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Old 11-08-2019, 12:51 PM
Just Asking Questions is offline
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Towing parked cars - how?


I watched some you tube videos of cars being towed (much more interesting than it sounds, actually!) and I have some technical questions.

The modern tow truck has an undercar hoist. The truck can get under a car and pick it up by its tires in practically no time flat. The truck can be on its way in about a minute and the driver never has to get out of the cab.

But! What dies the tow truck driver do if
1) the car is in Park
2) The emergency brake is on

I would think a front wheel drive car in park with the emergency brake on could not be towed, just dragged. A rear wheel drive car could be towed backwards, but what if the front tires are turned and the column locked?

What am I missing? Do they have to use a dolly under the non-movable wheels? (and no one links to those videos?) Do all the cars in the video just not have the parking brake set?
  #2  
Old 11-08-2019, 12:58 PM
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Yes, they have dollies with 4 little trailer tires.
  #3  
Old 11-08-2019, 01:10 PM
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If you watch gToger in Dallas, you will see how they handle multiple cars. Sometimes they lift the entire car up by raising from the center, or drag it out of the parking space just enough so they can utilize the "loose" end, the one with no brake set and no transmission lock. This can be either front or back, depending on the model.

For cars with AWD or all wheels locked, they put one end on a 2-wheel dolly.

Although I've never seen this in the gToger videos, there are flatbed towtrucks that can winch (or use a self-loading crane) any vehicle on, then just drive away, as the wheels are no longer in contact with the pavement. That's one way to handle wrecked vehicles, that might not have enough integrity to support a wheel dolly.

Last edited by Musicat; 11-08-2019 at 01:11 PM.
  #4  
Old 11-08-2019, 01:13 PM
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90% on the tows around here are flatbeds. Winch it and drag in on to the bed. Quick and easy.
  #5  
Old 11-08-2019, 01:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
If you watch gToger in Dallas, you will see how they handle multiple cars. Sometimes they lift the entire car up by raising from the center, or drag it out of the parking space just enough so they can utilize the "loose" end, the one with no brake set and no transmission lock. This can be either front or back, depending on the model.

For cars with AWD or all wheels locked, they put one end on a 2-wheel dolly.

Although I've never seen this in the gToger videos, there are flatbed towtrucks that can winch (or use a self-loading crane) any vehicle on, then just drive away, as the wheels are no longer in contact with the pavement. That's one way to handle wrecked vehicles, that might not have enough integrity to support a wheel dolly.
yeah, I've seen a number of those. in some cases they drag it just far enough (with one of the tires of the drive wheels skidding) until they can turn around and get it from the other side. Assuming a RWD vehicle, or a FWD w/o the parking brake.

past that, it's dolly or flatbed.
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Old 11-08-2019, 01:48 PM
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When I lived in Philadelphia, center city was no parking during rush hour. The towing companies that had contracts with the city would show up en masse at about ten to five every evening, revving their engines and watching the time.

The minute clocks hit 5, all the trucks began towing away parked cars, attempting to get as many cars as possible. It was a thing of beauty (if your car wasn't one of the towed cars).
  #7  
Old 11-08-2019, 02:19 PM
Tim@T-Bonham.net is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Just Asking Questions View Post
But! What dies the tow truck driver do if
1) the car is in Park
2) The emergency brake is on
Many tow truck drivers have equipment with them that can be used to open a door on the vehicle. For an experienced driver, takes only 60-90 seconds. Once inside the vehicle, they can:
1) put it into Neutral
2) undo the emergency brake.
Then they tow it away.

Also, many 4WD vehicles have interlocks underneath the vehicle which can be accessed by getting nderneath it, and used to disconnect the transmission from 2 wheels. Then they can tow it away.
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Old 11-08-2019, 03:43 PM
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As was said, I once, standing on my balcony, watched a tow truck operator pull an illegally parked car from a spot in the rear parking lot of my building.

The car was jerking back and forth as it was pulled back, obviously, the wheels were skipping or slidding.

Once the car was pulled free, he lifted one end, place the mentioned dollies under it and towed it away.

