How to tie down a car on a trailer

You know how it goes. Every now ‘n’ then, poop happens. If and when it does we might find ourselves far away from our own trailers in need of roadside assistance. If by chance you’re a card-carrying member of a roadside-assistance insurance company, think twice or more before placing your trust—and your pride and joy—in the hands of the first driver your “club” dispatches. Those drivers are on rotation, meaning whichever towing company is up next is the one that gets the call—and some of those drivers are rough. If it’s your daily door-slammer, fine. If it’s your pride and joy hot rod, street rod, custom rod, call the shots and call a towing professional you’re comfortable with. Granted, that’s only possible where we know the players—like close to home, but, statistically, close to home is usually where poop happens anyway.

Now, I don’t exactly recall mentioning this here before, but years ago I was a tow-biz professional myself. With that bit of experience I solidly believe that I know what to look for at tow time. If it’s painted, plated, and/or polished, it doesn’t have to take a beating from a reckless slob with greasy J-hooks and a big ol’ paint-scratchin’ ring of keys hangin’ from a belt loop.

Around the tow yard and out on the streets we see dangerously sloppy performances by Brand-X tow services. Thinking back, one of the worst loading procedures I’ve personally witnessed involved a guy many of us know. When his Model A coupe cracked an axle housing, a call went out to his towing insurer. As requested, a driver arrived with a rollback, but his bed was coated with motor oil and antifreeze with a sprinkling of broken glass. I watched in horror as that driver lowered his bed to the asphalt and instructed the car’s owner to drive it up onto the truck. That’s nuts! A qualified driver would never relinquish control. From here let’s switch to positive; take a deep breath and relax as we watch a true tow pro in action.

For the purpose of illustration, let’s raise the hood of a car that’s not really broken down. Then let’s search for a payphone. Then let’s search for a payphone that works and call a towing company owned and operated by real hot-roddin’ car guys who get it. Yes, qualified tow truck drivers are out there—perhaps in your area too. Just a little homework, just ahead of tow time, can save you some grief. On that note, let’s begin with our dramatization. Granted, every situation is different. Granted, there’s more than one way to load a hot rod, but for the job at hand, this is how we do it in the city of Riverside, California.

Trailer Tips for Do-It-Yourselfers

“If you want it done right,” call the right towing company or do it yourself. In times of lesser emergency when we have our own way, it’s tough to beat the safety and security of our own trailers. During the course of most any homebased build, a project will likely be trailered from place to place for this or that. After the build we might still trailer a finished rod or custom, at least on occasion. In this instance, after a marathon detailing session, a little Deuce five-window is about to be loaded into an enclosed trailer for the Grand National Roadster Show.


If you want to haul a car from one place to another, you’ll be concerned about its safety during transport. From loading your vehicle onto the trailer to tying it down securely, there are several important steps to take care of. If something goes wrong, it can mean damage to the car, your trailer, tow vehicle, and even those around you. Here at Victory Custom Trailers, we understand it can be a bit challenging figuring out how to securely tie down your car to a trailer, which is why we’ve created this brief guide to help you. Keep reading to learn more, and if you’re looking for some quality car haulers for sale near Flint, MI, stop by our dealership in Metamora.

Loading the Car Hauler Correctly

A key feature of car trailers is that they are equipped with solid ramps that can be easily pulled out from the rear. After you have taken out the ramps, line up your car behind them for loading on the trailer. To make sure that you’re on track, we’d recommend taking the help of an assistant who can signal you in case something’s wrong. After you line up the car, drive up the ramp slowly. Avoid turning the wheel, until no part of the car is hanging over the back or front of the trailer. Keep things slow and steady, as most car haulers will have just enough space, so it’s important that you don’t over speed.

Securing Your Car

Once your car is up onto the trailer, engage the safety brake and turn off the car. Secure it with fasteners and security chains. Move each strap ratchet left or right to align it with the center of the tire and position the straps up and over the front tires to make sure that they are centered. Fasteners should be tight, while chains should have a bit of slack. Now you can stow the ramp and drive a short distance in order to make sure everything is good to go.

