How to Tow a Vehicle the Right Way

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We often see cars being towed on the roads; although naval vessels and aeroplanes are also towed.

The reasons why a vehicle may need towing are numerous. Mostly, vehicles need towing if they have broken down due to some mechanical or electrical faults. Another reason could be the cases where a vehicle was involved in an accident and got damaged resultantly.

Tow car

Towing capacity is a factor that should be considered when towing a vehicle. The towing capacity, sometimes called maximum towing capacity, is the maximum allowable weight that a vehicle can tow. The towing capacity varies from car to car and it is usually found in the owner’s manual. It is also based on the ability of a vehicle to tow a specific load on a steep incline.

Methods of Towing a Vehicle:

There are 3 methods of towing a vehicle; 4 if you include the Pakistani way.

  1. Towing on a transporter: In this method, all four wheels of the towed car are off the ground and the car is transported via a transporter truck. This method is ideal if the car has had an accident or if it has damaged wheels.
  2. Using a Tow dolly: A tow doll is an excellent way of towing a car. In this method, two wheels of the vehicle are off the ground.

    Tow Dolly
    Tow Dolly
  3. Four-Down: This is one of the most common methods. In this method, all four wheels of the towed vehicle are on the ground. Usually, a rope is used to pull the car along.
  4. Rickshaw Push: This method is quite risky and not recommended at all. This method involves the rickshaw driver pushing a vehicle. The rickshaw driver sets his foot on the rear bumper of the broken-down vehicle being pushed forward. This is risky because a lot of pressure is exerted on the leg of the rickshaw driver. This method has caused injuries to many rickshaw drivers.

Recommended Method of Towing a Vehicle:

The recommended way to tow a vehicle depends on the situation the car is in. If a vehicle has broken down due to some mechanical fault or electrical fault, and there is a mechanic within a few kilometres, then it’s recommended to use the Four-down method or a tow dolly. Tow dollies are usually not found easily in Pakistan, and most people choose to go for the Four down method.

When using the Four- down method, it’s recommended to use a nylon tow rope (Recovery straps). Nylon ropes are ideal because they can stretch and withstand tension. They are also safer than chains, easier to use and are not as heavy. Chains are not ideal towing equipment because they tend to snap and break off when tension is applied.

Tow a car

The ideal towing distance to maintain when towing a car is 4 meters (13 feet) at least. This means that there has to be a minimum of 4 meters between the rear of the car towing and the front of the car being towed. Towing ropes come in different lengths and widths. A general rule of thumb, the width of a towing rope represents the weight that can be pulled. Each inch of width can pull about 10,000 lbs. (5 tonnes) of weight. Typically, 2-3 inches of width is ideal for towing a car.

Tow Rope

On the other hand, if the vehicle has been damaged due to an accident, it is recommended to get it towed on a transporter with all four wheels off the road.

Steps on How to Tow Your Car:

Step 1:

Bring out the Towing rope and examine it for any damages or cuts. Make sure it is not weak or damaged.

Step 2:

Remember to place a “ON TOW” sign on the rear window of the car. This will give the traffic behind your car a heads up, as to why your car is moving slowly on the road.

On Tow

Step 3:

Fasten one end of the rope on the towing mount of the car being towed and the other end on the car that will tow. Make sure that you fasten the rope on the mounts attached to the chassis of the car securely. Make sure that the distance between the two cars is at least 15 feet, in order to give the driver in the car being towed, enough time to apply brakes. There are two towing points located on a car, one close to the bumper (made up of plastic) and the other attached to the chassis.

Towing point

Towing a car

Step 4:

Be clear on the route you will take so that the driver in the car being towed will steer the car easily.

Step 5:

The driver in the car being towed, needs to turn on the ignition and hazard lights. Ignition is necessary to be turned on so that the steering doesn’t lock. Also, make sure the hand brake is pulled down.

Step 6:

Do not drive fast.

These were a few important things that need to be taken care of, when towing a vehicle. Do share your towing experiences with us in the comments below.

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  1. Guest says

    “share your towing experiences”. I’ll share my “correcty”[sic] ideas:

    1. Another method is to use tow-pipe. It is only good for trucks because the momentum of the “behind vehicle” needs to be stopped by the brakes of “front vehicle”.

    2. Military method: They commonly use it for jeeps broken down in warfare. They tie the cars to an old tyre (only tyre, without the rim) which acts as a bumper between the two vehicles.

    3. If the “behind car” does not have a battery, the hazards etc. cannot be turned on.

    4. If the brake of “behind car” has failed (if brake failure is the reason of towing, it is better to get the car repaired as is in its place).

    5. It is more difficult to tow a car with power brakes, because the boost is off when the engine is off.

    6. It is a good idea to brake from the “behind vehicle” so the tow strap or tow rope keeps pulled. Otherwise the “front car” will take a hit as soon as the rope is tensed. The rope can break after a few times it happens.

    7. The “front car” should be heavier and the “behind car” should be lighter. Otherwise front car will bouncing like a rickshaw every time the rope tightens and the driver of “behind car” would have fits of laughter.

  2. Ahmed says

    Useful post.

  3. Shiraz Maqbool says

    I’ll add my bit, based on experience – most cars have tow hooks on both sides, so if your car being towed has a hook on the left, the tow car should place the other end of the hook on their right side and vice versa since on slowing down, the rope tends to get under the front wheels of the car being towed if both cars are hooked up on the same side.

  4. Erik says

    Always make sure you have you vehicle shifted to neutral. You do not want to mess up your transmission. Make sure to do your three point strap down.

    1. Main Winch
    2. Wheel Straps
    3. J-Hooks

    I’ve been towing in Tracy for over 15 years.

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