It’s an unfortunate reality that at some point, your vehicle will break down. A flat tire, a malfunctioning fuel gauge, or something more serious, can easily leave you stuck and frustrated. Fortunately, there are professionals dedicated to getting you back on the road. Like all industries, towing companies have their own terminology that can sometimes be a bit confusing. This list of common towing terms can help you to better understand the insider lingo used to dispatch service vehicles. 



This common device is used on everything from children’s toys to aircraft carriers. A winch consists of a central shaft wound with a chain, cable, or rope. The cable is attached to an object and then pulled back toward the winch, winding the cable around the shaft. The winch attached to a tow truck is powered by a motor capable of pulling tons (literally) of weight. 



The boom is a long attachment used for safely reaching difficult places (imagine a crane). When attached to a tow truck, booms can be used to access otherwise inaccessible vehicles. In combination with a powerful winch, the boom can lift an object completely off the ground. 



A device used to secure the front or rear wheels of vehicles being hauled by wheel lift and hook/chain style tow trucks. The yoke is placed under the wheels, and then straps or chains are attached to the frame of the vehicle being towed. 



Epolitos Towing Common Towing Terms

Loading a car onto a flatbed truck

In towing terms, outriggers are used to make the recovery vehicle more stable. Large “feet” are deployed to the sides of the tow truck, improving weight distribution. Outriggers are often necessary when using a boom during recovery operations. 



Flatbed tow trucks are one of the safest ways to tow a vehicle. A flatbed truck has a long and (you guessed it) flat bed to place your vehicle on. A hydraulic system is used to move the flatbed into position like a ramp. The tow truck driver will then use a winch to pull the vehicle up the ramp, at which point the bed is repositioned to become level again. One of the things that makes flatbed trucks so cool is that they can tow boats, motorcycles, and other vehicles that traditional tow trucks can’t.  


Wheel Lift Truck

Wheel lift trucks are what many people visualize when they think tow truck. Instead of having a hook and chain, the wheel lift truck uses a metal “yoke” to secure its load. The metal yoke is hooked under the front (or rear) wheels of the disabled vehicle and then lifts half of the vehicle off the ground. This method is very common and much safer than traditional hook and chain style trucks.


Hook and Chain

Hook and chain style trucks are largely obsolete these days. They look similar to wheel lift trucks but employ a series of chains, hooks, and unintegrated attachments to do the job. A great deal of stress is placed on the frame of a vehicle using this method. Most hook and chain rigs are used for salvage work because they have the potential to damage whatever it is they’re hauling.



This towing term usually refers to a type of truck used for heavy-duty recovery jobs. This beast can haul a fully loaded tractor-trailer weighing more than 80,000 pounds. Although the average motorist will likely never need to call a wrecker, they are commonly used to clean up traffic accidents. Typically equipped with a boom lift, outriggers, and a wheel lift, wreckers can tow just about anything out of just about anywhere.

We get it, calling for a tow can be intimidating. We hope this list of common towing terms will help take some of the mystery, and therefore some of the anxiety, out of what can be a difficult situation. If you can think of anything we missed, give us a call at Epolito’s Towing. We would love to hear from you.