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Rescue Your Stuck Scaler

Unless your idea of scale off-roading is driving across some grass, sooner or later getting stuck is going to be part of the equation. Where there’s stuck, there needs to be a rescue. The number one way scale RC vehicles get recovered is by the HoG method. No, this isn’t attaching a tow strap to a big pig–though that would be fun. HoG is the Hand of God method where a giant hand (usually yours) appears and lifts the truck free from its sticky situation. While that method works pretty well, sometimes the rules of a competition don’t allow it or we just want to play by our own rules for a more realistic experience. Freeing a stuck vehicle seems simple, but as anyone with any full-size off-road experience can tell you, looks can be deceiving. In fact, using the wrong techniques can be the cause of a situation going from bad to worse. Getting unstuck doesn’t have to be mission impossible or the cause of carnage … you just need to know what you’re doing.

If you’re traveling with a companion, the first–and most often the easiest–recovery method to employ is to hook up a tow strap–even if you have a winch. Connecting two trucks with a tow strap seems simple enough, but you need to make sure you have proper attachment points for said strap. If you have a stock plastic bumper be warned that wrapping a strap around it can result in it quickly departing from the rest of your truck. When you hook up a strap, it has to be to something solid.


A metal bumper attached directly to the frame is a great choice for attaching a strap. There are a variety of custom fabricators offering welded steel bumpers. The majority look very realistic and are extremely strong. RC4WD offers a number of great choices for its proprietary vehicles and for popular crawlers such as Axial’s SCX10.

Tow hooks or shackles attached to the frame or a solidly mounted metal bumper make perfect attachment points. RC4WD has a variety of hooks and shackles. If your truck doesn’t have solid attachment point front and rear, check out RC4WD’s Jammer line of hooks.

Tow straps can be used two ways–pulls and jerks. Jerks are normally avoided (get it?), but both techniques are useful when the going gets tough and someone is stuck. The key is to know which technique is right for the situation you’re in.
With a pull, the vehicle doing the recovery slowly pulls up the slack of the strap and then continues to slowly pull as the stuck vehicle tries to drive out. Even though the operative word is slow, it is important to increase the throttle as needed. The key here is to be smooth so that pulling vehicle doesn’t spin its tires and break traction. If it’s done correctly, there is no hard hit and the driver of the stuck vehicle should be driving just before the slack is completely out and pulling force is actually applied.
A jerk should only be used if a few normals pull attempts have proved fruitless. With a jerk, there should be enough slack in the pull strap that a small portion is on the ground. Before any pulling starts, the driver of the stuck vehicle should start attempting to drive out, signal he’s ready after his tires start spinning and then the recovery vehicle should drive away snapping hard against the tow strap. The driver of the recovery vehicle just needs to be prepared to start–the stuck vehicle driver should be on his toes too.


Scale truckers love scale winches. The only problem is scale winches–like anything–can fail if abused. And the reality is not all RC winches are created equal. Some are pretty hardcore, many do well under proper usage and others quickly give up the ghost even under what should be normal operating conditions. This is why we recommend busting out the tow strap first. If you are going to use your winch, you should know there’s more than just straight single line pulls.

Single Line Pull
A single line pull is the typical pull. The winch line is pulled off the drum and hooked to a solid object–pretty straightforward. An important thing to remember is that your winch will actually have more pulling power the more line you pull off the drum, but will also retrieve line slower. A pull with a short amount of line will pull quicker, but have less pulling power. So, if you’re out for fun, hook up to an object that is as far away as possible. If you’re in a competition and time is of the essence, hook up to the closest appropriate object.

Double Line Pull
A device called a snatch block allows you to do what is call a double line pull. A snatch block is a pulley, so when you attach the snatch block to a fixed object and run your line through the snatch block and hook it back up to the truck, you will get a mechanical advantage. In addition, since more line is off the drum, you have even more pulling power. Again, the between the snatch block being used, the more line out reducing speed and the time to set up, a double line pull may not be the ideal solution during a competition.

Triple Line Pull
A triple line pull takes the double–you guess it–one step further. With a triple line pull, the line is run out to and through a snatch block attached to an anchor point and back to the stuck truck and through a second snatch block and finally back out to an anchor point. There is a tremendous mechanical advantage, but the complexity of the setup makes it an unlikely application for RC use.

Change of Direction Pull
The snatch block that makes double and triple line pulls possible is also useful for change of direction pulls. While winches can pull at fairly extreme angles, doing so will pile the line up on one side of the drum. The fix is to use a snatch block to lessen the severity of the angle. With a change of direction pull, the line is run out through a snatch block at a halfway point  and then to an anchor point. If it’s a self recovery situation, it makes more sense to just hook up a single or double line pull. The change of direction pull is very useful when a winch-equipped truck is assisting a stuck truck but can’t like up directly in front of it for a straight pull.


  1. Heat is the enemy. To avoid excessive heat, use your winch in short bursts especially with heavy loads
  2. Always spool the winch with tension on the line
  3. Don’t let the winch do all the work; always apply power (throttle) to the stuck vehicle
  4. Don’t fully re-spool the line on the drum during a competition. Instead run the line up and over the top of your truck and hook up to rear of the truck
  5. Hooking the winch hook to the line will often pop loose and can damage the line. If possible, use a “tree saver” strap or a sand anchor (best known as a Pull Pal)

Now that you understand the basics of winching, you need to find something to hook up to. Other than being stuck, this is often the biggest problem when winching–full-size and RC.

Vehicle as Anchor
Another vehicles make a good winch anchor point, but definitely not a great. The upside of using a vehicle as an anchor point is that said vehicle can be often be moved into the perfect location. The downside is the anchor vehicle often gets pulled towards the stuck vehicle even if power is applied.

Sand Anchor
Better known by the Pull Pal brand name, a sand anchor is a shovel-like device that digs into soft terrain and provides a sturdy place to hook a winch. While they may only get occasional use in the full-size world, a sand anchor is almost a must-have accessory for a scale enthusiast looking to use a winch. Besides digging into dirt, a sand anchor works great for locking in behind exposed roots and wedging in rocks. RC4WD’s Heavy Duty Pull Pal

Tree Saver
A tree saver is a wide short strap that in the full-size world is used to wrap around tree trunks to provide a winch anchor that doesn’t dig into a tree like a winch line wrapped around a tree will. While tree damage isn’t a likely problem, a tree saver style strap does provide a solid anchor point.

Australian Outback adventurers will readily tell you that pull straps and winches aren’t the only way to free a stuck truck. Sand ramps are also known as sand ladders, recovery ramps or boards and they may be the fastest way to get unstuck. Not only are ramps easy to stuff under spinning tires, but they make for a very cool scale accessory. RC4WD offers two different styles and one is a licensed scale replica of the MAXTRAX Vehicle Extraction and Recovery Boards.

In a scale competition, time is of the essence, so the number one tip is to think fast and act fast. Know your vehicle. If you drive your truck a lot, you’ll have intimate knowledge of what it can and can’t do. Why is this important? You don’t want to bust out the winch every time a tire slips, but you need to know when you’re just wasting valuable seconds or even minutes trying to get unstuck or trying to overcome an obstacle that just ain’t going to happen. This is where thinking fast and acting fast comes in. When starting encountering difficulty, immediately start looking for a winch anchor point even as you’re trying to still drive forward. Since winches–scale or servo winches–are geared devices, they are often powerful but slow. Unspooling and re-spooling can be painfully slow, so as described above, you can save a lot of valuable time by not completely re-spooling your winch line.

Axial Racing

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