Offroading and Overlanding Recovery Shackle Pin Size Comprehensive Guide

Choosing the Correct Recovery Shackle Size for Your Vehicle: A Comprehensive Guide

Recovery shackles are essential tools for off-road enthusiasts and anyone who ventures into challenging terrain with their vehicle. Whether you're tackling mud, rocks, or steep inclines, having the right recovery gear can make all the difference between a successful adventure and a frustrating recovery operation. One critical aspect of recovery gear often overlooked is the size of the shackles used in the process.

In this guide, we'll delve into the importance of selecting the correct recovery shackle size for your vehicle's bumper or tow point, with focus on shackle pin size, highlighting key considerations and providing valuable insights to help you make informed decisions.

Understanding Recovery Shackles and Sizes

Recovery shackles in general are robust metal loops with a pin or threaded collar used to connect recovery straps, snatch blocks, and other recovery gear to vehicles or anchor points. They play a pivotal role in safely extracting stuck vehicles from challenging situations, distributing forces evenly during recoveries.

Dee Ring Chain Shackle D-Ring

In off-roading or overlanding, recovery shackles are most commonly referred to as D-Rings, but this is actually the incorrect usage of the name related to the type of shackles used for off-road recovery and towing. "Dee" Ring chain shackles, characterized by their specific and distinct "D" shape do not bow outward, are intended for chain and primarily used for straight-line pulls in rigging, not off-road recovery. In contrast, the correct name, anchor shackles, feature a more pronounced, rounded shape with a wider bow, allowing them to accommodate multi-directional pulls that often occur in off-road recovery.

Moose Knuckle Offroad Screw Pin Anchor Shackle with Lanyard

Anchor shackles, often also called “bow” shackles because of the bowed outward shape typically have higher load capacities and are preferred for heavy-duty lifting and rigging tasks where versatility and strength are paramount. Understanding the differences between these two shackles enables users to select the appropriate hardware for their specific needs, ensuring safety and efficiency in off-road recovery.

Important Factors to Consider When Choosing Shackle Size

Vehicle Weight and Size:

Working Load Limit WLL on Split Shackle

The weight and size of your vehicle directly influence the load-bearing capacity required of the recovery shackle. Larger vehicles, such as trucks and SUVs, typically demand heavier-duty shackles to handle the increased stress exerted during recovery. Below is a quick summary of shackle size compared to general vehicle sizes. But vehicle weight compared to the Working Load Limit (WLL) of the shackle ultimately is the deciding factor in shackle choice. Never choose a shackle WLL limit below the gross weight of your vehicle while also allowing for additional margin for safety and stuck vehicle situations.

  • Large Truck and Utility Vehicles - ⅞ Shackles
  • Full Size Trucks, Jeeps and SUV’s - ¾ Shackles
  • Small Trucks, UTV, Side by Sides and Power Sports - ⅝ and ½ Shackles

Tow Point Strength:

Assess the strength of your vehicle's tow points or recovery attachment points. Bumpers and chassis-mounted recovery points are engineered to withstand specific loads. It's crucial to match the shackle size to the rated capacity of these attachment points to prevent failures or damage.

Shackle Material and Strength:

Recovery shackles are available in various materials, including steel and synthetic alternatives like high-strength polymer soft shackles. Steel shackles are renowned for their durability and strength, making them a popular choice for heavy-duty applications. Ensure that the shackle's weight rating aligns with the demands of your vehicle and intended usage.

Shackle Diameter:

The diameter of a standard anchor shackle's body (the lower section of the shackle body) determines its load-bearing capacity. Larger diameter shackles typically offer higher load ratings and greater strength, providing added safety margins during recovery operations. Consider the diameter requirements specified by your vehicle manufacturer and more importantly related to your vehicle's weight.

