There are three varieties of tow trucks that achieve the goal of relocating your vehicle to another location. While the results are the same the methods are diverse.
As the name would suggest a flatbed tow truck has a long flat carrying base where the vehicle sits during transit. They are commonly referred to as rollback trucks, due to the ability of the carrying base to roll backward at a downward angle, making it easier to load and unload. This makes the flatbed tow truck the most desirable form of towing. Causing little to no damage, with no stress being placed on the wheel frames, flat beds are the safest of the three towing options.
Hook and chain tow trucks use a series of chains that are hooked around the axles and frame of the car. The tow truck then pulls the car from behind. These types of trucks are almost obsolete due to the amount of damage inflicted on the vehicle. Now they are reserved for moving cars that have been junked or will be used for scrap. We at Smitty Big Tow do not use hook and chain tow trucks.
The last type of truck is a wheel lift. It was introduced to the market as a substitute for the hook and chain. The truck uses a metal yoke that is placed under the car's wheels, a hydraulic system then lifts the back end of the vehicle for towing. This is perhaps the most common type of tow truck used because it is much safer than its predecessor, and less costly than the flatbed.
All in all, if you break down in Saint Paul and need your car towed there will be times we'll use a wheel lift and times we'll use a flatbed. That's why we ask so many questions when you call in for a tow. Only by knowing this information are we able to discern the best tow truck at the lowest rate for your benefit.
The temps are scheduled to hit 60 today and that has us thinking about motorcycle-riding season. We still have to get through another predicted snow storm on Friday, but weather like today reminds us that Spring is just around the corner. With spring comes motorcycles. Lots of them. Minnesota ranks in the Top 10 of motorcycle ownership per capita as do our neighboring states of South and North Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Let’s get ready to ride.
9 prep tips for spring riding
1. The fuel system. Check the lines and fitting for cracks or leaks. Replace the fuel filter.
2. The oil. During winter storage the oil can separate, so it’s always a good idea to change the oil before riding.
3. The battery. If you left the battery connected over the winter, you may need to replace it. If you removed the battery for winter storage, you may just need to clean the cables. Either way, give it a good charge and then see if it’ll hold the charge. There’s not much worse than a dead battery on that first good riding day. Plan ahead.
4. The tires. There are a couple of things to consider here. If your motorcycle was stored on its wheels, chances are you may need to replace the tires. Look for cracks, flat spots, stress marks and bulges. Also check the air pressure.
5. The spark plugs. I know. Spark plugs have gotten so reliable that this is an often-overlooked step in Spring Prep. But it’s better to check it now than deal with it later. Pull the plugs and check the gaps. If you need to, use a gap-setting tool to set them to your bike’s specs.
6. The suspension. Move the forks back and forth to ensure nothing is loose and tighten accordingly.
7. The electrical system. Put your electrical system to the test to make sure the switches, lights (head, tail and brake) and gauges are working properly.
8. One last minor, but important detail for your bike -- make sure to lubricate the bearings and grease the kickstand.
9. If you laid up or changed your insurance coverage for winter storage, be sure you call your insurance agent to get the right coverage for riding season.
Since we never know when motorcycle riding season will arrive in Minnesota, you want to be sure your bike is ready to go on that first day. The 9 tips above will go a long way in being ready.
Look around and see all the cars with rust around the wheel wells. You don't see that in California or Arizona. That rust is caused by the road salt used in the Twin Cities to lower the freezing point of water so we can get traction when driving rather than slipping and sliding on icy roads.
While the road salt is a must for safe winter driving, it sure takes its toll on our cars' bodies.
Rust is the biggest problem caused by the salt and as the rust is exposed to more salt it speeds up the formation of more rust. The rust doesn't just affect how your car looks. Rust can also cause damage to the car's sub-frame and hydraulic brake system, among other things.
As we drive, we flip the salt up under the car, where it dries and crusts and eats away at the exhaust, muffler, coil springs and the frame itself. Going through puddles is the worst. That's where salt collects more than anywhere else.
You can also rust your car from the inside out if you bring too much salt into the car on your boots/shoes over time. So be sure you clean your car's carpet as well.
We can't wash the car when temps are below freezing so we have to get our cars washed when temps rise. And that is THIS WEEK!
Take your car to a car wash with an undercarriage spray to get that corroded salt off your frame. Or, if you want to clean your car at home, you can put a lawn sprinkler under your car and turn it on full blast to clean off the salt and corrosion. Be sure to move the sprinkler so that it reaches the entire undercarriage.
