Can A Tow Truck Move A Vehicle Without Keys?

This is a great question we get asked regularly, so we figured it makes sense to cover the topic in some detail for future reference. If you’re in a situation right now where you need to have your car towed but don’t have access to the keys, here’s a quick rundown on what you need to know.

The short answer: Yes, in most cases you can tow a vehicle just fine without having the keys.

One thing people often overlook here is that every time a car gets towed for parking illegally, that’s done without having keys! That said, this doesn’t necessarily mean it can always be done safely, but in the vast majority of cases it won’t cause a problem.

The potential challenges of towing a car without the keys

For a towing job where we have the keys but can’t start the engine, we want the car in neutral with the handbrake off. This allows us to roll the car into position and lets the wheels roll freely up onto the tray.

When the keys aren’t available, obviously we can’t do either of these things. So, that’s where specialist equipment comes into play. Special dollies are placed under the wheels, allowing us to move the car into the correct position without the car’s wheels having to move at all.

This is why it’s generally a good idea to put your car onto a tilt tray tow truck when you don’t have access to your keys. While a wheel lift can be used in some situations, it’s not the best option as it means you either need one set of wheels to roll or to bring even more equipment along to get the job done.

A job that’s best left to the professionals

While you can do some towing jobs yourself if you have the experience and equipment, moving a vehicle without the keys is a little more complex. For example, if you rent a car trailer from the local servo, they won’t have the dollies you need to get your car safely on the trailer.

It might be tempting to just winch it on anyway since it only needs to move a short distance but it’s just not worth the risk. When you compare the cost of a tow truck against the potential repair bill if you damage your drivetrain, the risk vs reward just doesn’t make sense. You could be risking a $5,000 repair bill to save $99!

Legal and ethical considerations

This is something we felt should be touched on quickly here too, even though it’s obvious to most. You should always confirm you’re authorised to have a car moved before even calling a towing company.

If a car is parked illegally, make sure you get familiar with the regulations surrounding your specific situation. Even if you know the person who owns the car, you should always have express permission from them before having their vehicle moved.

Having someone else’s car towed without their consent and/or outside of the regulations for an illegally parked car can have some serious consequences.

If you’re unsure, just call ahead and confirm with your towing operator

If you don’t have your keys but need your car to be towed, the best thing to do is always just give us a quick call. We’ll be happy to go over the details of your situation and give you a clear answer immediately.

Better yet, we can even provide an ETA and quote to get the tow done.