If not done properly, flat towing a BMW can seriously damage the vehicle. Each BMW owner has their own opinion on whether flat towing is safe or not—it’s really up to you to decide if you should risk it.
Any BMW model can be flat towed for a limited distance of no more than 500 miles, and at a very slow speed. However, towing a BMW any distance further or at a faster speed can seriously damage the vehicle. It is recommended to tow a BMW using a flatbed trailer.
Each owner must carefully consider the risks of flat towing before deciding on whether it is worth it for them and their vehicle.
BMW assembles its lineup into 10 distinct groups, and each group has its own specific guidelines when it comes to towing.
The sport type BMW are grouped in even numbers: the 2 series, the 4 series, and the 6 series. The sedan-style BMWs are grouped by odd numbers: the 3 series, the 5 series, and the 7 series. Each model has its own demands and manufacturer’s instructions, but it is a general rule of thumb that BMWs should not be flat towed. There are some exceptions, such as in the case of an emergency; there are some tricks to prevent serious damage to the vehicle.
Consult with your vehicle’s user manual before towing, but when in doubt, hire a professional to ensure that your vehicle will be safe.
While chances are low, flat towing can damage your vehicle. The most common form of damage caused by towing is bumper damage. This often occurs when the hook is positioned to tow your car. Other damage can include scratches to the exterior, dents, and dings. While these are mostly cosmetic issues, other, more serious mechanical damage can also occur.
If a vehicle is left in ‘park’ when towed, the wheels will skid and shred on the road, and the linkage that leads to the transmission will be damaged. For this reason, all vehicles should be placed in ‘neutral’ when towed.
When towed in any gear besides neutral, a vehicle with manual transmission or automatic transmission can be seriously damaged. However, automatic transmissions will not disengage the wheels, even when in neutral, so towing could force the transmission to go into a direction that it can’t turn. The wrong movement can prevent the oil from moving through the gears and transmissions.
Both the BMW 3 and 4 series have electric motors. Guidelines for these cars say the vehicle should not be towed by its axles, except in extreme circumstances. In emergency situations, they can be pulled slowly over a short distance, and only when the vehicle is in neutral gear.
If improperly towed, the electric motor could supply current to the high-voltage system. This means towing with the tires on the ground, spinning, and creating more voltage than the system can take. This will cause damage to the motor and transmission.
Towing a BMW with manual transmission would be all right, as long as you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. However, flat towing a BMW with automatic transmission will tear up the transmission because the wheels are running but the transmission oil pump isn’t working.
If towing is your only option, you can avoid this damage by removing the driveshaft. The drive shaft moves the torque from the engine to the wheels. When the drive shaft is removed, the vehicle is technically out of gear, and the tires can roll without affecting the engine or transmission.
When flat towing, all four wheels turn. As a result, the drivetrain and transmission can be damaged.
If you tow a BMW with all four wheels in contact with the pavement, the wheels can drag. To prevent this, keep the ignition on, and the car in neutral. This way, the tires can still spin. This, however, can come with its own problems if you are not careful.
It is not recommended, but if you tow your BMW on only its back tires, you risk frying your transmission.
Most BMW models have threaded holes on the bumper where the tow hooks should be attached. Tow hooks are used to secure the towing chain or strap and to distribute the force of the pull along the frame of the vehicle. While towing a BMW, it is important to have a tow bar. The tow bar mates to the tow hook and will distribute the weight of your vehicle more evenly. Choose a tow bar that is rated for more than your BMW weighs to compensate for any extra equipment or luggage.
Towing with improperly installed tow hooks and bars could have disastrous results and should never be attempted. There is a high risk of the car veering while being towed, which can lead to a wreck and further damage to your vehicle. Be sure your equipment is properly in place, or you can cause front-end damage and ruin the alignment of your tires.
Never, ever tow a damaged vehicle. When a vehicle is disabled, it’s better to call an official towing company. Flat towing it in this state is dangerous and can cause further damage.
Be sure to cover the flat towing laws in your area, as well as any area you are traveling to; the laws can vary from state to state.
Make sure that the vehicle doing the towing can handle the full weight of your BMW, including any extra equipment or luggage.
With this information, you can make a more informed decision about whether or not to flat tow your BMW. Of course, you can always do more research to further your knowledge and become more confident in your decision. After learning more about the risk and rewards of flat towing, you can decide if it’s worth the risk to flat tow your vehicle.
If you’re still unsure, or worried about damaging your car, it’s best to call a professional towing company or to use a flatbed trailer to tow it yourself.