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Damage Control

Avoid Common Wheel Lift Problems By Terry Abejuela

Field Editor Terry Abejuela has 40-plus years of light-duty towing and recovery experience. He is also a light-duty Level 1 instructor for the California Tow Truck Association.

If the wheel lift is extended enough to allow for a sufficient turning radius, the vehicle can be jackknifed a significant amount without causing the towed vehicle to make contact with the tailboard of the tow truck.

T Note: Special thanks to Allstate Roadside and their commitment to tow operator safety.

AT’s Safety Focus sponsored by

owing malfunctions can damage your customers’ vehicles and also harm your company’s professional image, driver morale and your bottom line. Since wheel lift towing is one of the most common ways of handling passenger cars, light-duty vans and pickup trucks, it’s important to learn from others to avoid common problems. In the hands of a properly trained operator, wheel lift tow trucks can be operated relatively error free. The most common types of wheel lift towing damages affect the towed vehicle’s body, undercarriage, suspension, transmission, wheels or hubcaps. Body damage is commonly caused by tow operators who either utilize in-cab remote controls (where they do not have an unobstructed view of the wheel lift and vehicle to be towed) or jack-knife a

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vehicle in tow. Tow operators become proficient at estimating where the wheel lift crossbar is in relation to the road surface and if the vehicle to tow has adequate ground clearance. They can usually save time by lowering the wheel lift and extending it from inside the cab of the truck and backing up to the vehicle until the crossbar contacts the wheels. Most wheel lift crossbars are not visible from inside the cab without the use a camera system, so this is done blindly. This practice has a high probability of damage and is not recommended.


The best practice is to get out of the truck and watch as you lower and extend the wheel lift. At the same time, inspect

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American Towman Magazine - October 2021  

American Towman Magazine - October 2021  

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