Towing a Vehicle: When One Vehicle is Towing Another by Means

Tim Jumah

When it comes to moving a disabled or non-operational vehicle, towing is the most common method used. Whether you have experienced being stranded on the side of the road with a broken-down car or have witnessed a tow truck pulling another vehicle, towing is an essential service that helps keep our roads safe and our vehicles mobile.

In this article, we will delve into the world of vehicle towing and explore the various means that are employed when one vehicle tows another. From understanding the different types of tow hitches to exploring the safety considerations associated with towing, we will provide you with in-depth knowledge on this topic.

The Basics of Towing

Before diving into the specifics of different towing methods, it’s important to understand some basic concepts related to towing.

What is Towing?

Towing refers to the act of pulling or hauling one vehicle behind another using a mechanism specifically designed for this purpose. It allows disabled or non-operational vehicles to be moved from one place to another without themselves being able to provide locomotion.

Common Uses for Towing

Towing finds its application in various scenarios. Some common situations where vehicles may need to be towed include:

  • Roadside breakdowns: When a car becomes inoperable due to mechanical failure, an accident, or other reasons while on the road.
  • Vehicle recovery: Retrieving a stuck or off-road vehicle.
  • Relocation: Moving immobile vehicles from one location to another, such as from an accident site to a repair shop.
  • Transporting non-roadworthy vehicles: Moving decommissioned cars or vehicles that are no longer allowed on public roads.
  • Commercial purposes: Towing large trailers or caravans behind trucks for transportation.

Now that we have established what towing is and its common uses let us delve into different means employed when one vehicle is used for towing another.

Tow Hitches: Different Types and Functionality

Conventional Tow Hitch

The conventional tow hitch, also known as a ball hitch or bumper hitch, is one of the most popular types of hitches used for towing. These hitches consist of a receiver that is attached to the frame of the towing vehicle. A detachable ball mount is inserted into the receiver, and then a trailer coupler mounts onto the ball.

  • Functionality: The ball and coupler connection allows for articulation, enabling movement between the towing vehicle and the trailer. This ensures that the trailer can move independently and follow the towing vehicle.
  • Applications: Conventional tow hitches are commonly used for towing small to medium-sized trailers, boats, or lightweight recreational vehicles (RVs).

Fifth Wheel Hitch

Fifth wheel hitches are primarily used for towing heavy loads such as large trailers or RVs. These hitches require a specialized fifth wheel coupling installed in the bed of a pickup truck.

  • Functionality: The fifth wheel hitch provides increased stability by placing a pivot point directly over the rear axle of the truck. This design allows for improved weight distribution between the truck and trailer, resulting in better handling.
  • Applications: Fifth wheel hitches are often used by individuals who regularly tow large loads such as horse trailers, travel trailers, or mobile homes.

Gooseneck Hitch

Gooseneck hitches are similar to fifth wheel hitches but with some key differences. Instead of using a flat plate coupling like fifth wheels, gooseneck hitches feature a cylindrical hitch that extends vertically from underneath the bed of a pickup truck.

  • Functionality: Gooseneck hitches offer similar benefits as fifth wheel hitches in terms of stability and weight distribution. However, gooseneck setups provide increased maneuverability due to their design and flexibility.
  • Applications: Gooseneck hitches are commonly used in heavy-duty towing scenarios, such as hauling livestock trailers, industrial equipment, or large flatbed trailers.

Pintle Hitch

Pintle hitches are often associated with heavy-duty applications and are commonly found on construction equipment and military vehicles. These hitches consist of a lunette ring on the trailer, which latches onto a pintle hook mounted on the towing vehicle.

  • Functionality: The pintle hitch offers a strong and secure connection suitable for rugged terrain and heavy loads. It provides a higher weight capacity compared to conventional tow hitches.
  • Applications: Pintle hitches find their application in military and agricultural sectors, as well as for towing large equipment or machinery.

Towing Methods Based on Drive Type

Apart from the various types of tow hitches available, the selection of a towing method can also depend on the drive type of the vehicle being towed. Let’s explore some common methods based on drive type:

Two-Wheel Towing (Front Wheel Drive)

Two-wheel towing refers to towing a vehicle while only two of its wheels remain on the ground. Front-wheel-drive vehicles are typically towed using this method by lifting their front wheels off the ground.

