Hooniverse Asks- Have you Ever had Your car Damaged by a tow?


I’m going to start out by saying that it has been my experience that tow operators are typically well-trained and considerate in their jobs, and would never intentionally damage a car while in the service of their duty. That being said, I used to live on a busy street in downtown Philly and every day at 3:00PM, the parking lane would open up to traffic. That was either accomplished by car owners moving their parked cars prior to that time, as it was marked on the signs, or by tow trucks who assisted the absent minded or intentionally law breaking parkers.

On one occasion I saw an all wheel drive Mitsubishi Eclipse get hooked up by one of the trucks, latching onto the front end, and dragging the car off, back wheels squealing in protest. This wasn’t the only time I saw a car get dragged off in a manner that probably wasn’t in their best interest, or with consideration of their owner’s wallets. This is why I try and park off-street whenever possible.

But of course that’s not the only reason you might get hooked to a tow truck. The funny thing these days is that there likely isn’t a hook on these trucks any more, most likely the connection is made via a hydraulic cross that wraps around the tires and allows the car’s body and frame to never even touch the leading truck. That technological advancement has made towing far less likely to damage your car, but that’s not to say it doesn’t ever happen. Today I want to know, has it ever happened to you?

Image source: Santa Monica Towing

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22 responses to “Hooniverse Asks- Have you Ever had Your car Damaged by a tow?”

  1. muthalovin Avatar

    Never happened to me personally, but I heard that back in the 80's, cops would instruct tow-truck drivers to just lay bikes down on the flat bed on their way to the impound lot.

  2. muthalovin Avatar

    Also, I bet that front splitter gets nice and scuffed up.
    <img src="http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2842/8762031458_687f547371_o.jpg&quot; width=550>

    1. BobWellington Avatar

      Just saw an NSX the other day. Such a classic. This one is a little too tarted up for me, though.

    2. longrooffan Avatar

      I also saw a red NSX today over in Naples, Florida and immediately thought of my favorite NSX fanboy:)

  3. dukeisduke Avatar

    I'll have to search the archives and find my Audi Fox story I posted awhile back. It's a doozy.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      Okay, here we go (repost from last April, "Hooniverse Asks- What’s The Worst “Professional” Car Repair You’ve Ever Seen?"):
      "My worst repair story is only somewhat epic, in that the dealer wasn't responsible, but a towing company. In September of 1978 I bought a brand new Audi Fox 4-door, with the hated (by me) Bosch K-Jet fuel injection. One morning in January of 1979, it wouldn't start. It came with a factory 12-month, unlimited mileage(!) warranty. So, I call the dealer (the now long gone Forest Lane Porsche Audi in Dallas), to have it towed in for a repair. The next day, I get a call from the dealer – they've replaced the warm-up regulator and the thermo-time switch, fixing the no start condition. But now, there's no Drive or Reverse (it was an automatic, since I hadn't yet learned how to drive a manual). Really bad.
      So, I head to the dealer to pick up a free loaner (a '78 Chevy Nova FTW!), and go into the room where the "unit repair" guy works (the guy who does most of the engine and trans overhauls), and inspect the torn down transaxle, complete with burned up clutches, and shafts turned blue from overheating. It turned out that the tow truck guy (with a company called "Professional" Auto Towing) had picked up the car from the rear and towed it backwards 25 miles, destroying the transaxle. They knew it had been towed wrong because the service manager found the car parked head in, in his reserved parking space. The same guy had towed a 911 the same day, damaging the rear suspension (oops!). His towing company's liability insurance got to eat the cost of my repair (a cool $2800).
      Of course there were no new transaxles in the US, so the car had to sit for six weeks (what?) while one was shipped from West Germany, so I got to drive the Nova.
      But wait, it gets better! The day comes when I go to pick up the car, the porter drives it up, and the left front wheel, drive axle, etc. rolls into the fender (in front of the door), because the two bolts holding the ball joint to the lower control arm are loose. The service manager says, 'Oh shit, I was just driving it at 70mph yesterday on LBJ!' (the freeway in front of the dealer), all the color draining from his face, realizing how close he came to meeting his maker. So, the car has to go into the body shop to have the fender and the front suspension repaired, another week down.
      A couple of weeks later, the flexplate-to-torque converter bolts loosened up, causing a hellacious racket on deceleration. That was cured by dealer re-torquing, along with some Loctite 271."

