How To Disconnect Drive Shaft For Towing: A Must-Know Guide

Are you a tow trucker gearing up for your next towing job? In this guide, we’ll walk you through the essential skill of disconnecting the drive shaft for towing. 

It’s a straightforward process that involves locating the drive shaft, loosening the bolts or clips, gently removing it, and securing it safely in your tow truck. 

This guide will teach you to do it for various vehicle types, including RWDs, FWDs, and 4WDs. 

Let’s get started so you can become one step closer to being a pro in towing.

Do I Have To Disconnect The Driveshaft For Towing?

If you’re a tow trucker and you’re towing a car, you might wonder if you need to do something with the driveshaft. Well, it depends on the car you’re towing. 

Some cars, like the ones with power going to the rear or all the wheels, need the driveshaft to be disconnected before towing. 

It’s important because it stops the wheels from spinning the car’s insides and causing damage while you tow it.

But if you’re towing a car with power going to the front wheels, you usually don’t have to do anything with the driveshaft. 

When you put the car in neutral, the front wheels can turn freely without causing any problems.

Remember, though, some FWDs might have special towing rules, so it’s good to check the car’s manual or ask someone who knows about towing.

How To Disconnect Drive Shaft For Towing

Before towing certain rear-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicles, it’s important to remove the drive shaft to avoid damage. 

I’ll tell you how to safely disconnect the drive shaft for towing and how to reattach it later.

Things You’ll Need:

  • Car jack and stands.
  • Basic wrench or socket set.
  • Soft hammer (like a rubber mallet).
  • Rope or strap to secure the driveshaft.
  • Optional: A pan to catch fluid (in case it drips).
  • Grease (for reassembly).
  • Transmission fluid (to top up, if necessary).
Before moving on, make sure to park the car that will be towed on a flat surface, engage the parking brake, and lift the front of the car using a jack. Secure it with jack stands.

How To Remove Drive Shaft From Gearbox

For towing front-wheel-drive vehicles, you need to correctly remove the drive shaft from the gearbox to avoid damage. 

Follow these easy steps for smooth towing without harming the transmission:

  1. Locate the front driveshaft, which connects to the gearbox and front axle.
  2. Identify the connection points at both ends of the front driveshaft.
  3. Use a ratchet and socket to remove any bolts or fasteners securing the front driveshaft to the gearbox and front axle.
  4. Gently pull the front driveshaft away from the gearbox and front axle.
  5. If the front driveshaft is stuck, lightly tap the yoke with a rubber hammer to loosen it.
  6. Secure the front driveshaft to prevent dragging or damage.

How To Remove Drive Shaft From Rear Differential

When towing rear-wheel-drive vehicles, disconnect the drive shaft from the rear differential using these steps to avoid driveline issues:

  1. Locate the driveshaft connected to the rear differential and transmission.
  2. Remove the bolts or clips securing the driveshaft to the rear differential.
  3. Gently pull the driveshaft away from the rear differential.
  4. If stuck, tap it with a rubber hammer to loosen it.
  5. Secure the disconnected driveshaft with a rope or strap.
  6. Ensure the car is in neutral (automatic) or in gear (manual) before towing.
  7. Store the driveshaft safely in the towing vehicle.

How To Remove Drive Shaft In Four-wheel Drive

A normal four-wheel-drive setup has two driveshafts: the rear driveshaft, which connects the transmission to the rear differential, and the front driveshaft, which connects the front differential to the gearbox. 

Here’s how to disconnect drive shaft specifically in 4WDs:

Rear Driveshaft (From Transfer Case):

  1. Put the vehicle in neutral or park.
  2. Locate the rear driveshaft at the back of the transfer case.
  3. Remove the two bolts securing the driveshaft using a wrench or socket set.
  4. Carefully pull out the rear driveshaft from the transfer case.
  5. Secure the driveshaft to prevent dragging or damage.

Front Driveshaft (From Gearbox):

  • Identify the connection points of the front driveshaft at both ends.
  • Detach the front driveshaft from the gearbox and front differential by using a ratchet and socket to remove the bolts or fasteners securing it in place.
  • Carefully pull the front driveshaft away from the gearbox and front differential.
  • If you encounter any resistance, lightly tap the yoke with a rubber hammer to help loosen it.
  • Once the front driveshaft is disconnected, make sure to secure it properly for safety.

Risks Of Towing Without Disconnecting Drive Shaft

Towing a vehicle without disconnecting the driveshaft can lead to some problems:

  • Transmission Damage: If the driveshaft stays connected, the wheels can mess with the transmission, causing costly damage.
  • Drivetrain Stress: Keeping the driveshaft connected puts strain on the drivetrain parts, like the differential and axles, making them wear out sooner.
  • Driveline Vibration: Skipping the disconnecting part might cause annoying vibrations while towing because the alignment gets messed up.
  • Warranty Problems: If you don’t disconnect the driveshaft when needed, you might end up voiding the car’s warranty. That’s bad news for everyone.


Do you have to disconnect drive shaft when towing on dolly?

No, you don’t need to disconnect the driveshaft when using a tow dolly. The dolly lifts the front wheels, so the driveshaft won’t spin.

Can you tow an AWD car in neutral?

It’s not recommended to tow an AWD car in neutral. Towing can cause transmission or drivetrain damage.

Why do you mark a drive shaft when removing?

Marking the driveshaft helps reassemble it correctly.

Can I tow a car safely in neutral without disconnecting a drive train?

Front-wheel-drive cars can be towed in neutral without disconnecting the drivetrain. But rear-wheel-drive and some 4WD cars need the driveshaft disconnected.

Does towing a car add mileage to odometer?

Towing with all four wheels off the ground won’t add mileage. But flat towing with the driveshaft connected will increase the odometer reading.

Why do you remove half shaft when towing?

Removing half shafts in front-wheel-drive cars protects the transmission during towing, ensuring safe towing.

Final Thoughts

To play it safe and avoid these issues, always check the manufacturer’s guidelines and disconnect the driveshaft when necessary. 

It’s a simple thing that protects the car you’re towing and your reputation as a responsible tow trucker.

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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