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Tips to Safely Tow a Car

by jonckie@arrivealive.co.za

Some South African motorists have car insurance, and fortunately, they could have a towing service/roadside assistance service as part of their policy. This policy will usually include a few free tows or some level of roadside assistance per year. The motorists who have this option with their insurance are fortunate enough not to worry about how to tow their cars safely.

A challenge manifests itself if a motorist doesn’t have the above option. So, how do you legally and safely tow vehicles?

How do you legally tow a vehicle?1,2

Before you decide to tow your car, you have to take into consideration the legalities around it . The National Road Traffic Act, 1996 (Act No. 93 of 1996) and The National Road Traffic Regulations (2000) mention that you are allowed to tow another vehicle provided a tow bar, chain or tow rope does not exceed 3.5 metres. The other legal requirement is that the towed vehicle must be driven by a licenced driver and must be safely connected to the towing car. The tow bar, chain or rope must be of a specific material when required to tow, which you should confirm with your car’s manufacturer or insurer. You should not just tow your vehicle with any rope you find laying around. It must be of a certain standard and quality.

Vehicle brakes could be an issue1,2

Some cars are unable to stop once they are switched off and need to be towed. This is very dangerous if a tow rope is used. A truck with a flatbed or a tow truck should be used to transport the vehicle safely.

What implications can be experienced when using the legal tow rope? 1,2

With the legal tow rope only being 3.5 metres in length, the person that is behind the steering wheel of the towed car will have to have  perfect reaction time when it comes to braking. In the above-mentioned Act it states that a vehicle should only be towed at a speed of 30km/hour when using a tow rope or chain. If a tow bar is being used the 30km/hour speed limit can be exceeded as it is safer than the tow rope or chain.

Why is the legal towing distance between two cars 3.5 metres?

A shorter tow rope is better as there is more control over how much slack there is between the two vehicles. If the tow rope were to exceed that, there would be more room for error. If you think about taking a corner, the longer ropes slack can cause the towed cars wheels to drive over it, and this can cause the rope to snap, or if there is too much slack it can cause the car towing to jerk the towed car unnaturally or maybe even snap the rope. This can also put much strain on the two vehicles structures and possibly causing structural damage to both vehicles.

Use a vehicle that is able to tow another vehicle1,2

The Road Traffic Act stipulates that both vehicles must have a correct gross mass weight. So, the power to mass ratio must comply with one another. For instance, a 1.0-litre entry-level vehicle will not be able to tow a big 4×4 SUV or bakkie. Even if it could, it can cause massive damage to the small car’s engine and structure, and it will not be able to control the mass of the 4×4 sufficiently well enough towing.

When it comes to towing a vehicle, it isn’t as easy as it seems and with this, it gives you an insight on what measures to take when you are in this predicament.

Car insurance is something motorists could consider helping them should they find themselves stranded on the side of the road with their cars and to take advantage of other insurance benefits. Perhaps consider buying affordable car insurance with PMD?


This article was prepared by Eric Sandmann in his personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own. The views and opinions in the article should not be attributed to anyone but the author unless expressly stated. Nothing in this article should be relied upon as advice, this publication is presented for informational purposes only. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found in this article, without first obtaining proper financial advice from the appropriate professional. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, or completeness, of any information linked from, referred to, or contained in this article. The author reserves the right, to edit and change the content of this article.


1 https://www.arrivealive.co.za/Towing-Of-Vehicles

2 https://www.carzar.co.za/blog/tow-the-line-towing-a-car-in-south-africa




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