winching procedure begins, accidents can happen anytime. So it’s important that you use a winch dampener. The winch dampener ensures that if your rope breaks, it’ll just fall to the ground. This is one of the advantages of using a rope as opposed to a wire that can produce a very strong and lethal whipping force.

When it comes to making instructions to those who’ll be pulling your vehicle, you have to stand where both drivers can easily see you and use the necessary hand signals to avoid confusion.

winching hand signals

  • Direction of Steering – tells the driver where to go.
  • Power In the Rope – similar to winch in or start the winch.
  • Power Out the Rope – winch out or winch needs more rope.
  • Pulse Wind the Winch Rope – means to adjust rope tension in small bursts.
  • Stop the winch – means to turn off the winch.
  • Braking – means use foot brake.
  • Drive Assist – tells driver to apply additional force on the tires.


rollover accident

As what was mentioned before, off-road rollover recoveries aren’t always 100% successful. In fact, there are instances when both drivers and passengers incur a certain injury that can be treated based on severity. However, there are others who aren’t as fortunate and find themselves badly getting more than what they’ve expected.

Based on the studies conducted by the Guajardo & Marks, LLP in 2014, rollover accidents account for 5% of motor vehicle crashes but they certainly make up for it in terms of the number of fatalities at 35%.

This was further reiterated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 10,116 rollover crashes in the United States in 2017, resulting in 3,168 fatalities.

Moreover, of all the vehicle types, SUVs had the highest rollover rate in 2017 at 2.86 per 100,000 registered vehicles.

Here are some injuries that you may acquire in the event of a rollover.

rollover injury

  1. Brain Injury – interferes with normal brain function due to a strong impact against the head. This includes memory loss, headache, and irritability.
  2. Spine Injury – happens when a portion of your spinal cord is damaged. It usually paralyzes a person and can change the sense of feeling.
  3. Bone Injury – refers to a damaged bone as a result of a strong impact or bump and falling.
  4. Cuts and Scrapes – are generally damages to the outermost skin layer. However, the former extends up to the area of the muscle tissue.
  5. Bruises – are also caused by extreme outer impact. They don’t damage the surface area of the skin but they tear the tiny blood vessels below it, allowing blood to seep inside and make it appear as dark red spots on the outside.


Rollovers should not be taken lightly because even if they only comprise a small portion of vehicular accidents, they remain deadly as ever. Here are additional tips that can make a difference between life and death when a rollover strikes.

Don’t let your neck freely sway from side to side – During the accident, prevent your neck from moving too much by means of hunching on your seat. If you don’t, you may end up snapping your neck.

Never brace out – Don’t hold your hands out in a defensive stance. Remember, vehicles are naturally crushed in an inward direction and you’ll be increasing your chances of sustaining wounds or broken arms and hands.

Avoid Pulling Your Seat Belt – Its normal to panic but don’t let it get the best of you during the rollover and force you to pull your seat belt along the way. This is because seat belts have a tendency to ratchet or rise a few inches from their buckles and get jammed eventually. Translation? You won’t be able to get out of your 4×4.

Ask Assistance from a Friend – In any accident, always remember that two (or more) heads are better than one. If you can’t get rid of your seat belt because it’s stuck, have a buddy help you go under your seat belt and squeeze your way out.


1. Are rollover recoveries difficult?

  • Rollover recoveries are considered to be one of the most difficult emergency procedures to execute because one wrong move can be fatal.

2. Are rollover recoveries considered an emergency?

  • Yes, because life sometimes hangs in the balance.

3. Why cross my arms over my chest during a rollover accident?

  • Crossing your arms over your chest help you avoid arm, hand, and finger injuries that you can acquire in holding the steering wheel during the rollover.


Off-road rollover recovery follows a systematic method. You can’t just go out there and push a 4×4 back to its current position using brute force without evaluating yourself or a passenger’s condition. With the strategies and some reminders we’ve provided, you know you’re doing the right thing without compromising your safety. Share us your thoughts by commenting below.


About Author

Back to top button
Verified by MonsterInsights