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Towing a Car – What You Need To Know

It’s everyone’s nightmare: driving happily from A to C, only to break down somewhere near B. If you have breakdown recovery, or you are near a local vehicle recovery service, then you may well have someone coming to your aid. However, there may be some instances where you need to be towed by someone else, or where you need to give someone a tow. Here’s what you need to know to ensure that everyone, and both vehicles, reach C safely.

The basics

Before you start towing, there are a few basic rules:

  1. If the two vehicles are attached using only a chain or rope, the distance between the two vehicles can’t exceed 4.5 metres.
  2. If the rope or chain is over 1.5 metres long, it must be made clearly visible from either side so that other road users don’t mistake the distance between the two vehicles as a gap. Tying fluorescent or brightly coloured fabric to the rope or chain is enough.
  3. The person “driving” the vehicle being towed must be a qualified driver.
  4. The vehicle being towed must use lights if necessary.
  5. The towed vehicle must have a sign clearly stating that it is “on tow”.

If you are towing:

  1. Ease off slowly, be gentle on the clutch to avoid sudden movements which will result in yanking the chain or rope.
  2. Be very cautious when braking – do so as slowly as possible to give the driver of the towed vehicle time to stop.
  3. Leave extra time for every manoeuvre, to give the towing driver time to react.
  4. Check your mirrors regularly.
  5. Don’t go over 15 mph.

If you are being towed:

  1. Your vehicle may not be operational, but you still need to turn the key in the ignition to “on” so that you can release the steering lock.
  2. Keep the car in neutral and release the handbrake.
  3. Stay focused; concentrate on the towing vehicle and mirror their actions: steering, braking, indicating and turning.

If you are not comfortable towing, or you are in any doubt as to the safety of yourself or other road users, don’t take the risk. If possible, get your vehicle to a safe place to stop. If that isn’t possible, leave your broken-down vehicle and wait safely on the side of the road. Leave your hazard lights switched on and set a warning triangle to warn other drivers of the hazard in the road. Call a local vehicle recovery service and wait safely until they arrive. It may take a little while for them to get to you, but at least you will be safe, and your vehicle will be in the right hands.

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