Tow trucks come in various styles to serve different applications, such as hauling a wrecked car to a junkyard or transporting a disabled vehicle to a repair shop. Typically, tow truck companies rely on a few main types of tow trucks and wreckers for their daily operations. When you know the main differences between the types of tow trucks, you can be better prepared to select the right one for your company’s needs.
Find out more about the main kinds of tow trucks and the value of hidden wheel lift models below.
What Are the Main Types of Tow Trucks?
There are four main types of tow trucks that towing companies use today. These tow trucks include hook and chain tow trucks, wheel lift tow trucks, flatbed tow trucks and integrated tow trucks. By knowing the different types of tow trucks, you can select the right one for your needs:
1. Flatbed or Rollback Tow Truck
Flatbed or rollback tow trucks feature a flat-topped empty bed on their rear, designed to carry vehicles on top of it. When these tow trucks need to mount a vehicle on their bed, they employ hydraulics to vertically shift the flatbed up or down.
Once the operator’s ready to pick up a vehicle, they simply put their flatbed on the ground and drive the vehicle on top of it. When a vehicle is inoperable and can’t be driven, the operator will use chains and a winch to haul the vehicle onto the bed. After the vehicle is on the bed, the tow truck’s powerful hydraulic system lifts the bed and the vehicle up into a secure position behind the cab.
Since flatbed trucks are easy to operate, you’ll often see them on the road towing vehicles to their destination. Towing companies usually use them to pick up and transport vehicles that have had an accident or broken down on the road.
Flatbed trucks are also popular because they offer a safe way to transport vehicles. With this type of tow truck, you don’t put any potentially dangerous pressure on towed vehicles or drag the vehicle on the ground. Instead, the flatbed takes all the stress, keeping the vehicle protected from harmful conditions during transport.
2. Hook and Chain Trucks
Companies employ hook and chain tow trucks to tow junked vehicles. These trucks feature a heavy-duty hook and chain attached to their rear. Operators can attach the hook to a vehicle needing a tow or piece of cargo, pulling it behind the truck as they make their way down the road. When an operator attaches the hook and chain to a vehicle, it lifts one side of the vehicle up, suspending it in the air and leaving the other side’s wheels on the ground.
While transporting a vehicle to its destination, these types of tow trucks basically drag the vehicle behind them. This method of transportation can harm whatever’s being towed, as it puts the bumper and other parts of the car in harm’s way, leading to scratches and more serious damages. Additionally, these tow trucks aren’t compatible with four-wheel or all-wheel drives, as the dragging tends to harm these vehicles’ drivetrains.
Due to the potential for damage during the towing process, companies usually only employ hook and chain trucks for wrecked vehicles and other cargo that doesn’t require gentle treatment. At one time, these were some of the most popular kinds of tow trucks. They continue to be useful today for specific applications, such as towing cars to junkyards.
3. Integrated Tow Trucks
Integrated tow trucks are another one of the main types of heavy-duty tow trucks. These trucks specialize in assisting with recovering and towing heavy-duty vehicles, such as buses and rigs. Since these tow trucks are very fast to hook up to vehicles, they’re also often used to haul vehicles for repossession or illegal parking applications.
Typically, an integrated tow truck features a wheel lift and boom integrated into a single unit. Because they’re designed to haul incredibly heavy and large vehicles, they also feature an extra axle. This additional axle helps the truck better withstand the great deal of pressure placed on the truck during transportation by making the tow truck more stable and strong. Integrated tow trucks also have their arms installed in the truck’s core to give them more stability.
Operators can control the wheel lift system and boom from their cab, which means they don’t have to leave the truck when they’re picking up a vehicle. This ability to stay inside the cab is especially helpful for times when an operator is repossessing a vehicle and needs to move fast.
4. Wheel Lift Tow Trucks
As an updated version of the hook and chain truck, a wheel lift tow truck lifts a vehicle’s front or rear and leaves the other side’s wheels on the road. The tow truck then drags the car behind it on its way to its destination. These tow trucks are usually used to haul disabled vehicles to repair shops.
Unlike the hook and chain tow trucks that rely on chains, a wheel lift tow truck utilizes a metal yoke to secure the vehicle. The operator puts the metal yoke below a vehicle’s front or back wheels. The truck then utilizes a pneumatic hoist or hydraulic lift to partially elevate the vehicle in the air behind the tow truck. After the operator puts the vehicle in this position, they can drive the tow truck and vehicle to the preferred destination.
Since these tow trucks use metal yokes instead of chains, they don’t put as much strain on the vehicle. As a result, they don’t damage the car as hook and chain trucks do, and operators don’t have to worry about scratching a vehicle’s bumper. The lack of damage makes wheel lift tow trucks appropriate for vehicles in need of repair, rather than those destined for a junkyard.
Lift and Tow’s Hidden Wheel Lift Models
At Lift and Tow, we offer hidden wheel lift models that you can use to outfit your towing company. Our hidden wheel lift towing kits are easy to install, making it simple for companies to turn pickup trucks into towing machines. We’re proud to offer hidden lift models that are compatible with most medium-duty and heavy-duty pickup trucks. Since our towing systems attach to a truck’s underbody, they’re completely hidden from view when you’re not using them.
If you select our Z series towing equipment, your operators don’t have to get out of their truck to pick up a vehicle as the equipment is self-loading and remote-controlled. This self-loading feature makes the system perfect for repossession agents who need to pick up vehicles quickly. Many of our clients choose our wheel lift models for their affordable price and their durable, high-quality design.