Is it safe to tow a car with a rope?

January 13, 2015

What to do? Your car broke down but a Good Samaritan has stopped to offer you a helping hand and give you a tow, using a rope. Should you say yes?

Is it safe to tow a car with a rope?

What type of rope can be used?

It’s possible to tow a car with a rope, but not just any rope will do. The average car weighs about 1,300 kg. Only heavy-duty ropes specifically designed for towing can withstand this kind of weight. Tow ropes are strong and resistant but they also have the necessary hooks for rigging.

A lesser type of rope can break and that’s dangerous. At best, it may be able to help if you're stuck in the snow or mud, but don’t count on it.

Can a car tow another car?

Yes, but there are factors to consider. First and foremost, ensure that the towing vehicle has the towing capacity to haul the weight of your car. The towing vehicle must be larger than the car it’s towing. Keep in mind that the towing capacity of most midsized cars exceeds 1,000 kg, and a compact car usually weighs about 500 kg.

Once you’ve confirmed the towing capacity information of the two cars (the weight of the car vs. the capacity of the towing vehicle) and the capacity of the tow rope, you can decide whether or not to tow your car.

What is the proper technique?

  1. Attach the rope securely to the respective anchor points of each vehicle.
  2. One of the drivers must climb into the vehicle being towed to maintain its control.
  3. Turn on the hazard lights on the car being towed.
  4. Make sure the brakes and steering wheel are working (you’ll need to control the speed of your car and steer it in line with the towing vehicle).
  5. The driver of the car being towed must gently apply the brakes when the towing vehicle slows down. It’s important to maintain the tension of the rope. This means driving the towed car slowly enough that the rope remains tight. If the rope slacks or sags and then jolts, it may cause you to collide with the towing vehicle or it might snap the rope.
  6. Sticks to secondary roads.
  7. Drive as slowly as possible and go only as far as the nearest possible destination (i.e., to the nearest garage).
  8. Remain in constant communication with the driver of the other vehicle.

Helpful tips

  1. The towing vehicle must have a towing capacity that exceeds the weight of the car being hauled.
  2. Never start the ignition of your car while it’s being towed. It could cause you to collide with the towing vehicle.
  3. Do not rig the rope to the bumper, it will never hold.
  4. Some "luxury" sedans have a surprising towing capacity. For example, Volvos can haul up to 1,500 kg, while the Jaguar XF can haul over 1,800 kg.

If you can, call a professional to tow your car. Towing a car from another car is a last resort scenario, and even then should be limited to very short distances.

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