How to Install Snatch Block: Step-by-Step Guide

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Published By: Aaron Redstone
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Total: 5 min read time

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A snatch block is a vital tool for off-road enthusiasts and professionals alike.

It multiplies the pulling power of your winch, making it easier to recover stuck vehicles, clear obstacles, or perform various heavy-duty tasks.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about using a snatch block with a winch.

We’ll cover the tools and equipment needed, the installation process, adjusting for optimal performance, and essential safety precautions.

Required Tools and Equipment

Before diving into the installation process, let’s gather all the necessary tools and equipment:

  • The snatch block itself
  • Shackles and pins for secure attachment
  • Slings or straps (if not directly shackling to an anchor point)
  • A wrench or pliers for tightening shackle pins

Each of these items plays a crucial role in ensuring a safe and effective winching operation.

How to Install Snatch Block: Step-by-Step Installation Process

Install Snatch Block

1. Ensure Winch is Securely Mounted

Before you begin, make sure your winch is firmly mounted on your vehicle. Check all the bolts and mounting points to ensure they are tight and secure.

A loose winch can not only be ineffective but also very dangerous. If the winch comes loose during operation, it could lead to severe accidents or damage to your vehicle.

2. Spool Out Enough Cable for the Job

Next, pull out enough winch cable to reach your anchor point. This step is crucial because if the cable is too short, you won’t be able to set up the snatch block properly.

As you spool out the cable, inspect it for any kinks, tangles, or damage. A damaged cable can snap under load, posing a serious safety risk.

Make sure the cable is smooth and in good condition.

3. Attaching the Snatch Block

Attaching the Snatch Block
a. Open the Snatch Block’s Cheek Plates

The snatch block consists of cheek plates that protect and guide the cable. To insert the cable, you’ll need to open these plates.

This is usually done by removing or loosening a pin that holds the cheek plates together.

Once the pin is removed, the plates can be swung open to expose the sheave, which is the pulley wheel inside the snatch block.

b. Insert Winch Cable into the Sheave

With the cheek plates open, carefully place the winch cable into the groove of the sheave. Make sure the cable sits properly in the groove to avoid slipping or getting pinched.

The sheave is designed to guide the cable smoothly during operation, so correct placement is crucial for efficient and safe winching.

c. Close and Secure the Cheek Plates

After inserting the cable, close the cheek plates and secure them with the pin you removed earlier. Double-check that the pin is fully inserted and locked into place.

This ensures that the cable remains in the sheave and the snatch block functions correctly during use.

The cheek plates should be tightly closed with no gaps.

4. Anchor Point Setup

a. Choose a Solid Anchor

Selecting a reliable anchor point is vital for a successful winching operation. Look for a solid and sturdy object such as a large tree, a heavy rock, or another vehicle.

The anchor point must be able to withstand the pulling force of the winch. If you’re unsure about the strength of your anchor point, consider finding an alternative that is more secure.

b. Use Tree Straps or Recovery Points

If you’re using a tree as an anchor, wrap a tree strap around the trunk. Tree straps are wide and flat, which helps distribute the load evenly and minimizes damage to the tree.

If you’re using another vehicle or a designated recovery point, ensure that these points are designed to handle the load.

Never wrap the winch cable directly around a tree or anchor point, as this can damage both the cable and the anchor.

c. Connect Snatch Block to Anchor with Shackles

Finally, attach the snatch block to your anchor point using shackles. Shackles are U-shaped metal pieces with a pin that can be screwed in to lock them in place.

Insert the shackle through the loop of the tree strap or the recovery point, and then through the hole in the snatch block. Tighten the shackle pin securely to prevent any movement during the winching process.

Make sure all connections are tight and secure before proceeding with your winching operation.

Testing and Adjusting

Alignment Check

When we say “check that the snatch block is aligned correctly,” we’re referring to several key aspects:

a) Vertical Alignment: The snatch block should hang plumb (straight down) from its attachment point when not under load. If it’s tilting to one side, this could indicate an issue with the attachment or that the block itself is damaged.

b) Rope Path: The rope should enter and exit the sheave in a straight line, parallel to the cheek plates. Any deviation can cause the rope to rub against the cheek plates, leading to premature wear or even failure.

c) Swivel Action: Gently push the snatch block from side to side. It should rotate easily around its swivel eye or shackle. Resistance here could mean the swivel is damaged or that the shackle pin is overtightened, both of which can prevent the block from properly aligning under load.

