Man leaning against a stopped car on a foggy evening

How to tow a broken down car (if you don’t have breakdown cover)

One of the biggest problems with non-moving cars is simply that – they don’t move. If you need to get them from one place to another, you’ll need to get a trailer, and if you don’t have a trailer to hand, then it’s time to get the towrope out.

But how do you tow a car? Or rather, how do you tow a car correctly and safely? Let Scrap Car Comparison guide you through everything you need to know.

A white car on a trailer being towed away

Can you tow a broken down car yourself? 

So long as your car has a tow hook, there is nothing to stop you from towing a car yourself rather than waiting for a professional – although you must only do so if you have a friend who is able to be in the car being towed. If you were to tow the car without someone sitting in the second car’s driver’s seat then the moment you hit the brakes you’re going to end up being rear-ended by yourself. 

Can you tow a broken down car on the motorway? 

Towing on a motorway is incredibly dangerous, due to the much faster speeds of every other car on the road. The only situation where you are able to tow a car whilst on the motorway is if the car has broken down on the motorway itself. If you do need to take your broken car somewhere that would require you to use a motorway, you must make sure you have a trailer to transport it.

How to tow a broken down car

Before you start towing your car, there are a couple of legalities you need to be aware of first:

  • You may only tow a manual car – if your car is an automatic you will need to call for professional assistance.
  • The person in the driver’s seat of the towed car must be a qualified driver.
  • You must always display an “On Tow” sign in the rear car whilst it is being towed.
  • If the distance between the two cars exceeds 1.5 metres, the chain, or rope, must be clearly visible from both sides to other road users. The most common way of doing this is to tie a coloured strip of fabric so it flaps down in the middle of the rope.
  • If the car is being tied by a rope or chain, as opposed to a tow bar, then the distance between the two cars must not exceed 4.5 metres.
  • If you are towing after dark, the rear car must have its lights on as normal.

If you’re driving the car doing the towing, then you’ll want to make sure you drive at a maximum of 15mph. The slower and steadier you drive, the more control you will have over the two cars. Make sure you pull away gently, using the clutch to avoid a jerky start, as you’ll want to gently pull on the tow rope rather than a sharp yank – the latter could cause the rope to snap if put under too much pressure. Avoid any sudden braking manoeuvres as the second driver will need plenty of time to be able to react. Likewise if you anticipate any sudden changes of direction, make sure to warn the driver behind so they are able to turn with you. Finally, keep an eye on your mirrors to make sure everything is running smoothly.

Drivers of the rear car will need to make sure the ignition is set to the ‘on’ position as this will ensure the steering lock is off and allow you to steer the car. When it comes to steering, make sure that your steering and braking is synchronised with the lead car, and try to keep some tension in the rope at all times to avoid any jolting. Just because the lead car is in control, doesn’t mean you should be any less aware than if you were driving normally – keeping a keen eye on the brake lights and indicators of the car in front to ensure you’re prepared for anything coming up.

Other ways to move a broken down car

Aside from towing, you can always get a trailer, or if you know someone with a flatbed truck they may be able to help. However, the easiest way to remove a broken down car is to use Scrap Car Comparison’s industry-leading End of Life Vehicle services. Not only are we able to use our nationwide network of specialist buyers to provide you with the best price for your car possible, but with buyers in all four corners of the country, we’re able to arrange a collection for you for free.

Find out just how much your car could be worth in less than 60 seconds using our quick and easy online scrap quote generator, and your broken down car won’t be your problem for much longer. 

Get Quote Now

Get Offers For
Your Scrap Car In
Less Than 30 Seconds


Best price in 30 seconds

Your request is processing

Your request is processing...