Industry News & New Products

  • Meet an Expert: LeRoy Gossling

    by Nate Kuennen | Mar 10, 2023

    leroy-gossling-spotlight-mar2023-low-res-9 1200x630

    This Month’s ‘Meet an Expert’ at Zip’s AW Direct is LeRoy Gossling, a professional truck sales consultant whose territory primarily serves the state of Nebraska. A 30-year employee, Gossling also handles national and international sales, covering what the sales team here likes to call the “rest of the world.”

    After spending a short time on the East Coast, Gossling, a northeast Iowa native, returned home in 1990 and joined Zip’s in the Parts Department three years later. Referred to the position by another employee at the time, Gossling said he spent his first six years here ordering, shipping and receiving parts and educating himself about the towing industry.

    “It wasn’t just knowing all the parts but really the sales of those parts,” Gossling recalled. “I learned the behind-the-scenes side of the business, such as the shipping and receiving, doing inventory, stocking shelves and so on. I learned a lot from Rick and Chuck–two parts guys at the time–and I have to give both of these gentlemen credit for teaching me a lot about the towing industry.”

    Gossling said that on-the-job training eventually led to an interest in equipment sales. Following an opening in 1999, he made the transition and joined the sales team here. That staff now numbers a dozen full-time consultants, and Gossling is the second-longest tenured sales rep. Returning the favor, he said he has helped guide other consultants who have come on board after him.

    “As we have grown over the years as a company, I have taught or mentored a number of new or newer employees in the sales process,” he explained. “I feel obligated to, I guess, as I was lucky enough to have a few fellow employees mentor me. It’s the right thing to do. We all want to be successful here.”

    Gossling describes working at Zip’s as a “family atmosphere” and that translates into his success in truck sales. Zip’s itself is a family-owned business, and many of the customers he works with are multi-generational, family-owned tow companies. 

    “We have all become family over the years here. That makes a difference, I believe, along with getting to know your customers and learning about their operation,” Gossling said. “My customer base is filled with a number of family-owned, family-run companies and eventually you become part of their family.”

    Gossling said many of the customers he works with have been in business for more than 40 years, and they usually know what they want when they call. Other inquiries he fields may come from younger customers who are just starting out in the business and need guidance on their equipment. He treats each sales call equally.

    “A lot of my customers buy and update their equipment annually or at least every few years, so they usually know exactly what they want. But I still may provide guidance on ‘what's new’ in the industry,” Gossling explained. “I also get calls every day from very young companies, or someone who wants to get into the towing business, so this involves a lot of time and discussion on what type of equipment they need not just to start with but down the road as they grow.”

    According to Gossling, the towing industry has “evolved” greatly in his three decades in the business, and he said it’s important to keep his customers abreast of the changes and improvements. During his time with Zip’s, Gossling has sold everything from light-duty wreckers, heavy-duty wreckers and rotators to car carriers and industrial trailers.

    So what gives him the most satisfaction from his position? “The best part of my job is when a customer sees their new truck for the first time, and I hear ‘WOW, this is beautiful’. I call that the ‘wow factor’.”

  • Must-Have Cargo Hauling Accessories

    by Nate Kuennen | Jan 31, 2023

    Hauling flatbed freight can be tricky. Make sure you have the right tools and cargo control accessories to help simplify the process. Zip’s AW Direct offers a full line of Cargo Control products. These products protect your load, assist in tarping and keep everything secure.

    You already know about our durable straps and chains. In today’s blog, we are going to look at the types of accessories that can make any tie-down job easier. We call them ‘must-haves’. Find room in your storage compartments for these hand-picked favorites that can help your flatbed operation.


    Ancra Lever Binder Lock

    Once you have tightened down your chain, make sure the chain binder lever binder stays put. Using the Ancra Binder Lock you can lock the lever in place. Featuring a two-position pin, this metal lock prevents the accidental release of the lever in transit.

    • Secures binder lever to body frame with locking pin
    • Powder-coated to withstand harsh road spray
    • Safety yellow finish easily identifiable
    Item #: AI-50117-10
    Buy it


    Strap Winders

    We’ve all seen the tail of a winch strap flying in the wind behind a trailer. Don’t be that driver. Zip’s AW Direct offers three types of strap winders. They store excess webbing neatly behind the winch cap and keep it from becoming a streamer.

    • Winds straps up to 4”W
    • Attaches to rail for mechanical operation
    • Dual handles for improved control
    Ancra Web Winder
    Item #: AI-45801-10
    Buy it
    Ancra EZ Winder 2 Handle Strap Winder
    Item #: AI-50092-10
    Buy it
    Premium Cargo Strap Winder
    Item #: AI-50391-10
    Buy it


    Ancra Heavy-Duty Strap Storage Band Pack

    When you’re empty or don’t need all of your ratchet straps, make sure you keep them organized. Don’t create a rat’s nest in your storage compartment with loose straps. Count on Ancra Storage Bands to keep them rolled tightly so they can be stacked and stored with ease.

