Home » The Marshal To The Rescue: Cold Start

The Marshal To The Rescue: Cold Start

Cs Marshalrescure

I haven’t given you an update about the 1989 Ford F-150 that David bought for me, named The Marshal by the previous owners, but I have a good one for you now, because the Marshal did a mitzvah. I was walking my three-legged dog and two-legged kid the other night, when I saw a car idling with its nose well into a ditch, helplessly stuck. I knocked on the window to see a frustrated woman in there, who was doing a three-point turn on the dark street, only to find that point two was an unforgiving chasm. I live just down the street, and I know the F-150 has a really low first gear I’ve always wanted to try using for, you know, something, so I told her I’d grab my truck and see what I could do.

I got the truck and a tow strap, looped one end through her Hyundai’s towing eye and the other around my tow hitch. I got in, put it in the granny gear first, and slowly let off the clutch and on the gas. At first, I got some wheelspin, not surprising with cold tires and an empty bed, but pretty soon there was a lurch and a satisfying sensation of mass and motion, and holy shit, the car was freed!

Way to go, Marshal! You made someone’s night significantly less terrible and expensive!

I did have to replace the serpentine belt tensioner sorta recently, too, but once I did that, this old brute has been pretty rock solid.

Plus, modern tow straps are incredible. The one I used looks like something you’d have on a duffel bag but can hold like 5,000 plus pounds. How the hell do they do that?

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44 Responses

  1. I pulled a stick forklift recently. The warehouse guy tried using it to take out the trash and got stuck in a mud puddle. Not surprising with smooth, solid tires and no suspension. I was kind of surprised that I got it out with a 2wd cargo van. Those things are heavy and it had started to sink before I got there but I definitely wasn’t loading up by hand so it came out with a bit of jerking.

  2. As a weekend warrior with a ridiculous truck, I can confirm that having the equipment to do a task and doing the task is quite satisfying.
    Recently pulled a TRD Camry out of a muddy field. It’s front spoiler was resting in mud, and the boards had already been spat out the back.

    1. When I daily drove a TJ (nothing crazy, just 32″ BFG ATs) blizzards were always a justification day. Think my record was 4 cars in 24 hours. Surprisingly none of them were doing anything stupid, just bad luck like Jason mentioned above.

      1. Saw one of those this am, he spun it into a snowbank and high centered it- he was going WAY too fast for the conditions, it was -34 so I left him to his own devices, I have a broken foot and drive a lowered awd Volvo, I would have been no help at all

      2. My fave: Driving a major 2-lane arterial in significant — and relatively rare for us — snowfall; slippery slush and reduced visibility. The Bubba behind me in his jacked-up 4×4, impatient w/my cautious FWD progress, slides into the opposing lane, passes me, and swings unsteadily back ahead . . . continuing right into the ditch that parallels the right edge of the road.
        I couldn’t resist a mental “Hooray! There IS justice!” (And my PT would have been no help at all.)
        However, the 4WD and huge tires that seemed to have fostered overconfidence now turned to his rescue: he applied some power and, throwing mud and turf in his wake, climbed right back up into our lane.
        “Bummer — there goes a minor victory.”

  3. Doing good is good.

    Also, any time I hear “mitzvah” I think of that Letterkenny episode. So thanks for putting that in my brain for the day. Maybe I should change the first line to “A friend needs help, you help ’em”

  4. Aren’t kinetic energy ropes safer than tow straps? Since they give a prolonged tug than a sudden jerk or some such. Seen them work well hundreds of times on YouTube, right?

    1. Depends on the situation. For a low-speed extraction where the pulling vehicle has good traction, no, a solid strap is the better choice. Buried in sand up to the axels? Kinetic ropes all the way.