Stuck Vehicle Weight and WLL (Working Load Limit) Consideration:

The weight of a vehicle and its weight when stuck in deep sand, mud or rocks can vary significantly, impacting recovery efforts and considerations. Under normal conditions, a vehicle's weight remains relatively consistent, determined by its make, model, and accessories. However, when a vehicle becomes entrenched in deep sand, mud or rocks, its effective weight increases dramatically due to resistance from the surrounding terrain. The added resistance from the soft ground or terrain effectively amplifies the vehicle's weight, making recovery efforts more challenging and requiring specialized equipment like winches, recovery straps, and traction aids to extricate the vehicle safely. This substantial increase in effective weight underscores the importance of proper recovery techniques and equipment selection to avoid damage to both the vehicle and surrounding environment while ensuring a successful recovery operation. It is very important to factor this into your choice in shackle size and working load limit when purchasing shackles for your vehicle.

Evaluating Shackle Pin Size and Measuring Bumper or Tow Point Holes

The pin diameter of a shackle is typically larger than the diameter of the shackle body. The specific size difference can vary depending on the shackle's design, intended use, and manufacturer specifications. As a general guideline, the pin diameter is often approximately 15% or ⅛ inch larger than the shackle stated size or diameter of the shackle body. This larger pin diameter helps distribute loads more effectively and reduces the risk of pin failure or bending, enhancing the overall strength and reliability of the shackle during rigging and recovery operations. Additionally, the increased pin diameter provides greater surface area for secure attachment of rigging equipment, ensuring a robust and dependable connection in challenging conditions. Before purchasing recovery shackles, it's essential to measure the diameter of the pinhole on your vehicle's bumper or tow point accurately.

Here's a quick reference list for the most common size recovery shackles and their pin diameters:

  • ⅞ shackle - 1.0 inch pin diameter
  • ¾ shackle - ⅞ inch pin diameter
  • ⅝ shackle - ¾ inch pin diameter
  • ½ shackle - ⅝ inch pin diameter

Follow these steps to determine the pinhole size effectively:

Calaper internal jaws measuring pinhole of recovery soft shackle receiver
  • The most effective way is to use Calipers. Use the internal measuring jaws of the calipers to measure the inside diameter of your tow point pin hole. Move the calipers around while opening them to find the widest part of the hole. The caliper jaws should slide down the round walls of the pinhole to the widest point of the hole if you keep outward pressure on the calipers wiggling them at the same time. The measurement of the pinhole should be slightly larger than the shackle pin diameter. For example, a ¾ recovery shackle typically has a ⅞ inch diameter pin so your bumper shackle mounting hole should be slightly larger than this diameter to accommodate that size pin diameter. Calipers can be purchased reasonably from your local Harbor Freight or Amazon and I always recommend having them around.
    Measuring the shackle mounting hole on a bronco modular bumper with a tape measure
  • If calipers are not readily available you can also use a measuring tape or ruler but this often is not very accurate due to some features that might be incorporated into the design of the shackle mounting hole or recovery tow point. If the hole is beveled, has a radius or some other cosmetic feature incorporated into the design, aligning the measuring tape up or ruler with the true inside diameter of the hole might be difficult creating varying results. If all you have is a measuring tape or ruler ensure that your measurements are accurate to avoid compatibility issues with the selected recovery shackles.
  • Testing the the shackle mounting pinhole on the front bumper of a ford bronco
    The Simplest Solution: Since standard shackle sizes and their pin diameters are based around common bolt sizes we find that the most effective solution is to run down to your local hardware store to buy a couple bolts that are the same size as the shackle pin sizes that you are interested in purchasing. You might even have these bolts in your loose parts bins in your garage or workshop.
    Hardware store partially threaded bolt used to test tow point shackle pinhole on bumper
    The best and cheapest bolt options are partially threaded zinc plated bolts so you can use the not threaded shank portion of the bolt to simulate the shackle pin in order to check your shackle mounting hole size on your vehicle. After testing the hole on your vehicle you can always return the bolts to your hardware store for a refund. (Ask your store about returns before purchasing.) The bolt should fit into the pinhole easily with very little play for an ideal fit putting the least amount of stress on the shackle pin during a vehicle recovery.