    • Keeps straps from unraveling
    • Dimensions: 1”W x 7”L
    • Ancra-blue heavy-duty rubber
    Item #: AI-50433-10
    Buy it


    All-Grip Telescoping Retrieval & Rigging Tool

    Your loaded trailer can reach as high as 13’6”. Throwing straps, chains and tarps over that stack of freight can be challenging. Use the All-Grip Telescoping Retrieval and Rigging Tool to get your tie-down gear where it needs to get. This lightweight aluminum pole extends to 8’ and locks into position for easy maneuverability.

    • Collapses to 42” for easy storage
    • Hi-tech poly retrieval hook
    • Marine finish for durability
    Item #: 11810-5
    Buy it


    Corner Protectors

    Your freight comes in all shapes and sizes. When it shows up as pallets, building materials and angle iron, make sure you have corner protectors to shield your straps from cuts and abrasions. Zip’s AW Direct offers 13 different options to add a layer of defense against sharp corners and edges.

    • Wide footprint evenly distributes pressure
    • Metal or plastic construction
    • Pre-bent to 90 degrees
    Zip's Corner Strap Protector
    Item #: ZCSP
    Buy it
    Ancra X-Treme Guard HD Poly Corner Protector
    Item #: AI-50089-GUARD
    Buy it
    All-Grip Plastic Corner Protector
    Item #: WS-25037025
    Buy it


    Reversible Load Signs

    Sometimes, your freight doesn’t fit the width of your trailer. To maintain compliance with DOT regulations, you need to notify other motorists of your oversized load. If that’s the case, Zip’s AW Direct offers several different options for reversible banners to address the situation.

    • Double-sided, DOT-compliant sign
    • Secures with attached rope
    • Vinyl material rolls up for convenient storage
    Zip's Wide/Oversize Load Banner
    Buy it
    Ancra Wide/Oversize Load Banner
    Item #: AI-49894-BANNER
    Buy it


    Ancra Toss 'N Tie Strap

    Don’t throw your arm out tossing heavy straps over your flatbed freight. Use the Toss ‘N Tie from Ancra to get your straps where they need to go. Attach the carabiner to a strap end and then toss the much lighter nylon string and rubber reel over the freight. Then go to the other side and pull the tie-down strap over.  

    • String length: 28’
    • Molded synthetic rubber reel
    • Includes high quality carabiner and ring
    Item #: AI-50409-10
    Buy it


    Ancra Tarp Protector

    Tarping your load is likely the least desirable aspect of your job. Don’t add to the frustration by causing tears and holes in your expensive tarps. Use Ancra’s Tarp Protector to soften corners and prevent cuts and abrasions. This plastic pyramid makes contact with each surface and the rounded tip won’t pierce straps or fabric.

    • Yellow plastic for visibility
    • Three points of contact
    • Rounded tip to soften corner
    Item #: AI-49913-10
    Buy it


    We hope you find these accessories useful and beneficial to your operation. You can browse more options by visiting the Cargo Control section at Zips.com. Just remember, the most important tip is making sure you have the right tools to perform your job safely and efficiently.

  • 10 Tips to Maintain Your Industrial Trailer

    by Nate Kuennen | Jan 26, 2023


    Preventative trailer maintenance on your industrial flatbed trailer can keep your rig rolling down the road. By performing regular checks to catch and fix defects before they become problematic. This early intervention makes sure your deliveries stay on time. It also avoids service delays caused by unexpected downtime and fix-it tickets from roadside inspections.

    In today’s blog, we are going to look at the 10 most common areas to address. These tips of all types of trailers including your lowboy, dropdeck or traveling axle trailer. Some tips should already be part of your daily inspection routine. Others may occur during PMs, and some need to be completed at other regularly-scheduled intervals.

    Find the schedule that works the best for you and your fleet’s operation. The key takeaway here is to not ignore issues or put off routine maintenance. Preventative maintenance measures can ultimately save you time and money and preserve your reputation as a dependable carrier. Let’s start our rundown where the rubber meets the road.

    1. Wheel torque

    Wheel Torque

    Rust streaks on the surface of your rim are a tell-tale sign of loose lugnuts and possible issues. Make sure you keep your lugnuts tight and secure by properly torquing them to manufacturer specifications. Correct torque settings prevent tire, axle and bearing wear, especially following a hub service or the arrival of a new trailer.

    When mounting a set of tandems, be careful not to damage the wheel studs and make sure the valve stem for the inner wheel is accessible from the outside wheel hole. Tighten the nuts by following an alternating criss-cross pattern to an initial setting of 50 ft.-lbs. Once the wheel set is snug, torque the lugnuts to the final setting of 450-500 ft.-lbs. following the same rotation.

    2. Hub inspection


    Similar to wheel torque settings, you should also take a good look at the hub.. According to manufacturers like Landoll, the wheel end contains the most “consumable service items.” Major repair costs can be occurred when components are not maintained and serviced properly.

    During your visual inspection, make sure the hub oil is at the recommended level on the sight glass and fill accordingly. Excessive hub temperature is a sign of poor lubrication and low oil levels. During your pre-trip, be sure to look for oil leaking on the inside of the rim and on brake components.

