Driver's Guide

How to Tow a Car with a Chain

Circumstances may demand towing a car, and without better alternatives, you’re forced to use a chain. Thus, this guide reveals how to tow a car with a chain.

Honestly, it is dangerous not to know how to tow a car using a chain. You are practically endangering not just yourself but the lives of the people and properties nearby.

Meanwhile, when towing with a chain, the open hook is not advisable. Experts recommend using a closed hook, especially when there is excessive slack in the chain that is not monitored.

You would also need a key for the towed car. When turning at corners, the steering wheel will lock and may leave you crashing into a structure or another vehicle.

Can you tow with a chain?

Yes, you can tow with a chain, depending on your state. However, although a typical chain is metallic, heavy, and tough, it is not dependable and must not be considered an off-road kit. Towing with a chain makes the task even difficult, and most states prohibit using a chain to tow a car with another car.

How to Tow a Car with a Chain

This section discusses the steps to tow your car using a chain. Below are the steps regarding how to tow a car with a chain:

  1. Get the Chain

You need a chain, but avoid using a playground swing chain; it is not tough enough. Also, the chain you use should have thick links. In essence, get a complete chain, especially a chain with loops or hardware to form loops on either end. If you’re the car to be towed is dead, it would be challenging to tow it, but it is easier to tow it with power.

  1. Prepare Another Car

When the chain is in place, make sure the vehicle to use for the chain towing is capable. You would not want to tow a 10,000-lbs vehicle with a 1,000-lbs vehicle. Meanwhile, you may refer to our article for a list of small cars that can tow 3,500 lbs.

  1. Put Car Tire Between the Bumpers

The classic trick to mitigate disaster when towing a car with a chain is to hang a car tire without a rim in between the bumper of the towing car and towed car. Nevertheless, make sure people stand a sizeable distance away from the tow chain when moving the vehicle. You can’t tell when the chain breaks and whips towards someone, which can be fatal.

  1. Get a Support

Get someone to steer and control the braking of the towed car. For enhanced perfection, get radios for communication. Note that a dead vehicle is tougher to steer and brake when towing compared to a running car.

Unfortunately, towing with a chain may be against the state laws, and your insurance company may cringe.

  1. Drive Slowly and Stay Alert

When towing a car using a chain, make sure to stay alert. To prevent a collision, the tow vehicle driver and towed vehicle driver must be alert. The best option is to have a means of communicating until the destination. Another important practice is to drive slowly and come to a gentle stop to keep both vehicles from colliding.

Tips to Tow a Car with a Chain

Let the Brake Do the Job

If the braking system of the towed car is functional, it should handle 70 percent of the braking.

Use an Experienced Person

Experience plays a key role here. If your tow partner is inexperienced, you would have to be extra careful.

Use Easy Routes

Know the routes you’re following and ensure to anticipate traffic lights. Routes with the least traffic, pedestrians, and highspeed lanes are preferable.

Get a Radio

A radio makes up for easy communication when towing a car with a chain. If there is no radio, both drivers, especially the towed car driver, must be attentive to the road.

Tow at Off Times

Towing with a chain is dangerous, and so the best time is during off times when the traffic is less. Nonetheless, you should not tow during the darker hours for better visibility.

Drive Gently

The most important aspect is to drive gently, especially when making turns or stopping the car.

Is pulling a car with a chain illegal?

Yes, it may be illegal to pull a car with a chain in your state, especially on freeways. The reason for the prohibition is the threat that towing with a chain poses to not just yourself but other road users.

What is the best tow chain?

According to experts, a typical best tow chain is a grade 80 chain. It is a steel chain treated with heat, tough for handling high weight ratio. It is also helpful for lifting overhead and slings safely. You can also recover a stuck car with it and tow it across various terrains.

Is a chain or strap stronger for pulling and towing?

A chain and strap have varying characteristics. Nonetheless, experts can rate both for equal pulling and suspension abilities.

A chain can be used to tow a car but require more carefulness on the part of the drivers when moving and stopping to prevent chain snatch, resulting in suspension, bumpers, and bodywork damages. Besides, towing chains are heavy steels that can break a car.

However, a strap is better when towing a car, including towing one car behind another. Typically, nylon straps provide flexible transportation, functioning as a rubber band to enhance safer towing. It also keeps the vehicle towing from being jerky or abrupt. Thus, minimizing the chances of potential damage.

You may also use strong cables that match the weight of your car. Unlike chains, you would experience flexibility using cables, and for similar size and weight, cables are tougher than nylon straps.

Can a broken tow chain under tension cause serious injury?

Yes, a broken tow chain can cause injury under tension. At worse, other road users are affected, and not just the towing drivers and equipment. Upon releasing the tension, there is a switch to kinetic energy from stored energy. If a truck tows a trailer, for example, the stretch on the rope runs up to tens of thousands of pounds. In essence, not only can a broken chain under tension cause injury, it can be fatal. If you can’t get a tow strap, make sure to tow the car with at least two chains for reduced stress.

Final Thoughts

The rule of thumb is to accelerate and match the brakes gently when towing a car with a chain. Towing gently reduces the strain on the towing points to ease the experience.

Finally, make sure to be attentive to the towed vehicle as a towing vehicle driver. The towed car driver must also rely heavily on the pedal and brakes to reduce the build-up on the chain.

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Bernard Juchli

Bernard Juchli is an experienced racer, mechanic and team owner who trusts Avon Tyres.Bernard is the lead driver and force behind his Big Dog Garage Race Team. He is the General Manager and Chief Mechanic of Jay Leno’s Garage. Bernard and his crew of seven are responsible for all repairs, restoration and fabrication of Jay’s incredible automobile and motorcycle collection.

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