When Fred Wihitford attends a farmer meeting, often where he is the speaker, he spends some time looking in the back of pickups. Don't worry, he's not there to steal anything. He's just wanting to see what kind of equipment people use for pin hitches or to pull equipment out if it gets stuck.
Often he's concerned about what he finds. He has taken pictures of some of the things he's seen and put them in a Purdue University Publication, PPP98, all about how to get stuck farm equipment and other vehicles out of the mud. Whitford is Purdue's director of Pesticide Programs.
One thing he finds are chains that are not up to snuff. Often, they have worn links that are already expanding or that are twisted. You may use them several times before they break, but sooner or later, when the load is too great, they will break, he says. If they break and fall to the ground it's not a huge deal, perhaps. If they break and one piece flies back toward a cab window, it can be property damage at best and injury or death at worst. It's not being paranoid if it happens, and it has happened, Whitford says.
He also finds chains where the hook is attached with a bolt. The bolt becomes the weakest link. If it's a bolt that isn't very strong, then it becomes a weak link in the chain. If the bolt breaks the hook is free and there's a problem in the process.
Sometimes chains may look good but they're simply not made of heavy enough weight for the job you ask them to do, he notes. Look for the grade on chains. For example, a chain with a grade of 30 isn't going to be strong enough to pull out a large farm vehicle stuck in the mud.