    You should also keep an eye out for loose, damaged or missing fasteners. If you discover any, put the trailer out of service if any of these defective conditions are present. 

    3. Suspension overview

    Suspension Overview

    While still under the trailer, proceed next to suspension components, once again looking for loose, cracked or broken parts and verifying torque specifications on all nuts, bolts and fittings. Air bags should also be inspected for equal firmness, and leaf springs should be scanned for cracks. Refer to the trailer manufacturer’s manual for further instructions.

    4. Tire alignment

    Tire Alignment

    After looking at your trailer’s lugnuts, wheel bearings, hubs and suspension, take a minute to check the tire pressure and the wear patterns on your trailer tires. Many industrial trailers offer tire inflation systems to maintain tire pressure. A quick check with an inflation gauge will prevent a roadside repair farther down the highway.

    If you see signs of uneven tread wear, notify shop personnel. The trailer may be out of alignment or may be suffering from a damaged suspension or axle component. Scuffed tires or tires with feathered edges could be a sign of negative camber and should be addressed by certified technicians.

    According to trailer manufacturer Landoll, proper axle-to-kingpin alignment is “necessary to obtain straight tracking.” If axle alignment is off, “dog-tracking” occurs. Check alignment manually or with a semi trailer alignment machine. A thorough inspection of the complete suspension system must be performed, and all defects need to be corrected before alignment.


    5. Brake systems

    Brake Systems

    The importance of stopping your trailer needs little explanation. Whether equipped with drum or disc brakes, daily brake inspections on your trailer need to be part of your dispatch routine. Most out-of-service tickets are related to brakes being out of adjustment, and most roadside DOT inspections are looking for brake system violations. Don’t risk an out-of-service ticket.

    At a minimum, manufacturers like Landoll recommend trailer brake systems be inspected every 500 miles. Drivers and technicians should be looking for chafing air lines, hose kinks and damaged fittings. Keep an eye out for loose, missing or corroded fasteners. As always, any defects discovered should be fixed before the trailer returns to service.

    Brakes need compressed air to operate, so make sure your power unit’s compressor is in operational condition. The gladhands should be sealed with plumber’s tape and the rubber grommet insert is not missing or deformed. Always remember, audible air leaks do not pass inspections.

    To prevent ice build-up in air lines, be sure to drain the air reservoir daily. A drain cock is located on the bottom of the reservoir and allows collected water and oil to drain properly and exit the system before problems develop. Once complete, make sure the cock is sealed tightly to the bottom of the tank.


    6. Hydraulic system

    Your industrial trailer needs uninterrupted hydraulic fluid to function properly. Make sure you keep your tractor’s wet kit free of debris and water so fluids can flow freely without restriction. Start with a 10-micron filter and regular service changes. A well-maintained system will keep your trailer working as it should when you need it to. 

    Just like your semi’s engine oil, be sure to check the hydraulic oil level daily and look for signs of fluid contamination. Evidence or presence of foreign materials can clog your system and may require a full-system flush. Don’t let debris stop you in your tracks when you are in the middle of a delivery.


    7. Deck condition

    Deck Conditions

    It’s hard to haul flatbed freight with a compromised deck surface. Whether your trailer’s deck is made from wood, metal or a combination of both, inspect for loose sections, missing fasteners and other surface defects. Over time, the condition of your trailer’s deck can suffer from loading abuse, road vibration, weather elements and repeated washing.

    If primarily wood, the best way to prolong the life of your deck is to treat the wood annually with preservatives. A deep penetrating oil-based formula that repels moisture will pay itself back over time. Check with your local home improvement store or refer to the can for application instructions. Periodic recoating could prevent deck failures in the future.


    8. Electrical connections


    The mark of any good pre-trip inspection is working lights on both the tractor and trailer. How many times have you seen a tractor-trailer heading down the highway with a burned-out headlight or clearance light? Did the driver actually perform a walkaround inspection?

    Don’t get trapped by apathy. Make sure you do your job. Just remember, if a light is on your trailer, it needs to work.

    Faulty trailer lights are just the beginning of your trailer’s electrical inspection. Always check the seven-pin connection to the trailer and ensure a solid fit. The cord end should be free of debris and bent or loose pins. Additionally check for, any wire, electrical connection or electrical component showing signs of corrosion, wear, breakage or unraveling.

    9. Roller and wear pad inspection


    If your industrial trailer features a traveling axle setup, make sure you inspect the rollers and wear pads located on the undercarriage. These key components must be properly maintained to ensure smooth axle travel. If a bearing is seized and not rolling freely on the main beams, the roller could suffer a flat spot and require replacement, causing additional cost and downtime.

    Landoll recommends lubricating rollers monthly or every 2,000 miles. Refer to your trailer owner’s manual for grease zerk locations and scheduled maintenance intervals. Wear pads need to be replaced any time unusual wear appears, compromising bolt heads and mating material.

