Tow a Car with Another Car: Essential Steps for a Safe Tandem Tow

Towing a car with another car is a practical solution when one vehicle has broken down or needs to be transported over a distance where driving it is not an option. Before engaging in this task, it’s crucial to understand the methods and safety precautions involved to ensure a smooth and secure process. We primarily employ tow dollies and tow bars for car towing, relying on the tow vehicle’s stability and braking ability.

One car towing another car on a road

Towing with a Tow Dolly

Using a tow dolly helps to elevate the front tires of the towed car off the ground, a method that minimizes wear on the vehicle’s tires and driveline. The tow dolly itself attaches to the tow vehicle through a ball mount or adjustable frame-mounting hardware. Securing the towed vehicle onto the dolly is imperative to prevent it from dislodging during transport.

Towing with a Tow Bar

Tow bars facilitate a different approach, connecting the towed vehicle directly to the tow vehicle. This method requires fitting brackets on the frame of the towed car, an action that typically demands drilling to secure the attachment points. Once the brackets are in place, a tow bar can be quickly attached and detached, allowing for a stable connection between the vehicles.

Whichever method we choose, it’s essential to adhere to the weight limits and compatibility of the towing equipment, ensuring that neither the tow vehicle nor the towed vehicle sustains damage. We must also follow all legal requirements, including displaying an ‘On Tow’ sign and using the correct lighting arrangements to alert other road users.

Essential Towing Equipment

When we tow a car with another car, it is crucial that we equip ourselves with the appropriate tools and understand their proper usage to ensure safety and prevent damage to either vehicle.

Choosing the Right Hitch

Types of Hitches:

  • Receiver Hitch: Mounted to the frame of the towing vehicle and can be used with various hitch balls to match couplers of different sizes.
  • Front Mount Hitch: Attached to the front of the towing vehicle and primarily used for maneuvering trailers.
  • 5th Wheel Hitch: Designed for heavy-duty towing and mounted in the bed of a pickup truck.
  • Gooseneck Hitch: Similar to the 5th wheel but offers a tighter turning radius, ideal for towing horse trailers or large campers.

Securing the Towed Vehicle

Properly securing the towed vehicle prevents it from becoming disengaged, ensuring our safety and that of other road users. We’ll need to use safety chains or cables, which should be crossed under the towed vehicle’s tongue to keep the trailer secured in case of a hitch failure. For the towed vehicle’s wheels:

  • Tow Dolly: Keeps front tires off the ground, ideal for front-wheel-drive vehicles.
  • Four Wheels Down: All tires on the ground; requires a sturdy tow bar and supplemental braking system.

Understanding Tow Ratings and Vehicle Capabilities

Before towing, we must be aware of our vehicle’s towing capacity to prevent engine or transmission damage. The tow ratings are determined by the manufacturer and can usually be found in the owner’s manual or on the vehicle placard. Overloading can cause significant safety issues, such as decreased braking and steering performance. Let’s ensure the following match our vehicle’s specifications:

  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR): The maximum weight including the vehicle, passengers, cargo, and the total weight of the trailer.
  • Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR): The total allowable weight of the vehicle, passengers, cargo, the trailer, and the cargo in the trailer.
  • Tow Hitch Rating: The weight capacity of the tow hitch itself, which must meet or exceed the weight of the loaded trailer.

Towing Procedures and Guidelines

When towing a car with another vehicle, safety and adherence to laws are paramount. We will guide you through preparing for towing, connecting your vehicles, and driving practices to ensure a safe tow.

Preparing for Towing

Check both vehicles’ manuals: Before we start, it’s crucial to consult the towing vehicle’s and the to-be-towed vehicle’s manuals for specific guidelines. Ensure the towing vehicle has adequate power and is rated to tow the vehicle’s weight. We must also check that the towed vehicle’s transmission and driveline can handle being towed.

Connecting the Tow Vehicle and Trailer

  1. Affix the Towing Apparatus: Whether using a rope, chain, or tow dolly, we must securely attach it to the designated point on the towing vehicle. The connection must be sturdy to avoid detachment during the tow.
  2. Secure the Towed Vehicle: If using a dolly or trailer, drive the car up and immobilize it with straps or chains. Make sure all brake lights and turn signals are in sync between both vehicles.
  3. Safety Inspection: After connecting, inspect the setup. Look for potential issues in the tow brackets, chains, and straps.
  4. Ignition Set: Keep the towed car’s ignition in the first position to unlock the steering wheel, enabling it to follow the path of the towing vehicle correctly.
Check lights: Both vehicles’ headlights, parking lights, and brake lights must be operational and visible.

Driving Safely While Towing

  • Maintain modest speeds: While towing, our speeds should not exceed the legal limits, typically much lower when towing.
  • Braking distance: Always allow for extra braking distance. The weight of the towed vehicle affects stopping time.
  • Wide Turns: We must take wider turns to accommodate the length of the towed vehicle.
⚠️ Warning

Always observe local laws related to towing, including the use of safety chains, lights, and towing mirrors.

Types of Towing and Their Applications

When we tow a car with another car, it’s essential to use the correct method suited for the vehicle type and towing capacity. We must consider whether the towed car is 2WD, 4WD, automatic, or manual to prevent driveline wear.

Flat Towing Methodology

Flat towing, also called “dinghy towing,” involves towing a vehicle with all four wheels on the ground. It’s crucial for the towed car to be compatible with this method to prevent damage to the transmission. Here are some considerations for flat towing:

Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD) & Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) Vehicles:

  • Ensure the driveline is properly disengaged.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to avoid transmission damage.

Automatic Transmission:

  • Some vehicles must have the engine running to tow.
  • Consult the vehicle’s manual.

For RV owners, flat towing is often the preferred method because it doesn’t require a trailer and allows for easier maneuverability at the destination. Always verify that both the tow vehicle and the car being towed have the adequate towing capacity and braking power before proceeding.

Brake lights and signals of the towed vehicle must be in sync with the towing vehicle’s system.

Dolly and Trailer Towing Tips

Using a dolly or trailer is an alternative way to tow a vehicle, particularly when the towed vehicle is not suited for flat towing. Here’s what we need to know about dolly and trailer towing:

Dolly Towing:

  • Ideal for front-wheel-drive vehicles as the front tires are elevated.
  • Reduces tire and driveline wear on the towed car.

Trailer Towing:

  • Best suited for 4WD, AWD, or luxury vehicles.
  • Offers higher protection as the car is entirely off the ground.

Trucks and SUVs are often equipped to handle trailer towing due to their higher towing capacity. It’s always important to check the owner’s manual of both the towing vehicle and the car being towed to ensure compatibility and safe towing practices.

⚠️ A Warning

Always secure vehicles properly on dollies or trailers to prevent accidents and ensure safe braking during transport.

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