Note that a cop car was standing by as this went on.
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Old 11-08-2019, 06:34 PM
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When I was in Israel in 2008, we ate at a place outside the embassy that had had bombings before so they were serious about illegally parked cars (too close to the restaurant or the embassy). The tow truck was interesting. it was essentially a small forklift. It would come, pull along side the offender, deploy the forks which would then extend under the car, lift the car and put it on the flatbed. If it took 10 seconds, I'd be surprised.
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Old 11-08-2019, 09:57 PM
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One of the fun things I've learned is "bouncing a car". You push down on the bumper (ideally the rear, not the front) of a car and pull it up in the direction (even sideway) you want it to go. Do it right and you'll be able to have the two tires life up to an inch or so off the ground. Caution! Be sure to only lift on as the car is going up! I was helping bounce a VW Bug and pulled up and the car was going down. Twisted my back a little, but would have been in serious trouble if it was a bigger car! Probably doesn't do the suspension good, but I've seen some tow drivers lift the rear end of a car a couple inches off the ground all by themselves!
  #11  
Old 11-09-2019, 04:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by turner View Post
When I was in Israel in 2008, we ate at a place outside the embassy that had had bombings before so they were serious about illegally parked cars (too close to the restaurant or the embassy). The tow truck was interesting. it was essentially a small forklift. It would come, pull along side the offender, deploy the forks which would then extend under the car, lift the car and put it on the flatbed. If it took 10 seconds, I'd be surprised.
Like this?
  #12  
Old 11-09-2019, 07:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim@T-Bonham.net View Post
Once inside the vehicle, they can:
1) put it into Neutral
Not without a key, unless the vehicle is quite old.
  #13  
Old 11-09-2019, 07:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Gary T View Post
Not without a key, unless the vehicle is quite old.
... or a stick-shift.
  #14  
Old 11-09-2019, 07:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary T View Post
Not without a key, unless the vehicle is quite old.
But then how did the car's owner get the key out? I rarely drive an automatic transmission, but IIRC you need to be in P to remove the key.
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Old 11-09-2019, 08:00 AM
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Won't go into details, but most cars, even newer cars with electronic ignitions have a hidden button to allow the shifter to be put into netural. Check your manual.
  #16  
Old 11-09-2019, 09:42 AM
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Sort of related. I pull a lot of cars out of the snow where I live. Many new cars simply don't have anywhere to hook a tow strap to. And if they are ass deep in snowballs, it makes it that much more difficult.

Many new cars have spoked wheels that I can wiggle a strap through. If that's the case, I can just grab it by a tire and pull.

There can be a problem with this because of the different geometry of my truck, and the lower to the ground car. If the wheel spins, it can cause the tow strap to do damage to the body of the car by moving upward as the natural pull of the strap on the wheel makes the wheel spin. I have to tell the car owner to keep their foot on the brake no matter what.

It's a very unnatural thing for the operator for the car to do. Especially in a stuck situation. As their car starts to move and get un-stuck, their inclination is to let their foot off the brake.

Had this happen another time unsticking a Uhaul truck that I did NOT want to roll at all. I needed to slid the ass end of it on a turn in a step driveway. The renter/driver took his foot off the brake as soon as it started to move, and splat, rolled/slid (zero steering control) straight back into a snow bank instead of me being able to drag it around a corner.
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Last edited by enipla; 11-09-2019 at 09:43 AM.
  #17  
Old 11-09-2019, 11:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
Won't go into details, but most cars, even newer cars with electronic ignitions have a hidden button to allow the shifter to be put into netural. Check your manual.
But in the vids I watched, the driver never left the cab. The car was pulled out, hooked up and towed off without the car being taken out of park or put into neutral, nor the parking brake released, nor steering column unlocked. How is that handled? I can accept most people don't set their parking brake, but Park is required to remove the key.

The videos don't show any steps to along those lines.

I can't see an easy way to tow a rear wheel drive vehicle if the front tires are turned, without getting into the car. And older cars at least don't have the secret neutral release for park. You either bust the column lock or use dollies.
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:14 PM
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Even back in 2000, my BMW had a small plastic cover over a screw hole in front and rear bumper. You popped it off, and the spare tire kit included a big hook that could be screwed in for a tow point. I believe the Tesla has this too.

I wonder about that Israeli forklift - that must do some interesting damage to the underside of the car? Or is that the owner's problem?

In London many many years ago I saw something similar - they ran two bars under the vehicle, presumably with pads that hit the jack lift points front and back. a giant arm on a flatbed attached straps to these bars and they lifted the vehicle straight up and moved it over to the flatbed. Ideal for those very narrow old city streets with limited room to maneuver.

In Toronto I recall watching some guy towing a big SUV from in front of the courthouse in the early 90's. The vehicle was parked so close to the curb that there was no room for the little dolly wheels under the rear, curb was in the way; and he couldn't get at the back to lift. Instead, he had about an 18-inch stump; lift the front so high he could put this stump under the center frame beam, lower the front and the rear levered up a foot in the air, slip the dolly under the wheel even though it was partly on the curb. The guy knew what he was doing.

they went to full-wheel tire locks that cover the huub when they found that the solution to a tire lock was to change the wheel to the spare.
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:19 PM
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~


In my 1991 Nissan truck, the gearshift wouldn't go into Park and I had to leave it in Netural to get the key out. One night it completely locked up and when I called my mechanic friend to help, he showed me a little button on the shaft that not only allowed me to shift it into drive, but allowed me to put it into Park again.