After your car wash consider taking your car to a collision repair shop to have an oil or wax-and-oil solution applied to your vehicle. The solution helps prevent salt from sticking to your car and therefore protects it from corroding.
You can be sure we'll be washing each tow truck top to bottom... most likely on Wednesday.
There are a few things about driving that cross over state and city lines, but have subtle differences. These sites answer those common questions when it comes to owning and driving a vehicle in St Paul, Minnesota.
1. Where do I get my license tabs?
In Minnesota, you’re required to renew your vehicle registration every year. Commonly called “renewing tabs” you can do it in person or online. The cost varies depending on the vehicle being registered. For information on renewing in person, visit https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/dvs/Pages/default.aspx
If you want to renew your tabs online go to: https://www.mvrenewal.state.mn.us/
2. What happens if my car is towed in St Paul?
It depends on where your car was parked when it was towed. If it was towed south of the Mississippi River or east of Lafayette Rd and south of I-94, you can retrieve your car at the 830 Barge Channel Road impound lot. If the tow truck towed your vehicle from anywhere else in St Paul, it’s across from the State Fairgrounds at 1129 Cathlin Street impound lot. Here’s the website https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/public-works/street-maintenance/snow-emergency-information/ticket-towing-storage-fees
3.Which highways are under construction or closed?
When major highways are closed, it is talked about on the local news, friends complain about it on Facebook and most people know about it. But when they’re smaller roads and highways we often don’t know about it until we get to the road. You can check out where the road construction is before you leave home. http://www.dot.state.mn.us/roadwork/current.html
4.What are the insurance requirements in Minnesota?
Minnesota requires its drivers to have no-fault insurance, liability insurance and uninsured motorist insurance. Other types of insurance that are available, but are not required include collision insurance and comprehensive insurance. Learn the specifics at http://www.dmv.org/mn-minnesota/car-insurance.php
5. Do you know the rules of the road? Are you sure?
I got my driver’s license 40 years ago and I haven’t taken a driving test then. When it comes time for renewal, I renew it on time, thus avoiding a test. In Minnesota, to renew your license you take a vision test, fill out a form, have a new photo taken and pay the fee.
If you’re in the same boat and want to test your driving, skills visit http://dmvexam.org/minnesota-mn-dmv-practice-test/drinking-and-driving-rules-minnesota-mn-dmv-test-questions . They have several practice tests online to either practice or put yourself to the test. They have a test for kids who plan to get their permit. They have a test on basic driving knowledge, drinking and driving, safe driving rules, road signs” and more.
There isn’t much worse of a feeling than going out to get in your car and it not being where you left it. The first thought that usually goes through people’s minds is that it’s been stolen. But this time of year in Minnesota it’s more likely that you violated a Snow Emergency Parking Ordinance and the City (either St Paul or Minneapolis) called a tow truck to have your car towed to the impound lot.
A Snow Emergency is usually declared when we have at least 3” of snow on the ground. And it’s up to you to know when there’s been a Snow Emergency declared and what you are expected to do. For example, you are expected to move your car from on-street parking so that the city can plow the streets. The city always calls the Snow Emergency by 9pm the night before they are going to plow streets. You must have your car moved by 8am the next morning – or risk being towed. If I were a betting man, I’d say you have a 99.9% chance the City will call a tow truck on you.
Just because you move your car, then come home from work the next day and the street has been plowed, do NOT think it is OK to park your car on the street again. As long as the Snow Emergency is in place, do NOT park your car on that street! The City continues to have cars towed for 96 hours after what they call the “plow phase” of snow removal is finished. That’s so they can sand, salt and complete “miscellaneous cleanup” and if your car is in the way, they are going to call the tow truck to move it.
There is a bit of an exception to this. Some streets have “day plow routes” and “night plow routes.” If you’re parking on a street that is signed as either a day plow route or a night plow route, you can park on that street in the non-plow phase. What this means is if it’s a day-plow route you can park on that street at night. If it’s a night plow route you can park on that street during the day.
The City of St. Paul says,
The City of St Paul has several ways for you to stay informed about when they declare a Snow Emergency. We recommend you subscribe to at least one of these to keep from having a tow truck called on you!
New Year’s Eve is just one night out of the year. But on that one night, there are more police officers patrolling the streets than any other night of the year. That’s because more people drive drunk on New Year’s Eve than any other night of the year.
No party is worth the risk/price of a DWI.
Here are the facts about a DWI in the state of Minnesota.
1. Blood alcohol concentration. It is illegal to drive a car with a BAC of .08% or more [0.04% if you are driving a commercial vehicle.] Depending on the circumstances of the violation, you can be arrested even with a BAC of less than .08%.