    10. Dock leveler maintenance

    Dock Lleveler

    Lastly, dock levelers round out our list of inspection points on your industrial flatbed trailer. Typically located between the rear axles, these dropdown legs provide support while loading equipment from a ramp or dock and prevent unnecessary suspension damage. Before moving a trailer, always make sure the legs are in the raised position for transport.

    Daily use of leveler’s legs keeps the system fresh, but if your cylinders are seldomly used, you should still cycle the legs up and down at least weekly so oil circulates through the lines. This extra step ensures the leveler’s legs are ready and available when you need them.

    Leveler legs should always be in the retracted position prior to transport. During your pre-trip inspection, you should check for loose, missing or damaged hardware. You should also look for hydraulic leaks and any unsupported lines that may be damaged. If any unsatisfactory conditions exist, put the trailer out of service for repair.



    We hope you find this list useful. Always refer to your trailer’s owner’s and service manuals for exact details and instructions. Inspection points may vary by manufacturer, but the intent here is to not skip a step.

    Once again, drivers and fleet managers need to remain mindful of all the moving parts on a trailer. Keeping your trailer in its best shape is in everyone’s best interest.

    Having the products and equipment that you’d need to inspect your trailer on-hand can be the difference between performing these inspections or not. Be sure you have the supplies you need by visiting our Auto & Truck Service department.

  • Meet an Expert: Randy Gilbert

    by Nate Kuennen | Jan 10, 2023

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    Seeing the country and meeting great customers makes Randy Gilbert’s job pretty rewarding.

    Delivering brand new tow trucks definitely turns a lot of heads going down the road for Randy Gilbert, a part-time driver for Zip’s Truck Equipment and this month’s ‘Meet an Expert’ employee profile. 

    The shiny chrome, the extra lights and the fresh paint job offer plenty of eye-catching bling for passing motorists. Whether a rotator or light-duty, the rolling billboard makes for pretty good advertising for the company.

    “I’ve always said I bet I could take a new truck down the road and have it sold in two days,” Gilbert said.

    Gilbert joined Zip’s as a part-time driver in 2019 following a career with two companies in nearby Charles City and 17 years owning a saleyard north of Floyd in northeast Iowa. He was looking to fill his spare time and was referred to the position by current employees at Zip’s. 

    His wife went to high school with company owner Paul Rottinghaus, and his son-in-law and grandson both work in the heavy-duty production shop here.

    “I got a call from Zip’s one day, and they were looking for someone to deliver a truck,” Gilbert recalled. “I went over, filled out the application, and before I got halfway home, they called me back and offered me the job.”

    Besides all the attention he gets going down the road, Gilbert said the best part about delivering trucks for Zip’s is the opportunity to see the country. He said he also likes interacting with customers when he shows up at their doorstep with a new addition for their fleet.

    “Everyone’s great, and I’ve had several requests to deliver their next truck,” Gilbert said. “I usually stick around after the delivery and shoot the breeze a little bit before I leave. They are usually happiest as can be. I’ve pretty much been a people person all my life.”

    Gilbert said he normally delivers one to two trucks each week and primarily focuses on heavy-duty trucks. Lately, with the demand for car carriers, he’s been delivering more rollbacks for Zip’s. “That’s what’s been selling,” he noted.

    Last year, Gilbert delivered a new wrecker to customers in every continental state except Maine. He typically goes wherever he’s needed and has been to the same customers multiple times. He said he appreciates the flexible scheduling, and driving gets him back to his roots.

    At his sale yard, he would deliver farm equipment with a small fleet of flatbed trailers, and hailing from a family of house movers, he worked for his father and grandfather in his younger days. “I drove a truck before I drove a car,” he joked.

  • Meet an Expert: Tierney Lensing

    by Nate Kuennen | Sep 27, 2022

    tierney-lensing-portrait-sep-2022-low-res-7 1200x630 (1)

    Helping Others Comes Naturally for Tierney Lensing

    This month’s ‘Meet an Expert’ employee profile at Zip’s AW Direct is Tierney Lensing, a product sales representative. Lensing joined Zip’s two years ago in customer service and processes customer requests and orders over the phone, by email and even through web and text messaging.

    Through effective communication, Tierney said she is able to build strong relationships with Zip’s customers by sharing her extensive knowledge of products and services. She has established a rapport with many of them by offering solutions through support and recommendations.

    “Being in customer service at Zip’s, you are helping people on every call,” Tierney explained. “Just being able to help them with a positive approach and mindset and knowing that you impacted their day in a positive way is a win in my book.

    “I have always been motivated by learning and helping others,” she continued. “I find that working at Zip’s, you learn something new every single day…from products, customers or something new in the industries we serve. By learning, it helps you strive and grow.”

    Tierney said she is impressed by the breadth and depth of the products offered by Zip’s AW Direct. The company currently carries more than 60,000 products from more than 400 vendors. Every week, new customers discover Zips.com, and Tierney wants to make sure they stay.

    “I am a firm believer that people can hear a smile through the phone,” she said. “It amazes me all the customers that we have and the different industries that Zip’s has products for. There is truly something for everyone here.”

