Safety First When Pulling A Tractor Out Of The Mud

Being stuck in the mud is frustrating. Despite the time crunch, take some time to think the recovery effort through. Safety should be the top priority.

Published on: May 14, 2013

High drama is best left on TV instead of your farm field. Yet when a vehicle gets stuck, extracting it can turn into high drama unless you think through what you're doing in advance.

Fred Whitford, coordinator of Purdue University pesticide programs, has heard enough stories about near-misses and even tragedies that he authored a publication: Purdue Extension PPP-98, Extracting Stuck Equipment Safely. It's a must for your office, even if you think there is nothing you don't already know. That's often when the danger begins.

"I've done this before; I know what I'm doing" is often where the undoing starts, Whitford notes.

But if you apply that attitude, proceed and have a problem, it's too late to undo what's done.

THINK IT THROUGH: A big tractor stuck deep in the mud is a challenge to extract. Dont do it with worn-out chains and the jerk and pull method without thinking it through first.
THINK IT THROUGH: A big tractor stuck deep in the mud is a challenge to extract. Don't do it with worn-out chains and the jerk and pull method without thinking it through first.

"If someone gets hurt or equipment gets damaged, we have to live with that forever," Whitford says. "Before you extract any stuck tractor, truck or implement, step back and think about what you are about to do."

Whitford sometimes refers an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. Unless you've matched up the vehicles correctly, and hooked up using proper, safe equipment, the result may not be what you want.

It takes more force to pull out an object that is stuck than to pull the same object down the road, he notes. Mud creates force that tends to hold its prey in place.

"Practice conscious awareness," Whitford says. "Operating safely is all about being consciously aware of what's happening and anticipating the unexpected. Extracting stuck equipment is never routine because every situation is different. It only takes a split second to turn the most benign activity into one that causes serious injury or even death."

Being stuck in the mud is never fun, especially if you are hauling heavy equipment or up against a deadline. Properly extracting your stuck equipment can be tricky, so be sure to do it right the first time and avoid any more unnecessary headaches. Download our FREE report Stuck In The Mud? Properly Extract Your Equipment.

The publication urges you to be aware of all the equipment you're using and the conditions around you. If a chain or tow rope with a metal end breaks, flying debris can be just as lethal as a bullet. The bigger problem is that you have absolutely no control over where it goes.

If force exerted on chains, straps or connections exceed rated capacities, parts can snap, Whitford says. Those times you got by with it before were 'lucky pulls.' One unlucky pull can do damage you can't reverse.

One place to start if you're pulling with a chain is to check the integrity of links before you hook up. Even if you've used it before, are the links stretched? Are links twisted when they're supposed to be straight?

If they're stretched or twisted, it's a sign they're close to the breaking point. There is no way to know what will send them over the edge.

Use suggested two recovery straps instead, Whitford suggests. Discard worn chains and carry the proper recovery straps instead.

You can order Whitford's publication, PPP-98 from

Related Articles:
Stuck Farm Implement Recovery Missions: Part One
Stuck Farm Implement Recovery Missions: Part Two
Free A Stuck Farm Implement With Common Sense
Bolts Aren't Meant to Fasten Tow Chains Together
Don't Let a Stuck Farm Implement Cause A Casualty
Assess Post-Pull Damage After Retrieving Stuck Farm Implement
Don't Let 'Stuck in the Mud' Become a Tragedy