There could come a time you find yourself in an emergency situation and you need to tow someone’s car or have yours moved quickly. It could be a vehicle that needs to be pulled out of a ditch or snow bank. It could also be a vehicle that has broken down and is interfering with traffic or is in an unsafe location and you don’t have time to wait for the arrival of a professional tow operator.
If you think towing another vehicle behind you is a pretty straightforward operation, it isn’t.
Towing another car, especially for a long distance, can be dangerous and you run the risk of damaging your vehicle and transmission if not done properly. First thing to do is check the section about towing in your vehicle owners’ manual before you tow.
Here are some tips to help get you safely hooked up.
Before You Tow
- Inspect the towrope for damage or wear and tear. Do not use if it is damaged.
- Locate the towing eye and securely attach the towrope to each vehicle. Do not attach a towrope to a bumper or any other part of the vehicle that could tear off.
- Depending on the situation, display an ‘On Tow’ sign at the rear of the vehicle being towed or hang a flag from the trunk.
- Put the towed vehicle ignition switch in the ‘on’ position to unlock the steering lock and run the engine if possible.
- In the event the towed vehicle engine isn’t running, it will take extra strength and effort to operate the power steering and/or power brakes (which most modern vehicles come equipped with).
The Towing Vehicle
- Turn on warning signals or emergency flashers.
- Gently pull away to prevent the towrope from snapping or the risk of the towrope breaking.
- Keep your speed minimal and adequate towing distance between vehicles to allow for safe braking and turns for the driver being towed.
- Avoid any sudden braking. Tap the brake pedal in advance of a full brake to alert the towed driver of an impending full brake.
- Avoid sudden changes in direction, manoeuvres and acceleration. If the towed vehicle doesn’t have a running engine or power assisted steering or brakes this creates minimal reaction time for the driver being towed.
- Try to keep the tow rope from dragging on the road. The goal is to always keep a bit of tension in the tow rope to help avoid the jerking motion of your vehicle.
- For added safety, take along a passenger to help keep an eye on what’s happening behind you.
- Keep an eye on your engine temperature gauge since it is working harder than usual.
The Towed Vehicle
- Use warning signals or emergency flashers (if possible).
- Set the vehicle gear to neutral if you do not have engine power.
- Watch the brake lights and indicators of the towing vehicle to allow for enough reaction time of a pending manoeuvre.
- Steer and brake your vehicle in unison with the towing vehicle.
If your vehicle breaks down, ideally you should get help from a professional tow truck equipped for this task. However, if you must use another vehicle to tow, take your time to do it right and do it safely. It may never happen to you but it’s always good to know the steps in the event you are caught in the situation.
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