Using Straps and Hooks

While tying down your car on the trailer, there are some key points that you’ll want to keep in mind. For example, selecting the right hooks can help make it easier for you to secure the vehicle. You’ll find several options for tie-downs that can be used with a car hauler. These include, “J,” “T,” and “R” hooks, which are compatible with most of the latest models. When it comes to versatility, flat hooks will work with a large number of cars. To tighten or loosen the tie-downs, you’ll want to pair the hooks with a set of sturdy ratchet straps, sleeves, and pads. Tie-downs made from plastic are an excellent choice as they help avoid scuffs and scratches.

While you are tightening your ratchet straps, remember that if your straps are too loose, you risk your car falling off the trailer. On the other hand, if they are too tight, it can cause damage to the vehicle.

With these simple tips and tricks, you’ll be able to securely tie down your car in no time. For more information, head to Victory Custom Trailers, where we have a wide selection of car haulers for sale. We are located in Metamora, Michigan, near Detroit and Flint. Come in today and we’ll show you the true meaning of customer satisfaction!

Story by Matthew Guy ·

Published Apr 15, 2020 · Updated May 25, 2021 · 1

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How to tie down a car on a trailer

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Knowing how to properly secure your side-by-side on a trailer can prevent a calamitous experience

Before you head out on your next off-road adventure, make sure you properly tie down your UTV to your trailer to keep you and everybody else safe.

Unless you’re one of the few off-road gearheads who are #blessed with the ability to hit a trail right from your backyard, it’s a virtual guarantee you’ll have to load your side-by-side onto a trailer at some point or another. Most cops take a dim view of hooning these things down public streets, after all.

While we’re on the subject, note that while most four-wheelers can fit into the bed of a pickup, there are an increasing number – namely the 55-inch wide Scrambler and Sportsman from Polaris – that are pushing the boundaries of what the Average Joe or Josephine can load aboard the back of their truck. The main tenets of this post can help with securing those types of rigs onto a trailer as well.

How to tie down a car on a trailer

The Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 S has a much wider footprint than other ATVs on the market, making for a tight squeeze in some pickup trucks beds.

Before we get cracking with tie-downs and ratchet straps, we’ll remind you of a few key things to remember when hooking up a trailer. Make sure you’re not exceeding any weight limitations of your tow vehicle, including the oft-overlooked measure of payload. The trailer’s tongue weight, generally 10-15% of the trailer’s entire weight, counts towards this total. Properly connecting all wiring and safety chains is also a must. If you’re looking for a few more details in this area, be sure to check out this article.

Your first job is to, y’know, actually get the machine up onto the trailer’s platform. Slow and steady wins this race, as the proper alignment of wheels and ramps will prevent one from gaining YouTube infamy. Don’t forget to properly weight distribute, placing heavier items (within load limits) toward the front of the trailer. If a load is too far astern, it may cause handling problems while driving. To use a sport allegory, think of a lead weight on the end of your fishing line and how it affects the trajectory of your cast.

Once aboard and properly situated, it’s time to secure your side-by-side so it doesn’t try to make like a convicted con and escape. There are several different types of tie-downs; we’re starting with the webbed type of wheel net intended to cinch down a rig’s tires because it is what’s used on the aging U-Haul style trailer being deployed here by your author.

How to tie down a car on a trailer

It’s important for the UTV’s front wheels to rest snugly against either the trailer’s forward lip or a set of specialized chocks like one of these options. Place the webbing up and over the tire, making sure it is centered on the rubber. Off-road gearheads have an advantage here, as the knobby tread on UTV tires offer extra surfaces around which to snug the webbing compared to the relatively smooth tire found on a passenger car. As the strap is cinched in place, the UTV’s suspension will begin to compress. This is a good thing, but don’t overtighten the thing and put stress on your load. Connecting a safety chain between the UTV and trailer’s chassis adds a measure of security.

