How to Tow Cars

If you are stuck and can't get your car going, you may have to tow it to a mechanic's shop or a safe place to do repairs yourself. Here are some steps to help you tow cars safely.


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    Find someone with a vehicle powerful enough to tow yours. A sedan or small car probably shouldn't be used to tow an SUV or large pickup.
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    Buy a suitable tow strap. In a pinch, a chain can be used to tow a vehicle a short distance, but this can be dangerous, as chains do not stretch, and links can break during towing. A nylon or polyester strap with manufactured end loops is better for safely towing.
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    Find a suitable place to attach your tow strap. A bumper hitch with a trailer ball will work for the tow vehicle, but hooking to the car to be towed can be tricky, since suspension components are not designed for pulling pressure, and other metal components can cut or pinch your strap. Ideally, a rounded frame member or front bumper support can be used for your attachment, but these vary considerably between vehicles.
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    Check the brakes, steering, and warning lamps to make sure they are functioning sufficiently for your tow. If the vehicle is equipped with power brakes and steering, their use is limited if your engine will not run while being towed. In this case, renting a dolly is a better option.
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    Make an inspection of your towing connections and discuss signalling plans with your tow driver. Plan an exact route, and try to choose one that avoids congested traffic areas or high speed roads.
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    Climb in behind the wheel of the vehicle being towed, disengage the parking brake, and put the vehicle in neutral. Hold the foot brake lightly to prevent the vehicle from rolling until the slack is taken up from the towing vehicle.
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    Have a spotter flag the tow vehicle until the tow line is taut, then release the brake in the vehicle being towed, and prepare to be pulled.
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    Steer in a straight track with the vehicle pulling the towed car. Brake slightly if the towing vehicle slows, or starts down a hill where your speed may cause you to begin to overtake him. Slack in the tow line while travelling can result in a serious jolt if the vehicle pulling your speeds up suddenly. By keeping the tow line tight, this risk is greatly reduced.
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    Signal turns in the vehicle being towed to let cars behind you know you will be slowing.


  • Some jurisdictions require a Vehicle in Tow or In Tow sign on the vehicle's rear that is being towed.
  • Use your emergency flashers while being towed to warn traffic
  • Some jurisdictions prohibit towing a vehicle on public roadways
  • The rear person does the braking for the most part; this keeps the line taut.

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Categories: Driving Techniques