The Basics of Towing
The most important thing when towing a car is your personal safety and that of other motorists. Always think of safety first. Start the tow only if you are sure that factors like weather, terrain or traffic won’t jeopardize your safety or that of others. You need to be sure of the following:
- The car doing the pulling must have a sufficient towing capacity to get the other car moving.
- The tow strap must be of the right standard, with hooks on both ends to easily clip onto both cars. Strong chains can be good substitutes for short distances.
- Check the steering, brakes, and indicators (warning lamps) to make sure they are in proper condition for the functioning of the tow.
Before You Start the Tow
The rear of the car being towed must display the sign ‘ON TOW’ for other drivers to see. You may be happy to know that towing kits (rope and poles) come with the ‘ON TOW’ sign for you to use.
- Examine the rope or straps or poles for any defects, damage or weakness to prevent breakage during the tow as it could be extremely dangerous. Never use a damaged pole or strap.
- Plan the route you will take. Avoid built-up areas or ways that may require stopping and starting.
- Agree on a set of communication signals.
- Attach the tow rope, chain or strap to the strongest members of both cars. Avoid attaching them to bumpers as they may be ripped off.
- Leave the ignition switch in the ‘on’ position in the car being towed to disengage the steering lock. Power steering vehicles will require some elbow grease and much more strength and effort when being towed with the engine off.
How to Tow Your Car Safely
If you are towing the car:
- Drive with great caution and care, keeping speeds low to a maximum of 15mph. This is important to avoid sudden reactions and allowing the driver being towed time to react.
- Use the clutch to carefully pull away to prevent sudden snapping of the ropes.
- Avoid sudden breaking. Just tap lightly on the breaks before actual breaking for the breaking lights to give ample warning to the driver being towed. Remember to NEVER use the towing poles as brakes for the car being towed.
- Using agreed communication signals indicate in plenty of time to inform the other driver of any plans and forewarn him of all other traffic.
- Avoid excessive movements or sudden changes in directions to make it easy for the other driver.
- Always check on your mirrors to ensure everything is fine and pull over if you notice unwanted changes.
If you are being towed:
- Put the car in neutral gear and put the handbrakes off and switch on your ignition.
- Be keen on watching the braking lights and indicators of the towing vehicle to get ample notice of any maneuvers.
- Steer and brake in coordination with the towing driver.
- Try to maintain the tension in the straps and towing poles at all times. You can do this by applying light pressure on the brake pedals while being towed.
Want to learn more about towing? Then watch this video.
Get help if things aren't working out
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