I go 4-Wheeling A LOT with groups in Arizona. A slow speed rollover is a relatively frequent event. You just get a bit to much lean on the vehicle trying to navigate a difficult section of a trail and then the truck or jeep slowly rolls over onto its side or back.

I've seen it happen dozens of times throughout my life.

As a result I've witnessed all manner of thoughtful solutions to get the vehicle upright all way, to the other extreme of some of the most thoughtless acts to get things right. I think I've witnessed more damage in uprighting a vehicle than I have in actual rollovers.

I'd like have a better methodology to get a vehicle back on its wheels that does the least amount of damage.

Can someone suggest a way to upright a vehicle back to four wheels that doesn't ruin the vehicle?

What are some good tools to have handy to do this?

Any advice on what NOT to do is also welcome.

  • Don't ever go alone. That's cardinal rule number 1. Our club has a minimum convoy size of four, so if things go badly, one vehicle stays with the damaged party, and two go out for help. Commenting cos it doesn't directly answer your question.
    – Criggie
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 7:54

4 Answers 4


All good answers but they focus on how to move vehicles and gear availale, without mentioning method.

The recovery must have other things done first. Delegate these tasks to different people:

  • Stabilise the situation - that means killing the engine, pull on the hand brake, put the gearbox in a gear, engage freewheel hubs, putting a rope/chain on and to another vehicle or anchor point

  • Deal to people first. Check passengers and especially kids and animals.

  • Check the damage - Secure or remove anything that has come loose. Check firearms, liquid fuels, fuel tanks, oil containers and anything else that might be leaking.

  • Check how where the vehicle will land once it rotates back to its wheels - make sure there are no big stones and its clear and solid

  • Take photos/video. Its likely this will happen anyway, but get before/during/after photos for insurance. If nothing else, get something for Youtube later.

Only once all that is done should you attempt to unroll the vehicle.

Identify chassis rails on the high side of the vehicle and attach a ~5-8 metre rope about halfway along the vehicle. Any longer and you risk dragging the recovered vehicle.

Attach another two ropes nearer the wheels but throw them over the stranded vehicle. These are to help resist the pull and control the descent.

Optional but a good idea - break out a shovel and dig two holes under the two wheels nearest the ground, so as its righted the two wheels take weight on the side, and not on the shoulder of the tyre. This reduces the leverage of the vehicle's mass against the wheels/bearings/axles/mounts. Depth should be about 1/3 a tyre diameter. If you're on rock, then this step is impossible.

Get everyone at least two vehicle widths away from the vehicle. Noone should be using their hands on the vehicle directly.

Hook up the middle rope to a tow vehicle if you have one, and gently pull. If no vehicle is available or there's no room, a winch works fine, provided you can get a suitable anchor. If only manpower is available, use a spanish windlass (two strong crossed poles) and leave a tug-of-war line to your last option.

Once the vehicle is rotating get it up to the balance point and then stop pulling. The other ropes should be taking tension now to try and lower it more gently. You're unlikely to put it down like a feather, but without some control theres a chance it won't stop at a 1/4 unroll. More-so if you couldn't dig the two wheel holes mentioned before.

Now the Vehicle is back on its wheels. Check the handbrake before releasing the ropes. If the handbrake is non-functional chock the wheels with rocks.

Check the engine - note it could still be hot. But let it stand right-way-up for at least 15 minutes to let oils drain back to where it should be.

Depending on petrol/diesel/gas you'll want to check different things (this is probably a question in its own right, for each fuel type.)

Before you drive off

  • Check the brakes, test periodically.
  • Check that all the doors open and shut in case you need to get out.
  • Check your fuel levels in case some has been lost and you get stranded on the way out/home.

Personal story - my club was involved in an accident where a vehicle was righted after an incident with diff lockers, but as soon as it was back on its wheels, the vehicle rolled away down a hillside, flipped again and rolled over a bystander who suffered a broken back and still suffers.

TL,DR under control, stable, calm, and slowly.

EDIT: This is what happens when you don't think ahead and put the handbrake/ebrake/second chain on.


