When somebody is involved in a car accident or stranded somewhere may be due to an engine malfunction, a flat tire, or any other reason, they are not even considering the best towing service for their vehicle. Their major consideration is a means to be moved away fast.

However, for your towing company, it is necessary to consider the tow truck, because the type of truck you use has to be the right one to keep the car safe and without causing further damage.

Whether you operate a towing company, manage a body shop, work in repo, or roadside assistance, owning a traditional tow truck is a large expense. But owning a top-quality wheel lift that attaches directly to the underbody of a truck can help save you a lot of cash while also helping you do the jobs you want clean and effectively.

A long time ago all towing services were made by the same kind of towing system: hook and chain. This method involved wrapping some chains around the car frame, lifting one end with a crane, and dragging the vehicle, with the back wheels in contact with the road.

Even though this practice was normal and didn’t affect those big and robust cars of the ’60s and ’70s, but any attempt to use that practice on some modern vehicles, the chances are high that it would wreck the transmission among other parts. But with a wheel lift that has a hydraulic boom with a couple of crossbars at the end, these modern cars can be moved with less damage and fewer casualties.

Those bars are slipped under the front or rear wheels of a car. The vehicle is lifted and keeps two wheels on the ground. Note that the operator can lift the front or rear end, although it depends on the car’s transmission.

This wheel lift system is used to tow smaller or lighter vehicles, 2 wheel drive cars, and also for short distance and quick tows. Another benefit of this kind of truck is that it can fit into tighter spaces or low parking structures, so it is used to tow a car in a narrow road, parallel parked, inside a parking garage, or in the middle of traffic.

In addition, just like it was stated above, they can be quite cheaper than using flatbed towing, but it depends on a company’s price list. If your towing company uses a wheel lift truck, go for soft straps on the wheels. That will avoid damaging vehicle rims.

Once you understand how to effectively use a wheel lift, you can pull up to a car, truck, or van and tow it away in less than a minute. That is a huge advantage for busy tow drivers who can complete jobs faster as well as for repo professionals who need to act swiftly to avoid a confrontation.

Detailed Steps on How to Use a Wheel Lift Tow Truck

Before you start using a wheel lift tow truck for any job, remember to implement some very crucial safety tips like wearing a reflective safety vest and gloves, keeping yourself separated from traffic whenever possible, and also being aware of your surroundings. After that, you can proceed with the steps outlined below:

  1. Drive up to the scene with your lights flashing. Calmly introduce yourself to the customer or officials. Then carefully analyze the situation and casualty, including where the drive wheels are on the casualty because it is imperative you reduce the risk of damaging the casualty’s transmission by lifting it from the center at the drive wheel-end if possible.
  2. Then calculate the resistance you will have to overcome and the effort needed to successfully lift and tow the vehicle. Also take your time to explain what you’re going to do to the customer or officials on the scene, and let them know what they need to do.
  3. Carefully back your wheel lift truck into position. Remember to pay close attention to the alignment of your truck and the casualty. Only block the roadway with permission.
  4. Stabilize the casualty and your tow truck using the proper wheel chocks. Then lower the wheel lift and tilt as needed until it is about an inch above and parallel with the ground. Although it depends on the type of unit, you may be required to unlock and adjust crossbar receivers to the width of the casualty’s front tires, relocking them into position.
  5. Extend the wheel lift until the grids on the crossbar contact the front tires of the casualty where the tires meet the ground.
  6. At this point, attach or close the L – arm wheel lifting device around the tire. But make sure the L – arm is in the locked position. Check its position: the L – arm should be below center with a minimum of two fingers of space between the L – arm and tire.
  7. Install two primary straps or chains (one on each side) to secure the casualty to the wheel lift.
  8. Now is the time to carefully lift the vehicle to the recommended tow height, adjusting for clearances. Experts recommend that the bottom of the towed vehicle’s tire stay in line with the center axle of the tow truck. Also check the clearance between the oil pan and the crossbar, the rear of the casualty, and the surface of the ground.
  9. You will also need to adjust your overhang to maximize towing capacity by making sure it is the shortest distance possible from the center of the drive axel to the point of the lift, without risking contact between the back of your truck and the casualty when you make a turn. Note that to calculate your ideal depth, measure from the center pin on the crossbar of the wheel lift across to the furthest point on the casualty and add two inches. However, if the distance from the back of the tow truck to the center pin is exactly that measurement, you can feel confident that you can make any turn without the casualty making contact with the back of your tow truck.
  10. At this point, install two secondary attachment chains from the tailboard of the wrecker body crossed directly to the casualty with just enough slack to allow for turning. Remember that the secondary chains can be crossed either over or under your wheel lift. Hook them to a solid location that isn’t already being used by the primary attachments.
  11. Place the casualty’s transmission in neutral, if possible. Release the parking brake. Also, straighten and secure the steering wheel.
  12. Install tow lights. Also, be very vigilant not to damage the paint of the casualty when placing the lights and securing the cord. It is advisable you run and secure the cord under the casualty. Also, test the tow lights to make sure they are functioning properly.
  13. Check and confirm all rigging. Remove the chocks from the casualty and your truck. If you’re towing a pick-up, make sure everything in the truck bed or elsewhere on the truck is secure.
  14. Exit the scene safely. Get in your truck, disengage the PTO, put on your seat belt, and enter traffic when it is safe to do so.


