What Are Snatch Blocks?

What Are Snatch Blocks?

Last Updated June 12, 2023 | Andrew Boyle

If you run in off-roading circles, then you may have heard about a snatch block. Despite sounding like a football penalty, it’s a simple tool that can make a big difference for you and your off-roading rig.

Unlike many other off-roading tools and accessories, a snatch block is solely composed of a single simple machine: The pulley. A snatch block is a pulley specifically designed to help you get your truck or SUV out of a sticky (or slippery) situation.

Off-road recovery is very important. Even if you don’t go off-roading for fun, you can still get your vehicle stuck. Safety is important, so if you ever run into tricky terrain, be sure to be prepared.

What Is a Snatch Block?

Snatch Block On Table
An example of a snatch block for vehicle recovery

A snatch block is a pulley attached to a ring that can be mounted quickly and easily. There are a variety of snatch blocks available, and plenty of them are designed for non-automotive purposes like lifting heavy cargo or housing line on a sailboat. At the end of the day, pulleys are immensely useful, so they are liable to pop up on plenty of accessories and tools all around the board.

In the automotive context, however, snatch blocks are intended to work hand in hand with winches. The line running through the snatch block’s pulley is connected to the vehicle’s winch. This allows for more flexibility in the way the winch is used and opens up several more avenues for both self and partnered recovery. Additionally, a snatch block can seriously boost your winch’s pulling capacity, so if you need more force to pull your vehicle out of a rut or you need to pull a vehicle larger than yours, then a snatch block is the tool you need.

How Does a Snatch Block Work?

In most situations, a single pulley doesn’t reduce the force needed to pull or lift anything, it only changes the direction. So how can a snatch block double your winch’s pulling power? A normal single line recovery doesn’t increase the winch’s effectiveness at all; all of the power improvements come from performing a double line winch recovery. This is when the winch line is wrapped around the snatch block then attached back to a mounting point on the recovering vehicle. This means that instead of pulling against the tree, anchor, or other mounting point, the winch is actually pulling itself out from the front bumper instead. The extra power is compensated by the fact that the line moves half the distance.

Diagram of Snatch Block Winch Recovery

That reduced winching speed is completely negligible, however. When recovering a vehicle, slow and steady truly does win the race.

How to Use a Snatch Block

There aren’t too many steps to using a snatch block that aren’t a part of a standard winch recovery. For the most part, the snatch block simply provides a different way for the winch line to be mounted. That being said, there are some important things to remember when using a snatch block to ensure that both you and your vehicle are safely recovered.

First off, the way a lot of off-road recovery snatch blocks work is that they are composed of two rotating sides. To position the winch line properly inside the snatch block, the top part is rotated, fully exposing the interior pulley. Once that is the case, the top part of the loop is rotated over the other half. Now, with a D-ring, the non-pulley part of the snatch block can be attached to the mounting point.

If you are recovering yourself, you could attach the winch cable back onto the front of your vehicle and perform a double line pull. This is essentially the same process as a standard winch recovery, the only real difference being the setup. Be sure that you are properly mounting the winch line on the front of the vehicle to a suitable tow spot. You can easily put you and your vehicle into more trouble if you accidentally rip off parts of your vehicle while trying to recover.

In the case that you are using a snatch block to help someone else recover, a bit more care is needed. First off, it’s likely that you are using the snatch block in this situation not for added strength, but rather to compensate for an odd angle. In this case, it’s important to have the winching vehicle directly facing the anchor point. If the line being fed into the winch is not coming in perpendicularly, it will start to bunch up on one side. This can cause plenty of problems later, from damaging your winch to just being a huge hassle.

Keep in mind that snatch blocks, like winches and winch line, have a maximum weight capacity. You’ll want to make sure that both your winch line and snatch block can handle the force you are throwing at it. Many times owners won’t equip their winch with line rated above its pulling capacity. That means doubling the force exerted on the winch line could be potentially dangerous. While you should never winch without using a line dampener, a broken line or snatch block is still a recipe for a bad time and can not only injure you and your rig, but it could leave you stranded as well. Again, if you are recovering your vehicle, you don’t want to put yourself in any more trouble than you’re already in.

Wrangler Stuck In Snow and Mud
A great example of where a snatch block would be helpful

Snatch blocks are an important part of your off-road vehicle’s recovery kit. If you have a winch on your truck or SUV, then a snatch block is a must-buy. There are plenty of snatch blocks and other winching accessories available at CJ Pony Parts. If you are eager to watch demonstrations and installs, then be sure to check out CJ Off-Road’s YouTube channel as well.

This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.