  • Variations - if someone is trapped under the vehicle, do some/most of this but do it quickly. Damage to the vehicle becomes a secondary consideration but you still have to control the events and not get all cowboy.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 3:12
  • If someone is significantly injured and is in the vehicle, I'd be extracting them through the back door or through the windscreen and not rotate the vehicle with someone inside.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 3:12
  • @DucatiKiller thanks - I was trying to focus on method and safety, not what can be bought in shops.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 4:56
  • Indeed. It's more method than tools. Good tools are helpful but with poor method you wind up with some who's missing a limb. Thanks for the thoughtful answer. Commented Jan 28, 2017 at 17:29

First of all, anyone who is off-roading knows the inevitability of a roll over. It happens; you deal with it. If you have an expectation of never rolling over or never scratching the paint, then keep your vehicle on-road with the rest of the highway queens. Once any trail damage occurs, you'll have dents. Rolling a vehicle over may just cause your rig to be totaled, depending on the speed at which you are going and other factors involved. What I'm trying to say is, if you roll over, you'll have damage, there's no two ways about it. Righting your vehicle will cause more damage.

That said, there are a few tools you can use to upright your vehicle, which a lot of off-roaders use for just such occasions:

  • FRIENDS - Never go wheelin' alone. You can never replace having a second vehicle around to help you out. They can provide any amount of help which man power alone cannot, though manpower (womanpower is awesome as well) is a great thing.
  • WINCH - While not always going to be able to help, it is a great stand by to help you not get rolled over in the first place. It might help you get up an otherwise impassable embankment, which may cause the rollover. Get the highest capacity winch you can afford. Get a kevlar rope to go onto it as they are much lighter than steel and just as strong if not stronger. Plus they are a lot easier to wind back onto the drum and they don't rust.
  • JACK - Something like the image below is what I'm talking about. The great things about these jacks is they can be used for a lot more than just jacking up the vehicle. They can be arranged to allow the ends to be jacked together, making a makeshift come-a-long. They reconfigure several different ways, are compact for what they do, and can be stored on the outside of the vehicle to not interfere with valuable inside space.

enter image description here

  • GLOVES - Never leave home without them.
  • CHAINS - I'm talking the link type chains which hooks on the end. Get one which is fairly long and has a loop hook on one end and a grab hook on the other. You'll never go wrong.
  • TOW STRAPS - Use these to loop around trees so you don't tear them up when you need to right your rig. You know the other uses, so get them.
  • COME-A-LONG - Another way to winch, when you cannot use the winch.
  • BLOCKS - Used to change the direction of the winch cable. Gets you out of tight situations.

This list is not all inclusive. Get what you need, but these are some essentials.

As far as righting the rig itself ... there is no way to tell you how to do this. Every situation is going to be different. You need to prepare mentally for the eventuality and don't freak out. In the event of a roll over, shut the vehicle off. In most cases if you are upside down, the engine oil will travel to the top of the engine. Your engine will soon be running dry. This can cause serious damage to it, so shutting it down is what you need to do, especially if you want to drive it out when you get it righted.

Roll bars can help dramatically reduce the amount of damage which happens to the vehicle, as well as help keep you from being dead under a squashed cab. Also, brush guards which are higher than the hood along with roll bars can help protect the vehicle even more.

There are lots of things you can do to help prevent rollovers. The best thing to do is know your vehicle's limits and your driving skills. Keep yourself out of situations where you know you are going to be in trouble and it will go a long way to keeping yourself upright.

  • 5
    Whatever the situation, the basic strategy is always the same: figure out the strongest parts of the vehicle that you can lift or pull given the position it is in, and use them - don't just use whatever is easiest to get a grip on and hope for the best. Obvious "best" choices are the chassis, roll bars, or towing/winch points. The engine block/gearbox or the wheels are also good.
    – alephzero
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 21:58
  • @alephzero - Great points all! Commented May 13, 2016 at 21:59
  • 1
    I would also like to add, equipping your vehicle correctly for the activity will prevent A LOT of damage from occurring to your vehicle beyond recovery damage. Adding hard points for recovery, Trail armor, reinforcing weak points of your vehicle such as bumper frame tie ins and corner guards, nerf bars, rock sliders, etc. all work toward protecting your vehicle from damage while off road, and also double as durable points for recovery if integrated correctly into your vehicle. Commented May 14, 2016 at 5:50
  • 1
    As for "How" to recover your vehicle with minimal damage it comes down to : 1. What did you do 2. How bad did you do it 3. Do you have the proper equipment 4. Remaining calm 5. EXPERIENCE. Don't go listening to billybob hucklechuck with his infinite wisdom (Read: He doesn't know what he's doing, he just saw it on youtube). If someone is strapping up your vehicle incorrectly, STOP IT, and relocate the straps and hooks to HARD POINTS (frame points, tow points etc) on your vehicle. Ultimately you are responsible for the safe recovery of your vehicle. Doing so safely reduces damage considerably. Commented May 14, 2016 at 5:54
  • 1
    @JeepCherokeeRescueSociety I think you should throw in a good answer. You know you have one :-) Would really like to see the answer that focuses on how to roll it back over. Procedural, What to look out for. Have you ever seen a winch cable snap? Pretty scary stuff. Commented May 14, 2016 at 17:42

