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How do tow truck lifts work?

Do you know how a tow truck lift operates?

It’s easy to take a tow truck operators job for granted. You don’t think about towing service until your situation requires it. What are the steps involved in operating a tow truck lift? How does it work and what is a truck operator doing while you’re checking your phone and wondering if you fed the dog?

We’ll cover the different types of towing equipment and basic operating procedures. Next time you need a tow truck operators help, you won’t need to ask what they’re doing.

What is a boom lift used for?

A boom is the long and tall extension rig on the back of a tow truck. The concept of a “boom” is not exclusive to tow trucks. You may have heard of a “boom mic” in cinema. These microphones use the same concept and are connected to a system that sets them high above the actors in the scene. Different tow truck booms use pivoting frames, are fixed, or use a series of telescoping tubes powered by hydraulics. They are sometimes used for towing, but more often used for recovery.

How does a boom lift work?

How does a tow truck lift work?

  1. The tow truck operator positions the lift above the site of the recovery. Lifts can extend beyond barriers and foliage. This is why they play such a large role in roadside recoveries.
  2. The winch is lowered and guided to the vehicle or item. Booms typically use hooks and chains or belts for recovery. These are manually positioned and secured by the operator.
  3. When the load is secure, the operator will pull the winch in while operating the lift controls. This way they can recover an item with as little damage as possible.
  4. Once it is fully recovered, the operator can unload the package on a new vehicle or take additional steps to secure it to their own.

What is a wheel lift?

A wheel lift is a natural evolution of the original hook and chain. The first version of a wheel lift was actually a small hook/chain equipped boom lift. These risked damage to every vehicle they towed, but bumpers used to be made out of stainless steel. After plastics and lighter metals became popular the technology was forced to advance. Today’s wheel lifts don’t risk damage to a vehicle. They can safely secure a vehicle and were originally designed in 1967.

How does a wheel lift work?

  1. The operator prepares the lift by simply lowering it or setting up the required belt system (used for larger vehicle bumpers).
  2. Wheel lifts extend. The operator will reposition the lift beneath the vehicle. They may reposition the tow truck as well.
  3. Once it is beneath the load, the operator will raise the lift. This will leave the front or rear wheels of the vehicle on the ground.
  4. The only step left is security. Depending on the vehicle being towed this may involve belts, hooks, chains, straps, or wheel locks.

You know how wheel lifts and boom lifts work, but what other options do you have in the tow truck industry? Find out what different kinds of tow trucks we use on a daily basis.