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How to tow a car

How to tow a car?

31 October 2022

Towing a car, both for the drivers of the towed and the towing cars is not overly challenging. However, it usually happens in stressful situations when you can’t use the immobilised car. In such moment, one can easily forget about the important rules concerning towing a car. Read more about how to tow a car.


How to tow a car – what do you need

Towing a car is definitely not a pleasant activity. Fortunately, it’s not overly complicated either, and to tow a car you basically need two things:

  • a tow rope,
  • a warning triangle (this – by the way  – is a basic piece of equipment of every car).


Did you know

You might also need booster cables, although they’re not necessary for towing a car itself. The tow rope should be synthetic, with a length of 4-6 meters (this distance between the vehicle towing with the flexible coupling and the towed vehicle is required by the law). The towed car should be marked with a warning triangle on the left side of the towed car.



Types of towing

There are a few types of towing a car. Until recently the most commonly towing seen on the Polish roads was on a flexible coupling – in other words, by means of a tow rope. Towing a car on a rigid hitch used to be an extremely rare view – used in the case of towing trucks and buses.

Nowadays, even the most common towing with the tow rope is becoming obsolete, as insurance companies offer affordable Assistance packages. Thanks to them, towing a car on a tow truck is done by a professional – moreover, you don’t have to pay a lot for this (as it is the case when you order a tow truck service on your own).


Rigid hitch towing

Flexible coupling is not always possible. When the towed car has at least one faulty brake system, then the law prohibits flexible coupling. In such case, towing is possible by means of a rigid hitch –a special pipe is placed between the towed and the towing cars. This solution is convenient because it eliminated the risk – the connection between the cars is rigid, therefore, the connection won’t break, as it sometimes happens in the case of the tow rope.

It also has some disadvantages – you need a special pipe to perform this type of towing. Although it’s folding, the pipe is still quite big – and it definitely takes more space than the rope.



The distance between the vehicles in the rigid hitch connection is shorter than in the flexible coupling, and it’s long up to 3 meters.



Flexible coupling

The correct towing a car with the tow rope requires some skills – although, one cannot acquire it other way than through practice. You should bear in mind the most important rules of towing a car – i.a. to properly assemble the elements (to the towing eye or a hook, and never to e.g. the bumper itself), to maintain the proper speed of the towing vehicle, and, most importantly, to maintain the proper constant tension along the entire rope.

In other words, the rope should be tight throughout the entire ride, so that accelerating doesn’t tug the rope, which could lead to breaking it. Although it seems obvious, videos on the Internet prove that it still needs to be reminded – while towing a car, drivers should be in both cars! Towing n the flexible coupling is prohibited by law when the brakes of the towed car are faulty.


Towing on a tow trucks

It’s definitely the most convenient way of towing a car, as it doesn’t require any additional effort from the unlucky driver. All you need to do is call the breakdown service and wait until a professional takes care of your car. You can also rent a tow truck – and then, in some cases, you can tow your car on your own.



There are various vehicles intended for towing – sometimes the entire towed car is placed on the tow truck, and sometimes, one of its axles rests on the ground. The solution is always adjusted to the immobile car (the things that are taken into account are i.a. the total weight of the towed car, the drive type, etc.).



How to avoid towing a car?

Immobilisation of the vehicle, without the possibility to fix the fault on the spot, is an unpleasant event which can happen to any driver. It’s worth lowering the risk – therefore, you should make every effort to avoid towing.

Regular technical reviews and visits in a workshop definitely help – do it whenever you hear the first disturbing symptoms in the engine operation, sounds of the suspension elements, and not when you think that the visit is necessary (i.e. when you notice grey smoke oozing from under the hood).

Serious failures which immobilise a vehicle on the road often start from small faults which are – for many reasons – ignored by drivers.


Assistance and mini assistance – so that you don’t have to tow on your own

Another very handy solution which allows avoiding towing is the assistance. It provides help in many situations, when you’re not able to handle your car yourself. Its scope is very broad and dependent on the amount of money you’re able to pay to the insurer. It might even include changing a wheel or starting the car in winter. However, the most common use of assistance is towing a car when it becomes immobilised.

Usually, a tow truck is sent for your broken car, and the rest of the ride you spent comfortably in your car as a passenger – then, you don’t have to think how to properly tow a car, what to do when the steering is not working, or pay more attention to other traffic users. This way of towing excludes you steering, so it’s more comfortable.

Generally, the insurer defines certain conditions regarding the limit of kilometers, e.g. that the insurance covers towing up to the distance not further than 200 kilometers. This also depends on how much you’re able to pay – there are certain insurances whose towing distance extends to 200, and even 1200 kilometers, and in some cases it doesn’t matter, whether the failure happens within Poland or in another country.

Every insurance company has their own conditions and packages available, so it’s good to spend some time on analysing which solution is the best for you. Keep in mind that purchasing a third party insurance in one insurance company does not exclude paying for an AC or Assistance in another one!




How to prepare a vehicle for towing?

If you didn’t make it to avoid a failure, and you don’t have assistance, you have no other option than to call a family member or a friend and find somebody who can tow your car, straight to a workshop would be the best. However, before the help arrives, you need to appropriately prepare you car for towing.

