Field Tested :: Truck Claws

Truck Claws

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Or… they may strap on a pair of Truck Claws. Last winter, our hometown in North Dakota was bogged down with “the blizzard of the century.” In the hospital where I work as an emergency physician, staff were getting rides to and from work by volunteers on snowmobiles, and many staff simply slept at the hospital for the entire week because travel was that difficult. I was amazed at how our ambulance service was still able to function in the terrible conditions, and when I inquired, one crew walked me to the ambulance bay and introduced me to Truck Claws.

Truck Claws are an ingenious traction aid that can be strapped to the tire of any vehicle which has adequate clearance between the fender/tire and inside the wheel/brake assembly. The Truck Claws traction plate is strapped to the vehicle’s tire by setting it on top of the tire, feeding the attachment strap behind the tire/wheel assembly and through the wheel’s spoked opening into a ratchet strap. Watch out for the valve stem. Crank the ratchet to tighten the strap around the ratchet’s mandrel, and the traction plate is compressed firmly onto the tire’s traction surface. Once per tire revolution, the Truck Claw will take a mighty purchase into mud, sand, ice, or snow, propelling the quagmired vehicle forward one foot at a time.

The coefficient of friction added to a tire by the application of Truck Claws is orders of magnitude higher than anything afforded by chains, traction boards, or by decreasing tire pressure. This is amazing, given the light weight and ease of storage inside a vehicle, under or behind a seat. I also appreciate that when the bottom of a tire is buried in the mud or snow, Truck Claws are attached to the tops of the tires and will gain their terrain purchase when the tire revolves 180 degrees, putting the traction bar in contact with the ground. Truck Claws are for recovery only, and once you’ve gotten unstuck, they need to be removed immediately.

Author Jon Solberg attaching truck claws to a TRD Tacoma.

Seeing the Truck Claws in action on our local ambulance made me an instant believer. I obtained a set to try on my 2021 AEV Prospector with 37” BFGs and, unfortunately, ran into clearance issues not only between the tire and bumper/fender but also between the inside of the wheel and the disk brake calipers. I had the same issues when I tried to attach them to a new GMC AT4, a Chevy 2500 truck on stock rubber, and a Toyota FJ on 33” BFGs. The Truck Claws did fit, however, on a stock Jeep Wrangler, a Gladiator, and a Toyota Tundra and Tacoma. I watched a plethora of videos showcasing the Truck Claws in action everywhere, from the Arctic to the Bolivian jungle and the Australiana Outback. In each product demonstration, the vehicle had stock-sized wheels and tires. There is no reason that a set of Truck Claws in your own vehicle could not be applied individually to a whole parking lot of stuck vehicles (check clearance before using). This makes Truck Claws money well spent and may save you from getting your own vehicle stuck while helping to recover another.

This product is sturdy, durable, portable, and functional, and I believe when applied to an appropriate vehicle, it could be an extremely useful piece of recovery gear and possibly take the place of several others. Truck Claws are backed by a one-year manufacturer’s warranty and are sold in sets of two and four.

I was able to test the Truck Claws on a newer TRD Tacoma after a March snowstorm. With each tire revolution, these things take monstrously deep gouges to propel the vehicle forward. They are not a Tread Lightly method of travel; they are designed to recover a bogged vehicle at slow speed, under its own power, a short distance until they can be removed. They are not a substitute for airing down, throttle control, running an appropriate tire tread, or carrying other appropriate recovery equipment.

There are three issues to consider with these traction aids:

1) There needs to be a minimum of 2.5 inches of clearance circumferentially between the tire’s traction surface and the inner surface of the wheel well and bumper. Situational axle articulation and steering needs could increase the requirement for more clearance.

2) Large-size, high-performance disk brake calipers may interfere with the attachment strap as it passes through the wheel’s opening, as it did on my AEV Prospector.

3) The user must apply mechanical sympathy to a tire and differential system, which now has orders of magnitude more traction during only a fraction of its rotation. The driver cannot recklessly stomp on the gas and get the tires spinning because this is a large chunk of metal orbiting around the tire (potentially unsafe).

With each wheel revolution, the Truck Claws take a 1” deep“ (front surface) and 2-inch deep (rear surface) by 8” wide bite into the ground.

I found that putting the vehicle in low range and allowing each tire to slowly slip around into position where all truck claws were in contact with the ground, and then gently applying throttle to let the tires move the vehicle forward 8-10 inches, nearly made the Tacoma unstoppable. I can only imagine how incredible this would have been on my Power Wagon with lockers and stock-sized tires (think of those huge, unfilled wheel wheels).

Images: Jacob Aadnes and Truck Claws

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Jon S. Solberg, MD, FAWM, FACEP, is a military- trained, board certified emergency medicine physician; he is a Fellow in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine with a diploma in mountain medicine. His medical exploits have taken him to a jungle hospital in Cameroon, a combat zone field hospital in southern Afghanistan, and across Greenland as the medical officer for the first longitudinal crossing by motor vehicle, to 82.5°N. Passionate about community involvement and education, he teaches wilderness medicine courses, provides direction for EMS, fire departments, and search and rescue groups, and mentors medical students and resident physicians as the Chairman for the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of North Dakota. He and his wife, Agnieszka, enjoy exploring the backcountry in their Power Wagon and Maule M-5 bush plane.