How Do Hydraulics Work in Tow Trucks?


Do you ever wonder how hydraulics help tow trucks and cranes lift heavy vehicles and machinery? Using one of the most powerful principles of physics, tow trucks accomplish awe-inspiring feats on a daily basis. Learn about how hydraulic power is integrated into your local towing company’s fleet of machines.

What are Hydraulics?

The definition of hydraulics is transmitting force from one object to another through contact with an incompressible fluid. It’s based on Pascal’s Law, a scientific principle that asserts all pressure exerted on a confined, incompressible fluid is distributed equally throughout the fluid. 

Application and Multiplication

Here’s how it applies to lifting heavy machinery: When two pistons are placed in cylinders and are connected by a closed tube filled with oil, pushing down one piston will cause oil to build up and raise the other piston.

The force multiplication that takes place when using hydraulics is what makes this method the obvious choice for lifting extremely heavy loads. If the second piston is three times as large in surface area as the first piston, the first piston’s force will multiply by three as it lifts the second piston. But there is a tradeoff. The first piston must move three units to get the second piston to move one. Hydraulics systems in tow trucks and cranes utilize the scientific principle of hydraulic force multiplication, using minimal pressure to lift thousands of pounds of vehicles, commercial engines and other machinery.

Tow Truck Hydraulics

Tow trucks use hydraulic systems differently, depending on the type of truck and the requirements of the job. When the truck must tow a vehicle but the car is out of reach, an extended metal arm called a boom is used to lift the vehicle closer to the truck’s towing system. This is similar to how a construction crane lifts building materials at a job site.

Flatbed tow trucks employ hydraulics to tilt the bed into a vehicle ramp. A hydraulics or machine-powered winch attaches to the car and pulls it up onto the flatbed. After the car is secured, the flatbed hydraulics reengages and lowers the vehicle and the bed back to its original position.

Tow trucks with wheel-lift systems are convenient. The driver controls the hydraulics-powered lifting system while inside the cab. The system extends and locks underneath a car’s frame so the vehicle is ready to be towed within minutes.

Call Stauffer’s Towing if you are in need of heavy- or light-duty towing for your personal vehicle or large commercial truck. With a fully equipped fleet of powerful, hydraulics-fueled machinery, the professionals at Stauffer’s Towing have the skill and equipment necessary to tackle the most substantial towing jobs.