Towing chains and straps
If you’re towing cars with a wrecker, another term for a flatbed tow truck, you’ll want to invest in high-quality towing supplies and tools. Three key tools for wrecker drivers are tow chains, towing hook, and tow straps.
Wreckers have an electric winch-winder at the head of the flatbed. This motorized winder spools and unspools steel wire rope or steel cables, empowering tow truck drivers and auto-haulers to load the vehicles quickly, safely, and effectively.
Steel winch cables cannot be connected directly to the vehicle you want to load. Instead, you need to connect the cable to a chain with a frame hook on the end. These intermediary chains are sometimes called chain slings.
While there are many types of towing jobs where chains and hooks are useful, we’re focused on the work of towing, loading, and hauling vehicles onto wreckers.
Other towing jobs, like overhead lifting, vehicle recovery, and trailer hitching are all important, but the straps, hooks, chains and tools used in those towing contexts are different from the tow hooks, straps, and chains here.
Types of Towing chains
Tow truck chains come in different grades. There is also a range of chain designs to meet your needs as an auto-hauler or wrecker driver.
When you’re looking for a tow chain you can secure to a winch, there are four essential chain designs that might meet your needs: v-chains, j-chain assemblies, v-strap assemblies, and auto-hauling chains.
V-chains have a single anchor, a ring called an o-link or pear-link, which is the point where you’ll attach the chain to the cable. Then, v-chains have two chain “legs” stemming from the anchor point. Each leg has a frame hook at the end.
Having two frame hooks lets you adjust the position of the hooks on the frame of the vehicle you want to load. It also allows you to spread the tension across the frame rather than limiting it to a single, tense point.
This is especially helpful if the frame of the vehicle you want to load is a bit fragile.
Along with v-strap assemblies, v-chain assemblies are also called chain bridles.
2. RTJ-chain assemblies
Chain assemblies have a single anchor point and a single chain leg. However, there are three-to-six hooks opposite the anchor point rather than only one.
RTJ chain assemblies have at least one of each type of frame hook, whereas J-chain assemblies and T-chain assemblies have multiple J-hooks or T-hooks at the end of a single chain leg.
3. V-strap assemblies
V-strap assemblies also have a single anchor point, an o-link or pear-link, and v-strap assemblies also end with at least two hooks. However, instead of having two chain legs stemming from the anchor point, v-strap assemblies’ legs are made of heavy-duty polyester webbing.
This makes v-strap assemblies lighter and more flexible than v-chains. It also protects the car from getting inadvertently scratched or damaged by a chain, as polyester webbing is a soft material that won’t cause scratches.
4. Auto-hauling chains
Auto-hauling chains may have a single ring as an anchor point, or they may use an eye hook with a wide throat as an anchor point.
Unlike v-chains and assemblies, auto-hauling chains have only one single chain leg, often very heavy-duty. An auto-hauling chain typically ends in a single frame hook, but some do end in a cluster of hooks.
Questions & Answers
Which chain grade is best for towing?
Depending on the vehicle you’re hauling, the chain grade may differ. If you’re hauling a regular sized vehicle or truck, you should use a chain with a grade no lower than 70, while with heavy construction equipment should go no lower than 80.
Should you cross chains when towing?
You should always cross your chains when attaching chains to your vehicle. By crossing the chains, it helps the trailer while turning to reduce the amount of stress and creates a cradle if the chain gets separated from the truck.
When should you not use towing chains?
Towing chains should not be used if you know or want to make sure the chain won’t damage the vehicle while towing. For example, if the vehicle's profile runs low, it’s safer to use a towing strap to get the vehicle up on the bed.
What must a tow chain have when towing?
A tow chain should have the appropriate working load limit for the tow you want to do and should have the right end fittings that are compatible with your vehicles such as large J-hooks or T-hooks.