5 Reasons Why Towing Your Car With a Chain or Rope Is a Really Bad Idea

If your car needs to be towed, it’s easiest to call a tow truck. However, what if you don’t really want to do that? What are your other options? At first, you might think about towing your car with a chain or a rope. Here’s why that’s a terrible idea for car safety reasons.

Towing with a rope or chain is illegal in some states

A tow rope attached to the Formula One race car of Michael Schmacher
A Formula One race car being towed | Mike Cooper/Allsport via Getty Images

Since towing your car with a rope or chain can be dangerous for both you and others, some states have passed laws saying you can’t do it on freeways, explains AMR Auto Repair & Towing. However, towing with a rope or chain is still legal in some states, says AAA, including Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico.

Check the laws in your state to see if there are requirements about the length and strength of the connection and whether a particular color cloth or a sign needs to be tied to it. Some states also require a safety chain or cable as a backup in addition to the main connection. There may also be requirements in your state about taillights or maximum towing limits. These likely aren’t regulations most people are familiar with when they decide to save time by towing their own car after a breakdown.

Ropes can break

Ropes generally aren’t strong enough to tow a vehicle. If you try to tow a car weighing thousands of pounds, the rope can fray and break. This means you’ll be disconnected from your car, leaving it behind as you drive away.

Chains can break too

Chains might be stronger than ropes, but they can break too. It’s still not safe to tow with a chain since they aren’t flexible enough to handle the multiple tensions and pulling directions needed in towing.

Ropes and chains can damage the vehicle

You’ll likely discover that there isn’t a good spot to attach a rope or chain to tow your car, especially if you have a newer model vehicle. For example, the vehicle’s front end is not designed to stand up to the force of being towed. Therefore, attaching to the wrong spot can cause damage to the vehicle.

You may find that your insurance company won’t cover any damage that you cause when trying to tow your own vehicle after a collision, says Stauffer’s Towing. Additionally, damage caused by towing can void the warranty of the car, says J.D. Power. A professional will have the proper equipment and knowledge to tow your car without causing damage.

Towing with a rope or chain is not safe

Trying to tow a car with a rope or chain can be dangerous for the person doing the towing and anyone else on the road. If the rope or chain breaks, the car could be left stranded in the road as a hazard to everyone.

It’s also important to drive very carefully if towing with a rope or chain. If the driver stops quickly, the car being towed, which doesn’t have active brakes, will likely hit the tow vehicle.

A better way to tow

It is possible to tow your own vehicle, but it’s best to use an appropriate tow strap or tow bar when doing so. Tow straps are made of nylon or polyester and have end loops designed to be attached to the vehicle. These tow straps are sold in hardware stores and auto parts stores. Different tow straps are appropriate for different vehicle weights. If you’re planning to tow your car, you can also rent a tow dolly or a car carrier.

It’s also important to be well informed about towing, including knowing how much the towing vehicle can handle and its tongue weight. The towing vehicle will need to have a tow hitch already installed. Also, note that it’s best to tow an electric car on a flatbed only. Not every electric car has a neutral mode (although some do), so towing one by dragging it can damage the drivetrain.

If you’re prepared, it is possible to safely tow your own gas-powered car, but avoid towing with a rope or a chain to stay away from a potentially dangerous situation. Furthermore, if you’re uncertain about towing, it’s safest to hire a professional towing company.

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