Component Security

This step involves a hands-on check of every connection point:

a) Shackles: Ensure each shackle pin is fully screwed in. If using moused shackles (where wire is used to prevent the pin from unscrewing), check that the mousing is intact.

b) Pins: Some snatch blocks have a retaining pin for the opening cheek plate. Verify this is fully inserted and, if applicable, that any keepers or clips are in place.

c) Cheek Plates: The opening side of the snatch block should be fully closed and latched. There should be no gap, and the securing mechanism (often a spring-loaded pin or bolt) should be engaged.

d) Slings/Straps: If used, inspect that they’re not twisted and that their attachment points (often thimbles) are seated correctly in shackles.

Test Lift or Pull

This is where theory meets practice, but with a crucial safety buffer:

a) Minimal Load: The key here is “minimal.” We’re talking about enough weight to put tension on the system—maybe 10-20% of your intended working load.

This could be achieved by slightly tensioning a winch line or lifting an object that’s heavy enough to straighten the rope but not so heavy that a failure would be catastrophic.

b) Verifying System Integrity: As you apply this light load, you’re watching for several things:

  • Does the snatch block orient itself naturally with the direction of pull?
  • Does the sheave (pulley wheel) rotate smoothly, or is there any catching or grinding?
  • Are all attachment points holding securely without slippage or deformation?

c) Unusual Noises: Listen for anything out of the ordinary. Creaking could indicate wood fibers stretching if you’re using a natural anchor.

Clicking or popping might mean a component is shifting under load when it shouldn’t. A grinding noise from the sheave is a red flag for bearing issues.

d) Movement: Some movement is normal—ropes stretch, anchors may shift slightly as they take up load. But watch for anything excessive:

  • Is an anchor point bending or pulling out?
  • Are shackles or the swivel eye of the snatch block deforming?
  • Is the rope slipping on the sheave instead of turning it?

e) Deformation: This is any change in the shape of components. It could be subtle, like a shackle starting to straighten out, or obvious, like a cheek plate bending. Even small deformations can compromise the rated strength of rigging hardware.

Making Adjustments

If you spot any issues during this test phase, stop and reassess. Common adjustments might include:

  • Repositioning the snatch block or anchor for better alignment
  • Tightening (or sometimes loosening) a shackle pin to allow proper articulation
  • Adding chafe protection if you notice the rope rubbing
  • Reinforcing or changing an anchor point that shows signs of weakness

The goal is to resolve any problems while the system is under minimal stress. Each adjustment should be followed by another light test load to verify the fix.

Graduated Loading

Even after a successful minimal load test, it’s wise to increase the load gradually if possible. This is especially true for complex rigging setups or when working at the higher end of your equipment’s capacity.

By stepping up the load incrementally, you give yourself multiple chances to catch any developing issues before reaching full working load.

Adjusting for Optimal Performance

To ensure the best performance, you need to make a few adjustments:

Positioning the Snatch Block for Better Angles

Place the snatch block in a position that offers the best pulling angle. This helps in reducing the strain on the winch and cable.

Ensuring Cable Runs Smoothly Through Sheave

Check that the cable runs smoothly through the sheave. Any resistance can damage the cable or reduce pulling efficiency.

3. Managing Cable Tension During Setup

Maintain consistent tension on the cable during setup. This prevents slack, which can cause sudden jolts or snaps.

Safety Precautions

Safety should always be your top priority. Here are some crucial precautions:

Inspecting Equipment for Damage

Before use, inspect all equipment for any signs of wear or damage. Replace any faulty parts immediately.

Keeping Clear of the Cable’s Path

Never stand near the path of the winch cable. A snapped cable can cause serious injury.

Using a Cable Dampener or Blanket

Place a cable dampener or a heavy blanket over the winch cable. This helps absorb energy if the cable snaps, reducing the risk of injury.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

  • A binding or sticking sheave often indicates a need for cleaning and lubrication or could signal bearing damage.
  • Misalignment problems may arise from damaged swivels or improper rigging geometry. Always ensure your system allows the snatch block to align naturally with the load.
  • Wear and tear signs like rope grooves in the sheave, elongated eyes, or distorted cheek plates mean it’s time to retire the block.


Using a snatch block with your winch can significantly enhance its pulling power and efficiency. By following the steps outlined in this guide and taking necessary safety precautions, you can tackle tough recovery situations with confidence.

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. But all my reviews and guides are genuine and come from my experience.

Aaron Redstone 

Hi, I'm Aaron, the founder of Off-Road Pull. My love for off-roading began in my teenage years while exploring the diverse landscapes of Arizona.

With more than 16 years of experience in off-roading and winching, I bring a blend of practical know-how and a background in mechanical engineering to provide you with detailed and trustworthy advice.

My passion is to share this knowledge with both newcomers to adventure and experienced off-roaders. When I'm not tackling rugged terrain or crafting in-depth articles, you'll find me capturing the scenic beauty of the outdoors through my lens.

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