Can a Car Be Towed With the Emergency Brake On? Find Out Now!

When it comes to towing a vehicle, a question that frequently emerges is whether it’s possible to tow a car with the emergency brake engaged. In this article, we’ll delve into the specifics of this scenario, explaining why it’s not the best idea and what potential damages it could cause to your vehicle.

Understanding the Emergency Brake

Before we dig into the issue, let’s first understand what an emergency brake is. Also known as the parking brake, this brake is used when the car is parked to prevent it from rolling. It’s mainly designed to provide a backup if the regular brakes fail and to keep the vehicle stationary when parked, especially on an incline.

Towing with the Emergency Brake On: Possible, but Not Recommended

Technically speaking, a car can be towed with the emergency brake on. But just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s recommended. Towing a vehicle with the emergency brake engaged is highly discouraged because it can cause damage to both the brake system and the tires.

Potential Damage

Towing a car with the emergency brake on can lead to several issues. The first andmost evident issue is tire damage. The constant friction against the road surface can result in extreme wear and tear on the tires, leading to flat spots or even blowouts.

In addition to tire damage, the brake system can suffer as well. The emergency brake is designed to hold a stationary vehicle in place, not to endure the stress of dragging a vehicle. The excessive strain can lead to brake overheating, warped rotors, or even a completely damaged brake system.

Another important factor to consider is the transmission damage that can occur, especially when the car is pulled backwards. The forceful towing can potentially harm the transmission or transaxle, leading to costly repairs.

A Safer Alternative: Release the Brake

In order to mitigate the risk of damage, it is advisable to disengage the emergency brake prior to towing. If this is not feasible, there are secure alternatives at your disposal. One such option is employing a flatbed tow truck, which elevates the entire vehicle off the ground, effectively preventing any potential harm to the tires or brake system.

As another option, for front-wheel-drive vehicles, consider having the rear wheels elevated during towing. Conversely, for rear-wheel-drive vehicles, the front wheels should be lifted using a dolly or rollback. These techniques guarantee that the vehicle is towed without exerting undue stress on the emergency brake system.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, while it’s possible to tow a car with the emergency brake on, the potential damages to your vehicle make it an option best avoided. It’s always safer to release the emergency brake before towing, or to use a method of towing that lifts the wheels off the ground.

Remember that the goal of towing is to safely transport your vehicle without causing additional damage. It’s important to ensure that the method used respects this goal to avoid incurring more costs in repairs and potential hazards down the line.

Bonus Tips: Preventing Towing Issues

Now that we’ve established the importance of not towing with the emergency brake on, here are a few bonus tips to prevent common towing issues:

  1. Always ensure the towing method is appropriate for your vehicle type (front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive).
  2. For electronic handbrakes, learn how to disengage them if needed for towing.
    3.In a situation where your car might be towed without your knowledge (e.g., parking violations), make sure it’s always parked legally to avoid unwanted surprises.

It’s our hope that this information provides clarity about the potential risks of towing a car with the emergency brake on, and aids in making informed decisions should you ever need to have your car towed.


1. Is the parking brake the same as the emergency brake?

Indeed, the terminology “parking brake” and “emergency brake” are typically utilized interchangeably. This mechanism’s crucial role is to secure the vehicle, especially when it’s parked on an inclined surface. Additionally, it offers an invaluable secondary function as a complementary braking system, providing a safety net in the unfortunate event of primary brake failure during transit.

2. What is the appropriate way to tow a car which has the emergency brake on?

If your car needs to be towed and the emergency brake is on, the most appropriate way would be to release the brake before towing begins. If this isn’t feasible, tow operators may be able to lift the rear wheels off the ground, thus avoiding potential damage.

3. Can my car’s tire sustain damage if it’s towed with the emergency brake on?

If you tow a car with the emergency brake engaged, it can severely wear down the tires. Dragging the car with the brake active applies excessive friction to the tires, potentially causing bald spots, punctures, or even complete tire destruction.

4. What is the recommended speed for towing a car with no brakes?

If your car has a failed braking system and needs towing, it’s advised to drive at slow and controlled speeds. The recommended speed for a tow is generally around 15 miles per hour. Exceeding this guideline can increase the risk of losing control of the tow vehicle or causing further damage to the vehicle being towed.

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