What’s the Difference Between a Tow Strap and Recovery Rope?

Tow Straps or Kinetic Recovery Rope Differences


Many people need clarification on the differences between tow straps and recovery ropes. Unfortunately, many believe them to be almost the exact same product, however, recovery ropes and tow straps are meant to be used very differently when recovering a vehicle.


Weavable tow straps are intended for towing a free-moving vehicle to a safe location on level ground.

Creating a metal-free recovery strap is as simple as weaving the strap through itself at both ends. Just wrap, weave and pull. When you’re done, unweave and store for next time. Rather than being sewn together, all the fibers are interwoven down the strap’s entire length.

This allows our straps to pull up to 14,000 lbs. while still being small enough to fit under the seat or in a small storage compartment. The weaveable design also means that you can wrap it around almost anything.

Due to the constant tug on the line, towing requires very little elasticity, so a tow strap should not be used to recover a stuck vehicle.

Because the strap must retain its strength throughout towing a vehicle, it is designed for consistent tautness.


A kinetic recovery rope is designed to recover a stuck vehicle from mud, ditches, or other situations. When your 4×4 gets stuck in the mud and you can’t move, you can call a buddy with his recovery rope to get you unstuck. 

Kinetic Ropes are designed specifically to be used with a running start. They are more elastic than traditional tow ropes and stretch up to 30% when pulled under load. The difference comes from how they are constructed.  

Our Kinetic Recovery Ropes have an inner braid (core) and outer braid (cover) that stretch alongside each other to soften that blow and prevent hard jolts.

As stretchiness plays a significant role in removing stuck cars, kinetic recovery ropes aren’t suitable for towing since they are not designed to be fully stretched out for extended periods.


Wrap – one end of the strap around an axle, through a shackle, or around any good tow point. 

Weave – the end of the strap back through the interwoven loops that run throughout the length of the strap. You can adjust the strap length this way if you want to make it shorter! We recommend at least 4-6 weaves when pulling a vehicle. The more weaves you make, the better the pull strength! 

Pull! – Give the strap a good tug to set the weave. The strap uses the friction of the weave to create a non-slip grip. When recovering a vehicle, pull up all the slack before you start, then hit the gas and watch as this recovery strap does its work! 

When you’re done, unweave the strap at both ends, and store it for next time!


Kinetic recovery ropes require a soft shackle or metal shackle to be attached to the vehicle. After attaching, we suggest getting a “running start” of about 5 miles per hour.

While you are getting a running start in your vehicle, the rope stretches and builds up kinetic energy. Once the rope reaches its maximum stretch, it snatches back smoothly and releases that energy to pull the stuck vehicle out of the mud, sand, or snow.

The smooth and robust pull frees the vehicle but doesn’t put the stress of a hard jolt onto your tow bar, bumper, or axle.

What Happens If You Use The Wrong Strap For the Wrong Situation?

If you ever find yourself in a sticky situation, don’t try to “get all MacGyver” with your recovery tools or you could find yourself in an even worse mess than when you started.


Hauling a Vehicle with a Kinetic Recovery Rope

We understand that desperation may sometimes breed bad ideas, but just don’t do this. If you’re trying to haul or tow a vehicle being you with something that is made to stretch and retract – congratulations, you’ve successfully created the most destructive yo-yo imaginable and the slightest amount of tension in your tow line is going to end in a very bad day.

Yanking a Stuck Vehicle Free with a Tow Strap

While admittedly not as bad as the aforementioned bungee of doom – it’s still not a good idea to yank a weavable tow strap to free a stuck vehicle either. These straps are meant to easily tow up to 14,000 pounds, but under the immense pressure of a vehicle’s running start, this could fray your strap while also running the very real risk of further damaging the stuck vehicle.

The big difference between the two scenarios above is that while you should never tow a vehicle with a kinetic recovery rope, you can sometimes get a vehicle unstuck with a weavable tow strap – just don’t try for a running start and you should be ok trying at least.


We suggest keeping one of each in your vehicle. Both recovery straps and recovery ropes serve different purposes and the overall stretchability is the most significant difference between them. 

Storing both, you’ll ensure that you’re not damaging your vehicle or equipment the next time that you find yourself in a sticky situation.


If you have any questions or need some help, you can email us anytime at customerservice@speedstrap.com or give us a call at 951.501.5677.