How to tie down a car on a trailer

Some units have provisions for tightening the strap’s free end mounted right on the trailer, while others will need to be hooked into an eyelet that’s part of the trailer’s structure. Whichever style you’re working with, it is important the tie-down straps are placed squarely over the UTV’s tires. This provides the maximum amount of security when compared to straps that are off-center or strapped down at an angle. Try doing up a belt around your waist in less than a perfect circle to see what we mean.

How to tie down a car on a trailer

Of course, not every trailer is compatible with wheel nets or axle straps. Completely flat decks are common, leading to the popularity of products like ratchet tie downs from companies such as ShockStrap. With these types of securing tools, one needs to identify a couple of locations on their UTV that are solidly part of the frame and not designed to move about. Don’t even think about attaching one end of a tie down to your RZR’s Fox Live Valve shocks, for example.

Most UTVs have either a hitch or towing eye around back, for example. Securely hook one end of the ratchet strap to this point, rolling out the other end to a tie-down point on the corner of your trailer. Secure the ratchet strap so it doesn’t fall out of place – but don’t fully tighten it. We’ll come back to that in a minute.

How to tie down a car on a trailer

Repeat the process with another ratchet strap extending from the solid point of your UTV to a tie-down on the other back corner of your trailer. You should have created a ‘V’ shape with your two ratchet straps because, as we all learned in fifth grade while making bridges out of popsicle sticks, triangle shapes offer a lot of strength. Now that both ratchet straps are in place, go ahead and tighten them down until the UTV’s suspension starts to compress. Rinse and repeat up front.

How to tie down a car on a trailer

It is highly recommended one find a tie down point built in to the trailer, by the way. While it is technically possible – and probably really convenient – to hook your tie downs on the trailer’s underside lip, it’s a bad idea to place them against sharp edges which might fray the strap and reduce its overall strength. Worse still, placing straps in this manner creates the chance of them getting cut clean through by vibration.

Visually inspect whatever type of tie down equipment you’re using. Straps are generally made from a polyester webbing, but polypropylene and nylon straps exist. The latter two are much more susceptible to stretching and sun rot (lack of resistance to UV rays) than polyester. The straps mentioned above, called ShockStraps, incorporate a urethane ‘bone’ that flexes a bit during transport and is a great piece of kit.

How to tie down a car on a trailer

Above all, be safe. Give your UTV a few good shakes to make certain it’s secure before hitting the road and, while en route, drive at moderate speeds to help avoid sudden maneuvers. Check your towing equipment and the security of your tie down straps at each fuel stop, at minimum. A bit of planning and preparation will go a long way to having a great day on the trails.

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Just after some advice from the people who trailer their cars to the track. Where, or how do you fix the car to the trailer with your tie downs?

I was thinking around each rim, where I could thread the tie down through the rim and back to the corner of the trailer? What were everybodys thoughts on this? Is there a better way?

When i’ve towed the vk, i chuck a heavy duty ratchet strap over the panhard rod/rear axle depending on how far i can reach. at the front i put a hook through the tow loop under the front. rear goes towards the back and front strap to the front.

it stops the body bouncing around. if you tie just the wheels down, the body can still bounce around.

I always use 2 ratchet straps at each end of the car.
At the front look for a tow or tie down point to use, if there’s two you win! If not, it may be possible to attach the other one to the crossmember or somehting.
At the rear maybe go off your tow point and there is often tiedown points off the diff housing for the second strap.
I’d recommend not tying down to sway bars, panhard rods or anything like that as they aren’t intended to be loaded in this way. Also make sure you don’t tie down over brake lines etc.
Also, don’t be afraid to crank the ratchet straps down enough to compress the vehicle suspension a little; it helps stopping the car from bouncing around on the trailer while you are towing.

The correct way to tie down your car is off the wheels. You should tie the car down below the suspension thus allowing the body to move about and therefore not increasing strain on your tie downs. There are proper tie downs available from specialist load restraint shops such as Robinsons. If you require more information Google “Load restraint guide”.

i always use 2 on the back and cross them over so left side of car tothe right hand side of trailer and vice versa also for the front i use the winch as a last resord and anotehr 2 straps same method it stops an liner movement !