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If your vehicle breaks down while towing a trailer can a tow truck tow both your vehicle and the trailer?

The tow vehicle in this case is rear wheel drive.

  • This question is very subjective, if not off-topic. It sounds to be about the legality of towing on the motorway, which is not about Motor Vehicle Maintenance and Repair. Can you maybe explain exactly what you are getting at? Even if it is ontopic, we'd need to know exactly where you are talking about. Laws in Europe are really different than they are in the US, Japan, or China. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jul 30 '15 at 16:13
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    @Paulster2 I interpreted it as he wants to know if it is physically possible. Still, I don't think it's about maintenance or repair. It is an interesting question though. – Zach Mierzejewski Jul 30 '15 at 16:59
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    Perhaps tangentially related to repair, since the vehicle needs to be towed before repair can take place. But I agree the question is a bit of an outlier. – ALAN WARD Jul 30 '15 at 21:09
  • I get it now. I missed a key word which is in the title and not the body, that being "trailer". I have no clue why I missed it. Glad someone is here to set me straight. :D – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jul 30 '15 at 21:20
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    This question could save you a ton of money. Just imagne if no tow truck can tow your car and your trailer on the motorway? You would be hopeless on the motorway. This is real scenario and almost happened to me the other day. Moral of the story: If not sure about reliability of car, better stay off motorway when towing a trailer. – David Xu Jul 31 '15 at 10:31
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When requesting the tow, the user should clearly state

  • The fact that there is also a trailer that needs to be towed.
  • The weight of said trailer.
  • The trailer hitch type.

Otherwise, the towing company may not be able to send a suitable tow vehicle to the site. Not all tow vehicles have a tow hitch of both types (ball and NATO), and not all tow vehicles have a sufficient total weight capacity to include the weight of the tow vehicle + the towed vehicle + the trailer. Ditto for the tow driver's licence, that may be restricted to a certain weight. This depends on the country - driving licence weight categories are not the same everywhere.

To take a couple of examples, a fully loaded expedition 4x4 can go up to 3500 kg for the vehicle + 3000kg for the trailer - not something many tow vehicles can handle all at once. You would need a medium truck for this one. On the other hand, a small city car with a small trailer could be just 1000kg + 300 kg, which a typical tow vehicle would just shrug off. I have seen this second case actually happen.

Another point to take into consideration would be the small print on the contract of assistance, which may or may not include stipulations for this situation.

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Most of the time the tow company will do one of the following based on the equipment they have available at the time you call listed most common to least common:

  • Put your tow vehicle on a rollback, and tow the trailer at the same time with the same roll back
  • Send a second truck (sometimes a regular truck not a wrecker) to tow you trailer, this is done more often if your trailer is a fifth wheel or goose neck.
  • Tow your vehicle while leaving your trailer hooked up to your tow vehicle, this is usually only done for short distances and or when that's the only equipment they have currently available If the vehicle is rear wheel drive they simply pull the drive shaft.
  • Tow your tow vehicle with the trailer connected on a large rollback. This is getting into heavy duty (tractor trailer size) wreckers and usually isn't cost effective.

Pictured below is a rollback that can haul one car on the bed and another with the wheel lift on the back (red bar) the wheel lift also has a place to hook up a trailer, so your tow vehicle goes on top and your trailer is pulled behind it.

enter image description here

Here is another example of towing a vehicle while leaving the trailer (three trailers in this instance) hooked up. They could do the same with a medium duty wrecker for your car and trailer. Of course local laws will play a roll in what can be done in some cases. Especially once you get past towing something with double or triple trailers.

enter image description here

  • Your first options with the rollback is what I've seen most often and seems the most logical in the grand scheme of things. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jul 30 '15 at 21:21
  • @Paulster2 This is what I meant by a medium-sized truck in my answer. In Europe, that would need a truck-driver's C1 license (3500 to 17000kg total weight category). Over here, tow trucks are smaller (and more maneuverable), and many professional tow drivers have only a B+E (3500kg tow vehicle + 3500kg towed) license. – ALAN WARD Jul 31 '15 at 9:06
  • Re your first option: how does the tow truck tow the trailer? with a tow ball? – David Xu Jul 31 '15 at 10:33
  • @DavidXu Yes there is a mounting hole for the ball in the middle of the wheel lift. – Move More Comments Link To Top Jul 31 '15 at 13:12
  • @ALANWARD while I understand the licencing requirements the tow company is going to have that handled and will have a properly licensed driver operating the tow truck. We have light, medium and heavy duty towing. The rollback pictured above would be classified as medium duty in the states – Move More Comments Link To Top Jul 31 '15 at 15:06
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A number of years ago my Jeep blew a head gasket on the motorway whilst towing an empty car trailer. When I called for recovery and explained that I had a trailer, they sent a low loader with a tow bar. They strapped my Jeep to the flatbed of the recovery wagon and attached the trailer to the tow bar.

Some years later, my car trailer burst a tyre whilst at a motorsport event. I'd managed to get my race car to the event and compete but obviously couldn't drive it home on a trailer with a flat tyre so we loaded the race car onto a friends recovery truck and placed the stricken trailer onto another friends recovery truck.

I suspect towing a vehicle that is hitched to a trailer (and therefore also towing) to be illegal, it certainly would be dangerous as it would become very difficult to control.

  • "it certainly would be dangerous": certainly, since it would be difficult to rig braking on all towed vehicles - you are relying exclusively on the tow vehicle's brakes. Jack-knifing is a definite possibility. – ALAN WARD Jul 31 '15 at 15:28

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