  4. MVEilenstein Avatar

    If by "damaged" you mean towed without cause and screwed out $1000 by the Snohomish County District Court in Everett, then yes, my car has been damaged by a tow truck.

  5. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar
    Dean Bigglesworth

    Very rare that anything is damaged if the driver has the keys to the car and there's a tow hook. If the keys are not available(so you can't get the hook from inside the car) and it has to be dragged from the wishbone, in park / in gear, with the wheels turned, something will probably break.
    Also Taste the Beast!
    [youtube TD5W_tibJYg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TD5W_tibJYg youtube]

  6. mdharrell Avatar

    <img src="http://www.murileemartin.com/UG/LWA13/400-UG-Pacific_Northworst_24_Hours_of_LeMons.jpg&quot; width="500">
    The front license plate probably was bent as the car and I were being loaded onto the flatbed for removal from the track, but the one part that definitely suffered from the experience was, sadly, the rear tow loop.

    1. LTDScott Avatar

      I broke the front "lights" on the Homer in a similar fashion while loading it onto the trailer after the race. So, my own damn fault.
      <img src="http://davidmoorephoto.com/storage/cache/images/000/975/1I2B9665,large.2x.jpg?1372317810&quot; width=650>

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        You trailer it?

        1. LTDScott Avatar

          Yes, I'm not hardcore like you. I would keep it registered if there was any prayer of having it pass smog, but that ain't gonna happen.

          1. mdharrell Avatar

            Yes, clearly the first thing that comes to mind upon seeing any of the various incarnations of the Porcubimmer is "not hardcore."
            Excellent point about smog, though. Mine's a two-stroke, of course, so it passes smog in abundance.
            <img src="http://www.murileemartin.com/UG/LWA13/528-UG-Pacific_Northworst_24_Hours_of_LeMons.jpg&quot; width="450">

          2. LTDScott Avatar

            Haha, no kidding.
            Sadly the registration just ran out this year. I kept it registered so I could flat tow it around town (it has to be registered). One of my team members was a smog tech, so somehow the car magically passed smog 🙂 Unfortunately, he no longer works as a smog tech, so our hook up is gone and the car is currently under "non-operational" status with the DMV. Plus after blowing two transmissions, I don't want to do anything that may hurt it, and I can't imagine flat towing is good for it.

  7. faberferrum Avatar

    Not by a tow truck, per se. Last winter I got my car stuck in a snow bank, an elderly friend helped me pull it out with the tractor. Unfortunately he's deaf enough that once I slid off the path and started dragging through the deep crusty stuff, he couldn't hear my honking. The front valence got a bit bashed in there.

  8. JayP2112 Avatar

    About 10 years ago I wrecked the Bullitt on the tollway during a torrential storm. The state trooper called in a tow for me. Tow driver asked my info, where we were going and asked for a credit card. We get to the shop which was about 20 miles from the scene, the driver drops off the car, says something to the receptionist and bolts.
    The receptionist was taking my info and realized I had tow coverage and wondered why the driver bolted without getting the info he needed to get a check. The driver was a lazy jackass who didn't want to drive back there the next day to get a check and charged me the $240 on my credit card which should have been covered by my insurance.

    1. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar
      C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

      I'd have contested the charges, but yeah, what a dick.

