How to Load a Car on a Trailer That Doesn’t Run

There’s an old adage that goes, “Cars are like cats; they have a mind of their own.” Sure, it’s a quirky statement. Ever been in a situation where your car decided to play possum just when you needed to haul it on a trailer? 

If so, you’re in luck because, today, we’re diving deep into the process of loading a dormant automobile onto a trailer. And, let’s sprinkle in a bit of humor because cars, trailers, and a tad bit of misadventure always make for a delightful combination, don’t they?

How to Load a Car on a Trailer That Doesn’t Run

Tools and Equipment Needed

In the intricate dance of automobile logistics, one occasionally encounters the challenge of transporting an immobile vehicle. Like trying to maneuver a grand piano through a narrow corridor, loading a car that refuses to cooperate onto a trailer requires more than mere brute strength it calls for precision, patience, and the right set of tools. 

Before you embark on this somewhat Herculean task, let’s delve into the essential equipment that will make this process not only feasible but efficient. And remember, as in many complex endeavors, it’s not about having the most tools but the right ones. 

Here’s what you are required:


When your car refuses to move of its own accord, a winch steps in as the knight in shining armor. This mechanical device is specifically designed to pull or lift heavy objects. For our purpose, it’ll act as the primary force to drag the vehicle onto the trailer. 

Ensure you select a winch with adequate weight capacity to handle your car’s load.


Connecting the ground to the trailer, ramps serve as the bridge your vehicle will traverse. It’s crucial to invest in ramps that are both sturdy and appropriately sized. Too narrow, and you risk safety; too wide, and it becomes unwieldy.

Tow Straps and Chains

Consider these the safety net of the operation. Tow straps and chains are employed to secure the car to the winch and, subsequently, onto the trailer. Durability is paramount here, as these straps and chains bear a significant load and maintain the car’s position once it’s on the trailer.

Jack and Jack Stands

Sometimes, before the loading can commence, the vehicle might need a slight elevation, especially if there are issues with the tires or undercarriage. Here’s where a reliable jack comes into play. Accompanied by jack stands, which ensure the car remains elevated safely, these tools can be instrumental in tricky situations.

Preparing the Car for Loading

Loading a non-functional car onto a trailer requires meticulous preparation. Failure to adequately ready a vehicle may result in damage during the transport process or present safety risks. It’s akin to setting up dominos, if one piece is out of place, the entire operation can falter. 

For the same reason you wouldn’t bake a cake without preheating the oven, one should never load a car without due preparation. With that thought (and perhaps the amusing image of baking cars), let us delve into the crucial steps.

Inspection of the Vehicle

Begins with a thorough examination. Before making any attempts to move the car, take the time to inspect its exterior and interior. Identify any loose parts that might become hazardous during the loading process. This step ensures that no unexpected mishaps, like a suddenly detached bumper or side mirror, occur during transit.

Addressing the Brakes

Brakes are your safeguard. A car that doesn’t run might still have functioning brakes. Engage the handbrake to ascertain it is operational. If the brakes are overly tight or not functioning, consider how this might affect the loading process. Remember, a stationary car can become a runaway car on an incline if brakes fail.

Secure All Fluid Caps

No spills on the aisle. Ensure that all caps, especially those for fluids like engine oil, brake fluid, and coolant, are tightly secured. The last thing one needs is a spill that could make the loading process slippery, or worse, damage the trailer or other vehicles.

Disconnection of the Battery

Pause the power. Given the dormant status of the vehicle, it’s prudent to disconnect the battery. This step safeguards against any accidental electrical shorts or unwanted activation of car functions during the loading phase.

Tires Check

Your vehicle’s foundational support. Even though the car is not in a drivable condition, ensuring that the tires are adequately inflated can aid in a smoother loading process. Deflated tires can become an obstruction and might compromise the balance when the car is on the trailer.

The Loading Process on a Trailer

Loading a non-functional vehicle onto a trailer is a nuanced process, requiring meticulous attention to detail and adherence to safety protocols. Often, many individuals may find themselves at a crossroads when faced with this challenge, but with the proper steps in place, the task can be both streamlined and efficient. Here’s a comprehensive look into the steps involved in the loading process.

