Tips on How to Tow Your Car Safely


If your car breaks down, towing is an additional expense that makes a bad situation worse. And in these tough economic times, people are striving to stretch their budgets as far as possible. An alternative to paid towing is to tow the car yourself. That notion is often intimidating to the person who has never done it before. Nevertheless, towing your own car is not that difficult. In fact, it’s just a matter of several simple steps, some precaution, and some common sense. Let’s examine these tips on how to tow your car safely.

• Check the car manual – Each tip that follows is generally true, but there are always exceptions to the rules, and your car may be it. Your manual may have a section dedicated to towing. Otherwise, check the section on starting and operating, which should at least contain details on transfer case state and whether or not it’s appropriate to use lifts.

• Put the towed vehicle in neutral – Otherwise, the wheels remain locked. This not only causes substantial damage to the towed vehicle, but it poses an extremely dangerous safety risk. For most cars, you start the automobile, shift it from park to drive, then from drive to neutral, and then turn off the engine.

• Unlock the steering wheel – During a tow, a locked steering can be dangerous to drivers and passengers and damaging to the towed vehicle. After putting the transmission in neutral and turning the car off, leave the key in the accessory position.

• Avoid handling problems – Most handling problems come about because of a loose or misconfigured link between the two vehicles. Take care at this stage. When using a tow bar, ensure that it’s as parallel to the ground as possible. This limits the stress on the hitch, which makes for better handling, and prevents the towed vehicle from riding up on hard stops.

• Do not allow passengers in towed vehicle – This is a violation in all 50 states. It’s also extremely dangerous for all involved because the towed vehicle is more difficult to control.

• Identify the towed vehicle – Towed vehicles are dangerous to other drivers on the road if they do not realize you are towing it. This is especially true when towing the car forward. Use a sign and a brightly colored ribbon, or similar, to alert other drivers.

• Use break and directional lights – These are important at all times, but especially at night. It’s easy to want to skip this step because it can be a nuisance. However, it is vital for safety that other drivers on the road know your intentions.

• Allow for more stopping distance – Remember, weight dictates stopping speed. If you’re accustomed to the towing vehicle, you’ll be surprised at the difference with the extra weight. It will not only be slower, the brakes will feel different.

• Check your mirrors – Before going anywhere, sit in the primary vehicle, and adjust the vehicle. It is very helpful if you have a partner who can stand out behind the towed vehicle. This will allow you to assess the blind spots.

• Drive slow – Speed puts a great deal of strain on the link between the towing and the towed vehicle. The more strain there is, the more difficult it is to control. Do not exceed 45 mph. If possible, stick to roads where the minimum speed limit is lower than that. Avoid highways, especially where the minimum speed limit is greater than 45 mph. And if you feel the towed vehicle swaying, even if you are below 45 mph, slow down.

• Take the shortest route – Towing your own vehicle should be about getting from local point A to local point B as quickly and safely as possible. Consider the safest, shortest path to the service station. The less time you spend towing, the safer it is.

• Stop and check – If you’re 10 miles away or more from the service station, then stop and pull over at the 10-mile mark. Double-check all connections between the vehicles.

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