Refer to the list below for Shackle Pin Diameter and Test Bolt sizes:

  • ⅞ shackle - 1.0 inch pin diameter - Test Bolt Size: 1.0”-8 Partially Threaded
  • ¾ shackle - ⅞ inch pin diameter - Test Bolt Size: ⅞”-9 Partially Threaded
  • ⅝ shackle - ¾ inch pin diameter - Test Bolt Size: ¾”-10 Partially Threaded
  • ½ shackle - ⅝ inch pin diameter - Test Bolt Size: ⅝”-11 Partially Threaded
Recovery Shackle adapter sleeve spacers

In some cases bumper manufacturers will drill recovery tow point mounting holes much larger than the shackle pin diameter you need. If your mounting holes are much larger than the shackle size you need shackle sleeve adapters or spacers are available and can be used to adapt smaller shackles to larger holes. But remember, gross vehicle weight in relation to working load limit should always be considered first.

What is my Shackle Mounting Width?

Caliper measuring space between ears of recovery shackle

Another variable to consider in your shackle sizing mission is the width between the “ears” of the shackle and how that relates to the width of your bumper shackle mount or recovery mounting point. The ears of the shackle refer to the top round portion of each side of the anchor shackle where the pin slides through or screws into. On a standard screw pin anchor shackle one ear of the shackle will be unthreaded and the order ear will be threaded. Your mount should be narrower than the space between these ears.

Shackle Rattle Rings Washers isolators on modular bronco from bumper

If your mount is much narrower than the space between the ears of the shackle isolators or shackle nylon washers may be needed to fill the gaps between the shackle and the mount on both sides. This helps reduce rattling and reduces stress applied to the shackle pin during sideloading situations. Refer to the shackle specs for the distance between the ears to determine if it is compatible with your vehicle mounts or recovery points.

Other Things to Consider

Consider Tolerance and Clearance: Account for any tolerance or clearance requirements when measuring the pinhole diameter. Some bumpers may have slightly oversized or undersized pinholes, necessitating careful consideration to ensure a proper fit.

Refer to Manufacturer Guidelines: Consult your vehicle manufacturer's specifications or aftermarket bumper documentation for guidance on pinhole sizes and recommended shackle compatibility. Manufacturers often provide detailed information to help enthusiasts make informed decisions regarding recovery gear selection.

Consider Pinhole Reinforcement: In some cases, aftermarket bumpers or recovery points may feature reinforced or enlarged pinholes designed to accommodate heavy-duty shackles and maximize load-bearing capacity. Evaluate the construction and design of your bumper to determine whether any modifications or enhancements are necessary to support larger shackle pins effectively.

Once you have determined the diameter of the pinhole on your bumper or tow point, select recovery shackles with matching pin sizes to ensure a secure and snug fit. Choosing shackles with pins slightly smaller than the pinhole diameter can facilitate easier installation while still maintaining sufficient strength and stability.


Measuring the pinhole diameter on your vehicle's bumper or tow point is an essential step in selecting compatible recovery shackles for off-road applications. By accurately assessing pinhole dimensions and considering factors such as tolerance, clearance, and compatibility, you can ensure a secure and reliable connection between your vehicle and recovery gear.

Split Recovery Shackle open on front Jeep Wrangler ARB bumper

Prioritize safety, precision, and attention to detail throughout the selection and installation process to mitigate risks and enhance the effectiveness of your off-road recovery equipment. By investing time and effort into proper measurement and evaluation, you can optimize the performance and reliability of your vehicle's recovery system, enabling confident exploration of challenging terrain with peace of mind.

Remember, investing in high-quality recovery gear and adhering to manufacturer recommendations are fundamental principles for safe and successful off-road expeditions. Prioritize safety, preparation, and responsible off-road practices to enjoy memorable adventures while minimizing risks and maximizing enjoyment behind the wheel.

Main Takeaways

  • Always consider Gross Vehicle Weight and Stuck Vehicle Weight in relation to working load limit when choosing a shackle size.
  • Use a Partially Threaded Bolt to test your tow point size.
  • Shackle Pin diameters are approximately ⅛ inch larger in diameter than the shackle designated size.
  • Space between the Shackle ears is important.
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