Industry News & New Products

  • Lightbar Cleaning Methods

    by Austin Richards | Apr 05, 2019
    Lightbar Cleaning Tips

    Keeping wreckers clean and professional looking is part of maintaining a good business reputation. However, the cleaning methods used will vary depending on the components used on our wreckers. For instance, lightbar lenses have specific cleaning requirements depending on the manufacturer. The general steps for cleaning your lightbar are as follows:

    1. Wet lightbar with gently running water

    2. Use a mild, soapy detergent with a soft cloth to wipe lightbar clean

    3. Rinse lightbar with running water and use your soft cloth to remove water spots

    Below are excerpts from the owner’s manuals of several of our lightbar manufacturers.

    Whelen: “Use only soap and water to clean the outer lenses. Use of other chemicals could result in premature lens cracking (crazing) and discoloration. Lenses in this condition have significantly reduced effectiveness and should be replaced immediately. Inspect and operate this product regularly to confirm its proper operation and mounting. Do not use a pressure washer to clean this product.”

    PSE Amber: “Use either plain water and a soft cloth or Code 3® lens polish and a very soft paper towels or facial tissue. Because plastic scratches easily, cleaning is recommended only when necessary (about every six months). Do not subject the lenses to car washes that use brushes as these will scratch the lenses.”

    Federal Signal: “Crazing (cracking) of the lenses will cause reduced effectiveness of the light. Do not use cleaning agents (which will cause crazing) such as strong detergents, solvents or petroleum products. If crazing of lenses does occur, reliability of the light for emergency signaling purposes may be reduced until the lenses are replaced. Ordinary cleaning of the plastic lenses can be accomplished by using mild soap and a soft rag. Should fine scratches or haze appear on the lens, they can ordinarily be removed with a non-abrasive, high-quality, one-step automotive paste cleaner/wax and a soft cloth.”

    ECCO: “Occasional cleaning of the lenses will ensure optimum light output. Take care when cleaning lenses – although tough, polycarbonate scratches easily. Clean the lens and base with soap and water or a lens polish using a soft cloth. Do not use solvents as they may damage the polycarbonate. Do not subject the lightbar to high-pressure washers or automatic car washers.”
  • Snatch Blocks: A Better Way to Winch

    by Austin Richards | Feb 08, 2019

    Snatch Blocks

    Snatch blocks are a common tool on almost every tow truck for good reason. Snatch blocks can increase a winch line pull and provide several options in difficult recovery operations.

    Basically, a snatch block is a pulley block with a swing-open plate and is intended for relatively short winch line runs and intermittent service.

    When selecting snatch blocks for your truck, verify that the working load limit (WLL) of the winch line and snatch block are compatible. The snatch block must be at least as strong as your winch line. You also need to verify that the groove in the snatch block’s sheave wheel is sized for the diameter of your winch line. A groove that is too large won’t fully support the winch line and could cause damaging flat spots while winch line that’s too large can crack the block. To determine the proper size sheave wheel, use a 12:1 ratio. For example, a 3/8" winch line dia. multiplied by 12 yields 4.5" which is the ideal sheave diameter for a 3/8" wire rope.

    Changing Directions.

    The primary use of a snatch block is to change the direction of pull. Because blocks are anchored in a fixed position, the wider the angle is at the block leads to the less force the anchor point has to withstand. One of the most common direction changes is attaching a snatch block onto your bed to feed the wire rope straight into the winch so it winds properly on the drum and not to one side.

    Snatch blocks are also used as anchor points to change the winch line direction from the disabled vehicle or tow truck to increase pulling power. Multiple snatch blocks can even be used for self-extraction. This can be achieved by routing the winch line from the back of the tow truck to several anchored blocks to the front of the tow truck.

    Increased Pulling Power

    Snatch Blocks can increase pulling power by having a moving vs. fixed snatch block. In this situation, attach a snatch block to the load so it moves with the load as the winch is operated. The amount of line angle at the moving block determines how much mechanical advantage is gained. Maximum gain is when the input wire rope is parallel, or zero degrees, to the output wire rope. This is called a double line pull. It comes in handy when your winch is not rated for the amount of weight of your casualty. This setup effectively doubles the capacity of your winch by distributing the load over two lines.

