You’ve probably watched countless cars being towed and we’ll admit it looks pretty simple, right? But towing another vehicle is a fairly complex task that comprises of a series of procedures you must be well versed with.
Would you know where to start if a friend asked you to tow his or her vehicle? What do you bring to the scene? Do you pack a chain, rope or tow strap? No need to panic. If you’re not sure how it works, we’ve highlighted a few tips that you must be aware of before running to the rescue.
Good to Know
Before outlining these tips, it’s worth explaining a few basic aspects you must be aware of regarding towing another car. There are some legal implications attached to towing another vehicle. As long as the car has all its four wheels on the ground, it must be fully taxed and insured. So, don’t be caught off-guard when you approach a road block.
7 Important Questions to Ask Yourself
What Do I Bring?
Don’t go rummaging in your backyard or garage in search for any old rope. The consequences of dealing with a snapped rope during towing can be tragic. It’s not a risk you want to take. Rather buy a specialised tool designed to handle such tasks.
An all-purpose tow strap isn’t only sturdy and resilient but is specifically designed to pull heavy weights. Generally, a heavy-duty tow-strap is rated 3.5 tonnes which is strong enough to pull most cars.
Ideally you must always keep one in your car boot along with your jumper cables, spare wheel and reflector triangle. This way you’re always prepared in the case of emergencies.
How Long Should the Tow Strap Be?
There are no legal rules stipulating how long your rope must be. But we strongly recommend that your rope be long enough to leave enough distance between the two cars. This way you give the car being towed ample time to stop or navigate turns.
Ideally the rope must have a maximum allowable length of approximately 4.5m. Some areas require you to attach a flapping, coloured cloth to the rope. This cloth will ensure other motorists easily spot the rope and exercise caution during driving.
Are Signs Necessary?
Usually when you purchase a tow strap, it must come with signage designed to alert other motorists. The sign is then attached behind the towed vehicle. If you don’t have this sign while towing, you may have an unpleasant run-in with the cops.
Should You Switch on the Car Being Towed?
Yes, the ignition of the car must be turned on or else the steering lock won’t move. The end result is the tow car going in a different direction from the car being towed when you approach a curve. The end result is likely to be disastrous.
Must the Lights of the Towed Car Be On?
According to the police, yes. Much like the ignition, the lights on the car being towed must be on especially when it’s dark. This also includes making use of indicator lights when turning as opposed to hand signals. Hand signals are likely to cause a little confusion on the roads which won’t end well.
Can I Tow an Automatic Car?
Cars with automatic transmissions are rather complex when it comes to towing. If wheels of the automatic car being towed come in contact with the road while the engine is off, it may cause damage to the vehicle.
Have a look at the car’s manual to obtain further information regarding how it must be towed. But in our opinion, this may be the time to call a professional tower—just to be on the safe side.
At What Speed Must You Travel When Towing?
The car doing the towing must travel at a very low speed. If you’re the driver make sure of the following:
- Drive as gently as possible to avoid pulling at the rope which can cause a jerking action—or snapping.
- Brake lightly in advance.
- Indicate in advance.
- Observe your temperature gauge regularly because your car will be under pressure which may result in overheating.
- Avoid any sudden manoeuvres, braking or acceleration.
The driver in the car being towed must be even more careful than the one in the tow car. Keep the car in neutral and be sure to follow the cues as set by the driver in the tow vehicle.
It’s important that you follow the above-mentioned tips if you don’t want to end up with two broken down cars as opposed to one. Make sure you properly attach the towing equipment safely and securely before towing.
And remember; if in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance from a qualified mechanic.