Note that not all towing systems are the same, and it is pertinent to know about the most popular. Knowledge is power, so you can understand what are the advantages, disadvantages, and differences between hauling or towing services. If you are looking to use a Wheel Lift Tow Truck, follow these steps mentioned above to do it once, and do it right!

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What Is A Wheel Lift Tow Truck?

Wheel-lift tow truck refers to a specially designed truck that uses hydraulic power and/or winches to lift two or more wheels on one or more axles for towing by directly raising the tire/wheel assemblies on the towed vehicle.

  1. What Is The Weight Of A Tow Truck?

Light-duty tow trucks weigh between 8,600 lbs. and 10,000 lbs. These trucks can haul many types of cars with no issues, and it is the most common type of tow truck you would see on the road regularly. Medium-duty tow trucks weigh between 10,001 lbs.

  1. What Is Wheel Lift Towing?

Wheel-lift towing is another kind of towing system, which involves lifting the wheels of the car to be towed. Note! Both the hidden wheel-lift and slide-in wheel lift tow the car with the same principle. The arms are responsible for going under the vehicle and securing onto the wheels.

  1. How Do You Turn A Truck Into A Tow Truck?

You can convert your pickup truck into a tow truck. It’s as easy as purchasing a wheel lift that is compatible with your truck and acquiring a suitable pickup that lifts the correct amount, which has enough power and also contains enough space.

  1. How Much Can A Wrecker Sling Style Tow Truck Tow?

A wrecker sling-style tow truck is capable of towing loads greater than 17,000 lbs.

  1. What Do Tow Truck Drivers Do?

The major roles of tow truck drivers are to respond to calls for assistance from motorists, facilities, or other entities contracted with the tow company to remove vehicles. They load, transport, and unload stranded or unlawfully parked vehicles.

  1. What Are The Little Wheels On A Tow Truck For?

Dolly towing (also known as the hook method) refers to a towing device that is little more than two wheels, an axle, and a tow-hitch. A dolly trailer is used to tow a Front-wheel drive suspension car by hooking the two front wheels onto the trailer while the two back wheels are still on the ground.

  1. How Do You Load A Rollback Truck?

A rollback truck usually transports personally owned motor vehicles. It features a flatbed with rails. The bed, in its entirety, can be hydraulically lowered to ground level. Vehicles to be transported can be driven onto the flatbed or pulled onto it with a winch.

  1. What Is The Thing On The Back Of A Tow Truck Called?

It is called yoke! Wheel lift trucks will use a yoke, which is a piece attached to the back of the tow truck which goes under the front wheels of the car.

10. How Does A Rollback Truck Work?

Rollback tow trucks are also flatbeds in appearance but are fitted with a hydraulic system and winch that allows the bed to roll back and tilt at an angle to make it possible to drive or pull a vehicle onto the bed.

  1. How Do You Tow With A Wheel Lift?
  • Prepare the lift by simply lowering it or setting up the required belt system- used for larger vehicle bumpers
  • The operator will reposition the lift beneath the vehicle. They may reposition the tow truck as well
  • Once it is beneath the load, the operator will raise the lift. This will leave the front or rear wheels of the vehicle on the ground
  • The only step left is security- Depending on the vehicle being towed this may involve belts, hooks, chains, straps, or wheel locks
  1. How Much Can People Tow With A Truck?

To rightly get your truck’s towing capacity, subtract your truck’s curb weight from its gross combined vehicle weight rating (GCVWR). The GCVWR is the maximum weight of your loaded truck and the weight of its attached trailer. L

  1. How Much Does It Cost To Wheel Lift A Truck?  

Professionally, you might spend between $800 to $4000. Buying and installing a lift kit might cost between $400 to $4000 if you do it yourself, but if getting it done by an expert, the price can range between $800 to $12,000.

  1. How Do You Install Tow Truck Dollies?

Tow dollies are generally installed in the same manner as other hitch systems. You need to verify that your hitch and towing vehicle meet the necessary weight ratings and then check out all the components of your vehicle.

Here are the processes to follow;

  • Firstly, when using tow dollies make sure the hitch ball is at the correct height
  • Then double-check to make sure all the weights are okay
  • Next, make sure the tire straps are the right size for the vehicle and place them snugly around the tires
  • Avoid sharp turns while pulling your dolly or the two vehicles could collide with each other
  • Get your tow dolly-loaded and be ready to hit the road.
  1. Why Are Tow Trucks Called Wreckers?

The man who invented the tow truck, Ernest Holmes, coined the term wreckers. A tow truck and a wrecker mean the same thing but are called different things in different parts of the world.

16. Can You Tow An Electric Car If It Breaks Down?

No! For some reasons you should not tow your electric car when it breaks down. They do not have transmissions, so putting it in neutral and towing it can cause a lot of damage to the electric motor.