    In her role, Tierney tracks order histories and inventory levels through databases and spreadsheets. She says keeping information current helps with each call, leads to job satisfaction and assists others in the call center. Teamwork, she said, is what she likes best about working at Zip’s.

    “Everyone is treated like family here,” Tierney said. “We all build such great relationships with our customers and our co-workers. Everyone truly cares about each other—whether it be on a personal or professional level. Zip’s is always evolving, and they want every one of their employees to grow as well.”

  • Limit your liability: Accurately Lugnuts

    by Nate Kuennen | Sep 09, 2022


    Close enough is not good enough. Don’t rely on your own judgment or the sound of your impact wrench to determine if lugnuts are properly secured. Always torque them to exact vehicle and manufacturer specifications.

    Professionally-torqued lugnuts prevent dangerous wheel separations on the highway and limit a mechanic’s liability. A loose wheel can cause property damage, personal injury or, in the worst case scenario, a fatal accident.

    The internet is littered with videos showing close calls with runaway tires on highways and on busy streets, nearly striking emergency personnel, pedestrians and the motoring public. Don’t risk a loose wheel. Invest in a torque wrench and give yourself peace of mind.

    Lugnut specifications range by rim size, stud diameter and vehicle ratings. Passenger tires vary from 70 ft./lbs. to more than 100 ft./lbs.

    Refer to a vehicle’s owner manual or check available resources online for proper specifications. Here is an example of the torque ranges available with the TorcUP torque wrench.

     Square Drive 3/4" 1" 1" 1"
     Min. Torque (ft/lbs) 120 240 500 750
     Max. Torque (ft/lbs) 500 1000 2000 3000
     Min. Torque (Nm) 165 335 700 1025
     Max. Torque (Nm) 660 1355 2700 4025
     HEIGHT A (w/ battery) (in) 10.40” 10.40” 10.40” 10.40”
     HEIGHT A (w/ battery) (mm) 265 265 265 265
     LENGTH C (in) 8.86” 10.97” 11.45” 13.94”
     LENGTH C (mm) 225 279 291 355
     DIAMETER D (in) 2.56” 2.85” 3.09” 3.75”
     DIAMETER D (mm) 65 72.4 78.5 95.3
     WEIGHT (w/o reaction arm & battery) (lbs) 8.3 11.5 13.1 19.6
     WEIGHT (w/o reaction arm & battery) (kg) 3.8 5.2 5.9 8.9
     WEIGHT (w/ reaction arm & battery) (lbs) 10.4 14.5 15.9 22.5
     WEIGHT (w/ reaction arm & battery) (kg) 4.7 6.6 7.2 10.2
     RPM at Min. Torque 12 2 2 0.5
     RPM at Max. Torque 20 8 5 2


    Improper implications

    Undertightening a lugnut will put additional strain on the remaining lugnuts and will eventually cause them to fatigue, loosen and separate. Relaxed lugnuts will also cause the lug holes to elongate and become oblong, thus ruining the rim.

    An overtightened lugnut is just as dangerous. Too much force can strip the threads and cause them to stretch, effectively losing their clamping pressure. Over-exertion on the wheel stud can also force them to crack and break off.

    The intent behind properly-torqued lugnuts is to prevent wheel separations. One study found “fastener failure” was to blame in 85 percent of reported wheel separation accidents. Don’t become part of that statistic and always follow manufacturer recommendations.

    Each time a wheel is removed–whether for tire rotation, new tires or other routine wheel maintenance–the lugnuts need to be torqued accurately before the vehicle leaves the shop. They should also be rechecked two more times in the first 100 miles.


    Invest in a quality torque wrench 


    A properly calibrated torque wrench will prevent wheel separation and avoid any unnecessary exposure to risk. Several torque wrenches are available in the automotive market, from manual “click” wrenches to battery-powered models. 

    At Zip’s AW Direct, we sell and recommend the TorcUP, a quality, durable cordless unit delivering digital precision and offering reduced user fatigue. Click here for complete details on the six options available.

    With the TorcUP, you can accurately tighten a lugnut to exact specifications with less effort and greater convenience. This cordless unit frees yourself from manual lever-type torque wrenches and improves confidence, knowing you’ve accurately tightened a lugnut.

    The TorcUP also allows you to reach inside a wheel well without a cumbersome lever getting in the way. For safety, yellow “reaction arms” are available to brace against or lock onto neighboring lugnuts to absorb the force generated by this power-packed wrench.

    A digital readout at the base of the TorcUP wrench allows you to input the exact torque setting. To set it, press the up and down arrows. You can switch between standard and metric readings by pressing both arrows simultaneously. 



    At a max RPM of 20, the TorcUP wrench spins slowly and deliberately and then stops turning when the torque setting is achieved. To improve your efficiency, you can use a standard impact wrench to tighten the nut and then switch to the TorqUP wrench for the final torque setting.

    Please note the TorcUP does not record individual torque settings. We recommend documenting each wheel setting and then listing that information on the customer’s invoice. This will limit your exposure to risk once the vehicle leaves the shop.

