Quick towing illegally parked cars

Our towing “service” was very active at our complex this past weekend. Something I saw that baffled me—their trucks were towing away front wheel drive vehicles from the rear wheels. I would have to imagine that the vast majority of these vehicles had automatic transmissions left by their owners in “park.” The tow guys simply pulled their trucks at a 90 degree angle to the towed vehicle’s rear wheels, a mechanical device grabbed the rear wheels and away they went with the front wheels spinning.

How do they do that without damaging the transmission?

They were probably using go-jacks, which are dollies designed for making it possible to tow or move cars with the parking brake set. An experienced tow driver can throw them down in a few seconds, hook up and split before you realize what’s happening.


From what I could find on an internet search, go-jacks squeeze the tires and lift them off the ground so that the vehicle moves on rollers. Do I have this right?

Anyway, from what I could see, I don’t think they were using go-jacks in this case because the towed vehicle’s front tires were on the ground and spinning as they were towed away.


Are you certain they never went inside the car? Cars have shift-interlock overrides which allow shifting into neutral even without the key, and mechanics have slim-jims, which will open the door without the key. :slight_smile:

Sorry, for “mechanics” in prior post, read “tow-truck drivers.”

are you sure they were towing illegal parkers? I’ve seen that kind of thing for companies which do repos.

Here it is in action.

Yeah, there is a very popular 20-something bar across the street which attracts lots of illegal parkers to our lot on certain “special” weekends. Our towing “service” employs seven “Jerr-Dann Element” (read re-po) towing trucks and they were all out in force. They must have pullled 30 cars in two hours. After they took the digital pictures of the windshield and rear window to prove no parking sticker or hang tag, it took about ten seconds to get each car off the ground–very efficient.

Well, no doors were opened, that’s for sure.

Can a shift-interlock override be operated without opening the door?

No, since the shift lever is inside the car.

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None that I’m aware of. I’m out of ideas.

Are you sure they were FWD cars?
IANATTD but I do know a few things about cars. When in park and both front tires on the ground they will not roll freely.

Why are you putting service in quotation marks? That company is providing a service for which it is compensated, is it not?

A couple of months ago, I had to have my car towed and my insurance company’s tow truck used that device for it. It was impressive to watch in action right in front of me. Even more impressive was that it worked with no problem although my car was parked on a very steep hill and had a car close in front and another car close in back.

What do you do about legitimate guests? :confused:

When I’ve lived in apartment buildings, there have been designated “guest” spaces. If someone without a permit parks in a reserved space, they deserve to be towed. It’s a real pain in the ass to come home at 1am and not be able to park because some moron decided to use your reserved space as his own.

I have also lived places that gave parking permits to guests, but typically only if they were staying for several days.

IANAM, but I can’t imagine that’s good for the transmission.

Last year, I had several problems with my car. I contacted my regular shop and they agreed to send their tow truck. I also left them with the code to open the door and the keys in the front seat so the tow driver could open/shift as necessary. Either the info didn’t get to him or he was in a hurry, so he attached a hook to my car and dragged it a hundred feet down my driveway and up onto his truck. (It’s difficult to get a large truck to the end of my driveway, and the long set of skid marks made the dragging evident)

I think it caused some sort of damage, as the shop replaced the transmission at their own expense.

Disclaimer: the tranny already had some problems, but I think they were minor. I believe the mistreatment by the tow truck made things much worse.

If the car is indeed in “Park” and being towed that way, I would expect it to slide on the front tires and wear flat spots into them. It would have to break the parking pawl inside the transmission to enable the front wheels to roll. It is possible to shift most trannies out of “Park” by accessing the shift linkage under the hood, but an observer would surely notice the hood being opened.

Legitimate guests borrow a rear-view mirror parking permit hangar from a resident.

Yeah, I’m pretty much of a car-nut and know which cars are FWD. I was under the same impression, that FWD cars tires do not roll freely when the tires are on the ground and the trans is in park.