  1. How Much Weight Can You Put On A Flatbed Truck?

The standard maximum freight weight allowed to be carried on flatbed trucks is about 48,000 lbs for trucks with a trailer length of between 48 to 53 feet, and can also differ according to the number of axles present in the flat-bed truck.

  1. Why Does Your Truck Bounce When Towing?

Various factors can cause a bounce when towing. Improper tire pressure, oversized trailer tires, stiff suspension, improper load balance, or tongue length together with the position of the axle can all be culprits.

19. What Is The Legal Height Of A Flatbed Load?

The legal height of a flatbed load is usually 14feet.

20. How Do You Tow A Front Wheel Drive Automatic Car?

The possible way to tow a front-wheel drive automatic car is to simply put the vehicle in park and tow. And if all four wheels are on the ground, your vehicle must be equipped with a proper towing device to keep the transmission from turning without proper lubrication.

  1. What Is A Flatbed Tow Truck Called?

Sometimes a flatbed tow truck will be referred to as a slide or a rollback truck.

  1. How Do You Become A Heavy Wrecker Tow Truck Driver?

The following are the tips to become a wrecker tow truck driver;

  • Hold a valid license
  • Pass a background check
  • Complete a drug screening
  • Pass a physical ability test
  • Maintain a clean driving record
  • Must be able to pass a vision exam
  • Obtain your commercial driver’s license (CDL)
  • Meet age requirements- Tow truck drivers must at least get to age 18
  1. How Do You Secure The Steering Wheel For Towing?

If your steering wheel doesn’t lock when the key is off, you can use your seat belt to lock it. Wrap the seat belt a couple of times around the steering wheel and then buckle it in place. Then pull the seat belt all the way out so that as you let it retract it locks. Your wheel will be locked and secured.

  1. What Is A Towed Vehicle Called?

A tow truck is called a wrecker, a breakdown truck, a recovery vehicle, or a breakdown lorry.

  1. What Happens When A Tow Truck Breaks Down?

Should in case a tow truck breaks down, tow truck drivers will use a jumbo-sized tow truck of comparable size to tow the other jumbo-sized tow truck.

  1. How Much Do Tow Truck Company Owners Make?

The average towing business owner makes anywhere between $30,000 to $100,000 annually.

  1. Can You Tow A Front Wheel Drive Car With A Tow Dolly?

Of course yes! If you have a front-wheel-drive vehicle that can’t be four-down towed, you can tow with the rear wheels touching the road. You can tow almost all the car with a tow dolly or trailer, as long as the combined weight of the vehicle and trailer doesn’t exceed your RV’s towing capacity.

28. How Do You Tow A Car With No Wheels?

The best way to move a car without wheels is to pull it along the ground with a winch. And you can as well pull the car into a trailer, which you can then use to transport the vehicle to your desired location.

  1. Can You Negotiate With A Towing Company?

No! You cannot negotiate for your towing and storage fees. Towing companies usually do not listen to the negotiation of towing and storage fees.

  1. How Much Can A Ford Expedition Tow?

The engine gives the expedition a conventional towing capacity of 6,600 pounds. If you will be towing along even more weight, you can get the available heavy-duty trailer towing package added to the expedition. This makes the ford expedition towing capacity to reach 9,300 pounds.

31. What Is The Difference Between A Rollback And A Flatbed?

A rollback and a flatbed look exactly alike. They are two kinds of tow trucks that both have a low flatbed on the back. However, their differences are based on their functions. The major three differences between flat-bed and rollback heavy-duty towing trucks are listed below;

  • Purpose
  • Appearance
  • Towing Method
  1. What Kind Of Truck Can Tow A School Bus?

A class 3 or 4 tow truck could be used for a minivan school bus, while a class 8 tow truck can only be needed for a full-size school bus.

  1. Is A Flatbed Tow Truck Better?

Well, flatbed towing is probably the safest option available for transporting vehicles. So, when the towed vehicle is firmly strapped on the flatbed platform of the tow truck and not swaying behind the truck on two or four wheels, the risk to pedestrians or passing cars is much lower.

  1. How Much Does A Wheel Lift Cost?

A wheel lift usually costs anywhere from $400 to $12,000.

35. How Much Does It Cost To Tow A Car On A Flatbed?

The average cost of a tow is $109, although it varies on the size of your vehicle and how far it must be towed. But generally, the base fee is usually around $50.

  1. Is Owning A Tow Truck Profitable?

Absolutely yes! The average tow truck business owner makes between $30,000 and $40,000 annually.

  1. Can A Vehicle With An Automatic Transmission Be Towed With The Drive Wheels On The Ground?

Any vehicle with an automatic transmission should be towed with care to avoid damage to the transmission system. If it is a must, the drive wheels should be on the ground. At the same time, the car should not be towed for more than 25 Kilometers and the speed should not exceed 40Km/hr.

  1. If Your Vehicle Has Been Custom Lowered, Can It Still Be Towed?

Yes! Most lowered vehicles can be towed by traditional methods, alternatively, the flatbed tow is another option.