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TowTimes.com - Audio Article: Hidden Surprises and Vehicle Location Can Affect Light-Duty Recoveries


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Hidden Surprises and Vehicle Location Can Affect Light-Duty Recoveries

from the November 2022 Issue of Tow Times Magazine

IITR12.jpgSometimes “hidden surprises” and vehicle location can significantly affect light-duty recoveries.

These surprises convert an apparently simple winch-out from a ditch into a lot of work and consideration. Such as when, upon closer inspection, the vehicle in a ditch has a fence post jammed into a fender well. Or a vehicle is sitting on a tall curb or barrier that, when examined carefully, is on top of a sprinkler system. Initially, the recovery looked to be relatively simple, until it was determined that the vehicle must either be lifted or moved away from the curb to avoid secondary damage in the recovery process. Other hazards that may not be obvious at first

inspection include electrical lines, pipes, construction obstacles and other objects. Here are actual scenarios that required extra planning due to hidden obstacles and the location of the vehicle — and the lessons learned from the recovery.


An unoccupied 1960s vintage Volkswagen rolled away in a hilly subdivision with narrow streets and lots of vegetation. The vehicle rolled down the street, through a yard, alongside a house, through the backyard and dropped 15 feet into a neighbor’s backyard, stopping just short of the homeowner’s Japanese motif garden beside a swimming pool. Without any access to the backyard, the Volkswagen’s two flat tires were replaced, and the bumpers and two fenders were removed to make the vehicle narrower. The vehicle was then rolled inside the house through sliding doors by the pool, and into the family room on top of old carpet and sheets of plywood. It was then rolled down a hallway to the front entry area, turned to the left using a floor jack, and pushed through the front doors to a waiting tow truck.

Lesson learned: Think outside the box. After surveying the scene, maneuvering the vehicle through the house turned out to be a not-so bad idea.


Two trucks and some creative rigging were used to extricate this vehicle from a traffic roundabout without secondary damage.

Mrs. Motorist had a history of being unable to get her vehicle out of the family garage without scraping a fender or two. She called her husband to inform him that the vehicle was stuck in the garage again, and that she had called AAA. However, she neglected to mention that this time she was driving forward into the garage, and her vehicle went through the back wall and was left hanging out over the lower backyard with the garage wall on top of it. The tow truck operator arrived on scene, evaluated the situation, and started making phone calls. It turned out to be quite a project, involving the fire department, a construction company, and city building and utility departments, who had to shut down the supply of gas and electricity to the house. The rear wall had to be partially dismantled and secured by the construction company before the recovery could begin.

Lesson learned: Take the time to carefully evaluate the situation, and don’t be reluctant to call for additional resources.


For this vehicle stuck on a planter, the vehicle was jacked up and wood 4x4s were positioned so the vehicle could roll backward.

The highway patrol advised that a vehicle with two flat tires was in a plowed field beside a road. The tow truck operator walked out onto the field and inspected the vehicle, and the recovery was going well until the vehicle simply stopped moving. A plowed dirt fields. No obstructions. What’s the problem?It was discovered that the vehicle had lodged on a concrete water well cover that was covered in the dirt. After changing one of the vehicle’s front tires to add some height, and adding a couple of 4x4s under the vehicle, it was winched to the roadway. Even though police, fire personnel and the tow truck operator had each walked over the cover several times, it was finally the vehicle that “found” it.

Lesson learned: If things don’t seem to be going the way they should, stop and find out why.

At the end of a police pursuit, a vehicle missed a curve, went into a front yard, ricocheted off trees, traveled over a landscaping berm and large rocks and slid into the side of a house. Initially, winching the vehicle out the way it went in was discounted because of the obstacles involved. However, the other way out, which was across the front yard of the property, was not an option because of the position of the vehicle in the house, a gas meter, landscaping, trees, and the fact that the vehicle was sitting on top of a repurposed bomb shelter that was now the family game room located underneath most of the front yard. So, using pry bars to move rocks, and snatch blocks off the trees that the vehicle hit, the vehicle was eventually winched out the way it went in.


For this recovery, an endless loop strap was run through the tire rim, and then the tow truck boom was extended to move the vehicle forward and off the curbing.

Lesson learned: In this instance, after the scene survey there were a series of complications and options that had to be considered and placed into a logical order before the recovery could begin.

View the full article and more on TowTimes.com

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