When broken down and waiting for assistance, it’s important to know which type of tow truck is best suited to your car to minimise any additional damage during transit. Not every tow truck is capable of moving all types of vehicles, so make sure you inform the towing service of your car’s year, make and model to ensure that the correct truck is used. The two main types of tow truck are wheel-lift trucks, which pull the vehicle on a pair of its own wheels, and flatbed trucks which lift the vehicle completely off the ground to rest on a flat platform.
When towing any two-wheel-drive car, the drive wheels must be never in contact with the ground as this can cause critical damage to the transmission and drivetrain. Even if the car is in neutral, the car should not be towed on its drive wheels; although neutral disengages the engine from the transmission, it does not disengage the wheels from the transmission. As the drive wheels turn the transmission turns; this is dangerous as while the engine is off there is nothing actively cooling or lubricating the transmission and overheating can result. So, for front-wheel-drive vehicles, the front wheels should be elevated and vice versa for rear-wheel-drive. For all-wheel-drive and automatic cars, none of the wheels should touch the road and only flatbed trucks may be used.
Although the more expensive option, when it comes to towing, flatbed trucks provide the most protection to your vehicle. The vehicle is hoisted onto the flat platform at the back of the truck by hydraulics (if the car cannot drive itself onto the platform) and is fastened in place before transportation. Flatbed trucks can transport vehicles efficiently and safely because the car is not dragged behind and cannot collide with roadside debris. Flatbed trucks are the only truck type which can transport heavy, automatic, or four-wheel drive vehicles, but due to the simplicity of a flatbed, it is capable of moving almost any other type of vehicle, including boats. Securing the vehicle to the platform can be more complicated than the attachment process in wheel-lift trucks, but the extra time required is worth the added protection if damage is to be minimised.
There are two types of wheel-lift trucks, those which use the older hook and chain method or those equipped with more modern ‘metal yokes’. Both are less safe than flatbed trucks because the vehicle being towed is essentially dragged behind the truck and is likely to collide with anything on the road. Despite this, the services provided by these types of trucks are usually more affordable than the flatbed alternative.
Hook and chain trucks are only recommended for transporting wrecked vehicles as the hook, which is attached directly to the vehicle’s axle or body, will almost always cause some sort of damage. The chain which connects the hook to the truck can also scratch and dent the exterior of the vehicle, so it’s best to use this method only when extra damage to the vehicle during transport is not of concern.
Wheel-lift trucks which use a metal yoke and hydraulic lift to suspend the drive wheels are more stable and therefore safer. Without the hook and chain, the chances of damage in transit and damage to the car body decrease.
It’s essential to consider the condition of your vehicle and the situation you are in before contacting a towing company. But in a pinch, it’s probably best to use a flatbed truck despite their price.
If you get into trouble you really want a tow truck nearby as soon as possible. Living in South Africa is amazing: it is a beautiful country, with great weather, and some lovely people… but it has its problems too. One of those is crime. And related to that is violence.
We don’t want to speak “doom and gloom” but when you break down on the side of the road you do not want to be near an informal settlement, or an unsafe area, and you certainly don’t want to be there at night. Even a person with bad intentions that is driving past may become a problem – they may see you as a great opportunity for a robbery as you are a sitting duck with no way of escaping.
Thankfully, nowadays you can phone someone, and can be assisted relatively quickly. But, sometimes you do not know how long they will take in arriving. Some tow truck drivers will give an accurate estimation, but others may promise a quick arrival to ensure they get your business. A wise tow truck driver will send a live location pin – available now through Whatsapp for free (except any data cost) – that gives you peace of mind. However, if you don’t get one, the anxiety of worrying what could happen is not a pleasant feeling.
The wonderful thing is that with modern technology, and this website, we hope to connect customers to reliable, speedy tow truck drivers that are nearby that will arrive on time, or even before the suggested time!