    Another situation is when the casualty is heavier than your recovery vehicle. In this instance, the tow truck’s wire rope goes through the snatch block attached to the casualty and back to another fixed snatch block then back to the load. This is a triple line pull and gains a 3:1 advantage. The more lines ran between the tow truck and the casualty, the more the pulling power increases.


    When lubricating snatch blocks, use either sodium- or lithium-based grease. Bronze bushed blocks and sheaves generally need to be lubricated after 8 hours of continuous usage or at least every 14 days with intermittent use. Roller bearing blocks and sheaves can handle 24 hours of continuous use before needing lubrication, but the same guideline of 14 days with intermittent use applies. Swivels follow the roller bearing lubrication schedule. Always follow your particular manufacturer’s lubrication timeline.


    Wear is a fact of life and will eventually affect the load a snatch block can handle. This means that regular and frequent inspection is needed. During inspection, keep the following in mind:

    • Deformation of any part is an indication of overload and the snatch block must be replaced immediately.

    • Swivel end-play of more than 1/16" is a danger sign. Replace the snatch block immediately.

    • Spreading side plates are caused by overload and must be repaired or replaced.

    • Looseness in the side plates are a sign of loose retaining nuts.

    • Sheave alignment issues such as wobbly sheaves are caused by bearing wear.

    • Groove wear in the sheave is caused by cable wear and can prematurely reduce wire rope life. Replace grooved sheaves immediately.

    • Hook latches are designed to hold loose rigging under slack conditions. Replace any damaged latches.

    • Any hook deformation, crack, gouge or distortion needs to be replaced immediately.

    Having several snatch blocks on your tow truck can provide options when faced with challenging recoveries. Keeping them in proper working order will ensure they are ready when you need them most.

    Before using any equipment described; be sure to read, understand and follow all manufacturers instructions and guidelines.
  • Transfer or Transport - How to Select the Correct Gas Can

    by Austin Richards | Jan 23, 2019
    Fuel Can Guidelines

    You’ve all experienced road service calls where someone simply runs out of gas. Simple solution, right? Well, maybe not. The choice of which container used to bring fuel is actually not so simple.

    There are three basic types of containers: Safety can, portable can and D.O.T. compliant can. Here’s the difference.

    • Safety Can: Safety cans are approved by a third party safety company such as UL or FM. Safety cans must be five gallons or less and have a flash-arresting screen, a spring-closing lid and spout cover and be designed to safely relieve internal pressure when subject to fire exposure per OSHA 29 CFR 1926.155(l). This type of can is required when used by any business or commercial enterprise for storing or transferring flammable liquids. These cans meet OSHA requirements and are available in steel or plastic.


    Eagle Type I Red Safety Can

    • Portable Fuel Can: A portable fuel can is any container designed and marketed for use by consumers for receiving, transporting, storing and dispensing gasoline, diesel fuel or kerosene. Cans that are red, yellow or blue are deemed to be portable fuel containers regardless of how they are labeled per EPA 40 CFR 59.680. Red cans are used for gasoline, yellow for diesel, and blue for kerosene. Portable fuel cans are designed to control evaporative emissions and reduce spillage and are often referred to as CARB (California Air Resource Board) compliant cans. These models are also designed with child-resistant features to meet the Children’s Gasoline Burn Prevention Act. These cans may meet EPA requirements, but not OSHA or DOT requirements. These cans are generally made of plastic, but there are some metal cans on the market.


    No-Spill CARB Gas

    While safety and portable fuel cans can be used for storing or transferring fuel, the key for our industry is whether they can be used for transporting fuel on our commercial road service vehicles. The short answer is… it depends on the can! This leads to the third type of can.

    • DOT Compliant Can: These cans need to meet the Performance Oriented Packaging requirements of the Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations. For instance, a standard safety can does not meet the requirements for transport. However, there are Safety Transport Cans that have a hold-down bracket for the lid and guards to protect the spout assembly that do. Some portable fuel cans have DOT caps that replace the spout assembly during transport to make them compliant. Jerri cans with screw-in caps that replace the spout assembly can also meet DOT requirements. Only cans meeting DOT requirements can be used for transporting flammable liquids.


    DOT Compliant Cap

    To see if your gas cans meet DOT requirements check the label or imprinting on the can for DOT approval stamp or the presence of UN marking numbers such as 1A1/T1.2/100.