      1. A couple of winters ago, I pulled out a stuck semi truck with my 1952 John Deere tractor. The tractor itself weighs about 5,000 lbs and had about 34 drawbar horsepower 70 years ago. All we had was a chain, I went slow at first but got wheelspin on the snowy pavement. I told the driver I was going to put some slack in the chain and jerk him. It was a hell of a jolt when the tractor hit the end of the chain but I got the bastard moving and onto clean pavement.
        Long story short, I would have loved to have a kinetic rope that day.

          1. Chains can be ‘knotted’ in a certain way so that they will give & impart some energy before the knot unravels and full force is applied. Got a front seat to this at a coffee shop on a hill where a semi stalled. Wish I could have seen the ‘knotting’, but result was a ball of chain in the middle maybe basketball sized. I could see the stalled semi just barely inching before the knot came undone and they got fully moving.

            Anyone here know the secret?

  5. Modern fibers are insane. I have some Dyneema cord that is like 2 mm thick and has a 1,000 lb breaking strength. I use it for hanging my bear bag when I go camping. The kernmantle ropes I hang off at work are rated to 10,000 lbs, and they’re about as thick as your pinky finger. Seatbelts, too—and those have been basically the same for decades!

    Note: breaking strength and working strength are not the same. Generally speaking, a rope or strap’s safe working load is 1/10 its breaking strength.

  6. Well done!

    To chime in on the ironic stuck 4x4s story dogpile and hopelessly mix metaphors, in the mid 90’s we had a big snow storm in the Seattle area and everyone was told we didn’t have to come in, but I was doing tech support at Sierra and decided to try to get in to work because A) I am a wonderful employee and 2) I needed the hours, so I jumped in my POS ’84 Skyhawk and motored along the unplowed roads to get on the highway and make my way to the office. On the interchange between I 405 and I 90 I look over and there was an H1 Hummer that had somehow wound up in the ditch and the (insert stereotypical yuppie appearance joke here) driver was standing along side with one of those fancy cell phones calling for help. Or his broker. But in either case he obviously didn’t know how to drive a very expensive. near military grade 4WD vehicle in the snow, nor how to extricate himself from the ditch using same vehicle. There wasn’t much I could have done other than take his keys away so I just continued past in my FWD ’84 Skyhawk with the smashed rear fender and went to make bootdisks so people could play Aces Over Europe.

  7. Ref truck names. In 1995 upon my return from an 18 year stay in Germany, I bought a 1974 3/4 T flatbed Chev. Beat to shit ugly but in good mechanical condition. Over the ensuing 25 years it did everything expected of a truck and more. Sold it to a guy who was desperate for some wheels. The truck’s name? B.U.F. an acronym standing for Big Ugly F**ker. He was replaced six months later by a 2004 Silverado 1500 which was immediately named B.U.F. II (2). Hope BUF2 lasts as well as his namesake. I always liked that name.

  8. A substitute mail carrier, driving one of the little Gruman LLVs tried to turn around in our driveway, not noticing the turnaround spot about 20 feet away. She backed off the concrete onto grass, but did not realize there was a downward slope there, and we had been rained on for days. She kept backing up a little more to try to find traction, and by the time I got out there, all 4 wheels were off the driveway. Tow strap around front crossmember and hooked to my 2wd F150, and it popped right out.

    She was super young, and had been scared to death wondering if she was going to have to call into her superiors and get a tow truck dispatched. 5 minutes later she was super relieved and on her way to complete her route. Small things can make a big difference to people.

  9. Awesome! I actually hadn’t been on the autopian for a few days. But during lunch I found myself wondering, “I wonder what the marshal has been up to lately!?” Pulled up the site to check and voila! Glad to see it.

  10. Good on you Sir.
    Maybe its me, but this story sounds familiar. City gal goes home to the country for the holidays, runs into car trouble and falls for a local with a kind heart who helped her out.
    Were you in a Lifetime holiday movie and didn’t know it?

  11. About 30 years ago I lived in Hawai’i and had an orange ’72 Super Beetle. One day at the beach I decided to make a quick u-turn rather than backing up – and I got stuck.

