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Self-towed car and ended up with bigger problems


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So this is a bit unusual, but the car conked out a little while back, not long into a trip. Thankfully we were able to get it off the highway and onto the off ramp before it was completely gone, but still not an optimal place to be. A friendly stranger with a truck stopped to help us out. Didn't have an actual hitch or anything, but attached the car to the truck with cables. One driver had to stay in the car and steer to make sure the car didn't fishtail into anything, while the helpful stranger towed us home. Again, the trip just started, so we weren't too far. It was a holiday, so getting a hold of a tow truck was a challenge (and so expensive when you aren't that far from home).


However, that all seemed well and good until the car seemed to lock itself down with anti-theft mode and would not release. Multiple attempts in the repair garage got us nowhere. We ended up selling this for scraps and bought a used model so we had some wheels. Partly because the problem that caused the break down to begin with was pricey, but also because our garage seemed to have a heck of a time trying to get around this anti-theft mode that just wasn't having it.


My question is, isn't there any way around this? There must be a way to reverse this? I feel like the guys at the garage really didn't have a good clue as to what was wrong. It's fine if the car is really beyond saving anyway to not waste time on it, but I figured that this "struggle" with the anti-theft was perhaps a bit over played.


Anyone else have similar experiences?

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It might help if you said which make and model of car (and its year of manufacture) was involved, and perhaps the nature of the problem that resulted in the vehicle breaking down.


It’s common enough for cars to have an alarm system to guard against theft-by-towing, but such systems (when switched on) sense the car being raised and would not be expected to trigger when the vehicle is being towed with the alarm off.


If your car had a complex or unusual immobilier system and/or the repair garage was unfamiliar with this and/or did not have the necessary equipment to deal with it, it might not prove practicable for the garage to reset the system. More likely though is that the immobiliser system itself had developed a technical fault (that had nothing to do with the car being towed) meaning that it would be impossible to reset the system without that fault first being rectified.

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  • 5 months later...
Some modern cars have ASP (Automatic Stability Programme) that senses if the car is moving without the engine running and then uses the ABS in an attempt to regain control of the car. This can result in faults in the ECU and damaged brakes. We also know of a car with forward facing anti-collision radar that will go nuts if towed closer than 3 car lengths behind the towing vehicle. It is therefore important to read and understand your vehicle User Handbook on towing the vehicle and disconnect the battery where appropriate.
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  • 6 months later...



It sounds like having a contract with the "Big Yellow Taxi" would have cost you less in the long run.


If it makes you feel better, I once offered to tow somebody off the M4 hard shoulder.


"Have you been towed before?"


"OK, just keep your foot on the brake to keep the rope taut."


I moved off ... screech of tyres from behind.


"Silly Moo ... I meant gently on the brake".


Er ... I was not familiar with modern cars. I hadn't told her to unlock the steering ... her car was at full right lock. Ooops! My 200bhp Reliant Scimitar tore the front bumper off her FIAT 500 (the one before the 126).



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