    The choice of which gas can you purchase depends on how the container will be used. Safety cans are great in maintenance shops or storage yards while DOT approved cans are best for road service vehicles. See more Fuel Cans.

    Before using any equipment described, be sure to read, understand and follow all manufacturers instructions and guidelines.

  • Hi-Vis Guidelines

    by Austin Richards | Jan 03, 2019
    Be Safe, Be Seen: Guidelines for High Visibility Clothing

    Hi-Vis Guidelines

    At Zip’s AW Direct we get a lot of questions about high-visibility guidelines. Being seen on the job is critical to your safety out on the road. The sooner motorists see you, the safer you are.

    ANSI specifies two primary classes of reflective wear for people who work on the road. These classes are based on the amount of visible materials and the design attributes of the garment:

    Class 3: These garments offer the highest level of visibility and are designed for people working where traffic exceeds 50 mph. Typical jobs requiring Class 3 include road construction, tow truck operators and emergency responders.

    Check out the various styles of Class 3 reflective wear from Zip’s AW Direct.

    Class 2: Class 2 reflective garments aren’t as reflective as Class 3. Class 2 reflective vests are made for work where traffic exceeds 25 mph but does not exceed 50 mph. Common job classifications requiring Class 2 vests include school crossing guards, tow truck operators and law enforcement while directing traffic.

    Check out the various styles of Class 2 reflective wear from Zip’s AW Direct.

    Other Classifications: Apparel rated ANSI Class 1 is only appropriate for off-road work areas like construction sites and parking lots. Apparel rated ANSI Class E, typically pants or bibs, exists to enhance the overall visibility of the worker, but is not independently compliant.

    Keep in mind that reflective garments will get dirty, wear out over time and lose some of their reflectivity. And, as you wash your apparel, each washing will gradually reduce its reflectivity. Reflective material can typically be washed up to 25 times before needing to be replaced. Always check with your manufacturer for washing instructions.

    If you need to upgrade or replace your reflective apparel, browse the wide range of styles from Zip’s AW Direct here.
  • Choosing & Caring for Winch Lines

    by Brittany Stange | Dec 07, 2018

    Learn the different strengths and weaknesses of different kinds of winch lines, as well as how to properly care for winch lines.

    Winch Lines

    Wire winch lines are the heart of our recovery operations. A damaged line is a serious safety issue and a broken one removes a recovery vehicle from service. Unfortunately, winch lines are often misunderstood. In this article I will cover the basics of winch lines (commonly called wire ropes). I will discuss both what to look for during an inspection of your winch line and how to select a new winch line.

    Rope Cores: Rope cores serve as the foundation for the strands. They keep the rope round and strands properly positioned. There are 3 different core types: fiber core, independent wire core (IWRC) and strand core. Fiber core offers the greatest flexibility. It is commonly made of polypropylene fibers, but natural fiber options are also available. Independent wire rope core (IWRC) is made of wire rope. It is the strongest type of core available and is 10-15% stronger than fiber core. Strand Core is made of stands of wires. It is least flexible of the three types discussed and is mostly used on utility cables.

    Rope Grades: The most common rope today is extra improved plow steel (EIP or XIP). It is typically used on winch lines and is generally 15% stronger than improved plow steel grade (IPS). Extra extra improved plow steel grade (EEIP or XXIP) is also available for added strength in higher rated equipment.

    Rope Types: Bright wire is un-coated and is the most commonly used winch line. Another option is galvanized wire, which improves corrosion resistance. However, galvanization can reduce a wire’s strength up to 10% compared to bright wire unless the wire is drawn again. Stainless steel wire contains chromium and nickel. It is very corrosion resistant and used primarily on yachts or as control cables.

    Construction: Construction determines how the wire rope performs. For instance, a 6 x 19 rope will have 6 strands of rope that have between 19 to 26 wires. Each added wire makes for better abrasion resistance. A 6 x 37 construction has 27 to 49 wires and is more flexible, while a 19 x 7 construction is rotation resistant.

