Towing: Explained

Towing is an important part of the automotive world. Good towing companies and tow truck drivers help keep the world moving.

What is towing?

Towing is the act of of one vehicle using its own power to propel itself and another vehicle or object to move it from one place to another. Any machine or power source which can transfer force to another may be used to accomplish towing. In the old days animals such as oxen or horses were used for this purpose, as well as hand powered wenches or levies. In todays modern world, I high powered vehicle is used to create force and tow the desired object, usually another vehicle, or a trailer with cargo. Towing today has many applications, such as moving or recovering vehicles which have been involved in a collision or vehicles which are otherwise disabled. Tow trucks are often used by city or state authorities to remove and impound vehicles which have been illegally or improperly parked. Large towing vehicles are used every day to move goods across the country, including everything from heavy machinery to the groceries you find at your local supermarket.

Towing Methods

There are many different towing methods and coupling techniques used in modern towing today. Each method of towing has different advantages and pitfalls which should be considered when deciding to tow a load from one place to another.

A ball and hitch coupling method is common when attaching a trailer to a truck for towing cargo. The towing vehicle will have a steel ball which protrudes from its tow hitch. The trailer will have a corresponding socket which fits over the ball. The trailer will be jacked up and lifted on the ball hitch. This is a relatively simple and universal method used for pulling campers and small flatbed trailers.

A fifth wheel towing method involves a column which protrudes vertically from the front end of the trailer which is to be towed. This column will be lifted directly into a coupling on the back of the towing vehicle. This is another common method used for towing of larger recreational vehicles. In fact, the term “fifth wheel” has come to be synonymous with a larger camper or trailer. However, this method of towing is the one which is most often seen with larger semi-trucks and and cargo towing rigs.

A three point hitch is the towing technique most often seen in farming, such as with tractor-trailer set ups. With this method, the joint between the trailer or equipment being towed and the towing vehicle is fixed, and will not swivel. This will serve to place more downforce on the towing vehicle, and thus giving it more grip and towing in a possibly muddy environment.


Towing and coupling can be achieved in a variety of different ways and fashions. Whenever your are towing cargo or a vehicle, be sure that you are familiar with all the different methods, their advantages and disadvantages, and their applications. Be sure to check out another one of our articles for other important towing topics!