3 Main Tow Truck Types

Have you ever wondered what kind of equipment tow trucks use to do their jobs? A tow truck has to be relied upon to effectively move another vehicle from one location to another without putting the towed vehicle in any danger of damage. So what specialized designs allow for this demanding job?

While there is a huge variety of different techniques and equipment that can be used for towing, most private, commercial, and city-owned tow trucks fall into 3 main designs. Read on to learn a bit about these different tow truck designs, what their strengths are, and what their drawbacks might be.

Hook and Chain

a hook-and-chain tow truck

An older design for towing vehicles, trucks with this design have a hook that attaches directly to the towed vehicle’s axle or body. A chain connects this hook to the truck, which essentially tows by dragging the vehicle behind it.

This design isn’t very common these days because the possible damage they can cause to towed vehicles. Because they’re essentially being dragged and rolling on their own 4 wheels, cars towed this way are liable to bump into anything, and the hook will almost always cause at least minor damage.

Wheel Lift

a wheel-lift tow truck

Like the hook and chain design, wheel lift trucks tow vehicles by pulling. But rather than just rolling cars behind them, wheel lift trucks are equipped with e a metal yoke that is placed under either the front or rear wheels of the towed vehicle. Hydraulics then lift the wheels in question up off the ground.

In this way, the truck stabilizes the towed vehicle much more than the hook and chain design, and there is no big metal hook to potentially cause damage to the vehicle’s body.


a flatbed tow truck

Perhaps the safest way to transport a vehicle, these trucks have large, flat beds in back that can be inclined like a ramp using hydraulics. The car in question is then either driven or hoisted onto the ramp using a winch, where it is securely fastened to the bed. Once everything is set, flatbeds can actually move very quickly even with a vehicle in tow.

This method excels at preventing vehicle damage, as the car being towed sits fastened in place rather than being dragged behind the truck as in the other 2 methods. The only draw back could be that it takes more time to fasten the car to the truck, but this extra work is well worth the results.

So these are the 3 most common towing types you might see! Both wheel lifts and flatbeds work well for most situations and are a much more reliable alternative to attempting a DIY hitch tow. It’s always safer to call a professional when you need a vehicle towed, and Will Tow is always on stand by for roadside assistance. If you need a tow truck in San Marcos, give us a call!

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