Can You Tow A Car Without Keys? Quick and Simple!

Keys or no keys, never let a stranded car ruin your day. You can tow it like a pro! 

Even if you’re dealing with a faulty ignition. 

In this post, I’ll tell you the whys and hows so you’re ready for an easy towing even if you end up in such a situation. Let’s get started.

Can You Tow A Car Without Keys?

Towing a car without keys is indeed possible. How you can do it largely depends on the type of transmission the vehicle has. 

Here’s what you need to know:

Automatic Transmission Car

Most modern automatic cars do not allow you to shift to neutral without the key in the ignition. 

But you can tow an automatic car without keys using a tow dolly or with a flatbed trailer which I’ve discussed in the later segments.

This prevents the transmission from engaging, ensuring safe towing.

Manual Transmission Car

For manual transmission cars, you can usually put the car in neutral without the key. 

Simply disengage the clutch and shift the gear lever to neutral. After that, you can tow the car using tow straps safely.

Equipment Needed To Tow A Car Without Keys

Before attempting to tow a car without keys, you’ll need to gather the appropriate equipment to ensure a safe and successful towing process. 

Here are the essential items you’ll require:

  • Tow Straps or Tow Dolly: For short distances, you can use tow straps to connect the tow vehicle and the one being towed. 
  • Towing Vehicle: You’ll need a sturdy and powerful vehicle capable of towing the weight of the car.
  • Safety Chains: Safety chains are crucial as a backup in case the tow straps or tow dolly fail.
  • Proper Signage: It’s essential to display warning signs on the back of the towed vehicle to alert other drivers.

How To Tow A Car Without Keys

Towing a car without keys can be a challenging situation, but with the right equipment and proper techniques, it’s definitely doable. 

Whether you’re dealing with lost keys or a malfunctioning ignition, knowing how to safely tow a car without keys can be valuable knowledge. 

Here are some methods that work well.

Method 1: Towing with a Tow Dolly

Towing with a tow dolly is a reliable option, especially for longer distances.

The tow dolly provides better stability and control during towing. To make good use of it, follow these steps:

  1. Position The Tow Dolly: Park the towed car on a flat surface and position the tow dolly in front of it or behind it. Ensure the tow dolly is properly aligned.
  2. Secure The Drive Wheels: Use straps or chains to secure the drive wheels of the car onto the tow dolly. Double-check that it’s tightly fastened.
  3. Attach Safety Chains: Cross the safety chains and attach them to the tow dolly and the tow vehicle. This acts as a backup connection in case the main straps fail.
  4. Check Lights And Brakes: Test the taillights, brake lights, and turn signals of both vehicles to ensure they’re working correctly.
  5. Drive Slowly And Cautiously: When everything is set up, drive the tow vehicle slowly and carefully, maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles.

Method 2: Towing with a Flatbed Trailer

Towing a car with a flatbed trailer is a versatile method for transporting non-running vehicles or when car keys are not available. 

Here’s a guide to safely tow a car with a flatbed trailer:

  1. Position The Flatbed Trailer: Park the flatbed trailer on a level surface, properly hitched to the towing vehicle with working brakes and lights.
  2. Prepare The Towed Car: Manually push the car onto the flatbed trailer or use a winch for loading.
  3. Secure The Towed Car: Use heavy-duty straps or chains to tie down the car, focusing on the front and rear axles.
  4. Check Additional Safety Measures: Cross safety chains under the car and attach them to the trailer’s anchor points.
  5. Verify Trailer Lights And Brakes: Test the trailer’s lights and brakes for synchronization with the towing vehicle.
  6. Drive With Caution: Drive slowly and cautiously, maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles, considering increased stopping distance and wider turning radius.
  7. Make Regular Stops: Periodically inspect the straps and connections during the journey to ensure everything remains secure.
Remember, towing a car without keys is best done for short distances. Alongside that, always keep safety as your top priority during the towing process.


Can I get my car towed without being present?

Yes, you can get your car towed without being present. You can arrange for a towing service and leave the keys and necessary documents with a designated person.

Will AAA tow a car without keys?

No, AAA typically requires the keys to be present when towing a car. They need access to the vehicle for safety and liability reasons.

Can a car be towed from the back?

Yes, a car can be towed from the back. Towing from the back is called “backward towing” and is commonly done using a tow truck or a dolly.

Can you tow a car in park?

Towing a car while it is in “Park” can cause severe damage to the transmission. To tow a car, it should be in neutral or have its wheels lifted off the ground.

Can You Put A Car In Neutral Without The Key?

Automatic transmission cars generally do not allow you to shift to neutral without the key in the ignition. However, for cars with manual transmissions, you can usually put the car in neutral without the key.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it! Towing a car without keys might not be an everyday occurrence, but knowing the ropes can be a lifesaver in sticky situations. 

Just remember, safety first! Always double-check your equipment, follow the proper steps, and stay alert during the towing process. 

With these tips under your belt, you’re ready to handle whatever the road throws your way. 

Happy towing, and may your trips be hassle-free!

Ricardo Vaughn
Ricardo Vaughn

Vaughn is a seasoned off-roading expert and professional winch specialist. When he's not out on the trails, he shares his knowledge and experiences through his writing as a blog author in the off-roading and outdoor lifestyle space.

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