If you’ve ever needed a tow truck, you may have felt that growing dread as you watched the tow truck driver raise your car’s front wheels off of the ground. There is a good reason for this concern: Not all towing companies know the proper procedures for lifting and towing a vehicle. An improperly towed car can quickly become damaged, and that can lead to serious inconvenience.
To avoid such difficulty, we want to help you prepare for your towing experience. These four tips may seem like common sense to some, but most people don’t take time to do these things. Perhaps that’s why towing damage is not uncommon.
Note: This blog applies to people who have a choice about who is towing your car. If someone hauls you for parking in the wrong place, then you probably won’t have an opportunity to take these actions.
1. Choose the Best Towing Company
We have no shame in plugging our services here: In the San Diego area, you should contact NK Towing. Anywhere else, you may have to do some research. It’s worth five minutes on your phone to identify a towing company with an exemplary reputation and service record. Check customer reviews, consumer ratings, and ask friends for recommendations.
Unless you work for a towing company, we do not recommend towing your own vehicle. Towing is a specialized service that requires training and specific equipment. Without proper training, you could cause a great deal of damage to your car, and your insurance company might have an easy time talking their way out of covering it. For a more in-depth explanation as to why towing your own vehicle is a bad idea, you can read our blog on this topic.
2. Request a Flatbed Tow Truck
Whether accessing the vehicle from the front or back, flatbed tow trucks minimize the chance of damaging the axles or transmission. This is because they use a winch to pull your vehicle onto the end of the truck, where it will not contact the road. It will rest secure, tied (or chained) in a stationary position, while riding horizontally.
Hook-and-chain or wheel lift tow trucks can’t offer this protection. They raise up two wheels (usually the front) while the back wheels remain in contact with the ground. With either type of truck, the risk of damage is much higher with the rear wheels raised than the front, as the front wheels connect to the drive train. However, either way, the axles of the wheels on the ground will be absorbing bumps and uneven surfaces. This can damage your front or rear bumper, or the axles themselves.
With hook-and-chain or wheel lift tow trucks you are at the mercy of your driver. If they can’t mitigate challenging road surfaces, tight spaces, or traffic conditions, your car can easily sustain damage. The longer the distance your vehicle must travel the higher the risk. Also, remember that your car’s lower wheels are carrying most of its weight. To avoid all of these difficulties, your car is much safer riding high on a flatbed.
3. Put your Vehicle in Neutral
Although tow truck drivers have tricks for working around a vehicle that is stuck in park, if the driver is present, they are better off putting the car in neutral. In neutral, the wheels roll freely, and thus there is minimal impact to the drive train. This is especially necessary when the front wheels are on the ground. Even on the back of a flatbed truck, a car will rock back and forth slightly. Also – if two wheels are on the ground, leave the engine running. (Make sure your vehicle is not in gear.)
Your driver should know that your car should be in neutral. However, we tell you this for your knowledge, to ensure your vehicle’s protection.
4. Check the Towing Capacity against your Car’s Weight
If your vehicle is too heavy for the truck that your driver arrives in, you can have all kinds of problems in transit. For example, on an inclined surface, the tandem could topple, presenting dangers for the vehicles and other motorists. However, in any case, the excess weight could result in damage to the towing equipment, the truck, and to your car, should it begin to drop from its upright position.
Of course, the tow truck driver should already know from your phone call what kind of vehicle he will need. If they don’t have a large enough truck, you can request one. This might make your wait longer, but as the saying goes, “better safe than sorry.”