Every vehicle owner dreads the day when their car breaks down or gets a flat tire, and they have to call a tow truck.
But what happens if that fateful day arrives and your vehicle is stuck in Park?
Fortunately, it’s possible to tow a car stuck in Park without damaging it. Because you’ll need to take special precautions, this type of tow should only be done by licensed professionals. If you need to tow the vehicle on your own, you never do it while it’s in Park.
Towing Vehicles While They’re in Park
If your vehicle gets stuck in Park, you have no choice but to have it towed to a mechanic to get it fixed.
Towing a car stuck in Park is not ideal. If you don’t take the right precautions, you can seriously damage the tires, axles, and linkages in the vehicle – or worse, damage the transmission.
When a car is in Park, a rod in the transmission, called a parking pawl, holds the vehicle in place. Improperly towing a car stuck in Park can break the pawl and potentially cause further damage.
How to correctly tow your vehicle depends on its make and model, whether it’s got a manual or automatic transmission, and whether it’s front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, or 4-wheel drive.
For a front-wheel drive vehicle with an automatic transmission, you can tow the car in Park as long as the front wheels are off the ground.
For rear-wheel drive, you must tow it with the rear wheels off the ground or have it loaded into a flatbed.
You have different issues if you have a 4-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle.
You’ll need to disconnect the rear driveshaft and tow it with the back wheels on the ground. Alternatively, you can shift the vehicle to two-wheel drive and tow it with the non-drive wheels on the ground.
The best way to understand how to tow your vehicle is to check your owner’s manual and hire a professional to tow it.
Does Towing Your Car Damage It?
Properly done, towing your car won’t cause any damage or problems.
Tow trucks hook to the frame of your vehicle to lift it because it’s the strongest part of the vehicle. Many cars have spots on their frames meant to tow objects or allow the vehicle to be towed safely.
That said, different vehicles have different requirements for towing.
For automatic vehicles stuck in Park, you may have to use a flatbed instead of a normal tow truck.
Automatic vehicles need the engine running to lubricate the transmission. Rotating the tires when the transmission isn’t properly lubricated can cause significant damage.
However, dragging the vehicle onto the flatbed will rotate the tires, but not much.
It also means the tires will be locked in place while the vehicle is transported, protecting your mechanical parts from unnecessary wear.
Cars should also not be towed with the emergency brake on. This brake can ruin your drive shaft and cause a lot of damage if you forcefully rotate the tires while it’s engaged.
Can You Tow a Car That Won’t Start?
Cars that won’t start can still be towed. In fact, you shouldn’t be towing a vehicle with the engine on unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Fortunately, you might not have to tow your car if it doesn’t start. You can try diagnosing the problem yourself.
You probably have a battery issue if your lights and radio don’t turn on. Check your battery connections or jump-start the vehicle if you need to.
If the engine doesn’t make a sound, but your dash turns on, it could be a few things.
The starter motor might have gone bad, the key fob might be dead, or you might just have a bad connection.
Try shifting to neutral and see if your vehicle starts normally.
If the engine makes a clicking noise, you might just have a weak battery. You can jumpstart the vehicle to get it going again.
Several issues might prevent your car from starting, but many don’t require a tow truck.
Towing a car stuck in Park is possible; you just have to do it carefully and with the help of a reliable professional.
Often, the safest way to tow a vehicle stuck in Park is on the back of a flatbed truck, where the wheels won’t rotate and damage your transmission.
Each type of vehicle (e.g., manual vs. automatic transmission, four-wheel drive vs. two-wheel drive, etc.) will require a different method of towing, so ensure you refer to your owner’s manual for the best course of action.