Tow Truck 101

4 Different Types of Tow Trucks

There comes a time in every motorist’s life when they will have to call a tow truck. When it comes to tow trucks, everyone usually pictures an old school pick-up-style truck with a cable on the back. The towing industry has come a long way in the last couple of decades. Most towing companies have several different types of tow trucks, each designed with a specific purpose in mind. Let’s have a look at the four most common types of tow trucks.

Hook and Chain Tow Truck

Hook and chain tow trucks were some of the most widely used tow trucks in the towing industry. As the name implies, the vehicle being towed is attached to the tow truck with a hook and chain. Unfortunately, this towing technique comes with a lot of downfalls. It’s impossible to regulate much pressure is being applied to the vehicle being towed. Vehicles would often sustain damage from the heavy metal chains. 4×4 and all-wheel drive vehicles ran a high risk of their drivetrain being damaged by a hook and chain tow truck. In present times, hook and chain tow trucks are mostly used for towing junk vehicles.

Wheel Lift Tow Truck

Wheel lift tow trucks actually have similar mechanisms to hook and chain tow trucks. What makes them much less problematic is is their use of a metal yoke instead of chains. The metal yoke is placed under the drive wheels while a hydraulic lift raises the wheels off of the ground.

Wheel lift tow trucks have a large metal yolk that’s placed under the vehicle’s drive wheels. A hydraulic lift suspends the wheels in the air, allowing the vehicle to be towed safely. You’ll often see this type of tow truck responding to light duty vehicle breakdowns.

Integrated Tow Truck (Integrated Wrecker)

Integrated tow trucks are used in heavy duty towing and recovery jobs. It has a boom, similar to a rotator (see blow). Unlike the rotator, the boom on an integrated tow truck does not rotate. These tow trucks also have extra axles which add much needed stability and strength for heavy duty recovery operations.


Rotators are made for heavy duty towing. These impressive tow trucks are fitted with a pivoting crane-like boom making them perfect for heavy lifting and recoveries. Some models of rotators can lift as much as 75 tons! You’ll often see a rotator responding to accidents involving trucks as it’s pivoting arms allow it to lift incredibly heavy vehicles while not requiring too much space. We often see them used to lift HVAC systems in between two commercial buildings! Costing upwards of $350,000, rotators can make a heavy duty towing job a piece of cake!

Have you ever needed a tow truck? Do you remember what type of truck came to your aid?

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