Wreckmaster Blog


How to lift and tow a light duty vehicle: 17 steps to a quick and safe tow

Posted by Justin Cruse on July 6, 2017

As the largest provider of tow truck training in the world, WreckMaster is proud to help tow truck operators across North America stay safe and work fast. This post offers the basics on how to lift and tow a light duty vehicle. But first, some important safety tips: wear a reflective safety vest and gloves, keep yourself separated from traffic whenever possible and always stay aware of your surroundings.


1. Arrive on scene with your lights flashing. Introduce yourself to the customer or officials. Survey the situation and casualty, including where the drive wheels are on the casualty, as you’ll want to reduce the risk of damaging the casualty's transmission by lifting it from the center at the drive wheel end if possible.

2. Calculate the resistance you’ll need to overcome and the effort required to successfully lift and tow the vehicle. Learn how to calculate your towing capacity.

3. Explain what you’re going to do to the customer or officials on scene, and let them know what they need to do.

4. Back your truck into position. Pay close attention to the alignment of your truck and the casualty. Only block the roadway with permission.

5. Stabilize the casualty and your tow truck using the proper wheel chocks.

6. Lower the wheel lift and tilt as needed until it’s about an inch above and parallel with the ground. Depending on the type of unit, you may need to unlock and adjust crossbar receivers to the width of the casualty’s front tires, relocking them into position.

7. Extend the wheel lift until the grids on the crossbar contact the front tires of the casualty where the tires meet the ground.

8. Attach or close the L-arm wheel lifting device around the tire. Ensure the L-arm is in 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.


9. Install two primary straps or chains (one on each side) to secure the casualty to the wheel lift.

10. Lift the vehicle to the recommended tow height, adjusting for clearances. We recommend that the bottom of the towed vehicle’s tire is in line with the center axle of the tow truck. Check the clearance between the oil pan and the cross bar, and the rear of the casualty and the surface of the ground.

11. Adjust your overhang to maximize towing capacity by making sure it’s the shortest distance possible from the center of the drive axel to the point of lift, without risking contact between the back of your truck and the casualty when you make a turn. 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. 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.

12. 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. 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.

13. Place the casualty’s transmission in neutral, if possible. Release the parking brake.

14. Straighten and secure the steering wheel.

15. Install tow lights. Be careful not to damage the paint of the casualty when placing the lights and securing the cord. (We recommend running and securing the cord under the casualty.) Test the tow lights to make sure they’re functioning properly.

16. Check 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.

17. Exit the scene safely. Get in your truck, disengage the PTO, put on your seat belt and enter traffic when it's safe to do so. 


Follow these steps to do it once, and do it right!

Topics: Light duty towing

Wreckmaster original is now even better. Check out the skates.