The Dynamics of Car Towing

So we’ve talked about the all-important aspects of car towing, the safety and what to in emergencies to ensure that you are out and free from harm and in your home all safe and sound.  But what about the physical mechanics behind how the job is done?  Who cares I hear you say, well, that’s true, this can be very boring stuff and if you’re not interested, hey, no one is forcing you to tread this (unless someone is forcing you to read this than completely ignore that statement and also, that person is a bully and you shouldn’t listen to them).

First of all, let’s look at the types of Car Towing

Flatbed Car Towing

Generally a towing company will offer two forms of towing – Flatbed or Wheel Lift Car Towing. 

Flat Bed Car Towing is when the whole car is lifted onto the back trailer of the tow truck, or the “bed” as we call it in the industry.  This is probably the most common method you see today however due to various reasons, isn’t always the preferred method of car towing.

The advantage is as long as the car can be safely loaded, then the car is completely off the road, and many believe this is the safest form.   It is also easier for the tow truck operator as he doesn’t have to have a car physically touching the ground and being dragged behind him and most people will recommend it for this sake, especially for long distances.  It also advantageous to carry heavier vehicles with this method as the trucks are designed for heavier weights and pulling power.

The tow trucks that use this method however are normally quite long and large which makes it difficult to get them access to certain areas, especially if a car has had an accident in a tight spot.  They also cantor normally get inside tight car parking spaces or inside parking buildings with low ceilings etc.

Wheel lift Car Towing

Wheel Lift Towing is pretty much as it says – when the two front (normally, although it could also be back) wheels are lifted off the ground behind the tow truck with the remaining wheels pulled behind while still on the road. 

Normally this requires a smaller truck to operate the winch and lift and in direct correlation to the car towing method above, allows the operator to get into the many tight spaces that the large flatbed operators cannot (this by all means does not mean that the flat bed operators cannot also provide a wheel lift service – especially if they have numerous cars to tow).

Another advantage is that with the two wheels touching the ground, a car that may have been damaged that prevents it from being dragged (ie, the two front wheels may be damaged or the car is stuck in gear and cannot be winched onto the back of a flatbed tow truck), often this is the quickest method to have the car removed.

Generally, due to the simplicity of the method it is often cheaper and can save the person with the car  a few dollars however the method is limited in a few ways.  Generally most tow trucks will have a weight limit with this towing method and it is not also recommended for things like sports cars and other low vehicles that may have damage caused to the chassis when tipped at an angle

Hook And Chain Car towing

Hook and chain towing is the old fashioned type, and the kind you might see in a cartoon.  It involves a small crane like device on the end of a large ute or truck that winches one end of a vehicle upwards.  Similar the wheel lift method above, two tyres are lifted while the other two are dragged behind.  You don’t see it as often anymore as it isn’t as an effective tow as other methods, plus it had been known to damage vehicles, although rare.

It has similar disadvantages to the wheel lift method in that lower cars that cannot be tilted too far, such as sports cars, cannot be towed due to risk of damage to the back bumper.  In most cases, due to the weight being supported by a crane type device on the back of a smaller vehicle, weight capacity is heavily reduced.

Of course, the similar advantage is that when car towing is required in tight spaces, the towing service is normally much smaller and the operator can manoeuvre his vehicle to get in those tight spots that other vehicles normally cannot.

Car Towing:  Hooking it all up.

Tow truck operators hook different vehicles day in, day out and are experts at their job.  And while we don’t believe you will ever find yourself in a situation where you will have to do this yourself (unless you are a towing service provider) it is good to have this information here somewhere (you never know if there is going to be an emergency).

DISCLAIMER – We by no means recommend doing this yourself unsupervised if you have never done it before.  Even more so if there has been an accident or the car is damaged structurally.

Step 1

The first step is to be in a safe and secure place as best as possible – please see out other blog articles for this information but as a quick run down, you want to make the site as safe as possible for yourself, the tow truck operator, passer byers and even your car (to prevent damage).

Step 2

Align the tow truck as best you can with the vehicle you are intending to tow.   If the car cannot be moved this will be up to the tow truck driver who will try best to manoeuvre the truck, and hopefully lowering the flat bed directly in for of the vehicle for easy access.  The vehicle being towed will most likely need to be in neutral.

Step 3

Secure the vehicle for towing.  This involves a number of different methods to ensure that the vehicle will a) move easily if it is being towed behind the truck and b) will not disconnect, move on the flatbed, or wander behind the truck if being towed.  Normally this involves securing wheels with safety straps.

Step 4

Connect the winch or crane system to the vehicle.  This can be done various ways depending on the car towing system and the type and accessibility to the vehicle.   Most systems these days also have a backup breakaway emergency system should the initial attachment fail

Step 5

Winch the car up or onto the flat bed.  Go slowly and monitor the progress to see if anything looks like it is loosening.   IF everything was aligned to begin with the process should run smoothly however if the vehicle was at an awkward angle or tight spot, you may have to remove the tow truck. 

Step 6

Attach further reinforcement measures or tie downs to ensure that the vehicle is not likely to move.   Further attach any emergency lighting or signage that you may have or believe you require.