    Lay: There are two categories of lay, directional lay and lay orientation. Directional lay refers to what direction the strands of the rope face when you are looking down the rope, and lay orientation refers to the direction the wires within the strands are twisted. Directional lay is either right or left. Lay orientation is either regular or lang. In regular lay, the wires are twisted in one direction while the strands are twisted in the opposite direction. In lang lay, the wires are laid in the same direction as the strand in the rope. Regular lay ropes are less likely to untwist. They are also less likely to fail because of crushing and distortion; however, they are less flexible than lang lay ropes. Wire winch lines use right regular lay construction.

    Design Factors: Design factors are safety factors required by government and industry organizations for wire rope. While they vary depending on application, typical towing winch lines have a 3:1 design factor, while lifting wire ropes have a 5:1 factor.

    During a winch line’s “useful life” all wire rope will gradually lose strength due to surface wear and metal fatigue. Metal fatigue is caused by normal use of the winch line but is made worse by excessive bending, which can be caused by a sheave that is too small. Inspecting your winch lines periodically for damage can save you many headaches on the road. Unfortunately, I suspect many can relate to having a winch line break that’s connected to a car with its owner watching. It’s never a pleasant or inexpensive experience! Below is mechanical damage to look for when inspecting your winch line and determining whether to remove it from service.

    • Hook damage: Look for any cracks or deformation of hooks. If the throat opening has been enlarged by 15% or twisted out of plane by 10%, it needs replacing.

    • Broken Wires: Pulling winch lines across edges, fatigue or overload can all break individual wires. If you find five or more broken wires in a single strand or 10 or more in one lay, the wire should be replaced.

    • Wear: Dragging a winch line on the ground or loading over the winch line will cause flat areas on individual wires of the cable. If these wires have lost 1/3 or more of the original diameter the line needs to be taken out of service.

    • Corrosion/Heat Damage: Any discoloration from rust or lack of lubrication promotes fatigue. If the wire rope is severely pitted or individual wires rusted through, replace the line. Fiber core slings need to stay below 180°F and steel core below 400°F. Exceeding these heats greatly reduce wire rope strength.

    • Kinking: Shock loading or forcing the line against an edge causes bent strands. This prevents the rope from rotating properly and greatly reduces its strength, making it necessary to replace the rope. Use load pads to protect the line and prevent this.

    • Crushing: A load set on top of a winch line can flatten the cable. This has the same effect as kinking, making it necessary to remove the line from service.

    When you are inspecting your winch line and have not found any damage that would require replacement, it is an ideal opportunity to lubricate the line to get the maximum service life possible. Be sure to use a lubricant especially made for wire rope. Proper lubrication reduces internal friction within the wires and strands of the wire rope. In addition, it protects the rope from oxidation and corrosion.

    When selecting a new winch line it should be based on the diameter, length and type recommended by the winch manufacturer for the model of winch you own. This information can be found on the winch nameplate, otherwise you can contact the winch manufacturer or local supplier. Beyond making sure your rope is compatible with your winch, there are a few other things you may want to consider. First, swivel hooks will help relieve rotational tension as the rope moves, so you may want to invest in them. Also, keep in mind that imported ropes can provide substantial cost savings without sacrificing quality. To reduce damage to whatever winch line you choose, use roller guides and tension plates. These aid in the proper winding of wire rope on the winch drum.

    Periodic inspections and lubrication of your winch line will save your business money, but more importantly, keep your employees safe and your customers happy. That is the heart of our industry.

    See all our Winch Line Products >>
  • Winter weather is here!

    by Brittany Stange | Nov 28, 2018
    Work King jackets and bibs are some of the warmest and most functional winter wear you will ever own! It's simply the best.

    Work King Winter Wear

    It's not too late! Order your new high-visibility winter wear now at We have great Work King jackets, bibs and more on hand, ready to go to work for you! Order now! 
  • Make your Jump-Start Pack Last!

    by Brittany Stange | Oct 30, 2018

    Tips for Preserving the Life of Jump-Start Packs

    portable jump packs

    Older vehicle batteries show their age in the cold temperatures. Fortunately, the jump-start pack is an operator’s best friend in these types of conditions. A quick boost will get many customers back on the road and you off to the next call. In order to keep your jump packs working when you need them, here are a few tips.

    • Keep the jump pack charged according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Yes, this seems like an easy one, but jump packs have different charging techniques. Some packs have built-in overcharge protection so they can be plugged in all the time while others require charging for a specific timeframe and then must be removed from the power source. Constant charging will damage the battery on packs on units without overcharge protectors.