Although no-one ever wants to be in a situation that requires a tow-truck, these moments seem to occur when they’re least expected and least welcome. If you ever find yourself stuck and in need of some heavy-lifting, you should use a service that meets your requirements in your area, on budget and with a good reputation. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before choosing a towing company:
1. Does the company provide the service you’re looking for?
Not all tow truck companies provide the same services and often specialise in certain situations – ensure that the company you choose does what you need it to. 24-hour roadside assistance is needed for breakdowns, flat tires, and empty fuel tanks. Other companies which specialise in transporting heavy vehicles (tractors, trailers etc) are, however, less suited to assist in emergency situations. Long distance carriers are needed for moving vehicles to distant destinations and impound companies are required to remove illegally parked vehicles.
2. Does the company operate in your location?
Selecting the best company for your situation is pointless if that company does not operate on routes which include your current location. Be sure to check which regions the company provides services to before paying any fees.
3. Is the service affordable?
To avoid surprise charges, make sure to agree on a fee before your vehicle is removed. Towing services usually charge a hook-up fee (to attach the vehicle to the truck) in addition to a price-per-mile fee. Using the PPM, you can estimate the total cost of towing and determine the best destination for the vehicle. Be aware of companies willing to exploit an emergency situation for higher fees but note that quality service doesn’t always come cheap.
4. How reputable and what quality of service is the company likely to provide?
It is important to trust the company to ensure your peace-of-mind. Online reviews give a good indication of the quality of service but be mindful of fake reviews which may inflate a business’s rating. It often comes down to the helpfulness of the operators and how courteous the technicians are, to judge the customer service experience. Ensure the company’s website or app advertises certified, experienced operators, quick responses and high-quality repairs.
A reliable company, in addition to supplying the equipment and experienced staff, should be committed to providing personal and professional assistance. Once you’re certain to be in safe-hands make sure to save the details of the company for if and when you may need them again.
Those stressful moments where you’re stranded on the side of the road with your car showing no signs of life seem to happen at the most unexpected of times. It’s in those moments, where you would do anything and face any cost to get to your destination safely, that taking the right course of action is most important. Following these steps in a roadside emergency situation should get you out of harm’s way:
1. Pull off to the side of the road and remain inside your vehicle.
It is important to position your vehicle out of the way of other vehicles to avoid collisions. It is far safer to remain inside the vehicle, but if you must get out, exit the vehicle on the passenger-side to evade other cars.
2. Turn your hazard signals on to notify other cars around you.
Whether on not you could move your vehicle away from incoming traffic, it is crucial to your safety that you indicate to passing cars that your vehicle has broken down.
3. Call your insurance company and notify them of the incident.
Your insurance company will likely require details of the incident as well as your current location. If your precise location is unknown, mobile GPS can be used to pinpoint your position (Google Maps, sharing your ‘live location’ on WhatsApp etc). Some insurance companies may send their own roadside assistance but, if not, confirm which companies/ services are valid for reimbursement. Insurers may cover the cost of towing (up to a certain limit) but this is often dependent on the service and distance to tow.
4. If not organised by the insurance company, contact a tow-truck service.
Select the most appropriate service for your situation based on your budget, location, their speed of service and recommendations (insurance companies may make their own suggestions). But be aware of tow truck scams which involve the operator offering to contact the insurance company on your behalf – this, of course, can lead to costs not covered by the insurer.
5. Get estimates from various towing companies for their services and agree on a price.
It is important to confirm the price of the towing (either a flat fee or a rate per mile) before the vehicle is removed to forgo any additional, surprise charges.
6. Determine where the tow truck should transport your vehicle to.
Depending on the situation, it may be cheaper to move the vehicle to a nearby service station and organise further transport home.
7. When safe to do so, record any damage to the vehicle.
Once it is safe to exit the vehicle and the tow company has arrived, ensure that you record any external damage to avoid liability for any further damage that may occur during transit.
8. Confirm how your vehicle will be towed and remove all valuables.
All personal belongings should be removed from the vehicle (in case of theft) and the towing method (a flatbed or chain) should be agreed upon to minimise risk to the vehicle in transit.
9. Once the vehicle has safely been transported, keep the receipt for insurance purposes.
Equipped with these steps and any further advice from your insurance company, you should be able to safely tackle being stuck on the side of the road.