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How to Tow a Car with a Truck

Trucks are known for an array of capabilities that showcase their robust build and stellar power. If you find yourself in a situation where a car must be towed, then owning a pickup truck can be a lifesaver.

Whether a car runs out of gas or breaks down in the middle of the road, towing with a truck can solve those troubles. We’ve organized essential tips to help you understand what you need to know about safely towing a car.

Check out our complete guide on how to tow a car with a truck.  

Important Factors to Consider Before Towing a Car

First things first, you should take into consideration a couple of factors that influence your ability to properly tow a car with your pickup truck. The last thing you want is the towing equipment or car to lose its grip with your truck while driving, consequently endangering yourself and others on the road.

Assess Your Truck’s Maximum Towing Capacity

Your pickup truck’s towing capacity plays a major role in determining whether or not you can safely tow a vehicle. The truck’s towing capacity is the maximum weight it can safely haul. Before you begin towing, you should refer to the owner’s manual or specification sticker located on the driver’s side door jamb for information on its capacities.

It’s important to keep in mind that the vehicle weight of the car being towed should not exceed the maximum towing capacity of your truck. Therefore, you should check the towed car’s weight and factor in the weight of your towing equipment as well. If you need help looking for the latest and greatest pickup trucks for towing, check out our list of the Best Pickup Trucks of 2020.

Check the Specifications of Your Tow Hitch 

Although your pickup truck might be capable of handling the weight of a car, substandard tow hitch specifications can render your towing work useless. Make sure to read the specification sticker and identify if your tow hitch can support the weight of the trailer or dolly and the car being towed.

Methods for Towing a Car

Several methods exist for towing a car with your truck. Some are better than others, so it’s important to decide which one is right for your situation. Take a look at your towing options below:

Avoid Using Tow Straps 

As a general rule, we recommend staying away from the use of tow straps for towing a car. Using tow straps is often the most unreliable and least safe way to tow a car, since the tow strap is easily susceptible to breaking. 

If you insist on using a tow strap, then it’s a good idea to make sure you’re not violating any laws by checking your local ordinances. Most of them require that you only tow a car with tow straps for a short distance. Also, keep in mind that it’s illegal to put someone in a towed vehicle.

Use a Dolly to Tow

A tow dolly is a common tool used for safely towing a car with your truck. Unlike rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive cars, a front-wheel drive vehicle works best when using a tow dolly since it doesn’t require removal of the drive shaft. 

Step 1: Connect the tow dolly. Start by attaching the tow dolly coupler to the hitch ball on your truck. Use your hands to tighten the coupler and ensure that it’s securely fastened. To test its connection, we recommend slowly accelerating your pickup a short distance forward and ensuring that the dolly is steadily and tightly connected.

As a protective measure, link the dolly’s safety chains onto the pickup truck. In case the coupler loses its grip with the hitch ball, the safety chains will keep the tow dolly hooked onto your truck.

Step 2: Align the towed car. Lining up the towed car with your truck and dolly before loading helps make the process much easier. Ensure that the car is aligned properly with the truck and dolly, then drive it up to dolly ramp. Alternatively, you can back your truck and dolly up to the nose of the car if it’s broken down and cannot run.

It’s crucial to note that the towed car must be facing forward when loading it onto the dolly. The car can dangerously whip and sway if it’s rear-facing.

Step 3: Load the towed car. Begin driving the car onto the dolly ramp once it’s properly lined up with your truck and dolly. If the car is broken down and cannot be driven, you may have to gather help to push the car onto the dolly.

Step 4: Secure the towed car. Once the towed car is safely in place on the dolly, its front tires should be firmly placed against the wheel stops and strapped with the tire straps of the tow dolly. Make sure to tighten the straps by opening and closing the ratchet mechanism and hook the security chains around the car’s frame for additional support.

Lastly, make sure to disengage the parking brake in the towed car so that its rear wheels are able to spin freely. 

Use a Trailer to Tow

The safest method for towing a car with a pickup truck is to use a trailer. Trailers are flexible for handling various vehicle configurations, from front-wheel drive cars to rear-wheel and four-wheel drive cars. The trailer towing procedure is similar to that of the tow dolly, but with a few key differences.

Step 1: Connect the trailer. Firstly, back your truck up to the trailer so that the hitch ball of your truck is directly above the tongue of the trailer. Use the handle on the trailer’s tongue to lower it onto the ball.

After the trailer is connected to the hitch, you should cross the safety chains and hang their hooks onto the hitch of your truck. Finally, connect the trailer’s electrical harness to your truck’s sockets. 

Step 2: Align the towed car. Make sure your pickup truck and trailer are lined up with the car being towed. If the car is capable of running, slowly drive it up to the back of the trailer. Otherwise, back up your truck and trailer to the nose of the car.

Step 3: Load the towed car. Once the car is aligned with your truck and trailer, slowly drive or push the car up the trailer ramps. Keep going until all four tires are on the trailer and the ramps can be folded up without hitting the rear of the vehicle.

Step 4: Secure the towed car. Set the car in park and engage its parking brake. It’s important not to disengage the parking brake, as instructed in the tow dolly procedure. 

Then, use ratchet straps and safety chains and wrap them over each wheel. Hook the straps on the trailer and open and close them to tighten their hold over the wheels. Finally, attach the chains to the front and back of the towed vehicle’s frame.

Make Money with Your Truck

By investing in the correct equipment, you can safely tow broken cars locally with your pickup truck. Some industrious truck owners have even created successful businesses offering towing services in their communities.

To see more ideas for earning money with your truck, check out our post on the Top 5 Ways to Make Money with Your Truck or Van, or join GoShare to find high-paying local moving and delivery projects in your community. 

Additional Resources

Did you find this article helpful? Check out our other posts for helpful tutorials and information.