Different Towing Methods: Safety Must-Knows

I’ve got a question for you: What comes to your mind when you think about towing? 

If it’s just a truck hooking up a car, you’re in for a surprise. 

Towing isn’t just about dragging a car away – there’s more to it than meets the eye. 

Today, I’m going to walk you through the basics of professional towing methods.

There are four primary towing methods:

  • Flatbed Towing
  • Hook and Chain Towing
  • Wheel Lifting Towing
  • Dolly Towing

I’ll go through each of them explaining how the process is and their pros and cons. 

Let’s dive in!

Different Towing Methods Explained

Here’s a breakdown of the towing methods and the best times to use them. 

Method 1: Flatbed Towing

Let’s kick things off with a classic: flatbed towing. 

This method employs a specialized truck equipped with a flat platform to safely ferry the entire vehicle. 

From cars and trucks to SUVs and even motorcycles, flatbed towing eliminates unnecessary wear on your vehicle’s tires and guarantees a smooth, stable ride. 

When to Choose Flatbed Towing

Go for flatbed towing when you’re dealing with high-end rides, all-wheel-drive vehicles, or when your car’s stuck in park mode. 

It’s also the go-to for delicate vehicles that need extra care during transport.

Advantages Of Flatbed Towing:

  • Vehicle Safety: Flatbed towing treats the towed vehicle gently, avoiding strain on its tires, suspension, and transmission – making it a solid choice for luxury rides.
  • Universal Fit: Whether it’s a car, truck, or even a motorcycle, flatbed towing handles them all. The design accommodates various vehicles smoothly.
  • No Mileage Woes: With all four wheels off the ground, there’s no extra mileage added during the tow.

Disadvantages Of Flatbed Towing:

  • Lengthier Process: Setting up a flatbed truck can take a bit longer compared to some other methods, but it’s a worthwhile investment for a safe tow.
  • Takes More Expenses: Due to specialized equipment and careful handling, flatbed towing might be a bit pricier. But the peace of mind you’d get is definitely worth every penny.

Method 2: Hook and Chain Towing

Next up is the hook and chain method, a time-tested approach that’s worth a mention. 

It sounds a bit barbaric, but you can always count on it when you have no other options. 

The method involves affixing a hook and chain to the incapacitated vehicle and lifting it off the ground, either at the front or rear. 

While it was once popular, it has lost favor due to the potential for damage to the towed vehicle’s undercarriage.

When to Choose Hook and Chain Towing

Reserve hook and chain towing for situations where other options aren’t on the table. 

It’s a bit of a throwback, useful for quick solutions during short hauls.

Advantages Of Hook and Chain Towing

  • Quick Fix: When other methods are unavailable, hook and chain towing steps in to get the show on the road quickly.

Disadvantages Of Hook and Chain Towing

  • Leaves Marks: It can leave marks on the towed vehicle. The chains rubbing against the undercarriage? Not the best look.
  • Not Ideal For Modern Cars: For modern vehicles with intricate structures, hook and chain towing might not be the wisest option. They can be a bit finicky.

Method 3: Wheel Lift Towing

Wheel lift towing offers a balance between flatbed and hook and chain towing. 

Using a hydraulic lift, this method raises the vehicle’s front or rear wheels off the ground, allowing the remaining wheels to roll freely. 

Its efficiency and precision make it a popular choice.

When to Choose Wheel Lift Towing

Go for wheel lift towing when speed and precision are key, especially for short-distance tows. 

This method shines when you need to move a vehicle but don’t have time for flatbed towing.

Advantages Of Wheel Lift Towing

  • Speedy Efficiency: Wheel lift towing is all about efficiency. The hydraulic lift mechanism ensures a swift setup, making it a top pick for time-sensitive situations.
  • Pinpoint Control: This method offers precise control over placing the towed vehicle exactly where you want it. Great for navigating tight spots or congested areas.
  • Quick Solution: Need to move a vehicle a short distance pronto? Wheel lift towing often provides the fastest solution. The streamlined process gets you back on track in no time.

Disadvantages Of Wheel Lift Towing

  • Slightly Damaging: Like hook and chain towing, there’s a potential for minor marks on the towed vehicle. Points of contact where the lift connects could result in scratches or dings.
  • Not for All-Wheel-Drive: Wheel lift towing might not be your go-to for all-wheel-drive rides, especially if it’s a longer tow. The method could put too much strain on the transmission and drivetrain.

Method 4: Dolly Towing

Also known as “Two Wheel Towing,” this method involves towing a vehicle with either its front or rear wheels lifted off the ground and secured onto a tow dolly, while the remaining wheels stay on the ground. 

This versatile method is handy for various vehicle configurations and is a common go-to.

When to Choose Dolly Towing

This kind of towing is your best bet when transporting a vehicle that can’t be towed conventionally with all four wheels on the ground. 

Particularly handy for front-wheel-drive vehicles.

Advantages Of Dolly Towing

  • Flexible Front and Rear: Two-wheel car towing and dolly towing offer flexibility, letting you tow with either the front or rear wheels lifted. This adaptability suits various vehicle types.
  • Transmission Care: These methods keep strain off the towed vehicle’s transmission, as only the drive wheels are lifted off the ground.
  • No Extra Mileage: Just like other methods of lifting wheels off the ground, dolly towing prevents extra tire mileage.

Disadvantages Of Dolly Towing

  • Extra Gear Needed: Requires extra gear in the form of a tow dolly. This extra gear adds a layer of complexity to the towing process.
  • Setup Effort: While not as intricate as flatbed towing, it demands more setup than wheel lift towing. Properly securing the towed vehicle onto the dolly is key for a smooth journey.
Remember, each method comes with its own set of strengths and limitations. The key is matching the method to the situation, vehicle type, and safety considerations.

Which Towing Method is Safest?

When it comes to safety, flatbed towing takes the crown. 

The reason is simple: all four wheels of the towed vehicle are lifted off the ground and securely placed on the flatbed. 

This minimizes the risk of any damage to the tires, suspension, or transmission during transport. 

Especially for delicate or luxury vehicles, flatbed towing ensures a smooth and secure journey.

Which Method of Towing is the Fastest?

If you’re in a hurry, wheel lift towing is your go-to. 

It’s efficient. The hydraulic lift does its thing fast, so you spend less time getting ready. Wheel lift towing is the way to go for quick tows over short distances. 

But remember, even when speed matters, safety still rules.


Is it illegal to tow a car with another car?

Rules can change by where you are, but usually, towing a car with another car without the right gear isn’t a great idea and could be against the law in some places.

When should you not use tow haul?

Tow haul mode is for when you’re towing heavy stuff or trailers. Don’t turn it on when you’re not towing, because it could put too much stress on your engine and transmission.

Is it better to tow with a dolly or trailer?

The choice depends on things like your vehicle and how far you’re towing. Dolly towing works well for front-wheel-drive rides, while trailers are stable for bigger loads.

How do you tow a car that can’t be put in neutral?

For cars that can’t be put in neutral, flatbed towing is usually the best way. It avoids extra wear on your tires and transmission.

How do you tow a car with another car without a tow dolly?

Towing a car without a tow dolly isn’t the best idea. If you’re in that situation, talking to pros in towing for safe options is smart.

Final Thoughts

And just like that, you’re in the know about towing methods. 

Remember, it’s not just about moving cars – it’s about the dance of precision and skill on the asphalt stage. 

So, before you set out on a towing trip, take a moment to evaluate the situation and decide on the method that suits it best. 

That way, you can make the right choices for both you and the vehicles you’re responsible for – choose wisely and wield each method skillfully!

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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