The CarHub Guide to Towing a Vehicle
Posted on April 16, 2021
Here at CarHub, we want you to be prepared for anything including towing a vehicle that may come your way on the road. Picture this: on the way home from cottage country you happen upon a friend’s car in the ditch. The car won’t start and you’re both out of cell phone range.
What do you do?
Well, if you know how to tow and you have the proper equipment for the job, you can get your friend’s car out of that tight spot in a jiffy.
If you don’t have the proper tools or knowledge to do the tow properly, you shouldn’t put yourself and others in a dicey situation by attempting to tow.
For most people, towing a second vehicle is not something that will come up often. When it does, it’s best to be prepared though. At CarHub, we maintain that drivers should know everything that there is to know about their vehicles so we’re going to give you the rundown on how to properly tow a vehicle.
Can You Manage the Tow?
There’s no harm in admitting defeat when it comes to towing. If your vehicle or your gear isn’t up to the task, you could cause serious damage if you attempt the unmanageable.
To know whether or not your vehicle can tow another vehicle, you’re going to have to a bit of the basic sort of sleuthing that is required for any extraneous vehicle performance considerations.
Every vehicle has a tow rating. This is the amount that your vehicle has been judged capable of towing. This can be found in your vehicle’s owner’s manual and usually through a quick Google search.
Next, you’ll need to determine if the vehicle that you’re planning on towing is 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive. Furthermore, the transmission type of the vehicle that you are planning on giving a tow could determine how you choose to attach your tow line - or if you do it at all. The owner’s manual of the towed vehicle will clear up any doubts about what type of transmission and drive train the vehicle has.
Is Your Car Up to the Task? Good question. This part may seem obvious but you just never know: The vehicle that’s doing the towing should be bigger and heavier than the vehicle that’s being towed. It takes a fair amount of engine and braking power to pull two cars and just as much to stop them, especially if conditions are less than ideal.
There should be no one in the vehicle that’s being towed. If there’s no room in the tow vehicle to give the occupants of the disabled car a ride, then the whole operation should be scuttled. If things go awry with the tow, sitting in the tow vehicle is the last place that a person would want to be. This is not to mention that it’s illegal to allow someone to ride in the tow vehicle - all the more reason to avoid this mistake!
Some Basic Precautions
Make sure that you engage the ignition of the vehicle that’s being towed. This will prevent the steering wheel from locking. Also, make sure that you enable the towed vehicle’s parking lights so that it will be readily visible to other drivers at night.
Is your vehicle equipped with a tow hitch? Some SUVs and trucks come pre-equipped with a tow hitch but most cars do not. If you add one to your vehicle in an after-market fashion, make sure that the tow hitch is attached to the chassis of the vehicle. NEVER tow a vehicle using any method other than a tow hitch. There are multiple methods for towing a vehicle but all of them should involve a tow hitch. If you plan on installing a tow hitch to your vehicle but you are nervous about doing it properly, a CarHub certified service technician would be happy to take on the job.
A tow dolly is not likely to be the type of thing that you’d use in a pinch - it will take some forethought to use this method.
The tow dolly lifts the towed car’s front tires off of the ground. This will help to cut back on the driveline wear that other methods can cause. This method also eliminates pushing from the towed car at stops, since the tow dolly absorbs a lot of the inertia that would have otherwise pushed the towed car forward.
If you don’t own a tow dolly they’re easily rentable from most equipment rental facilities!
Tow bars are another towing option. They look like a ‘V’ and they do a great job of towing but unlike the raised tires on the tow dolly, the tow bar is a flat tow. The tow bar attaches to the tow vehicle via the tow hitch.
Also, unlike the tow dolly, the tow bar will allow pushing at stops, which can affect the performance of the tow car and is something to consider when choosing a tow option.
This is the best option for towing a vehicle if this option is available to you. With this option, the towed car is driven directly onto the trailer and strapped to it, eliminating any concerns for erratic behavior from the towed vehicle that could affect the tow vehicle.
A truck will be necessary for using a tow trailer because along with the weight of the towed car, the trailer itself will add to the weight that affects the drive and no cars and not many SUVs on the market today will have the adequate torque to accomplish this safely and effectively.
Can you tow a vehicle with a tow strap?
The short answer to this is NO! Tow straps are meant to pull vehicles for very short distances only. In other words, the tow strap will get the car out of the ditch but it’s not meant to pull the car down the road.
How Do You Tow An All Wheel Drive Vehicle?
An AWD vehicle is going to require a towing option that allows the vehicle to be fully off of the ground, so a tow trailer or a flatbed truck. Since you’re likely not going to have a flatbed truck lying around, this one could come down to the pros.
Vehicles should not be towed by their drive wheels! In the case of an AWD vehicle, there is no way to eliminate this scenario without lifting all of the vehicles off of the road.
Front-wheel drive vehicles should be towed with their rear wheels on the road and rear-wheel drive vehicles should be towed with their front wheels on the road with the steering locked.
For a 4WD vehicle with a manual transmission, it is best to disengage the transfer case. Your owner’s manual will guide you through how to do this. For a 4WD vehicle with an automatic transmission, you’ll have to disengage the rear driveshaft. Again, the owner’s manual will guide you through how to do this properly.
Can My Vehicle Tow a Trailer?
The short answer to this question is, maybe! Again, refer to your owner’s manual for the max towing capacity of your vehicle then compare this to the weight of the trailer. You’ll have to add the weight of the towed vehicle if this is being added to the trailer. Remember, the weight of the towed vehicle can be affected by liquids, accessories, etcetera added to the towed vehicle.
Which Vehicles Can Tow 2500kg?
Specific towing weight is important to know for your tow vehicle and this info can be found in your owner’s manual. If you are looking to purchase a new vehicle and you have designs on using it as a tow car, 2500kg is a good benchmark for whether or not it would be suitable for this purpose.
One thing’s for sure: any trim of the RAM 1500 line would handle this task adequately!
Can Electric Vehicles Tow a Trailer?
As of now, full EV vehicles aren’t ready for the towing prime time. They’re getting there though! Hybrids are a safer bet and it’s beyond doubt that EVs will hit their towing stride soon. Trailer Life gives a breakdown of the towing capacity of popular EV’s and hybrids, for your consideration.
If you want to tow a vehicle with your car, SUV, or truck, it will take a little research to know how to do it properly. Once you get it down though it can bring about wonderful peace of mind to know that one more aspect of the automotive lifestyle has been mastered.
Interested in taking one of these fine haulers for a spin? Book an appointment today to speak to a CarHub Product Advisor!