    • Jump-start packs require cool-down periods between jumps. The high amperage needed to start a vehicle heats up the internal components of the jump pack. The timeframe varies depending on the manufacturer, but in general, after 6 seconds of trying to jump-start start a vehicle, a pack will need 3 minutes of cool down time.

    • Cold temperatures reduce the capacity of the jump-start pack. Keep the pack warm between uses.

    • Train employees on the proper hook-up of the battery hand clamps per manufacturer instructions.

    • Use to charge non-frozen lead-acid batteries only.

    Browse jump-start pack options here >>

  • Top Tire Chain Tips

    by Brittany Stange | Oct 25, 2018

    Helpful Winter Towing Hints


    Tire Chains

    In many parts of the country, winter season is not far off. Having the most traction possible for snow and ice covered roads is very important for safety. For those unsafe snowy and icy weather conditions in which tires alone do not suffice, one of the best ways to gain additional traction is the use of tire chains (also referred to as snow chains).

    Tire chains or cables are selected based on the size of the vehicle and the amount of wheel clearance available on the vehicle. The tire chain manufacturer/retailer will have information on the correct size of tire chain while the vehicle manufacturer will have information on the clearance, usually in the vehicle owner’s manual. When first purchased, all tire chains need to be properly fit to your tires for best performance, traction and safety. They need to be as tight as possible by hand and then readjusted after driving a short distance. If needed, rubber or spring chain adjusters can be used.

    Helpful Hints:

    • The maximum driving speed with tire chains is 30 mph

    • Fit and practice installation of tire chains before you need to use them

    • It’s much easier to install tire chains for winter safety before losing traction vs. after you’re stuck

    • If installing chains on the side of the road, always wear appropriate high visibility apparel.

    • Do not deflate tires to install tire chains

    • Extra links can be cut off or secured to the side chain

    • Mount so the cut ends of the cross chain hooks are away from the tire

    • Avoid twists and kinks in the side and the cross chains

    • If a cross chain should break, immediately repair or remove

    Various states have different statutes regarding tire chains, so it is best to check with your state’s Department of Transportation or towing association. In general, most states either allow the use of tire chains outright within certain calendar dates or permit them during hazardous, snowy weather or related incidents as long as they do not damage the highway surface.


    Shop Tire Chains from Zip’s AW Direct >>

  • A safer and stronger strap

    by Brittany Stange | Oct 24, 2018

    Zip’s AW Direct Straps


    Our straps are built to be safer, stronger and last longer than any other strap in the industry. We have a variety of products using this patented material, including tie-down kits, magnetic axle straps and lasso straps. Take advantage of free shipping on all orders of $100 and get your straps shipped today! Shop now.
  • Endless reasons to shop at!

    by Brittany Stange | Sep 19, 2018

    Seven great reasons to shop with Zip's!

    Zip’s AW Direct is more than just a marketplace for transportation and truck equipment. We sell, maintain and custom-build the truck equipment you need to be successful. Enjoy amazing benefits when you shop at or give us a call at 800-222-6047! Shop now.

  • Be seen anytime, anywhere with this chain!

    by Brittany Stange | Jun 01, 2018
    Introducing Grade 100 Hi-Viz Chain Assemblies that come in a high visibility yellow color for safer usage.


    This Grade 100 Hi-Viz Chain will be seen in any weather, day or night. Grade 100 chain is made from alloy steel and is extremely strong. It has a 25% higher work load limit than grade 80, making it ideal for recovery or lifting as well as overhead lifting. The bright color allows this chain to be seen clearly when in use. Order your hi-viz chain assembly today!
  • Save time with a container eye link

    by Brittany Stange | May 04, 2018
    Create an easy attaching point with a container link

    Container Eye Links

    Be safe and save time when lifting and recovering sea containers with this new alloy, removable pin link. These links will not bind-up nor be “side” loaded like other attachments currently used in the field. The Yoke® Eye Link is intended to be used in the corner eyes of shipping containers as an attachment point for rigging to assist in uprighting overturned containers. Shop container links now! 
  • Stay warm and dry in rain gear from Zip's

    by Brittany Stange | May 04, 2018
    Explore the features and benefits of the ML Kishigo Premium Black Series Rainwear.

