Towing the Car Properly: How It Works


When the car no longer starts on the road, the only thing left to do is towing. But there are also certain rules for this. Whether automatic, gearshift or electric drive: with our tips you can tow safely.

Basically, it is only permitted to tow a car if the vehicle can no longer be repaired on site – such as in the event of defects in the electronics or when coolant leaks. Lack of fuel, however, does not justify towing.

If a vehicle obstructs traffic or is on the freeway, the hazard must first be secured. If a broken car comes on the hook, you must always remember to leave the key in the ignition lock on the first stage. Otherwise the steering wheel lock can snap into place. In a vehicle with a start button, you have to press the button longer without depressing the brake pedal.

The tow rope or tow bar must be designed for the weight of the breakdown car. In addition, the vehicle to be towed should not be significantly larger and heavier than the towing vehicle.

Tow rope or tow bar?

Generally, it is easier to tow a car with a rigid rod. Because the tow bar always ensures a constant distance between the two vehicles and prevents the person behind from accidentally opening.

This can happen faster than you think. The braking effect of a breakdown vehicle is significantly reduced, since the brake booster is missing to assist when the engine is switched off.

The car is harder to steer while being towed the only disadvantage of tow bars is that they are heavier and usually more expensive than a rope.

Whether with a rope or a pole, the towing hooks must always be attached to both cars beforehand and the hooks must be screwed in firmly. Because newer car models have towing eyes that are screwed into the body and are not welded on.

Anyone who tows with rope must attach the rope to the respective towing hook of the two vehicles and hang it between the cars. You may only use ropes that are marked for towing and are no longer than 5 meters.

No towing without hazard lights

Both vehicles must switch on the hazard warning lights when towing and the lights in the dark. The following always applies to a defective car: turn the ignition key to the first position, out of gear and release the handbrake.

If the electronics in automatic vehicles are still intact, always set the gearshift to “N” and always start slowly. On cars without an ignition lock and with a start button, the start button usually has to be pressed for a few seconds without pressing the brake so that the steering wheel lock and the automatic system can be unlocked.

Because the hazard lights must remain switched on without interruption in both cars during towing, changes in direction must be indicated by a hand signal. It’s easy when turning left. When turning right, the driver should best point to the right out of the left side window via the car roof!

If the hazard warning lights strike after a total failure of the vehicle electrical system, you must not tow the car. In this case, the car must be loaded professionally.

Do not drive over 50 km / h

There is no top speed. However, it is advisable to drive slowly, because if the engine fails, the steering and braking aids and the gearbox cooling do not work. At low speeds, the driver of the breakdown car still has enough time to react. We recommend not to exceed 50 km / h.

Towing on the highway

Towing is only permitted on the motorway if the breakdown has also happened there. The motorway should then be left at the next exit. Anyone who drives on and is checked pays a fine of $30. Even those who drive on the highway with a broken car in tow can expect a fine of $30.

Automatic often causes problems

Whether and how far a car can be towed depends on the transmission. Automatic models are often sensitive. Therefore, you can only tow an automatic vehicle safely at level N for a few kilometers, otherwise excessive heat could cause considerable damage.

However, some automatic models have a function with which the connection between the drive axle and the transmission can be unlocked.

Do not tow electric cars

Electric cars generally have to be loaded and cannot be towed safely, because energy is usually still generated in the electric motor via an axle. If the energy flows in the electric motor without activated electronics, high induction voltages can occur which damage the control electronics.

Last but not least: If you are towing a car, you should always take the shortest route to the nearest workshop.

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