Using a Factory Tow Hook to Pull Your Car or Truck

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Factory Tow Hooks to Get You Out of a Pinch

jeep stuck mud
You'll need to use your tow hook to get out of a muddy mess like this. Getty

Most drivers don't even know their vehicle has a tow hook, but since the 1950s most cars and trucks have been equipped with some type of provision other than the bumper to pull your car with a cable. These are known as tow hooks, and are strong enough in most cases to be used to pull your vehicle out of almost any situation. Car stuck in a ditch? No problem for the tow hook. You can even pull a truck out of a lake using only the tow hook as an attachment point.

The style of tow hooks has varied greatly since they went into production, and to this day there remains a wide variety of hooks built into vehicles. The simplest, and sometimes most effective, tow hooks consist of a loop of thick, hardened steel usually mounted beneath the bumper. Sometimes they are part of the bumper mount itself. In higher end autos, the tow hook will be in a hidden location. These involve removable hooks that attach to a firm mounting point, usually hidden behind an access panel. Your owner's manual will tell you where your tow hook is and give you some tips on how to make use of it if you find yourself in a fix. 

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Installing Your Vehicle's Tow Hook Using Factory Tools

car tools
Your vehicle has tools, including a tow hook, stored with the spare tire. Matt Wright

The hidden type of tow hook is just as useful as the exposed type, just a little more time consuming to access and operate. Use your vehicle's owner's manual to find out where your tow hook and the related tools are stored. They are usually in the same location as your spare tire, jack and lug wrench. 

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Installing Your Vehicle's Factory Tow Hook

tow hook access door
Use the factory tool to access the tow hook install location. Matt Wright

 Once you've unpacked the tools you need for the tow hook, locate the access panel for installing the tow hook. There should be a front and rear access panel. Your choice of which to use depends on which way the vehicle pulling you out of the ditch will be pointing. Use the screwdriver or wedged end of the lug wrench to pop the access door open or off (some will be hinged like a door, other access panels are removed completely for access to the tow hook installation site). 

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Tighten up Your Tow Hook

tow hook tightener
The crank for your vehicle's jack can be used to tighten the tow hook. Matt Wright

With the access door open, you'll see a threaded hole inside. This is where you insert the tow hook. Be careful to start the screwing process carefully. You don't want to cross thread the tow hook, which would not only damage the vehicle at the insertion point but could also mean that you don't have s strong a point as you need to pull your car or truck out of trouble. It may be hard to screw in, but that's why the designers of your vehicle provided a way to tighten it up fully. Don't even think about pulling your vehicle out of the ditch before you have the tow hook installed all the way and safely tightened up. The system on this Volvo XC90 utilizes a bar to add leverage to the turning and tightening of the tow hook.  

Once you have it tightened up, you're more than ready to be pulled out of trouble. Check out some tips for pulling your vehicle with a tow cable or strap before you start. Do it wrong and you could be doing all sort of bumper repair or fixing a serious dent in your car's body.