The ball hitch on the back of many pickups and SUVs is for towing a trailer. It is not for rescuing an off-road vehicle that’s stuck. That's the job of a shackle hitch receiver. Here we'll explain what a shackle hitch is and why you should have one in your 4×4 or truck. Then once you're educated we'll review the Heavy Duty Shackle Hitch Receiver from Rhino USA. Individual sections will cover:

  • What a shackle hitch receiver is
  • How to use a shackle hitch receiver
  • Choosing the right shackle hitch receiver for your needs
  • A review of the Rhino USA Heavy Duty Shackle Hitch Receiver
  • An introduction to the manufacturer

What a shackle hitch receiver is

If you're going to tow something with your truck, SUV or 4×4 you need a solid mounting point. On most vehicles that's provided by mounting a receiver hitch to the frame at the back of the vehicle. (Some 4×4's have solid bumpers attached directly to the frame, in which case the bumper can be the mounting point.)

In the center of the receiver hitch is a square section opening. That's where you slide in either a ball hitch (for trailer towing,) or a shackle hitch. These openings come in various sizes, with bigger equating to stronger and more rugged. To make things simple they're defined in terms of classes.

A Class 1 or Class 2 receiver has a 1-1/4” opening and is typically only used on cars for towing small trailers or supporting a bike rack. Class 3 and Class 4 receivers have a 2” opening. You'll find these on larger SUV's (the body-on-frame type, not crossovers,) and pickup trucks. A Class 3 receiver can handle up to 6,000 lbs (depending on design,) while a Class 4 can go up to 10,000 lbs. (Again, that's design-dependent.)

The tow hitch – the part that connects to what you plan on pulling – is a square section block that slides into the receiver. It's held in place by a hitch pin that slides through holes in receiver and block and is held in place by a retaining pin. Most hitch pins are 3/8” diameter.

A shackle receiver is a receiver block to which a D-ring shackle is attached. The D-ring is a sturdy piece of steel forged into a ‘C' shape. A bolt goes through the two ends with the receiver block in between, giving it that ‘D' shape. The end of the bolt is threaded so it can screw into one end of the D-ring to hold it in place.

How to use a shackle hitch receiver

Shackle hitches are used together with either a recovery strap, tow strap or snap strap or a winch cable. Its job is to provide a solid connection point so you can rescue a stuck vehicle. That could be one that's bogged down in mud, trapped in a ditch or perhaps stuck on a rock. With a winch and snatch block, (a type of pulley,) you can even do a self-recovery, pulling yourself free.

To use a shackle hitch, start by unscrewing the bolt. Remove the shackle and thread it through the loop at the end of the recovery strap. Then, refit the shackle to the receiver block.

Shackles are designed to take loads on the bolt and at the back of the D-ring. Never load-up the sides of the shackle as those forces will pull it open and could break it.

Another safety note is to weigh down the strap or winch cable, (especially a winch cable.) The reason is that if it was to snap the ends would whip around violently, injuring anyone in their way. A heavy blanket thrown over the strap or cable will do the job. Alternatively, if your recovery accessories come in a handy bag, fill it with something heavy and suspend it from the strap.

Choosing the right shackle hitch receiver for your needs

The most important point to consider is strength. This is expressed in terms of working load, although sometimes you might see the maximum or breaking load. If you anticipate pulling or rescuing something heavy make sure your shackle hitch is strong enough.

Remember though, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Even if your shackle hitch is the strongest on the market the load you can pull is limited to what the weakest component can handle.

Next, consider receiver size. While Class 3 receivers are the most common it's important to check that you're buying the right size hitch. There's no point buying a 2” square shackle hitch if you only have a Class 2 tow hitch on your SUV.

Third, think about whether you want one hole or two through the receiver block for the hitch pin. The advantage of two is that it lets you insert the shackle hitch with the bolt either horizontal or vertical. The difference depends on whether there's any height difference between the two vehicles. If the vehicle being rescued is down in a ditch for example, it may be helpful to insert the shackle with the bolt horizontal to get some vertical movement.

Last, look for tough, durable materials. While you can't exactly test the metal strength you can look at what it weighs. Quality steel parts will be a lot heavier than aluminum!

A review of the Rhino USA Heavy Duty Shackle Hitch Receiver

Rhino describes this as a Heavy Duty shackle hitch receiver, and the numbers bear that out. Tested to 31,418 lbs, it has a working limit of around 10,000 lbs or 5 tons.

The receiver block is made from solid chromoly steel, (an alloy of chromium and molybdenum,) and measures 2” square. That mean it fits in Class 3 and Class 4 receivers. The chromium provides some corrosion protection, but the hitch also receives a hard-wearing black powder coating. With the shackle the assembly weighs 7.5 lbs.

Two holes through the block take a 5/8” hitch pin, letting you mount the shackle horizontally or vertically. (Note that the hitch pin isn't included. That's because most people buying a shackle hitch will already have one.)

The Rhino USA shackle hitch carries a lifetime warranty. Should it ever let you down, just return it and they'll take care of you. Here's a gallery of photos of their Shackle Hitch Receiver:

An introduction to the manufacturer

Based in California, Rhino USA is a father-and-son operation, (technically, a father and his two sons.) Together, these guys share a love of motorcycles and off-roading. Inevitably this led them into various outdoor adventures where they needed high quality rescue and recovery gear.

Finding that many off-road accessories didn't perform as advertised, they decided they could do better, and so in 2015 they started Rhino USA. Today, the company they founded offers a range of high quality accessories for those serious about enjoying the great outdoors. They offer a number of offroading products, including recovery straps, D Ring Shackles and More. Check out their Online Store.

Keep it in your truck

If you're going to use a recovery strap or winch to rescue a vehicle that's stuck, forget about looping the strap over a ball hitch receiver. The ball could be loose and let the strap come off, or it could break off and become a dangerous projectile. Instead, use a shackle hitch receiver.

The Rhino USA shackle hitch receiver is tough and made to last. Tested to over 31,000 lbs, it's strong enough to rescue almost any vehicle from anywhere. Keep it in your truck or SUV along with a good quality recovery strap and you'll be ready when you or someone else gets stuck.

You can find their Heavy Duty Hitch Shackle Receivers either on their website or on Amazon. Here's a few links for you if you're interested in purchasing:


Their Website: