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If your car breaks down, there is no way around towing. It doesn’t matter whether this is done with a rope or a tow bar. In both cases, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Towing a car is not so easy

Your owner’s manual will tell you where the towing eye is located and how to tow:

  • If you want to tow your car by rope, nylon ropes or a self-retracting tow strap are best. To prevent the steering wheel lock from engaging, turn the ignition switch to the first position.
  • The tow rope should be no shorter than five feet and approved for the weight of your vehicle. There must also be a red flag attached to the middle of the rope. Drive gently to keep the rope taut.
  • Since both cars have their hazard lights on, give directional signals by hand. In the dark, provide adequate lighting on the towed vehicle.

The disadvantage of the rope is: a roadworthy car may only be towed if it has functioning brakes.

Although it has a much better rebound, its use is recommended only for experienced drivers. If you are inattentive for just a moment, you quickly risk a rear-end collision.

Avoid a rear-end collision with the tow bar

A towbar makes it easier to tow your car because the distance between the two vehicles remains the same. Since the car in front transmits pulling and braking power, broken-down vehicles with defective brakes can be towed. It is advantageous to have an experienced driver in front. After all, he has to steer and brake. Tow bars make it difficult to maneuver cars through tight curves.

  1. First, attach the tow bar to the broken car. Then slowly guide the towing vehicle to the tow bar.
  2. Once the tow bar is securely attached to both vehicles, agree on the route. This will prevent misunderstandings and resulting accidents.
  3. Of course, the hazard lights must be on at both cars.
  4. As with the rope, never drive faster than the permitted 25 to 30 miles per hour.
  5. According to the road traffic regulations, take the fastest route either home or to the nearest workshop.

Tips how to use a tow-bar

tips how to use a tow bar

Tow rope or tow bar?

In general, it is easier to tow a car with a rigid bar. This is because the tow bar always ensures a constant distance between the two vehicles and prevents the person behind from accidentally rear-ending them. This can happen faster than you think. This is because the braking effect is significantly reduced in a broken-down vehicle, as the brake booster is absent for support when the engine is switched off. Nevertheless, you should brake along in the vehicle towed with a tow bar. Also note: the car is more difficult to steer during towing.

The only disadvantage of tow bars: They are heavier and usually more expensive than a rope.

Whether with rope or rod, in general, the tow hooks must always be attached to both cars beforehand and the hooks must be screwed in tightly. This is because newer car models have towing lugs that are screwed into the body and not welded on.

If you tow with rope, you must attach the rope to the respective towing hook of the two cars and hang it between the cars.

You may only use ropes that are marked for towing.

No towing without hazard warning lights

Both vehicles must switch on the hazard warning lights when towing and the lights in the dark. In the case of a defective car, the following always applies: Turn the ignition key to the first position, get out of gear and release the handbrake. If the electronics of automatic vehicles are still intact, always set the gearshift to “N” and start slowly in any case. On cars without an ignition lock and with a start button, the start button must usually be pressed for a few seconds without stepping on the brake, so that the steering wheel lock and the automatic can be unlocked.

Because the hazard lights must remain on without interruption for both cars during towing, changes in direction must be indicated by hand signals. When turning left, this is easy. When turning right, it is best for the driver to point to the right with his hand out of the left side window over the roof of the car!

If the hazard warning lights go on strike after a total failure of the vehicle’s electrical system, you must not tow the car away. In this case, the car must be professionally loaded.

How fast can I drive with a car tow?

Once you’ve carefully inspected your car, it’s time to hit the road. First, we recommend maintaining a speed limit of 55 miles per hour or less. Driving too fast can contribute to issues like car sway and combination disturbance. It can be dangerous for you and other drivers and passengers on the road.

Pass others drivers when you can do so safely without exceeding the recommended speed limit, so long as it is legal. Never exceed the posted speed limit while towing.

Tips to tow a car

  • Plan stops for resting. Avoid towing when you are tired and at night.
  • Inspect car connections at each stop.
  • After 10 miles, retighten lug nuts, check tire pressure, and make sure couplers are secured. Do this again after 25 miles.
  • After 50 miles, make sure cars are secured and that the safety chains are fastened and not dragging the ground.
  • Anticipate stops and brake early.
  • Don’t use cruise control.
  • If a wheel goes off the pavement, ease off the gas pedal and decrease to a speed below 25 miles per hour. Gradually steer back onto the road.

Electric cars cannot be towed

Electric cars usually have to be loaded and cannot be towed safely because energy is usually still generated in the electric motor via an axle. If the energy flows in the e-motor without activated electronics, high induction voltages can occur that damage the control electronics.

Last but not least: Anyone towing a car should always take it to the nearest workshop by the shortest route.


🔧 How are the tow bars fitted to the vehicle?

Tow bars are fitted to particular dedicated mounting points on the vehicle and there is no longer a need to drill the floor to fit the tow bar.

🔧 Do you lock the steering wheel when using a tow bar?

The steering needs to be unlocked, and the wheels will turn accordingly and straightened back out when needed.

🔧 Can a tow bar be fitted to any car?

Yes, you can attach a tow bar almost to any car. Just find out: does your car have it function or not.

Fitting a tow bar to our BMW 5 Series tourer - Video

David Muench (Carnes Mechanical)

David Muench (Carnes Mechanical)

Hey, I’m David. I’ve worked in a cars store for 6 years. I write reviews and guides, helping people to choose the most suitable technicals and best product for them. I’m happy to finally share my knowledge of the industry here, on CarnesMechanical.

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