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Car towing: everything you need to know, listed

Latest car guides

December 21st 2021 info

Breakdowns are a major inconvenience. They come at the worst of times and can leave many motorists stranded. Aside from calling your insurance company and arranging a roadside recovery, there’s not much that can be done to get out of these situations.

In some people’s driving career, there comes a time when we must give someone else a helping hand out of a ditch or treacherous piece of land. In these situations, knowing the dos and don’ts of towing a car is essential.

Keep yourself prepared for the inevitability of towing with our full guide on everything you need to know to tow a car.

Before you begin

First thing’s first: there are a few different methods of towing a car. Which one you choose ultimately comes down to your situation, as different tactics are more applicable to certain scenarios than others.

Before you do anything, there are a few things you’ll need to get started:

Tow Ropes/Straps: Tow ropes attach directly between two cars as a quick and easy towing method. These are great for B roads but may not be best suited for towing a car on a motorway.

Tow Bars: Tow bars are essentially a much stronger version of a tow rope. They are made from durable metal and can therefore give increased stability on long towing journeys.

Appropriate vehicle: Perhaps the very first thing you should look for when towing a car would be an ample sized car. Realistically, the car being towed should be smaller than the car doing the towing, while the towing car should be able to pull at least 90bhp to get things moving.

Legal signage: In the UK, all cars being towed are required to display an “On Tow” sign to alert other drivers as to what’s going on. These signs can be placed on the tow car’s body or windscreen, and not displaying them could result in a fine.

Correct licensing details: There are certain limits surrounding towing cars, which are reflected in your driving license. Depending on when you passed your test, you may be able to tow more cars than others. You can find out your restrictions on the UK government website.

Vehicle transmission: It’s worth noting that only cars with a manual transmission can be towed. Automatic cars may require further specialist equipment and as such, you may need to call a mechanic.

How to tow a car

Once you’ve established everything you need, now comes the time to start towing.

Using a towbar

Using a towbar is one of the safest methods of towing a car. By using two physical poles made from strong metal, drivers can rest assured knowing that their car will be controlled for the whole journey.

Here’s how to tow a car with a towbar:

  1.  Park on a level surface
  2. Measure the height differences between both vehicles
  3. Move close to the tow vehicle
  4. Release both vehicle’s hitch points
  5. Engage the ignition for the tow vehicle to prevent the steering wheel from locking up
  6. Attach the tow bar arms to both vehicles (this varies on a car-by-car basis, so consult your manual for further instructions)
  7. Connect the wiring harness to enable brake/indication lights

Using tow rope

While tow ropes aren’t as strong as traditional tow bars, they are a much more cost-effective method of towing a car. Plus, they can be stored much easier thanks to their lightweight design and smaller size:

  1.  Park both cars close together
  2. Tie the tow rope around the tow vehicle’s hitch point
  3. Connect the other end of the rope to the towing car’s chassis
  4. Slowly move the vehicles apart to pull the tow rope tight
  5. Always keep a driver in both vehicles

Note: The law states that tow ropes must not exceed 4.5 metres in length. This gives drivers ample time to stop and react to emerging road situations. Anything longer than this could be a safety hazard and runs the risk of breaking the law and facing prosecution.

Driving safely while towing another car

While driving with a tow vehicle might sound straightforward, there are some extra things you can do to ensure complete safety on your journey.

Plan your route

While the temptation might be to drive blindly, picking a pre-defined route with a sat-nav or physical map can help you avoid any traffic jams and optimise fuel usage. This is especially useful when towing, as any stopping and starting will prove to be a considerable nuisance.

Reducing speed

Driving is unpredictable at the best of times. However, this is exacerbated even further when towing another car. As such, cutting down on your speed increases your ability to react to things promptly.

Make wide turns

Driving with a tow car is different than regular driving. Much like driving a lorry, there’s an additional vehicle attached very closely to your own. So, it is vital to take wider turns around corners and roundabouts. This ensures that not only you get past, but so does the car you’re towing.

Install tow mirrors

When towing wide vehicles, your side-by-side vision can become compromised. This leaves you prone to all sorts of accidents like side swipes and, crucially, incorrectly noticing cyclists.

Thankfully, drivers have the option of buying tow mirrors that clamp onto your car’s wing mirrors to give an extended field of view.

Driving safety guidance with findandfundmycar.com

We hope that you’ll never have to action this advice, but it always helps to come prepared for these types of situations.

Whatever happens, make sure your next car is as safe as possible by going through a reliable, trustworthy dealer. Browse today and discover high quality used cars from the very best retailers across the UK at findandfundmycar.com.

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