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What are the different types of tow trucks?

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Updated 8 Nov 2019

Rowan Johnstone

There a comes a time in everyone’s driving life where they need to call a tow truck to whisk their vehicle away, whether it be from a breakdown, accident or just simply getting it moved from A to B.

A common practice when booking a tow truck is to let the operator know what vehicle needs towing, and from this information, they will know what tow truck to send out.

So, what are the different types of tow trucks that could be sent out to you?

Flatbed tow trucks

Flatbed tow trucks are the most commonly used tow trucks, especially for passenger vehicles. This tow truck consists of a large flatbed which can tilt, meaning the operating can bring the back of the flatbed to the ground, whilst raising the front up in the air, so that a car can be driven, or pulled by a chain and winch, onto the bed of the truck. Once the car is completely on the bed of the truck, the bed can be levelled out again and then the car will be secured.

A flatbed tow truck is a great way to transport cars that have been in any type of accident, especially ones where the car is severely damaged. However, if it’s undrivable, it may need to be dragged onto the bed, which could cause further damage. Extremely low cars may also experience difficulties getting onto the back of a flatbed truck. Letting the operator know that your car is low to the ground may allow them to prepare and bring along the right equipment, or a different truck.

Hook and chain tow trucks

Hook and chain tow trucks are probably the ‘iconic’ tow truck. They’re not commonly used today though, due to the potential damage they can cause to drivetrains and the wear and tear they cause to tyres. The chain can also damage the bumpers of vehicles, which isn’t ideal.

The benefit of a hook and chain truck is that they’re more compact than a flatbed, so they can fit into tight spaces to retrieve vehicles. In this sense, they could simply be used to retrieve a vehicle from a difficult spot or tow it a short distance to safety.

Wheel lift tow trucks

This type of tow truck closely resembles the hook and chain, but instead of a metal hook and chain, they use a device that hooks around the front or rear tyres of the vehicle (depending on whether the vehicle is front or rear-wheel drive).

A pneumatic hoist or hydraulic lift is then used to lift the attached end of the vehicle into the air, allowing the car to be towed away.
This type of tow truck avoids the use of chains and hooks, but still has the drawbacks of not being appropriate for all-wheel-drive cars due to potential damage being caused to drivetrains.

Integrated tow trucks

The final type of tow truck is the integrated tow truck. These trucks are designed to tow other big rigs, so you won’t see one coming out to collect your little hatchback, or even your big 4x4. Integrated tow trucks are built to tow vehicles such as buses, construction equipment, and of course, other trucks.

Here at AutoGuru, we know how stressful a broken down car can be, so we’re out to make it a little easier for you. If your car has broken down, you can use AutoGuru to quickly and easily find and book with a quality local mechanic to help sort out your mechanical issues, and get you back on the road.

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Written By

Rowan Johnstone

On weekdays Rowan can be found in the AutoGuru office, driving content and growth with the rest of the marketing team.

On weekends you’ll probably find him in the garage with his father restoring a 1958 Ford Star Model Customline or enjoying a cruise through the Gold Coast hinterland on his Suzuki GSX-R600.

Despite his passion for being behind the wheel (or handlebars), he looks forward to the day when he can commute to work in his own driverless car.