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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingOctober 18 - October 24, 2017
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Dangers of the Three-Wheel Technique

dangercopy 129a4By Randall C. Resch

While I understand the safety side of towing, using techniques that aren't sanctioned by the industry brings question as to their origin. But in order to extract a vehicle from a parking space quickly, a new technique has made its way to the towing forefront; enter "The Three-Wheel Technique."

It's the newest craze that's hitting the towing and recovery industry and I'd like to share it with you. I salute new ideas, but there's more than face value here than what some towers may bargain for, especially when the technique has potential for causing tow-inflicted damages and potential injury or death. This one has proved to be costly.

Visualize this: a tow company arrives to a rather typical private-property impound. The tower seems to follow appropriate procedures on the administrative side and then sets out to tow the vehicle. As it's parked nose-in in the parking space, the technique that's used is one that's far from standard and, in my opinion, questionable and unsafe.

The technique is simple; a tow operator backs up to the intended impound and lowers the wheel-lift a smidge above the pavement. Using the inside cab controls, backing up and operating the controls at the same time takes some finesse to avoid contact with the lower front or rear spoiler, splash pan or oil pan. As the wheel-lift's receivers make contact with one of the tires, the wheel-lift intentionally gets pushed farther out so the opposite receiver pivots under and beyond the vehicle's OTHER tire. The wheel-lift rotates past the tire to where the receiver's end has reached the center of the vehicle's underbody.

From inside the cab, the wheel-lift is raised and the far-side receiver contacts the underbelly of the towed vehicle. The vehicle tilts awkwardly where it's balanced only on one tire. From here, the tow operator drives forward moving the awkwardly balanced vehicle to an accessible location. While the process takes only seconds, the potential of damage is huge. Consider these two examples:

Casualty Example 1: Using the three-wheel technique, the tow truck's wheel-lift is lowered below the underside of a new Honda Accord. As the wheel-lift receivers are lifted to make contact with the vehicle's underbelly, it bends and creases the vehicle's entire muffler system. Because the receivers mashed the system's catalytic converter, the owner noticed a change in the new vehicle's performance causing him to take it to the dealer. Once raised on a service rack, there was obvious and noticeable damage to the catalytic converter, muffler and exhaust ... an expensive fix.

Casualty Example 2: Tower No. 2 uses the Three-Wheel Technique to move a vehicle from a nosed-in parking space. The vehicle, a newer Chrysler minivan, was lifted by its underbelly, near the rear floor area. As lift was applied, the floor was pushed upward causing the underbelly to bend. The owner noticed that the large rolling side-doors would not roll freely. His trip to the dealer found a large hump bent into the minivan's floor pan.

To see the Three-Wheel Technique as it's put through its motions looks cool. The whole activity of the technique takes no more than about 30 seconds, but the technique has proved itself precarious and careless at best due to the potential for damage. Remember, when you're in business to not damage a customer's vehicle, the Three-Wheel Technique doesn't promote damage free-towing. The technique appears to be reckless and unconcerned for the property of others.

Just because it looks cool doesn't foster the image the industry expects. I believe that the technique isn't appropriate for the use of the equipment as the manufacturer intended. In the same manner lifting a vehicle with a forklift from the side tends to bend underside components, the Three-Wheel Technique has potential of inflicting expensive damages to your customer's vehicle. I recommend towers use the wheel-lift in the manner that's deemed acceptable by the majority of industry training and standards.
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