  1. Check the technical condition of the towed car.
  2. Mark the towed car well.
  3. Communicate with the towing car driver.
  4. Mark the tow rope with e.g. a yellow or red flag.
  5. Choose the route (you should avoid busy roads, especially in the built-up area, not to make the road usage more difficult both for other road users and yourself).

You start the preparations for towing from checking whether towing is possible at all – i.e. whether there’s no brake system failure, faulty steering or lights issues.  If everything is OK, then place the warning triangle at the back, on the left side behind the window, and turn on the parking lights.

You need to determine communication signs with the towing car driver, especially an alarm sign. It could be e.g. a short lights flash, or a hand gesture, on the basis of which the towed car driver will know that they should pull over as soon as possible and stop the car.

After you have prepared your car for towing, both vehicles should be connected with a strong rope of a length between 4-6 m, marked with a yellow or red flag. It should be done with factory-made handles (a hook or a towing eye) intended for this purpose. Do not attach the rope to the bumper or the control arms. The connection should be done in a way which excludes detachment, and pulling the rope attached to the bumper might simply tear it off. It might cause additional problems and increase expenses you’d have to pay in the workshop.

The last thing you must determine with the towing car driver before towing is the route – choose a less busy route, this way the ride will be smoother. Absolutely avoid highways – towing is prohibited there. On highways, towing is allowed up to the nearest highway exit and it can be done by special vehicles. The breakdown service is responsible for safely towing a car which broke down.


What should the towed car driver remember about?

When both cars are already connected, the towing car driver comes into action. This driver must turn on the dipped headlights (the daytime running lights are not enough, even in sufficient visibility, and the towed car should not have its hazard lights on) and they should make every effort to drive relatively slowly, up to the point of tensing the rope, and only then the towing car driver can start increasing the speed.

It’s also helpful to signalise the towed car driver certain maneuvers the towing car driver is going to do by slowing down or flashing the dipped headlights early enough. Both drivers should pay attention to maintain the tension of the rope throughout the entire ride. The towing car driver must also remember about the speed limits – in the built-up area it’s 30 km/h and outside the built-up areas it’s 60 km/h

Towing a car is not very difficult, and after a several kilometers both drivers should get used to the driving. However, it’s often recommended that the more experienced driver should drive the towed car, as it’s more difficult.


How to tow a car – 8 most common mistakes 

  1. Lights – the towed car should not have its hazard lights on (the drivers behind it won’t be able to see the signal of incoming maneuvers) nor its dipped headlights (they will blind the towing car driver). The towed car must have its parking lights on. The towing car, in turn, must have its dipped headlights on.
  2. Towed car turned backwards – the towed car and the towing car must be facing forward the same direction! It seems obvious, but sometimes you might observe on the road that the rear hooks of both the towing and the towed car were used to connected the vehicles.
  3. Towing with a driver – there must a driver behind the wheel in the towed car. This piece of advice might seem absurd to some. However, there are cases of “clever” people who forget about the necessity of presence of drivers in both cars, which is excluded by the traffic law and the common sense.
  4. Highways and freeways – remember that you mustn’t tow anyone on a highway (a car can be towed by the breakdown service until the nearest exit), and on freeways you mustn’t exceed 60 km/h.
  5. No warning triangle or its wrong placement – the triangle should be placed at the back on the left side, not on the right or in the middle!
  6. Towing a car with an automatic transmission – manufacturers’ recommendations explicitly exclude towing a car with the automatic transmission, although some allow this in certain conditions. However, it’s not worth risking, as in the case of a car with the automatic transmission, when the engine is off and there’s no greasing and cooling, it might lead to damaging the transmission.
  7. Towing a car with the electric drive – in this case, it’s much safer to use the tow truck.
  8. Towing a car with the pneumatic suspension – when the engine is off, the suspension is also not working, and the car, figuratively speaking, lays on the ground.


How to tow other vehicles?

Towing a passenger car happens most often, but there are also other situations, e.g. the necessity to:

  • tow a motorcycle
  • tow a truck
  • tow a trailer

When it comes to towing a motorcycle, a car or another motorcycle can be the towing vehicle. You can use here the tow rope which – very important – should be attached in a way which allows its easy detachment (from both vehicles).

In a situation when a truck must be towed, it can only be done by means of the rigid hitch (towing a truck with the flexible coupling is forbidden by the Road Traffic Law). In not sufficient visibility, the towed car should have its parking lights on (and not sending yellow flashes – the hazard lights). What’s important is that if a tractor and a semi-trailer need towing, they should be towed separately (it’s forbidden to tow more than one vehicle, except an articulated vehicle).

It’s also possible to tow a trailer – and often you can do it with the category B driving license. It’s possible for trailer with the gross vehicle weight up to 750 kg, as well as for vehicle over 750 kg GVW, on condition that the weight of the whole set does not exceed 3.5 tones. What’s important is that a trailer heavier than 750 kg must be equipped with its own brake (the so-called overrunning brake).

You already know how to safely tow a passenger car, a motorcycle, or a truck. All that’s left to say is to wish you towing… as seldom as possible!

It is good to know

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How to tow a car?
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How to tow a car?
Towing a car, both for the drivers of the towed and the towing cars is not overly challenging. Read more about how to tow a car.
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