    The already-lowered Beetle was sunk in the sand up to the rear bumper. After I futzed around for a bit, a local braddah drove over with his large pickup and backed it up to my car. He got out, attached a tow strap to his truck, held up the other end, and simply said “Where do you want me to hook this up?”.

    He pulled my car out of the sand and I was extremely grateful. Still am, actually. I offered him lunch, a case of beer, etc. as a thank you but he was waiting for his kid to get out of school across the street and saw I needed help. He said “just a mahalo would be good”. (Mahalo is Hawai’ian for thank you.) I shook his hand and thanked him profusely, then we went on our respective ways.

    He was a mensch, and so were you, Torch.

  12. Glad you were in a position to help! I’ll be that guy and warn against using the hitch ball when performing recoveries like this (especially a bumper mounted hitch ball). There plenty of nightmare tales of one of them becoming a murderous projectile. Ideally I’d recommend frame mounted tow points and a connecting chain or clevises.

    1. Yup, NEVER use the hitch ball. Always use the hitch ears or other non-removable point.

      The ears are those big holes or loops on both sides of the receiver. That’s what they’re there for; recovery straps and hooks (since the hitch blocks typical recovery hooks.)

      1. No the safety chain loops are not there for recovery, they are there for the safety chains when towing a trailer. Depending on the design they will cut right through a strap in quick order.

    2. While there certainly are cases where the ball should not be used, like with a kenitic strap, it was perfectly safe in this instance using a ratchet strap with a small fraction of the ball strength in a dead pull.

    1. I managed to get Silent Bob the box truck stuck in some soft sand at a customer’s beach house a while back, and all me and the GC could come up with was a 20′ NRS strap. We got the truck out, but the strap definitely broke in the process.

  13. I love cars with good names. “The Marshal” is great. My ’94 F150 (also an inline 6) is “Tallahassee”. I gave her that name as she started out as a municipal vehicle in Florida. Anyway, good work, and glad to see the old Marshal poke his head up from time to time!

    1. Tallahassee is a great vehicle name! It would also work for a horse, or a prostitute with a heart of gold. (Maybe that’s an unwritten rule of vehicle naming?)

  14. I feel like the Marshal should lead the moving horde from Michigan to LA. Just saying. your 3 leged dog needs a good road trip in the dead of winter through mountains and the midwest anyway? Right?

  15. Thats being a good neighbor!

    Most people really should keep basics in their cars- including a tow strap, especially in small cars in winter states. A lot of people in trucks or Jeeps would pull you out, but they don’t carry one with them. Electrical extensions work in a pinch.

    Also, dog tax.

    1. I never leave home without my trusty tow chain, hydraulic jack, at least 2 jack stands, and a full compliment of hand tools (daily driving a 24 yr old vehicle teaches some hard lessons).

        1. Probably a white vehicle, based on some of his previous comments.

          (He’s worried that the US isn’t going to be majority white, eventually. It’s an account that should be banned.)

      1. Same here. Ever since I first bought a 4×4 pickup (a 1996 GMC 1500 Sierra in 2004), I’ve always carried tow straps, chains, tools, etc. in the toolbox. I’ve had many opportunities to pull/push people out of sketchy situations (snow, ice, mud, etc.) and it’s always satisfying to know that I was able to help a fellow human’s day get just a little bit better. I parted from my trusty GMC when I gave it to one of my sons in 2010 and then bought a 1999 Silverado 2500, which I drove until 2015 when my first grandchild was born. I looked up the safety ratings on the Chevy and thought “holy hell, I can’t put my grandchild in this truck – it’s a deathtrap!” So I sold it and bought my current truck, a 2004 Toyota Tundra, which has great safety ratings and, as I’ve pointed out before, is the best version of a Ford F150, being an almost exact copy of the 5th Gen F150. Although Jason’s 4th Gen is pretty sweet too, especially with the redoubtable 300 CID straight 6.

        Anyway, nice work Jason! That’s what trucks are for. Welcome to the club and keep on truckin’.

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