As for towing, watch your videos from 02:48, as the car is being pulled out of the spot, the front wheels aren't turning at all. The resistance and surface area on tires are relatively low. Once we bounced the VW Bug (it was abandoned and we didn't have the keys) out of the garage (had to do that that to get enough space to push it out), three of us just alternately bounced and pushed the car to where we needed it. I'm a small guy and probably wasn't needed.

I don't know which of these are real, but here's some videos of big guys moving parked cars: https://www.youtube.com/results?sear...ot&sp=eAE%253D

I worked with a big guy at construction company and one day he came to the office to tell me the forklift (~5000+ lbs) died outside the warehouse. When I looked out the window, I saw the forklift in the warehouse and asked how he got it inside. He said he pushed it! Even though the wheels had locked up!

Last edited by lingyi; 11-09-2019 at 12:21 PM.
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Old 11-09-2019, 12:37 PM
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As for towing a car with the tires turned, they probably use a flat bed tow truck. Just because you don't see them, doesn't mean they're not available and in use. Some mornings, when I'm waiting for the elevator at my apartment building, I see both a regular tow truck and and flatbed towing cars from the street parking.
  #21  
Old 11-09-2019, 04:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lingyi View Post
Won't go into details, but most cars, even newer cars with electronic ignitions have a hidden button to allow the shifter to be put into netural. Check your manual.
My Jeep Cherokee's manual says:
****
If the gear selector cannot be moved out of the PARK position, you can use the following procedure to temporarily move the gear selector:
1. Turn the engine OFF.
2. Apply the parking brake.
3. Using a screwdriver or similar tool, carefully separate the shifter bezel and boot assembly from the center console, and raise it up to access the gear selector mechanism.
4. Press and maintain firm pressure on the brake pedal.
5. Insert a small screwdriver or similar tool down into the gear selector override access hole (at the right front corner of the gear selector assembly), and push and hold the override release lever down.
6. Move the gear selector to the NEUTRAL position.
7. The vehicle may then be started in NEUTRAL.
8. Reinstall the gear selector boot.
****
They are still going to have a problem with the alarm sounding, as well as disabling the electronic emergency brake.
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Old 11-09-2019, 04:25 PM
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^^Too late to edit:

#1 and 2 actually won't apply because the car isn't started to begin with.
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Old 11-09-2019, 04:44 PM
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I wonder about that Israeli forklift - that must do some interesting damage to the underside of the car? Or is that the owner's problem?
They'e used here all the time, and I've never heard of something like that happening. If the city was damaging people's cars, believe me, people would complain about it.

(They're called side-loading flatbeds, BTW.)
  #24  
Old 11-09-2019, 05:57 PM
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I'm not 100% sure about this, but just remembered, I swear a tow driver told me a long time ago they he carried a bottle of soapy water to put under the tires if he had to move a car. Allowing the car tires to hydroplane.

One of the posters on this Quora confirms this. You'll also see an extra four wheel dolly for the extra wheels and a car in Moscow being hoisted onto a flatbed: https://www.quora.com/How-is-a-car-t...ar-from-moving

"I had a Maxima on which the ignition key broke, and you could not unlock it, hence the transmission stayed locked in park.

The flatbed driver had a bottle of cheap dishwashing soap. My job was to squirt soap under the wheels while he dragged the car onto the flatbed with the winch cable. Worked like a charm.

He also removed the car from the flatbed by lubricating the wheels with the soap, but then rocking the flat bed back and forth to get the car to slide down it."

When a tow truck is called for a car that is in park with the parking brake set, the tow operator will do one of two things:

"If a flatbed truck is used, the car will be forcibly dragged onto the bed, skidding the tires. Because of the differential, one front tire will roll and the other will skid while spinning backwards. They may alternate as traction changes. Since most parking brakes are kind of weak, the rear tires will probably just roll anyway, against the friction of the brake.
If a “hook” type truck is used, one end of the car is hosted onto the truck's axle lift, and the other end is placed on a special cradle dolly that has four wheels, so all four of the towed vehicle's tires are off the ground.

Setting the parking brake won't keep you from being towed."

If a car is being repossessed or parked causing a traffic hazard or backup, where the potential damage to the car outweighs the necessity of move, there's always a way to tow it away! Again, just because you haven't seen it in person or it's not on YouTube, doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

Last edited by lingyi; 11-09-2019 at 05:59 PM.
  #25  
Old 11-09-2019, 06:02 PM
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I don't much at all about cars, but doesn't the steering wheel, even on power steering cars have be in the tires straight position to lock? I was taught to drive on a car without power steering and it was possible, through really hard to turn the tires even at a parked.
  #26  
Old 11-09-2019, 09:41 PM
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My step kid got her car towed ('93 Mercury Tracer). They opened the door with a slim Jim and popped the hood. They then removed a single cotter pin from the transmission cable and put it in neutral to roll it out of the space. I guess they didn't know about the little switch on the console that unlocked the shifter. I don't know how many other cars had these, but a Ford Escort I had for a while also had one.
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