    Accurate recordkeeping and properly tightening lugnuts are the hallmarks of a professional automotive technician. You don’t cut corners and have the safety and best interest of your customers and the motoring public in mind. Invest in a TorcUP wrench and sleep good at night.

  • Meet an Expert: Heavy installer Steve Hoeft

    by Nate Kuennen | Aug 30, 2022

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    Steve Hoeft grew up on a farm between New Hampton and Charles City in northeast Iowa. Like most farm kids, he learned how to fix things early on. It’s a life skill he’s carried into his professional career as a wrecker body installer at Zip’s Truck Equipment.

    “You learn by doing,” said Hoeft, a crew lead in the heavy-duty shop and this month’s ‘Meet an Expert’ at Zips.com. As he approaches his 29th year with the company, Hoeft reflects on the changes in the wrecker industry: everything from improved hydraulics to LED lighting to technology.

    “Wreckers have really changed a lot over the years,” Hoeft noted. “When I first started here, we were still doing a little bit with the mechanical stuff on the old Holmes 750. We used to install them a couple times a year and did a lot of service work on them as well.

    “Now, electronics have changed everything the most, as trucks and equipment have become more computerized,” he continued. “Lights have also gone from incandescent to LED, and there are a lot more lighting options because the trucks are so much bigger now.”

    Hoeft said he decided to join Zip’s at the invitation of owner Paul Rottinghaus. Hoeft had worked for the Rottinghaus family feed mill in Charles City and made the switch to Zip’s after the mill business closed in the 1990s. He said the move wasn’t too big a stretch for him.

    “I grew up on a farm, so I always had mechanical abilities,” said Hoeft, who still lives on the home place. “I really like what I do here, and Paul has always treated us pretty well. Zip’s has always been a good place to work.”

    Hoeft leads a team of two other mechanics on the heavy side. He said it takes his crew approximately three to four weeks to complete a build. One week is spent mounting the body to the chassis and prepping for paint. After paint, Hoeft said it takes another two weeks to finish wiring and to complete the installation.

    “I’ve done a little bit of everything at Zip’s, but I’ve worked on heavies ever since I started here,” Hoeft said. “I like it because every wrecker is a little bit different. It’s never the same thing.”

  • Untimely Spills Require Timely Response

    by Nate Kuennen | Aug 08, 2022


    A 55-gallon drum spill pierced by a forklift driver. A 150-gallon fuel tank punctured in an accident. An oil drain pan knocked over during a routine service.

    Unexpected leaks, spills and messes happen. How quickly you respond and how effective the cleanup is can make a difference in the following areas:

    • Personal safety by eliminating fumes and slippery surfaces
    • Environmental protection by controlling hazardous material spills
    • Property preservation by preventing long-term damage
    Some spills are benign. Others caustic. Employees should be trained on the types and hazards of fluids they work around or could perhaps encounter during their workshift.

    For example, a tow operator should know how to treat fuel and coolant leaks. A machinist should know how to address cutting oil on the floor and a mechanic should know what materials absorb oil best.
    Several federal regulatory agencies, including the EPA, OSHA and DOT, set certain standards for spill handling and reporting. States may have additional requirements, and reporting can be as simple as contacting the National Response Center at (800) 424-8802. For example, a diesel fuel spill in excess of 25 gallons is considered a “reportable quantity,” or RQ while some may require an emergency response.
    According to the EPA, “any person or organization responsible for a release or spill is required to notify the federal government when the amount reaches a federally-determined limit.” For complete details and reporting requirements, visit the EPA’s website here.


    SPKU-YBAG_300-500x390Additionally, companies and fleets should have spill response kits easily accessible in case of emergencies. These kits can be as small as a fork-lifted mounted bag or as large as a wheeled 95-gallon overpack drum.

     Types of Spill kit contents can vary depending on the size of the spill area and type of spill. The size required typically depends on the risk for exposure. To small or large spills, but each kit should include the following provisions

    • Personal protective equipment, such as gloves, boots and safety glasses
    • Containment products, like absorbent mats, booms, socks and pillows
    • Disposal bags to properly collect and identify soiled materials
    • Cautionary signs to warn others of the spill and cleanup underway



    To keep a leak from escalating and reaching environmentally-sensitive areas, drains should be covered inside buildings. Outside, temporary dikes and berms should be created to prevent undesirable fluids from reaching storm sewers, creeks, ditches and other nearby waterways. Most containment products work in unison to accommodate any size situation.


    It is important to note absorbent materials are available in a variety of compositions and grades. Granular absorbents, such as floor dry or vermiculite, are perhaps the most common method for treating spills and improving traction on slippery surfaces. Polypropylene materials are gaining in popularity and create less mess afterwards.
    Here are three general types of non-granular absorbent materials:
    • Universal to address a combination of chemical and water-based fluids
    • Oil-only to absorb petroleum-based leaks and spills
    • Hazmat to handle dangerous situations, such as battery acid
    Whatever materials you choose, you want to soak up as much fluids as possible in a timely manner. The longer the undesirable fluid remains on the ground, the greater the risk for unwanted contamination, personal injury and property damage. For instance, coolant, fuel and oil spills at an accident scene can potentially degrade the road surface.
    Whenever possible, the source of the leak should be identified to keep the containment area from spreading. Place booms and socks around the leak, and if the cause is a hole or seam failure, use epoxy sticks and wooden plugs to patch the compromised area. Try to confine the remaining fluids to the original container and properly dispose of soiled materials afterwards.
    The goal with any spill or leak is to contain it as safely and quickly as possible. Nobody expects to deal with a mess when they start their work day.