Positioning the Trailer

Before embarking on the task, ensure that the trailer is suitably positioned on a flat, stable surface. This will not only facilitate a smoother loading process but also minimize any potential risks associated with uneven terrains. It might sound trivial, but starting on level ground can set the stage for success.

Ramp Deployment

The use of a ramp is imperative when the car in question isn’t operational. Ensure that the ramp is firmly attached to the trailer and that it can support the weight of the vehicle. A bit of advice: don’t skimp on the quality of the ramps. Your car may not run, but it does carry weight – figuratively and literally.

Winch Preparation

For cars that don’t run, muscle power alone isn’t advisable for the loading process. Instead, the use of a winch is highly recommended. The winch should be securely attached to both the trailer and the car. For those not in the know, a winch is a mechanical device used to pull in or let out a vehicle, ensuring a controlled movement onto the trailer.

Safety Checks

Once the above tools are in place, it is of utmost importance to conduct preliminary safety checks. Ensure that the pathway is clear of any obstructions, the vehicle is in neutral, and the handbrake is disengaged. Remember, precaution is not just a word in the dictionary; it’s a lifeline in such processes.

Initiating the Loading

With everything set, initiate the winch to slowly and steadily pull the car onto the trailer. Constant supervision is required during this phase to ensure that the vehicle aligns correctly and that there are no hindrances.

Here’s a piece of sentiment for you: Think of your car as a sleeping baby. Even if it’s not actively participating, you’d want to ensure its journey onto the trailer is smooth and without any jolts.

Final Adjustments and Checks

Once the car is on the trailer, it’s not the end. It’s crucial to ensure that it’s centered and well-balanced to prevent any issues during transit. Double-check all the connections, ensure the vehicle is firmly strapped in, and you’re good to go.

Top Questions

Is the Trailer Brake Push or Pull?

A critical component of trailer safety is the braking mechanism. Typically, trailer brakes are designed to be “push to brake.” When pressure is applied to the brake pedal in the towing vehicle, it sends a signal to engage the brakes on the trailer.

How Do You Balance a Trailer?

Balancing a trailer is akin to the art of equilibrium. Properly distributing weight is vital. For optimal balance:

  • Place the heaviest items at the trailer’s center.
  • Ensure weight is evenly distributed on both sides.
  • Regularly inspect the weight distribution, especially when adding or removing items.

Balancing not only ensures a safer journey but also reduces the wear and tear on the trailer and towing vehicle.

How to Load a Car on a Trailer That Do Run?

Surprisingly, a functioning car poses its unique set of challenges when loading:

  • Firstly, ensure the trailer is on level ground with its brake engaged.
  • Use appropriate and sturdy ramps for the car to ascend.
  • Drive the car slowly and carefully onto the trailer, ensuring it remains centered.
  • Once on the trailer, engage the car’s brake and secure it using tow straps or chains.

Which Trailer Is Better Aluminum or Steel?

The debate between aluminum and steel trailers is ongoing, and each offers its advantages:

Aluminum Trailers:

  • Lightweight, which can lead to better fuel efficiency.
  • Resistant to rust and corrosion.
  • Generally more expensive.

Steel Trailers:

  • Heavier and might decrease fuel efficiency.
  • Strong and can carry more weight.
  • Tends to rust if not appropriately maintained but is typically less expensive.
  • Choosing between the two often comes down to the specific needs of the user and their budget

What Metal Is Used for Trailers?

Trailers are predominantly constructed using two primary metals: aluminum and steel. As discussed previously, each has its advantages and drawbacks. Occasionally, some trailers might have components made from galvanized steel, which offers enhanced rust resistance.

End Notes

Loading a car onto a trailer, running or not, is a blend of patience, preparation, and a dash of humor (especially when things don’t go as planned). 

But with the right tools and the knowledge you’ve now acquired, the task should be as smooth as a freshly paved highway. And hey, next time your car decides to throw a tantrum, you’ll know exactly what to do. 

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