There are several factors that affect BAC and everybody metabolizes alcohol at a different rate so there’s no exact formula to determine how many drinks it takes to reach a BAC of .08%. The chart below, however, gives BAC estimates that correspond to number drinks consumed and body weight.
2. Implied consent law. If a police officer stops you and asks you to take a blood, breath or urine test, it is against Minnesota law to refuse. The office is required to tell you that it is illegal to refuse the test and that if you refuse the test you are committing a crime.
You can refuse to take the test as long as you have not been in an accident where someone was seriously injured or killed. If you’re in such an accident then you cannot refuse the blood, breath or urine test. You should know, however, that if you refuse to take the test, you will have your driver’s license revoked for a minimum of one year. You can also be sentenced to up to one year and jail and fined $3,000.
3. Your Car. Generally speaking, you can expect your car to go to an impound lot while you go to jail. In addition to all the fines mentioned above, the Minneapolis impound lot will charge you the following?
St. Paul’s Impound Lot charges are similar.If you want someone else to get your car out for you, you’ll need a notarized statement and you’ll need to FAX the following information to the impound lot
Quite a hassle; though nothing compared with the process of a DWI case.
4. Penalties for the first misdemeanor DWI. If you are found guilty of driving while intoxicated, you could face:
There’s simply too much on the line to justify over-imbibing. Please consider celebrating with a sober driver, use public transportation, a cab/Uber/Lyft or ring in the New Year in the same place you’ll spend the night.
To Tip or NOt to Tip?
Hopefully you haven't had much experience with tow truck drivers.... because that would mean you have a car that runs great and you haven't gotten in any/many car wrecks.
But it also means you likely aren't sure what the tipping etiquette is when you do call a tow truck.
Like most service businesses, tipping is appreciated but not required. And in the tow truck industry not only is it not required but it is not expected. That's not to say, though, that the drivers don't appreciate a tip. They certainly do! And, of course, like other service businesses, the tip should be based on the level of service. Great service = great tip. Lousy service = lousy/no tip.
Some people feel like the prices charged by tow truck services are so exhorbitant that it doesn't warrant a tip. But more often than not it isn't the tow truck driver that sets the fees; it's the company he works for that sets the prices. And the tip isn't going to the company, it is going to the driver who provided you with roadside assistance.
You can read more here about tipping a tow truck driver from the perspective of both drivers and tow truck customers.
The other thing to consider is that the cost of operating a tow truck is pretty significant -- especially the insurance and maintenance. And these are two areas you don't want your tow truck provider to skimp on. So the rates charged need to cover the company's high out-of-pocket costs. At Smitty Big Towing and Recovery we are proud to be among the most affordable tow truck services in St Paul-Minneapolis. We certainly don't skimp on our truck maintenance and insurance coverage, but we do keep a tight handle on other expenses so that we can pass the savings on to you, our customer.
If you do decide to tip your tow truck driver, we recommend you tip with cash. Why? There are a few reasons.
1. To ensure the tip goes to the driver. At Smitty Big Tow we guarantee the full tip goes 100% to the driver. But if you use another tow truck company, that may not be the case. The drivers may be expected/required to pool their tips and share them equally at the end of shift, much like many restaurants to. If the tip is on the credit card, the driver has no control over whether or not he shares the tip.
2. When you tip in cash, the driver can take the money home that night. If you tip on the credit card, the driver will likely have to wait until the book-keeper completes the books at the end of the week or month before the driver gets the tip. And then there's the chance of human error - getting the right tip amount to the right driver.
3. Tow truck companies (and all companies that accept credit card payments) have to pay a fee to the credit card company for each payment processed. Some tow truck owners deduct that fee from the tow truck driver's tip, thus reducing the amount of tip you intended for him to receive.
Of course, many people don't carry cash these days. If that's the case, then, by all means, add a tip to the credit card. If the driver is worthy of a tip and you don't have any cash on you, it's better to add the tip to the credit card than to not tip.
What services to tip for.
Let's be realistic. If you've been in a life-threatening accident, no one expects you to tip the tow truck driver.
But if you've called a tow truck because you've locked the keys in your car, you've run out of gas, you need a flat tire replaced on the side of the highway with cars whizzing by, your battery died in the mall parking lot and you need a jump start -- these are all services that deserve a tip.... IF the tow truck driver is courteous, professional, helpful, timely, etc. You know; the qualities that make any service professional worthy of a tip.
In the end, it is completely up to you whether or not to tip a tow truck driver. In our experience about 50% of consumers do tip us for our superior customer service. Whether you tip us or not, at Smitty Big Towing and Recovery, we strive to provide you with exceptional customer service in the hopes that you will refer us to your friends, family and colleagues.