    Employees should have a plan in place for the time one happens. Companies should not only invest in employee training but also in the adequate absorbent materials. This allows them to be ready to respond when a spill occurs.
    To stay prepared for your next spill, shop our full line of spill containment products.
  • Meet an Expert: Avery Sassman

    by Nate Kuennen | Jul 28, 2022


    When Avery Sassman first joined Zip’s AW Direct 18 months ago, he said he was pretty familiar with the company. He had grown up in nearby Fredericksburg, and the company he worked for previously shared a warehouse and production facility with Zip’s on the west side of New Hampton.

    Now living in Hawkeye, the 23-year-old said he was eventually referred to work at Zip’s by a family friend, and he was hired on for the warehouse here in February of 2021. He said he had prior shipping and receiving experience, so the distribution center was a natural fit for him at Zip’s.

    “I was really looking for something different at the time,” Sassman said as the reason for his career change. “I had always heard good things about working here. At my last job, I pretty much did anything related to the warehouse, so I was already comfortable with that line of work.”

    Sassman, who is this month’s ‘Meet an Expert’ at Zip’s, started off as a parts runner and was “absolutely amazed” by the breadth and depth of the products offered here. At last count, Zip’s AW Direct offers more than 65,000 products from 400-plus vendors.

    Included with that product offering are more than 100 pre-assembled kits for the towing and recovery industry, including toolbox systems, chain kits and synthetic winch lines. During his downtime in the warehouse, Sassman said he began to work on the kit assemblies to stay busy, and based on his performance there, he eventually transitioned to that role full time.

    His days now are spent cutting chain to specifications and measuring and splicing synthetic rope for a variety of Manufacturing Orders. Since he first started in the kit department, he said he has been able to shave his time in half, increasing his productivity and efficiency with experience.

    “Once you get used to it, the process goes pretty quickly,” Sassman noted. “But when I first started out, it took me a little longer to put everything together.”

    As he continues to improve his craft, Sassman said he takes pride in the products he produces for Zip’s customers. At the end of the day, his job satisfaction comes from knowing he is shipping out durable products with expert workmanship.

    “I like to make sure I’m doing quality work,” he said. “You know you did a good job when the product doesn’t get returned.”

  • Meet an Expert: The Tenge Family

    by Nate Kuennen | Jul 11, 2022

    tenges-spotlight-june2022-low-res-1 1200x630

    Good pay and benefits, including paid time off and generous profit sharing, are key ingredients to reducing turnover and improving employee retention at Zip’s AW Direct. It’s a recipe the New Hampton-based company tries to follow as it competes for workers in rural northeast Iowa.

    Employee referrals have also become critical to the company’s hiring goals, particularly as the business–operating primarily in a community of just over 3,000 people–has grown from 66 employees to 250 workers with the acquisition of AW Direct four years ago.

    Facing stiff small-market competition, that recruitment effort has often led to the employment of relatives. A family-owned company, Zip’s itself is led by two generations of the Rottinghaus family, so it seemed fairly natural to hire relatives of current employees to fill job openings.

    Besides owners Paul and Margo Rottinghaus and their son David, the stable employee base at Zip’s includes siblings, parents, children, uncles, cousins and even a handful of married couples from the surrounding area. Besides often sharing the same last names, they take ownership in each other’s success, which leads to longevity within the company.

    Among the husband-and-wife teams here are New Hampton natives Todd and Maelynn Tenge. Todd is one of the longest-serving employees at Zip’s and oversees Quality Control on the truck side. Maelynn works in the Payroll Department and supports Human Resources.

    Todd has been employed by Zip’s for the past 35 years and was joined by his wife seven and a half years ago when the company lifted its unwritten policy preventing husbands and wives working together here. The Tenges said they appreciate the family-friendly culture and atmosphere at Zip’s. 

    “We have really been able to raise our family at Zip’s and have been able to send each of our three kids off to college because of our jobs here,” Maelynn said. “This is a very good place to work. Everyone is well taken care of, which makes people want to come to work everyday and do a good job.”

    “Zip’s has been able to adapt with the times,” Todd added. “They want everybody’s future here to be long and prosperous, and they want people to stay here. We have a good group of workers, and that starts from the top on down. It’s not one person who makes this company go. Everybody works together to get that product out.”

    The Tenges have been married for 31 years and recalled attending Zip’s Christmas parties early on “when there were just 40 of us,” Maelynn said. Although the business has grown exponentially since–including adding a second location in Michigan in 2012–the Tenges said the company’s hometown values have always remained in-tact, which was particularly evident when one of their children was facing health issues.