Tool list:

  1. Several large/long tow straps (30ft each or longer recommended) enter image description here
  2. Portable electric winch and battery, in case your buddy is not there to use his winch mounted on the front bumper.

enter image description here

  1. Some 4"x4" wood posts from the lumber store, different lengths up to 8 feet, they make good prying instruments, longer the better.
  2. Large Come along or two if you dont have a portable electric winch enter image description here
  3. Some 3/8 tow chains, use these to attach the portable winch or come along to a tree or other vehicle, can also be used where a strap might be cut if used.

enter image description here

  • Why wooden posts, rather than steel prybars? (I'm sure there is a good reason) Commented May 15, 2016 at 1:25
  • @Oxinabox if things go badly, a sudden release of kinetic energy can throw things about. Wooden things might shatter before being flung. Also, wood has much better grip on rope than steel, so a slightly offset hardwood round (a foot of shovel handle) is more likely to stay still than a crowbar. Always use a safety loop too. And you're unlikely to stab through a tyre/tire with a 100x100 piece of wood, but a vaguely pointy crowbar can.
    – Criggie
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 7:18
  • @Oxinabox length is leverage and wood is cheap, how much is a 8ft pry bar? a 12ft?
    – Moab
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 18:35

The number one rule, as always, is safety - and this means keeping people out of the way. Firstly make sure you have everyone out of, and clear of, the vehicle, especially anyone not directly involved in the recovery. Switch off the engine.

Make sure all the kit you intend to use is in good condition, and rated for well over the vehicle's weight.

Check the area, and make a plan - which direction did the car go in? Can it come back out the same way, or are there obstacles which will make it harder? Is there room to tip it straight back over? Ideally you don't want to have to move it while it's not on it's wheels, as that will cause more damage. If it's on it's roof, you'll probably want to do the recovery in two stages - first back onto it's side, then onto it's wheels. If you're tipping it onto it's side, try to arrange a 'cushion' for it to fall on (branches, scrub, soft sand etc) to reduce the risk of further damage.

Work out what attachment points you can use on the car (nice solid things, ideally the chassis or fixed towing points, but optionally axles, suspension mounts or similar - never bodywork). As you need to be pulling the car sideways, try to locate a suitable place to pull from - a big, solid tree is ideal, or somewhere you can fix a ground anchor.

If there is any risk of the recoveree sliding into a worse position, secure it with one or more lines to suitable solid objects away from the possible direction of slide. If needed, wedge some big bits of wood underneath to support the vehicle. Never get under the vehicle.

Bring the next vehicle (you weren't on your own, were you?) to a close-ish but safe distance back on the track. If you're using a tree, wrap a strop or tow-strap around the tree to protect it - then attach a big D-shackle to this to feed the tow-line through. If the going is soft or slippery, also secure the recovery vehicle to a solid object or another vehicle, so it can't slide towards the recoveree. If you're using a winch, also chock the wheels.

If you don't have another vehicle, a hand winch / come-a-long like that shown in @Moab's answer should work, but is more dangerous as you have to be close to the tensioned cable - go diagonally across the track to another tree or ground anchor.

Run the tow line (ideally a winch cable, otherwise a strong rope or tow strap - never use a kinetic rope for this) from the recovery vehicle, through the D shackle, to the attachment point on the recoveree - this point should be as high as possible, for example, if the car is on it's right-hand side, the attachment point should be on the left-hand side of the vehicle - which is now the top. Try to make sure the car is being pulled as close to right-angles as possible.

Make sure all people are well away from the tow-line before taking up the slack - a broken cable will whip around, and can easily kill. Don't let anyone get below the vehicle either.

Gradually take up the slack, and begin to tip the vehicle back onto it's wheels. Remember that once it passes the balance point, it will drop suddenly, and will bounce on it's suspension.

If using a hand winch, go bit by bit - lift the vehicle a few inches with the winch, tighten the additional securing lines and/or add more bracing under the car, repeat until a few degrees short of the tipping point - this means if the winch fails, the car will only drop a few inches. Don't go anywhere near it as it gets near the tipping point.

Detach the ropes, and assess the damage...

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