  9. I Think Not Avatar
    I Think Not

    Yes and no — lemme 'splain.
    My 1991 Cressida popped a head gasket. I had it flatbedded home, and the truck driver managed to pull the rear driver's side suspension way out of alignment with a too-tight chain.
    When it came off the flatbed at home, I left it street parked right where the truck driver dropped it because I was sick of the goddamned thing. It was over 12" from the curb, and it was towed the next day while I was at work. By the front wheels. The tow truck driver dropped the parking brake, but didn't put it in neutral. The reason was explained on the ticket: "blue Toyo Camry."
    My Cressida was not debadged, either. There were tire drag marks all the way down to the end of the block, then they stopped. I don't know what happened, but something gave and the tires started rolling. When I went to pick it up at the impound lot, I was determined not to pay a tow fee to get it the 4 miles home, so I topped off the radiator with water and started it up. The drivetrain worked as normal (well, normal minus a tendency to emit steam from underhood after 5 minutes), with no apparent ill effects from being dragged on the drive wheels while in Park.
    I got it home, and parked it in the driveway until I sold it as a non-runner. That was in 2011, which shows you how long it's been since the google car rolled through my neighborhood.
    <img src="https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-CCq5XBN0jUI/UgunDK-ldxI/AAAAAAAAKXs/yxLVHgfFAs8/w827-h440-no/street+view.PNG"&gt;

  10. Scandinavian Flick ★ Avatar
    Scandinavian Flick ★

    Yeah, once. When I wrecked my formerly pristine modified Volvo 242ti, the driver who came to pick it up was a total shitwank. Yeah, the front end was demolished. That does not give you free reign on the rest of the car. He left the driver's door ajar on the flatbed, which, while on the freeway, jettisoned some paperwork and a CD from the door pocket. He also put a substantial dent in the rear quarter while putting it in his shitty storage lot. I tried to go after him for damages and losses, but eventually decided it wasn't worth the effort. I then did my best to destroy the cocky assclown's reputation through online review sites and tried to encourage AAA to drop his business as one of their towing companies.
    Another bad towing experience was when I had to spend over 5 minutes trying to convince a driver that my Volvo 240 wagon was RWD. I eventually told him to leave and asked AAA to send a flatbed.

  11. Batshitbox Avatar

    Lets see; 18 years of driving, 14 automobiles on the road, 5 motorcycles
    First car wrecked, towed, totaled 1987
    Second car broken sub-frame, towed, repaired 1987
    Second car again, towed out of Harvard University, undamaged (never paid the ticket, either!) 1988?
    Sixth car and first IH Scout, wheel fell off, flatbedded 1993
    Fourteenth car (box truck), brake failure, towed, 2008
    First motorcycle, wrecked, towed (?) totaled (I was in the ambulance, I think my pal just loaded the wreck into his truck.) 1986
    Second motorcycle, towed by police. Not towed, put nicely in the back of a pickup, along with me and the driver's son, taken to the state line and released. 1992
    So only two tows for being a scofflaw, with no damage. Plenty of tows for driving shitboxes, though.

  12. jonathan Avatar

    In the summer of '08 I was out of town while my '89 Saab 900S had been towed from the street in front of my house. It seems the city (Louisville, KY) was going to do some road work without any advance notice and needed it out of the way. Fortunately my neighbor called my mother-in-law who called me. My brother-in-law who can't drive a stick offered to go to the impound lot, pay the towing fee, and get it towed over to the parking lot of his business the same day. This was great since it wouldn't stay in impound getting more fees by the day.
    Long story short, I get back into town and go to pick up the 900 and the center mounted ignition switch is destroyed. Like the barrel was missing. And there was a note with the number of the local Saab parts guy (who I know) saying he could probably help me. I never found out exactly what happened but assume it was the work of a ham-fisted police tow truck driver. From what I've heard the cops who get demoted are given the towing detail. Anyway, I put in a used ignition lock from my parts stash and all was fine though it sucked having to carry two keys for it now.

  13. lilwillie Avatar

    At the shop.
    We had a large panel van that was towed in with a "cranks won't start" problem. The owner had a company tow it to our shop. When it arrived I was worried right away. It was being towed with the rear wheels on the ground and it is a auto trans Chevy. I knew the van was towed about 50 miles so I looked in the cab before he lowered it. It was in "D" on the shifter. TH400's don't like having the rear wheels spinning when the engine does not.
    I made the driver note how he towed it. I snapped a photo. The next day after fixing the problem (ign module) I fired it up and put it in reverse. It moved about a foot before slipping out.
    Oh that was a whole lot of fighting back and forth even after I had all my ducks in a row and warned the customer the tow company messed it up. Tow company ended up buying a transmission.

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