Tow hooks are used on a variety of vehicles for both recreational off-road driving and more practical towing recovery operations. You may notice that your imported European or Japanese car has a round tow hook, sometimes hidden beneath a plastic panel in the front or rear bumper. These are a style of tow hook, as well, though unlike off-road tow hooks, they aren't meant for pulling your car out of a sludgy mess of a trail in the middle of nowhere. They do serve a dual purpose, however.
Off-roading is the most obvious use for tow hooks. They allow you to attach someone's winch cable to your vehicle without damaging it to pull you out of sections of trail that your vehicle cannot traverse. They are the most obviously hook-shaped tow hooks available, and though most four-wheel-drive vehicles come equipped with tow hooks from the factory, aftermarket tow hooks are available that are much more stout and resistant to damage from hard pulling.
Tow hooks are also used on racing cars. Rather than connecting towing equipment to the frame of the race car, which may consist only of round tubes, round tow hooks provide an easy means of hooking up a tow truck to pull wrecked or non-operational race car off of the track. Usually, the tow hooks used for racing are round holes cut into steel plate.
Most of the tow hooks that you see on your family car are put there in consideration of emergency recovery. Because cars no longer have steel bumpers that can handle the pressure of being pulled, auto manufacturers incorporate tow hooks into their chassis designs so that your car can be pulled out of a ditch or snowbank if necessary without causing further damage to the vehicle. Often, these tow hooks are less robust than racing or off-road tow hooks, consisting simply of a 1/4-inch thick steel wire fashioned into a loop. These are usually accessible either immediately under the bumper or through a small access panel.
Many import automobiles use what appears to be a tow hook on the front and rear of the vehicle. While these can certainly be used for that purpose, and are specifically designed for that to be their secondary purpose, they are primarily designed to be used during the shipment of the vehicle. As a car is shipped overseas, the rolling of the boat through storms could cause the vehicles to bang into one another inside their shipping containers. By attaching straps to these tow hooks and securing them to the floor, manufacturers prevent damage to the vehicles.
- "4-Wheel Freedom: The Art Of Off-Road Driving"; Brad DeLong; 1997
- "Off-Road Recovery Techniques: A Practical Handbook on Principles and Use of Equipment"; Nick Cole; 1996
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