As one of many tow trucks responding to the 900+ accidents in Minnesota this past weekend, I saw many people putting their lives in danger unnecessarily. .For example, one woman spun out on 494 and ended up in the middle lane. She got out of her car and put her hood up. Then she stood outside, in front of her car, in the middle lane of 494 while waiting for a tow truck. Cars were going by on either side of her.
If her car spun out it stands to reason that other cars could spin out in that same area -- and pin this woman between her car and another. Thankfully that isn't what happened. But it is because I saw this woman standing in the middle of 494 that I felt compelled to share these tips on WHAT TO DO WHILE YOU WAIT FOR THE TOW TRUCK if you break down on a highway.
If your car is drive-able, move over to the shoulder. Whether you move over to the shoulder or are stopped in an active lane of traffic, turn on your hazard lights (aka "flashers") to warn other drivers that you are there. If it is dark, it's also advisable to turn on your headlights and the interior lights to be even more visible to others.
Stay in your car and keep your seatbelt as a safety precaution in the event another car crashes into you.
During the winter, keep the doors and windows closed to retain the heat in your car as best as possible.
"If you must exit your car, only do so when traffic is clear and wait well away from the highway, ahead of your car and behind guardrails, if they’re present," says the Canadian Automobile Association.
The only time we would suggest you get out of your car on the highway is if it is on fire. And we agree with the CAA; climb over the guardrail, so that you have the protection of the guardrail if another car slides out and skids toward you.
More snow is forecast for this coming Friday. If you find yourself in an accident or broken down on a highway, keep these tips front of mind. Nothing is more important than your safety.
Everyone knows you must move over for a police car, ambulance, fire truck or construction workers. But did you know the law in Minnesota requires you to move over for a tow truck as well?
In 2000 Minnesota inacted the Ted Foss Move Over Law.
Minnesota is not alone in this move over law. 49 of the 50 United States require vehicles to vacate the lane closest to the stationary vehicle if safe to do so. Some states require drivers to merge over to the farthest lane away from the stationary vehicle while other states require you slow by a specified number of miles per hour in addition to vacating the lane closest to the tow truck.
Only New Hampshire does not specifically require you to vacate the nearest lane. Instead their law reads, "slow to a safe speed and give wide berth to stationary emergency vehicles" (including tow trucks).
The District of Columbia, though not a state, has no move over law on the books.
On behalf of all tow truck drivers in the Twin Cities we appreciate you moving over in order to provide us with a safer environment to assist drivers who have broken down, been in an accident, had a flat tire, run out of gas, slid into a snow bank or for whatever reason have called us for roadside assistance.
The statistics are NOT on your side. 73% of young drivers experienced a breakdown last year. And 95% of all drivers break down at least once in their life.
If this is the first winter your teen driver will be driving, you definitely need to talk with them about what to do if they end up in a snow bank, have a flat tire, the car breaks down, or if they lock their keys in the car.
And the time to have this talk is BEFORE it happens. After all you don't want your 16 year old daughter calling her boyfriend to rescue her from the side of I-35W as cars goes whizzing by. That's not safe for either one of them. But if your daughter thinks she'll get in trouble for breaking down, that's exactly who her first call will be to.
Same goes for when your son gets rear-ended on 494. We know, because we've been eventually called to the scene to help a customer's teen and found his best friend (who was not in the car at the time of the fender-bender) was already there.
Your teen driver needs to know ahead of time what you expect them to do. Just like you've told them to wear their seat belt and not text and drive, tell them to put our number -- 651-955-6475 -- in their phone. Explain to them that pretty much everyone breaks down at some point in their life and it's young drivers most often.
Walk through the various scenarios with them. If they're at the Mall of America and discover they've locked their keys in the car, tell them NOT to stand by the car while they wait for help. It's safer to wait inside. Take note of the parking area they have parked in, then go back inside and wait for us to call them when we arrive. THEN they can come out to the car.
If they are broken down on the side of a highway, instruct them to stay inside the car for both warmth AND safety. Lock the doors and wait until we arrive. Do NOT accept assistance from another tow truck who "just happened to be driving by." These are called "tow truck bandits" and they are scammers.
Speaking of staying warm and safe inside the car -- have you put a winter safety kit in your teen's car? If not, here's what we recommend you have in every car during a Minnesota winter:
You may want to consider also including a pair of boots, gloves and wool socks, but at the very least be sure you have these three items in every vehicle you and your family members will drive this winter. Minnesota winters are nothing to gamble with!