So your buddy just called and he is stuck on the side of the road with a vehicle that just won’t start. Or, maybe you need to transport the second vehicle to another location but you are one driver short. Both of these scenarios would be easily made possible with the use of a handy tow strap. This article will help teach you some basics of tow straps and how to use a tow strap as well.
Things You’ll Need
- Tow Strap – Really, the only thing you need for learning how to secure tow strap is a good quality tow strap. A tow strap, sometimes referred to as a tow rope, is utilized in instances where you may need to pull or tow a free-wheeling vehicle by means of your own vehicle.
- A friend – You will surely need another person to drive the other car or to help you secure the tow strap.
- (Optional) Shackle Hitch Receiver – If you have a heavy duty vehicle, this is essential.
- (Optional) Chain Ratchet – This is useful in case you need to extend the tow strap for various reasons.
How to Use a Tow Strap Properly
Step 1. Choose the Best Strap for Your Needs
The first thing you need to consider when learning how to use a tow strap is what the typical use for your straps will be. Here are some features to think about:
- Weight Capacity – A tow strap will be rated for its maximum safe working weight limit. Thus, it is a good idea to figure out what you will be towing so that you can purchase a strap that meets or exceeds the weight of the object.
- Length – You will need a strap that gives you enough length to tie and wrap the object in tow. You also need the vehicle in tow to remain a safe distance from your vehicle.
- Type – This one may come down to preference depending on the type of attachment you have on your vehicle. Some straps will have hooks on either end while others will have only loops. If you have a ball hitch you may find it easier to use a loop strap.
Keep in mind that these are different from recovery straps in that they are not meant for pulling other vehicles forcefully such as out from a ditch. A tow strap does not have enough elasticity to take the force of that sort of pull and would likely snap under the pressure. You can sometimes find straps that can act as both types.
Moreover, tow straps are predominantly made from polyester and will likely have a hook on each end. This is another reason to avoid using them for recovering another vehicle. With too much force the hooks can become torpedoes and cause serious injury.
Step 2. Inspect Your Straps
It is very important to ensure your tow straps are in excellent condition before you use them. Safety should always be the first priority. Thus, take the time to inspect them before hooking up to another vehicle as well as periodically. Keep an eye out for:
- Rot from moisture;
- Frayed edges;
- Loosened threading;
- Weak points around the areas the hooks are secured;
- Holes and rips.
Step 3. Check the Tow Hooks
Most cars come equipped with tow hooks. These are heavy duty metal hoops where straps can be attached easily. There are often two of these hoops located at the front of the vehicle. If there are no loops in the front, you may find a receiver hook in the rear. These are the preferred places in which to attach tow straps. If the vehicle is void of these, then your only other option is to find a safe place on the frame to attach to.
Step 4. Start Preparing
Hook up a tow strap using the hook to the rear of your vehicle using the appropriate tow mount or using a trailer hitch. If attempting to attach tow strap without hooks, using the hitch will likely be the easiest method. If using the hooks with the trailer hitch you will have to use the steel loops that most hitches are equipped with. These locations will offer you sufficient structural support for most towing jobs.
Step 5. Double Check Everything
Ensure the strap is secure by giving it a few hard tugs to see if it will slip when force is placed upon it. You will want to also visually inspect your hooks or loops to ensure a good placement. Luckily many hook tow straps also have a clasp that secures the hook and keeps it from slipping off.
Step 6. Hook It Up
Next, while learning how to use a tow strap, you will attach the opposite end of the tow strap to the receiving vehicle. This should be done on the front of the other vehicle if possible. You will want to be sure you are hooked into a tow mount here as well which will likely be under or near the bumper. Also, try to keep your strap free of kinks or twists. This may not impact the ability to tow, but it will help preserve the integrity of your straps by reducing wear and friction.
Step 7. Safety
Once you have made sure both ends are secure, you can do an additional step to help ensure your safety. Take an old rug or similar material and place it over the hooks. This way if they snap you have a line of defense that will help you avoid getting injured.
Step 8. Towing
Before towing, be aware of towing laws in your area. Place the receiving vehicle into neutral and make sure the parking brake is off. The towing vehicle can now begin to very slowly pull on the tow strap until it becomes taut. Keep your initial movements slow and deliberate to avoid jostling the vehicle and causing damage to either one. Once you get a slow pull, you can accelerate as needed.
Tow straps are a great tool to keep in the trunk of your vehicle. They come in handy when you need your vehicle to pull another short distance or out of a minor issue. Keeping these guidelines in mind to ensure you are using the tow straps correctly will keep you safe and can be a lifesaver in a pinch.
How have tow straps helped you out in the past? Leave comments for others learning how to use a tow strap in the comment box of this page.
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