All Wheel Straps are NOT Created Equal

All wheel straps are

NOT created equal.

How a mistake helped us figure out how to make a better strap.

In our never-ending quest to create a bettter wheel strap, we've found a strap material that is so densely woven, it is rated at 18,000 lb breaking strength. Most of the straps you are familiar with have a 12,000 lb breaking strength, or possibly a 10,000 lb breaking strength.

Why do so many wheel straps have 10,000 or 12,000 lb straps?

Well, it's really a function of WHO is designing the straps. An engineer sitting behind a desk will look at the weakest component to be used in the assembly, and will then find the strap material that most closely matches this. In the types of assemblies used in the auto transport industry, the weakest part of the assembly is almost always the hardware... the hooks and ratchet handles. Most of these are rated between 8,000 lbs and 11,000 lbs breaking strength. So the engineer looks at this and says, “Hmm... might as well use the strap material that comes close to the strength of the hardware... no sense going overboard on the strap.” You see the engineer thinks in terms of tensile strength. He's not necessarily thinking about how strong the strap is going to be after it has been rubbing on the serrated punch plate decking on a car hauler for half a year, left out in all kind of sun, rain and snow. He's not thinking of what happens to the strap underneath the fender of a car, all the things it can rub on, like little sharp pebbles stuck in the tire treads.

And this is not to take anything away from engineers. They just see the world a certain way. Some information is lacking in their world-view. We've been spending every working day for the last eight years selling wheel straps to car haulers, so we get a lot of input from a lot of drivers about what works and what doesn't work with wheel straps.

One thing we've learned about the car haulers with built-in strap ratchet boxes-- they seem to go through the regular wheel straps a little bit faster than the chain trucks that were using old-fashioned hand ratchet wheel straps.

We tried a few different things to see if we could help guys get better life out of their straps. We put Cordura sleeving on every strap, so they could position that on the strap at the place where it was getting worn. Problem with that was, a lot of these straps went to drivers who were not owners of the truck, and they either didn't know what the sleeve was for, or were too busy to use it, or just plain didn't care, because they weren't the one buying the straps.

Since that wasn't the solution, we went back to the drawing board, but nobody really had any brilliant ideas on how to make straps any better we'd already wrote the specs.

Then something interesting happened. Someone made a mistake.

I got a call from one of our big fleet accounts that buys a lot of our 12 foot wheel straps for their Cottrell trailers with the built-in strap ratchet boxes.

He said: “Some of our drivers are complaining about the last batch of straps you sent us.”

“What are they saying is wrong?” I asked.

“They say they don't like them because they're too ropey.”


“Yeah, they say they don't wind around the ratchet as good as the last ones you sent. They say they're too ropey.”

Well, to make a long story short, I ordered a strap from the same warehouse to see what was going on. When I received it, I took it out of the box and compared it to my model strap. It WAS kind of ropey! It was regular two inch, 12,000 lb strap material, but it seemed more loosely woven. Kind of lighter.

I put the two pieces of strap on my desk and looked at them through a magnifying glass.

The “Good” strap, had lots of little yarns woven together quite tightly. The “Bad” strap had thicker yarns, but woven together a little bit looser. I took a pencil out and very carefully counted all the yarns that made up the two inch width of the “Good” strap, and counted 64 yarns. I then did the same with the “Bad” strap, and counted 32 yarns. [bigorangeautohaulerstrpforcottrelldeckplate.jpg]

I called the fabricator and explained the situation to them-- they were unaware, because they ordered strap by the color and by the breaking strength. This was still 12,000 lb breaking strength material. It was just woven differently. Probably if it was going to be used as a cargo strap with a hand ratchet, it wouldn't have made a difference. But for a car hauler using a built-in ratchet box, it DID make a difference.

This got me to thinking about the number of yarns and the density of the weave. If our customers didn't like a looser weave, maybe they'd prefer a strap that was thicker, if such a thing was possible.

“Can you get me a sample piece woven with 64 yarns that can give a 16,000 lb break?” I asked.

I got that sample in and compared it to the 12,000 lb material. It was a nice strap, but you couldn't really tell the difference. Being a salesman and a marketing man since I sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door at the tender age of 18, I knew that what we really needed was demonstrable proof that we had a better quality strap. We needed a strap that was so thick and heavy, our customers would feel it the minute they held it in their hand and compared it to their old straps.

“Can you get me a sample piece with an 18,000 lb breaking strength?” I asked.

I waited a few more weeks, and when the sample material came, I was amazed. It felt A LOT heavier. I grabbed some of it and threaded it through a hand ratchet. Since we were also going to sell these in a hand ratchet model, it couldn't be so thick you couldn't use it like that. It fit the hand ratchet just fine. I showed Scott and we called up Roland and Gunnar.

“I think this could be the next big thing for us,” I said. “I want to buy a truckload of this stuff and get it out into the market. I think it will sell itself once people try it out.”

That is the story of why and how we came out with the Big Orange line of wheel straps. Sometimes your mistakes can lead you to something new and better.

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