  • Procedure: A tow dolly or tow bar is used to secure the front wheels of the vehicle being towed. The rear wheels roll freely without being powered by the engine.
  • Considerations: When utilizing this method, it is important to ensure that the transmission is not engaged so that no damage occurs. Additionally, caution must be exercised while maneuvering corners to prevent damage to tires or suspension components.

Four-Wheel Towing

Four-wheel towing involves towing a vehicle with all four wheels touching the ground. This method is commonly used for vehicles equipped with automatic transmissions or full-time four-wheel-drive systems.

  • Procedure: Flatbed trailers or vehicle carriers are utilized to transport the entire vehicle without any wheels rotating. The vehicle being towed is loaded onto the trailer and then secured using straps or chains.
  • Advantages: Four-wheel towing provides the most secure method of transportation as all wheels remain stationary, preventing any unnecessary wear on tires or drivetrain components.
  • Limitations: This method requires additional equipment and can be more expensive than other towing methods.

All-Wheel Towing

All-wheel towing is similar to four-wheel towing, with the distinction that all-wheel-drive vehicles are specifically towed without any wheels rotating.

  • Procedure: Flatbed trailers or specialized equipment, such as wheel lifts or dollies, are used to lift all four wheels of the vehicle off the ground. This prevents damage to the drivetrain of all-wheel-drive vehicles.
  • Considerations: It is important to consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for specific instructions on towing all-wheel-drive vehicles, as improper techniques can lead to damage.

Safety Considerations When Towing

Towing vehicles involves additional risks and considerations that must be addressed for safe operation. Here are some key safety measures one should keep in mind:

Weight Distribution and Payload Limits

One of the most critical aspects of safe towing is ensuring proper weight distribution between the towing vehicle and the trailer. Overloading either component not only poses a significant safety risk but can also cause damage to both vehicles involved.

  • Payload Limits: Each vehicle has defined payload limits provided by its manufacturer. These limits indicate how much weight a vehicle can safely carry or tow.
  • Weight Distribution: Properly distributing weight across both vehicles helps maintain stability during towing. Generally, around 60% of the weight should be placed towards the front portion of a trailer for optimal balance.

Brakes and Lighting Systems

When one vehicle is used for towing another, it becomes crucial to ensure that proper braking systems and lighting are in place for safe road use.

  • Trailer Brakes: Trailers are often equipped with their own braking systems, especially for heavier loads. These systems help distribute braking forces between the towing vehicle and the trailer, improving overall stopping performance.
  • Lighting Systems: Functioning taillights, brake lights, turn signals, and reflectors on both the towing vehicle and the trailer are vital for visibility and communication with other drivers on the road.

Safety Chain Attachment

Using safety chains is an essential practice when towing a vehicle. Safety chains provide an additional level of security in case there is a failure of the primary method securing the trailer to the towing vehicle.

  • Proper Installation: The safety chains should be attached in a criss-cross pattern and should have enough slack to allow for turning but not excessively long to drag on the ground.
  • Strength and Design: Safety chains must be strong enough to handle the maximum load that could be encountered during towing. Additionally, they should have sufficient thickness and durability to withstand potential stresses.

Towing Capacity and Licensing

Different vehicles have varying towing capacities, which dictate how much weight they can safely tow. It is important to ensure that both the towing vehicle and tow hitch are rated for the weight being towed.

  • Manufacturer’s Guidelines: Always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines or consult a professional to determine if your vehicle can handle a specific type of towing load.
  • Licensing Requirements: Depending on your jurisdiction, certain types of trailers or loads may require specific licensing or endorsements before they can be towed legally. Verify local laws and regulations before undertaking any towing activity.


Towing allows disabled or non-operational vehicles to be transported efficiently from one place to another. Understanding different means used when one vehicle is used for towing another play a vital role in ensuring safe transportation. Whether it’s selecting an appropriate tow hitch or applying suitable methods based on drive type, it is essential to consider factors such as weight distribution, safety measures, and legal requirements.

By following proper procedures and prioritizing safety, both during towing and on the road, individuals can mitigate risks associated with this task. Always remember to consult manufacturer guidelines, adhere to local regulations, and if in doubt, seek professional assistance. With these precautions in mind, towing can be carried out safely and efficiently when the need arises.

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Jumah has been a content writer for business and technology topics since early 2019. He has experience in writing and marketing and is dedicated to creating informative and engaging content.
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