A pick-up truck is a handy tool.
Sure, it gets you from one place to the other, but it can do a ton of other things. It can carry your gear, move heavy things, be a mobile home, and tow a wide variety of things.
Trucks are a great tool for just about any household, and once you have one, it’s hard to remember life without your truck.
Towing other vehicles is one of those tasks that make trucks so helpful.
Whether you’re helping out a friend whose vehicle has died, or you’re picking up your next hobby car, knowing how to use your truck to tow a vehicle is a good skill to know.
Towing another vehicle can be done in three different ways.
In this article, we’ll breakdown the three methods of towing, and give you instructions on how to make each, easy to accomplish while also safe.
Towing with a Strap
This is probably the most basic way to tow a vehicle. It can also be the most dangerous if done incorrectly.
Towing a vehicle with a strap requires some good planning and thoughtful attention to detail.
And, keep in mind, towing a vehicle with a strap isn’t something you do for long distances.
If you need to tow a vehicle for more than just a couple of miles, you should consider either a tow truck or a trailer.
Doing this task in a haste can result in damages to both vehicles, dangerous traffic conditions, and a risk to your personal safety.
If you don’t feel comfortable towing with a strap, your best bet is to hire a tow company. It is better to error on the side of safety, than risk causing harm to people or property.
Understand Local Traffic Laws
While there are no national laws about towing a vehicle with a strap, there may be local laws that prohibit this activity.
Find the “Recovery” Points
Both vehicles will have “recovery” points that should be used for towing. These are generally loops or eye bolts that are connected to the frame of the car.
These points allow you to safely pull the vehicle, using the sturdiest part of the vehicle – the frame.
Recovery points are located on the front and the back of most vehicles (older vehicles may be the exception).
The alternative for the towing vehicle would be a trailer hitch. If your pickup has a trailer hitch, you can use this to pull another car as well.
Inspect the Tow Strap
Lay out the tow strap in front of the car to be towed. Inspect the full length of the strap, looking for cuts or frays.
Pay close attention to the strap at the hooks or loops. Your tow strap should be free of any breaks or frays.
Damage to the strap can cause the strap to break during towing, causing damage to both vehicles.
Attach Strap to Vehicle to be Towed
It’s likely that you’re towing this car because it won’t run or has some other mechanical issue.
Start by attaching the tow strap to this vehicle first, so that you don’t have to awkwardly maneuver the towing vehicle while the strap is attached.
Doing this will reduce the risk that you will drive over the tow strap, potentially causing damage to the tow strap.
Once you’ve connected the strap to the recovery point on the car to be towed, stretch the tow strap out in front of the car.
Attach the Strap to the Towing Vehicle
Slowly back the towing vehicle up to the car to be towed. Use caution to not drive on the strap.
Make sure the towing vehicle is close enough to the vehicle that you’re towing so that the strap can be easily attached, but no so close that you risk knots or kinks in your tow strap.
Remember to use the correct recovery points on the frame, so that you don’t damage your vehicle. If you aren’t sure about the recovery points, you can use your truck’s trailer hitch.
Create Tension in the Strap
When you’ve fully secured the tow strap to the towing vehicle, it’s time to tighten the strap. Slowly pull the towing vehicle forward, until the strap starts to rise from the ground.
Before fulling tightening the strap, lay a blanket or jacket over the strap. This will reduce the whipping action of the strap if it should break when it is completely stretched.
This will protect the vehicles and any people that may be in the vicinity. Apply full tension to the strap, and remove the blanket. You are now almost ready to tow.
Place Towed Vehicle in Neutral
This will allow all four wheels of the towed vehicle to move without difficulty. Most cars will shift into neutral without needing to be mechanically functional.
Slowly Start Moving
Both vehicles will need a driver. The driver of the towed vehicle will need to steer the vehicle and operate the brakes.
This will ensure that the vehicle you are towing can maneuver corners safely, and will not run into the towing vehicle at stop signs and stop lights.
Before you start moving, make sure both cars have their hazard flashers operating. This will let other drivers know that you are towing and should be allowed some extra space.
When towing, it’s good practice to keep as much tension on the tow strap as possible. This will eliminate the jerking and snapping of the tow strap while you are moving the vehicles.
If the tow strap is pulled too hard, it could break, leaving you stuck, and potentially causing damage to one or both vehicles.
Towing with a Dolly
Car dollies are a great tool for towing front wheel drive vehicles or if you are going to be towing a vehicle more than just a few miles.
A towing dolly uses your trailer hitch as a connection point.
To tow a car with a dolly, attach the dolly to the trailer hitch first. Make sure that you properly connect the safety chains and wiring leads to the trailer.
Safety chains should be attached in an “X” under the hitch. This will ensure that the trailer stays centered behind your truck should a chain or the hitch becomes disconnected.
If the car you are towing is functional, you can carefully drive the car onto the dolly.
If the car you are towing isn’t operational, you will need to have at least a couple of people to help push the car onto the dolly.
You will need to make sure that there is a person in the car operating the brakes and steering, so you don’t move the car too far and hit the towing vehicle.
Once the car is on the dolly, strap the tires to the dolly, and make sure the parking brake is disengaged.
You do not need to place a front-wheel-drive car in neutral to tow with a dolly, however, if you are towing a 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive car, check the owner’s manual for the correct way to tow using a dolly.
Towing using a Trailer
This is probably the safest and easiest way to tow a vehicle.
It is also the best way to move a vehicle for long distances.
Like with a dolly, make sure that the trailer is first connected to the towing vehicle, using the hitch, safety chains, and wiring leads.
If you’re towing an operational vehicle, slowly drive the vehicle onto the trailer. If your vehicle isn’t functional, you’ll need to push it on, or pull it on using a winch.
Once the vehicle is on the trailer, make sure you secure all four wheels to the trailer or use a tow strap to connect to the recovery points of the vehicle to the front of the trailer.
If you are traveling for a long distance, it is recommended that you check the straps holding the car to the trailer, frequently during your travels.
This will ensure that you don’t have any unexpected accidents.
Towing a vehicle is one of the handy jobs that your pickup can accomplish when other cars just can’t.
When done correctly, towing can be a safe and simple way to move a car, whether operational or not, from one place to another.
Remember, if you don’t feel comfortable pulling a car with your truck, keep your safety, and the safety of other motorists in mind, and use a tow truck.
However, if you take your time, and follow the simple instructions we’ve provided, towing a car with your truck should be a safe and relatively easy task to complete.