A soft tow strap on the front of a car makes bump drafting a little less damaging. The downside is that a soft tow strap is less aerodynamic than a solid mount.

When you are prepping a car to take to the track, whether it’s a dedicated racecar or a daily driven Time Trial vehicle, there are required items you need to have that you never really want to use. None of us really wants to need our helmets. The other item we don’t want to have to use — but sadly often do — is a tow hook.

Tow hooks are a necessary evil required by NASA regulations and also by common sense. Emergency crews on the track have priorities and they are as follows: 1) your safety; 2) clear the track; 3) try not to damage your car. For obvious reasons, the “damage your car” component lies at the bottom of the list. This means if you don’t have a defined place where they can put a cable, they will happily hook it onto your tie rod and give you an unwanted new alignment as they pull your car out of the gravel. Make it easy for these guys to get your car off the track so the rest of your friends can get back to racing. Do this by giving them a defined location to hook onto your car.

This fixed, large-eyelet tow hook is an easy to access, fixed point for any emergency crews to use to get your car off the track. The downside is it will be the first thing that runs into the back of a competitor in a minor contact or bump-draft situation.
This fixed, large-eyelet tow hook is an easy to access, fixed point for any emergency crews to use to get your car off the track. The downside is it will be the first thing that runs into the back of a competitor in a minor contact or bump-draft situation.

Installing a tow hook can be relatively easy to do since some cars already have them from the factory. If you have a Japanese car that came to the U.S. on a boat, there is a pretty good chance your car has four tie downs. Get a simple can of spray paint to make the existing tow hook visible and a sticker that looks like an arrow and says “TOW” and you can consider yourself done. The tie down spots are also great for holding your car on a trailer.

This is a Japanese O.E.M. vehicle hold down. The car has four of these for the boat ride across the ocean. A tow sticker and some quick spray paint to help emergency crews find this tow point and you are finished. These hold downs also are used to hold the car in an enclosed racing trailer.
This is a Japanese O.E.M. vehicle hold down. The car has four of these for the boat ride across the ocean. A tow sticker and some quick spray paint to help emergency crews find this tow point and you are finished. These hold downs also are used to hold the car in an enclosed racing trailer.
This is an American car, which means it didn’t come with any tow hooks from the OEM. This fabricated piece uses existing bolt holes on the rear bumper for easy installation. It also is a pretty good deterrent to bump drafting.
This is an American car, which means it didn’t come with any tow hooks from the OEM. This fabricated piece uses existing bolt holes on the rear bumper for easy installation. It also is a pretty good deterrent to bump drafting.
A visible sticker is the final step in the tow hook installation. You can make your own — using skills from Toolshed Engineer August 2014 —or push the easy button and pick one up from your favorite racing supplier.
A visible sticker is the final step in the tow hook installation. You can make your own — using skills from Toolshed Engineer August 2014 —or push the easy button and pick one up from your favorite racing supplier.

The European Union recently has required vehicles to have a designated tow hook that threads into the bumpers of every car. If you have a German car, check your glove box because you might already have a tow hook rolling around in there, ready to go. Pull out the plastic plug on the bumper, thread in your tow hook, get yourself a tow sticker and you’re done too.

Here is the European Union required tow hook for all vehicles sold in Europe. Remove the bumper plug and simply thread in the provided tow hook. You are ready to go. Many aftermarket manufacturers have designed larger “racy-looking” tow hooks that thread directly into these locations.
Here is the European Union required tow hook for all vehicles sold in Europe. Remove the bumper plug and simply thread in the provided tow hook. You are ready to go. Many aftermarket manufacturers have designed larger “racy-looking” tow hooks that thread directly into these locations.

If your car was made in America, the land of the free, and the home of “we have a better idea,” sorry, you’re out of luck. You will need to start from scratch and find the best way to install your own hook. Choices for this are all over the map with different fabricators creating hooks and straps which you can bolt to a solid portion of the car. Pro Tip: the thin, stamped steel, lower radiator support is not a solid portion of the car. Trust me on this.

Find a solid part of the car to mount your tow hook or strap to. The tow truck will give you a mighty tug and you want them to pull all of your car out of the ditch, not just the front clip.
Find a solid part of the car to mount your tow hook or strap to. The tow truck will give you a mighty tug and you want them to pull all of your car out of the ditch, not just the front clip.

With regard to choices in tow-hook installation, hard eyelet or a soft strap, consider this strategy when placing them on your own car. I like to bump-draft, so having a soft strap on the front of my racecar gives me the ability to bump people — in a friendly manner, of course — without spearing them with a hard tow hook. In contrast, I have not been a fan of being bump-drafted ever since Ryan Flaherty gave me a friendly nudge going into Turn 11 at Sonoma Raceway, causing me to see Elvis, so I place a large fixed hard metal tow hook on the back of my car. If you want to bump draft me, go ahead, but you will probably need a new radiator afterward.

A soft tow strap on the front of a car makes bump drafting a little less damaging. The downside is that a soft tow strap is less aerodynamic than a solid mount.
A soft tow strap on the front of a car makes bump drafting a little less damaging. The downside is that a soft tow strap is less aerodynamic than a solid mount.

Good luck with your installation and if you ever do need your tow hook, I hope it’s just because you ran out of gas.

 Fabric tow straps are easily moved around by the wind during races. A simple zip tie can hold the strap in a certain location to help the emergency crews find it easily and to keep it from dragging on the ground.
Fabric tow straps are easily moved around by the wind during races. A simple zip tie can hold the strap in a certain location to help the emergency crews find it easily and to keep it from dragging on the ground.
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Image courtesy of Rob Krider