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Using a bungee when you need a tie down strap is a risky scheme at best, and really, just asking for disaster to strike. Do you know why?
1. You don’t know the exact strength of a bungee cord.
Most bungee cords do not come with a Break Strength or Working Load rating. Quality cargo straps, however, will have one or both of these important numbers printed on their tag or some other permanent spot on the strap or hardware. No guessing.
2. You think using a bungee is OK because you’re “just going a couple blocks.”
If a bungee isn’t strong enough to hold the cargo you are carrying, it doesn’t matter if you’re traveling across town or across the country. A skimpy elastic cord may allow a load to shift; once that happens, you risk the safety of surrounding motorists, yourself and your belongings.
3. Overloaded or old bungee cords wear out quicker than you think.
It is recommended that the maximum “stretch” of a bungee cord be limited to 50% of its resting length. Even with normal use, these cords eventually stretch permanently, fray or break, or are subject to loose hook-end connections. Exposure to sun, rain, wind and hot or cold temperatures can accelerate a cord’s deterioration, and many experts recommend replacing bungees every six months or once a year, even with light use.
4. A metal hook end can straighten, become loose from its attachment point or scratch the items you’re moving.
Just as is the case with not knowing the exact strength of the cord, it is also likely you would not know the strength of the hooks, either. So the potential of failure exists not just with the elastic woven cord but also with the metal hooks. More common, though, is that the hook simply unlashes from the object it was securing.
5. A stretched bungee that accidentally slips from your hand becomes a sharp – and really dangerous – projectile.
Enough injuries occur every year when a bungee hook slips from a person’s hand during loading that studies have been performed on the process. The most common injury is to the eyes, with estimates indicating the hook recoils at speeds of 45 to 60 miles an hour. That can do some very serious damage.
Despite all this bungee cord bashing, there is a good and useful application for them, tasks like holding down a tarp or securing the cover on a cooler; but nothing that involves containing heavy, bulky or airborne-prone items.
More massive cargo should be left to heavy duty, high quality tie down straps. They come in a variety of lengths, widths, and Work Load ratings, and many styles of hook ends and ratchet straps are available to reliably perform whatever hauling or transporting job you may have. Use the right tools for the task at hand, and you’ll find that investing in tie downs for dependability and longevity will be more than worth it!
- Biker’s Friend. Bungee Warning. Retrieved from http://www.bikersfriend.com/pages/bungee.htm
- Lexco. Bungee Cords FAQs. Retrieved from http://www.lexcocable.com/faqs-12.html
- Meyer, Lewis. How to: Safely strap a ton of shit on your car. Matador Network. August 23, 2011. Retrieved from http://matadornetwork.com/goods/how-to-strap-shit-to-your-car/
- State Fund. Bungee Cords – More Than Meets the Eye. Retrieved from http://www.statefundca.com/safety/losscontrol/LossControlArticle.aspx?ArticleID=295
- Triodyne Inc. (June 1997) Bungee Cord Danger Analysis. Safety Brief, volume 12, no. 3. Retrieved from http://www.triodyne.com/safety~1/sb_v12n3.pdf
Whether you are a motocross or ATV enthusiast who’s hauling machines to the trail every weekend, the ever-vigilant adult child of an aging parent who needs a hand getting the yard mowed or snow removed from the driveway, or THE guy with the pickup truck – suddenly everyone’s best friend – that gets asked to help move refrigerators and entertainment centers, a good set of ratchet straps can be one of the handiest tools in your jack-of-all-trades arsenal. With proper care and a minimum of effort (promise!), a well-made strap tie down should provide you a lifetime of dependable use.
Here are a few tips to help you get the longest use from your tie straps:
1. Store your strap tie downs out of the sun. Over time, ultraviolet light can make nylon and polyester fibers brittle, causing them to discolor, break down and potentially lose strength.
2. If a tie down strap gets wet or damp while in use, let it dry thoroughly before storing to prevent mildewing.
3. On a ratchet strap, remove the strap itself from the ratchet hardware between uses. Not doing so can eventually cause the strap to become wrapped too thick around the ratchet spindle, causing you to be unable to use the release mechanism or, worse yet, to bunch up within the teeth of the ratchet. In either case, you’d be forced to cut the strap in order to free it. And that would be a bummer!
4. Wrap the cargo tie down webbing around the ratchet as you remove it after use to prevent it from coming in contact with the ground, then hold it together with a rubber band or, better yet, a Velcro strap. A carrying bag of some sort to keep all your ratchet straps together in one place is a good idea, too.
5. Apply lubricating oil on the moving parts of the ratchet. WD-40 works nicely, but take care to not get the lubricant on the webbing, as this will attract dirt and eventually cause the strap to bind. Otherwise, a dry silicone spray will do the trick.
6. Inspect the tie down straps after each use! Be on the lookout for frayed fibers where they secured their cargo across a sharp edge. Better yet, use some of the handy rubber corner protectors that are available to guard against these wear points; they are inexpensive and easy to use by simply threading through the webbing.
Taking a few extra seconds to make sure your tie down straps are clean, dry and wearing normally with each use will improve a strap’s longevity. What steps do you take to ensure your ratchet tie down straps last their longest?