How could you move a small car a small distance (like 5 blocks) without a tow dolly or tow straps I have rope but don't have tow straps.

  • I asked in the great out doors because you guys seem like you'd come up with something more creative
    – user36537
    Jan 18, 2016 at 4:44
  • 4
    For only 5 blocks, I'd just put it in neutral and push it. Cars roll pretty easy once you get them going (as long as you don't have to go up a hill), especially if you have help.
    – ShemSeger
    Jan 18, 2016 at 5:14
  • What if I have a truck but only have rope
    – user36537
    Jan 18, 2016 at 5:59
  • 1
    What kind of rope is it, towing rope, sailor's rope? A towing rope is a must have in any car, but any should work as long as it is strong enough and it's possible to fasten it tightly to the small loop. Also, if you have an automatic or a four wheel drive variant then make sure the car should be towed at all. Jan 18, 2016 at 12:03

3 Answers 3


A rope is all you will need. Almost all vehicles have an accessible strong point that can be used to tow. This may be a loop or hook specifically designed for towing, or it may just be a part of the chassis.

While a tow rope incorporating a little elasticity is best for towing (as it can soak up jolts) you can safely tow using just a rope, and a little diligence on the part of the drivers.

Remember cars with power steering or power assisted brakes may be much harder to drive if the engine is not running, so take care. And the key will need to be in the ignition to release the steering lock.

And for cars with automatic transmission the recommendation is that you carry on a flat-bed truck, don't tow, if your engine is not running!

  • I would like to add to this that the ignition still needs to be on (so that your steering lock is off and your brake lights are working, mostly the former) and you need someone in the driving seat to steer and brake. Jan 18, 2016 at 12:28
  • I did update the steering lock bit - I'd hope the needing a driver is obvious :-)
    – Rory Alsop
    Jan 18, 2016 at 12:31

There are several considerations here. But the most important missing piece in your question is a second driver. If you don't have the car you are towing on a dolly or trailer someone will need to operate the steering and brakes. Depending on where you live they may also need to be a licensed vehicle operator. The car you are towing also needs to be licensed and insured.

If the car has a manual transmission, you may want to tow it in neutral. (second option later)

If the car has an automatic transmission, tow it running in neutral as suggested by Rory in his answer. If it does not run, and it has rear wheel drive (front engine) disconnect the drive line to prevent damage to the automatic transmission. If it is front wheel (or rear engine, rear wheel drive), you can theoretically disconnect the drive shafts, but this probably not practical. Lastly you can tow a car with an automatic transmission by just putting it in neutral there is risk of transmission damage, I have flat towed cars with automatics distance of 5+ miles and gone on to drive them, transmission damage is a risk not an absolute.

If the only thing you have to tow with is rope, it needs to be STRONG, the amount of forces involved are huge, particularly when starting stopping and also while turning if one vehicle rolls over the rope when it is slack. Before attempting to tow the vehicle test the strength. With the brakes applied in the dead vehicle pull with the tow vehicle. Your tow vehicle will either spin a tire, or the dead vehicle will drag its locked tires OR the tow rope will break, be aware when the rope breaks it will snap and swing, Everything within a circle the length of the rope is in danger, people die when tow ropes break. If it breaks in the parking lot you have some control over who is around, if it breaks while you are moving, not only might you kill someone walking down the street, your dead car is going to be sitting in the middle of the road, when the police arrive they will likely impound it, along with all the other legal implications.

Ideally your tow rope/strap should be at least one car length long, the driver of the dead vehicle will need time to react if the tow car stops suddenly. If your tow rope/strap/chain is short running it through a steel pipe can help prevent damage, the pipe will act as limiting device preventing the dead car from running into the tow car. If the dead car has questionable brakes, this is critical. You will want to limit slack to as little as possible, an inch or less is best. You also need the pipe to be long enough so the cars won't touch when turning.

The first couple of times someone flat tows a car is a learning experience, it is going to be very bumpy with lots of tugs, jerks and bumps. You should expect that one or both cars will get a bumper dent, or that the tie point will be damaged. Many newer cars have holes in the frame that special towing hooks are connected to, by a tow truck. In this case whatever you tie to under the car is not designed for the loads flat towing will subject them to. If you can't afford to repair this damage don't hook to it.

Assuming everything else is going well, you need to move now. Keeping the tow rope taught is important. Ideally the person in the dead vehicle will apply a slight pressure on the brakes to keep the rope tight. If the dead vehicle has a manual transmission, and is otherwise in good shape, you can put the dead car in 3rd gear and let the engine compression apply the back pressure.

  • PS: A 20 foot tow strap can be had at harbor freight for just over $10 while it is still possible to break one of these, you have to apply a lot more stupid before it happens. With all the things that can go bad if a rope breaks it is well worth the investment. Jan 18, 2016 at 13:42
  • I have a second driver because my dad's coming as a witness of the paper signings etc
    – user36537
    Jan 18, 2016 at 17:05
  • But if I can't get money for a tow rope would you recommend any knots to tie two ropes together or even have any idea to connect a chain with no hooks to the vehicles my dad's truck has a towing hitch.
    – user36537
    Jan 18, 2016 at 17:08
  • Once you tie the knots and tow the car, they will get really tight, expect to cut the rope loose when you are done, the type of knot does not matter much on this type of connection, a normal square knot is usually fine. If your chain does not have hooks, there is no good way to attach it. The tow strap is really your best option. Jan 18, 2016 at 18:10
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    I would try to set the parking brake to the first click before i would tow a car in gear. It works for automatics and manuals, and depending on why you need to tow it, you really don't want the engine turning. I'd also be very hesitant to push anything modern rather than towing.
    – JPhi1618
    Jan 18, 2016 at 19:03

Mate back one car to the front of the other and tie together so there is no gap put some rubber there if you don't want to damage car in tow. Put key in ignition of car under tow and take streering lock off as long as you tie to 2 points on both vechicals You will be fine corners braking the lot works fine

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