How to Tow Cars – Using Tow Straps

There are a number of ways to tow a vehicle, though some are better for certain situations than others. Tow straps can be a great way to get a vehicle pulled out of mud, snow, or sand, but may not be good for driving on the road. Tow dollies are an inexpensive way to tow front wheel drive vehicles but aren’t very good for AWD or 4WD cars and trucks.

Check local ordinances to ensure using a tow strap is legal. Tow straps are generally considered to be the least safe way to tow a vehicle, and as such, laws may have been passed against the practice where you live. Locate a list of city and state ordinances pertaining to towing and make sure using a tow strap doesn’t violate any local law There are no nationwide laws banning the use of tow straps It’s recommended that you only use tow straps for short trips or in off-road settings.

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Untangle the tow rope and lay it out in front of the vehicle. Place the end of the tow rope that you’ll be connecting to the broken down vehicle in front of it, then work any knots or tangles out of the rope as you lay it down on the ground extended out from the vehicle.[This will help you position the tow vehicle properly. Do not use a tow rope with a knot or tangle in it.


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Inspect the tow rope for damage. If your tow rope is torn or frayed, it could break under pressure when you begin pulling the broken down vehicle. Look the entire tow strap over for any sign of damage and don’t use the strap if you spot some This will not only leave you stranded, but it can also be very dangerous You can purchase a new tow rope at your local auto parts store if the one you have is damaged.
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Locate the “recovery point” on the frame of each vehicle. Many vehicles have “recovery points” on the frame, which are often just holes cut into the frame that you can run a recovery strap through or use a steel hook on. Refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual to help find the recovery point on the front of the vehicle to be towed, and on the back of the vehicle doing the towing .If you still can’t find your vehicle’s recovery point, refer to an application specific service or repair manual. Recovery points are always located on the vehicle’s frame and are usually circular holes cut through thick steel.
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Run the strap or hook through the recovery point on the broken down vehicle. Run the strap through the hole for the recovery point. If it has a hook, use it to hook the strap to itself through the recovery point. If it has a loop at the end, run the strap through the recovery point hole, then run the end of the strap through its own loop to secure it in place . Once you’re done, lay the strap flat on the ground extended out in front of the vehicle again.


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Position the tow vehicle in front of the broken down one. Park it near the end of the tow cable that you laid out in front of the broken down vehicle. Park the tow vehicle so it is lined up with the broken down vehicle so they will both move straight forward when you start towing.Back the vehicle up over the strap by a few feet so there will be some slack to work with. laying the strap out first, you can position the vehicle so there’s isn’t a lot of loose slack in the strap.
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 Attach the tow strap to the back of the tow vehicle. If you have trouble accessing the recovery point on the back of the tow vehicle, you can hook the strap to a tow hitch if your vehicle is equipped with one that is at least a Class 2. If you are unsure about your tow hitch, don’t use it. Some tow hitches have D-rings you can use to secure the tow strap directly to the tow hitch. Don’t hook a metal hook directly to the vehicle if you can help it. Instead, run the strap through the recovery point and hook the strap to itself.
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Pull the tow vehicle forward slowly until the strap is tight. Have the driver of the tow vehicle inch it forward slowly until it places enough tension on the tow strap to lift it up off of the ground. Direct the driver to stop once the strap is tight, but before it begins pulling the broken down vehicle.Watch the strap for any signs of fraying or tearing as more tension is applied . Stop immediately if the strap shows signs of damage.


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Lay a jacket or blanket on the strap. A broken tow strap can be extremely dangerous. If it snaps, the nylon rope will move like a massive whip and if there are metal hooks involved the danger is compounded. Laying a jacket or blanket over the strap will help to reduce the whip effect if the strap breaks. Stand clear of the strap once the blanket is in place.
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Pull the broken down vehicle very slowly. Ensure the broken down vehicle is in neutral. The strap will pull the vehicle toward the tow vehicle, so the driver of the broken down vehicle will need to control its brakes to prevent a collision while you tow. Only use tow straps to pull a vehicle a short distance, like to get it unstuck.If you have a long distance to cover, you should use either a dolly or a trailer. Disconnect the tow straps when you’re done . It is too dangerous to tow a vehicle home using this method.

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