The basics of towing

Added 11 August 2017 by

Towing is not as difficult as it may seem to towing or towed driver. It’s not the difficulty of the task itself that will make you stressed, though; instead, you have to remember that towing is not needed unless a car breaks down and this means one of the drivers will already have a good reason to be stressed out. Even if you never had to tow or be towed, it is wise to be prepared in advance; situations like this make it easy to forget the basic rules of towing.

Assistance and checks, or how to avoid towing

Every driver will sooner or later experience the stress of being stuck in the middle of the road in a car which is refusing to move. Nothing makes you luckier than making sure you won’t need luck in the first place so do your best to prevent the car from breaking down. The best way to ensure this is to have it regularly examined, and do it when you’re suspecting something may be happening, not when you’ve waited two months to make sure you were right. Serious breakdowns can often be foreseen; you will see some minor signs suggesting trouble and the car will only refuse to cooperate if you haven’t reacted to them.

You can also make sure you won’t need to be towed by another driver if you invest in roadside assistance. It is there to help you in a number of situations that will require someone else to assist you. There are a number of options to choose from, depending on how much you can agree to spend on the insurance. They can even include changing the wheel or helping you start the car in winter. The most typical use of roadside assistance is towing, though. In the vast majority of cases a tow truck will come for your car and you will be invited to sit in the passenger seat of the truck. The insurers usually provide some terms and conditions of assistance such as the limit of kilometres; for example, your limit of towing distance may be 200 km. Again, a lot depends on how much you are ready to spend, though; there are offers which only allow 200 km but there are also policies which will offer towing for up to 1,200 km, regardless of whether this requires crossing the border or not. Every insurer will offer different conditions and packages so it is always a good idea to make yourself familiar with a few offers to make sure you’re making an informed choice.

The basics of towing: preparing the towed car

If you haven’t been able to prevent a breakdown and you don’t have assistance, you will need to call your friends and family and find someone who can tow your car; it would be best to arrange towing directly to the repairs station. Before you start, make sure the car is prepared for being towed. Check if the car can be towed in the first place, that is, if the brakes, steering wheel and lights are working properly. If they are, place the warning triangle on the left side of your rear windshield (inside the car) and turn on side lights. You will also need to establish a few simple signs you and the person who has agreed to tow you will be able to use to communicate; you can agree to use the lights or a hand gesture as a signal.

When your car is prepared, you will need to hook the towing rope of 4 to 6 m up to both the vehicles; the rope should have a red or yellow flag on it. Always hook frame to frame only. Do not hook the rope to the bumper or the suspension arms. The connection must be very secure; if you hook the rope to the bumper, it may not prove durable enough to be pulled so strongly. The last thing you want when you already have a breakdown is additional cost and trouble. You will also need to determine the route with the other driver; do your best to choose the least busy streets so you can keep reacting to any other vehicles to a minimum. Never tow on a motorway. Only a specialized vehicle can tow on a motorway and even these can only tow as far as the first exit.

The basics of towing: preparing the car which is towing the other one.

When the two vehicles are properly connected, it is time for the towing driver to turn the lights on. The driver must turn on the dipped headlights (daytime running lights won’t be enough!) and do their best to pull away gently and only speed up when the rope tightens. Every manoeuvre should be planned well in advance so that the towed driver can be informed and still have enough time to react (e.g. use the brakes or turn signals). Both the drivers should do their best to keep the tow rope tight at all times. The towing driver must also remember about speed limits; within the city limits it’s 30 km/h and outside it’s 60 km/h.

Towing isn’t too difficult; the first kilometres may be tricky but after that, both the drivers should start feeling more or less confident driving. Still, it is often recommended that the more experienced of the two drivers tows the other one since towing is more difficult than being towed.

5 most common towing mistakes

  1. Lights – the towed car must not have the hazard warning lights on (this makes it impossible for other users of the road to tell what manoeuvres will be performed); the same goes for dipped headlights (which would blind the towing driver). The towed car must have the side lights on. It is the towing car that must have the dipped headlights on.
  2. Towing backwards – cars can only be towed when they are both turned in the same direction! This may sound obvious but at the same time, you may see people trying to use the rear tow hooks in both the cars!
  3. Towing without the driver – there must be a driver in the towed vehicle, too. While this advice may sound absurd, again, once in a while you do hear about people who “forget” that the towed car must also be driven.
  4. Motorways and expressways – remember that it is forbidden to tow on motorways and when you’re driving on an expressway, you cannot exceed 60 km/h.
  5. Lack or wrong placement of warning triangle – the triangle must be placed behind the rear windshield, on the left (not on the right or in the middle!).

May all the above tips never turn out useful for you, though. Drive safely!

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