tie downs and tow straps

tie downs and tow straps

Tie Downs and Tow Straps: What You Need to Know

Tie downs and tow straps may seem like interchangeable terms but they are actually quite different and each has its own use. Tie downs are used to secure cargo and to help prevent it from shifting and damaging other cargo or the vehicle carrying it. Tow straps are used to tow vehicles and trailers, and in some cases, to pull objects that may be stuck in mud, sand, snow or even water. Understanding the differences between the two, as well as how and when to use them, can save you time, money and a lot of frustration.

Tie Downs

Tie downs, also known as cargo straps, cargo nets, load binders or load straps, are the most widely used type of strapping used to secure cargo. A tie down consists of two anchoring points (usually metal or synthetic webbing or rope) and one adjustable buckle, or web lock, that allows you to connect the two anchoring points to the cargo and keep it in place.

When using tie downs for cargo, it is important to consider the size, shape, weight and type of cargo you are securing. The heavier the cargo, the stronger the tie down should be. Depending on the type of cargo, you may also need additional supporting straps. If you are tying down furniture, it’s best to use a soft-tie (a tie down specifically designed for furniture), and if possible to also use a cushion or padding between the tie down strap and the furniture to avoid damaging it.

Tie downs are also useful for securing items to the roof of your vehicle. Make sure your roof rack is properly installed and that you select the right roof rack for your specific roof type and size. When selecting tie downs for roof cargo, look for straps with a rubberized or anti-slip coating that will help keep the straps from slipping once they’ve been tightened.

Tow Straps

Tow straps are a thicker, strong material, usually a heavy-duty nylon, designed for towing heavier items, such as cars and trailers. Tow straps should be checked for deterioration before each use and should always be replaced if any cuts or frays in the material are found.

Before attaching a tow strap it’s important to consider the weight of the item you are towing and the type of vehicle it is being towed with. Tow straps are rated according to their working load limit, so make sure you select a strap that is rated higher than the weight of the object you are towing. Once you have selected the right tow strap and checked it for signs of wear and tear, you can attach it to both the object and the vehicle that will be doing the towing.

When towing, it is important to make sure the strap is securely attached to both the towing and towed vehicles. Tie the hook of the tow strap to the tow hitch of the towing vehicle and secure the loop of the strap to a frame support, bumper or safety hook of the vehicle being towed. When the tow strap has been properly attached, you can start towing.


Regardless of whether you are using tie downs or tow straps, it is important to remember the importance of safety when securing or towing items. Make sure all straps, tie downs and hooks are properly connected and fastened before moving. Use common sense and drive carefully when towing. Stop frequently to check and make sure all straps are tight, secure and untangled, and make sure nobody is standing in the direct path of the towed object.

Tie downs and tow straps can be incredibly useful, but it’s important to remember to use them correctly, to be mindful of safety and to select a strap that is rated for the weight of your cargo or the object being towed. Taking the time to properly understand tie downs and tow straps and how to use them can save you a lot of frustration and help ensure a much smoother journey.

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