    Black Series Rainwear
    Don't let the weather slow you down! Pair the new Class 3 ML Kishigo Black Series Rainwear Jacket and Class E ML Kighigo Black Series Rainwear Pants together for an outfit that will keep you dry and visible in the worst weather! Shop rain gear now! 
  • Introducing Zip's Prime Car Carrier Packages

    by Brittany Stange | May 04, 2018
    Roll out in a Prime rollback

    Prime Truck Packages

    Save Big! Buy now! Zip's Prime Packages offer just the right combinations of steel car carrier body and truck chassis for you. All Prime trucks have the primary features and accessories needed to get the job done - nothing more and nothing less - all at a great value! Shop Prime trucks now or call 800-222-6047!
  • Make the switch to synthetics with Zip's

    by Brittany Stange | Jan 09, 2018

    The use of this recovery rope will drastically cut down on the overall weight of any truck.

    AmSteel-Blue Synthetic Rope
    AmSteel-Blue Synthetic Rope is an excellent alternative to steel winch cables! These synthetic winch lines and rope extensions are very durable with extremely low stretch, have superior flex fatigue and are wear resistant. Size-for-size, it is the same strength as steel - yet it floats in water! Learn more about AmSteel-Blue Synthetic Rope now! 
  • Zip's creates "Slow Down for a Cause" decals

    by Brittany Stange | Aug 18, 2017

    Support the "Slow Down, Move Over" Movement that is spanning across the US.


    Zip’s has created a “Slow Down, Move Over” vinyl vehicle decal for you to bring awareness to the movement. A portion of the proceeds from these decals will be donated to the Survivor Fund which provides immediate financial support to families of towing operators who lose their lives in the line of service in our industry. View our full inventory of decals!
  • Introducing our LCG Industrial Carriers

    by Brittany Stange | Aug 03, 2017

    Our Low Center of Gravity Industrial Carriers are ready to roll!

    LCG Industrial Carriers

    LCG carriers cater perfectly to a very broad market. They are excellent for hauling equipment such as Ag equipment, construction equipment, rental equipment and much more. These beds are available with a 20,000 lb., 30,000 lb. or 40,000 lb. weight capacity. Learn more about our LCG Industrial Carriers now! 
  • Easy to apply Car Carrier Tie-Downs

    by Brittany Stange | Jul 07, 2017


    Zip’s wants you to feel safe when hauling equipment - big or small with our extensive product offering which includes tie-downs from B/A Products and All-Grip. We offer a wide selection of dependable car carrier straps and chains for load securement when transporting cars, vans or pick-up trucks. Our variety of ratchet straps and chains are easily applied to your vehicle making for a smooth, responsible trip. Whether you are hauling high-end vehicles or wrecked cars Zip’s has all the straps and chains to get the job done. Click here to learn about Car Carrier Tie-Downs.

  • Tycan Synthetic Chains with Dyneema

    by User Not Found | Jun 13, 2017
    Tycan Synthetic Chains
    Safety is always the number one priority in any industry—followed closely by quality products you can count on to get the job done. Zip’s is introducing the Tycan synthetic chain made with Dyneema, the world's strongest fiber. What does that mean for your crew, company and cargo? Performance that doesn’t compromise safety. Tycan synthetic chain has incredible working load limits and is a fraction of the weight of a steel chain—light and safe enough for one person to handle confidently. With a chain that makes the the job safer, better and faster, the uses for this chain in any industry are nearly limitless. Click here to learn about Tycan Synthetic Chains made with Dyneema.
  • YOU are a 24/7 Problem Solver!

    by Karen McDonald | May 24, 2017
    24-7Problem Solver
    The term “24/7 Problem Solver” describes YOU—those of you in the towing industry who are dedicated and passionate about what you do! The 24/7 Problem Solver Spotlight is a new movement from Zip’s that we’re launching on Facebook. It is our way to say thank you, give the world a chance to learn a little bit about you and your towing experiences as 24/7 Problem Solvers. Zip’s will regularly showcase an experienced tower and a fun interview about them on our Facebook page STARTING TOMORROW! Look for the first of many 24/7 Problem Solvers in your Facebook news feed! Learn more about the 24/7 Spotlight here!