    “The Rottinghaus family really takes care of their employees,” Maelynn said. “They are really good about working with you if you have a situation where you need time off. We have never been denied time to take off for personal reasons, but we have never abused it either. We have only taken off when we really needed to.”

    The Tenges said they have returned the favor through their loyalty to the company and their commitment to producing quality products and services. Through their combined 42 years of service, they said they are personally invested in seeing the company prosper and maintain its foothold as a top employer in the region.

    “This is our hometown,” Maelynn said. “We went to school here. We work here. We shop here. We want to see Zip’s stick around here for a long time to come.”

    “The biggest thing we can do as employees is making sure the customer is happy,” Todd added. “When the customer is happy, we know we did our job right.”

  • Best Automotive Lockout Kits of 2022

    by Nate Kuennen | Jul 08, 2022


    Doesn’t matter who locked the keys inside the car. What matters is what you’re going to do to get them out. Zip’s AW Direct offers several car-opening kits to help automotive professionals gain access to locked vehicles.

    In today’s blog, we’re going to look at some of our best-selling kits from different manufacturers. We’ll start with basic packages and finish with the most comprehensive kits, going over each lockout kit contents. Each one brings its own value, price-point and distinct lockout advantages.


    Steck’s BigEasy Door Tool Kit  See Details


    (1) 4-1/2' L long reach tool
    (1) Glow-in-the-dark tip
    (1) Window wedge
    (1) Paint protector
    (1) Lock knob plastic strip tool

    Steck's BigEasy door tool kit includes a fluorescent pink long reach tool with glow-in-the-dark properties. This allows for better visibility in low-light situations. Featuring a T-handle for better maneuvering, the long reach tool will appear white in the daylight and then bright pink at night.

    This kit also features a window wedge and other essential accessories for most unlock scenarios. With customer service in mind, the paint protector, rubber tip and plastic strip all combine to prevent unwanted scratches to the vehicle.


    AW Direct Big Blue Long-Reach Door Tool Kit  See Details


    (1) Rigid plastic window wedge
    (1) Long reach door tool
    (1) Protective rubber tip
    (1) Inflatable air wedge 
    (1) Carrying case 

    This convenient door tool kit from AW Direct includes a zippered, black carrying case so your tools will stay organized, stay together, will be easy to transport and will be ready to go to work when you need them. 

    Similar to Steck’s BigEasy offering, this kit also features several properties to protect your customer’s vehicle. The inflatable air wedge won’t scratch windows or paint, and the rubber tip on the end of the long reach tool will soften any button or lever action.


    Pro-Lok 4 Piece Extra Length Long Arm Lockout Kit  See Details


    (1) Extra Long Arm tool
    (1) Plastic sleeve
    (1) Pump wedge
    (1) Mini rubber wedge

    By now, we’ve established the importance of protecting your customer’s vehicle and finish with soft air wedges, plastic paint protectors and rubber rod tips. What makes this four-piece kit from Pro-Lok different from the first two is the additional length of the long reach tool. 

    At 76”, the Extra Long Arm tool is nearly two feet longer than the standard 4-1/2' long reach tool. Most of these door tools work alongside the window to reach door control buttons. With Pro-Lok’s kit, you now have the ability to reach across the vehicle’s interior.

    With a direct line of sight, you can easily position the long reach tool to depress the unlock button, access the pull handle, lift the lock button and even retrieve the keys. With this improved viewing angle, the only better position would be from inside the vehicle.


    Sully Tools Basic Door Tool Kit  See Details


    (1) Sully Pouch carry case
    (1) Sully Strip 
    (2) Handle Wedges 
    (1 ) Sticky L 
    (1) Sully J 
    (1) Sully Big Foot 
    (1) Sully Dipper 
    (1) Sully L 
    (1) Sully Drop Hook 
    (1) Sully Double Dipper

    Unlike the first three kits, Sully Tools’ Basic Door Tool Kit gives us our first look at In The Door tools, a separate category at Zips.com. The previous kits just featured long reach tools, which work well between the door frame and window weatherstripping to access the door controls.

    With In The Door tools, the pre-bent rods are inserted into the door cavity and, through careful manipulation, emerge on the inside of the window. The plated shafts are able to hold their shape but remain flexible enough to bend and form to the contour of the door.

    When using these tools, auto entry experts use extreme caution to avoid damage to internal door components and also use the Sully strips to prevent scratches on the glass surface. Each tool number is stamped on the handle for easy identification and replacement.


    Access Tools Contractor's Lockout Kit  See Details


    (1) Wonder shield
    (1) Glassman tool
    (1) Wedgee wedge with strip savers
    (1) Standard one-hand jack tool
    (1) Air Jack wedge
    (1) Button Master tool
    (1) Button Strip tool
    (1) Quick Max long reach tool
    (1) Slim Jim
    (1) Carrying case

    The Contractor’s Lockout Kit from Access Tools is the most popular and best-selling kit at Zips.com. Complete with a soft-sided carrying case to keep everything together, this kit offers several wedge options as well as unique tools for door pulls and unlock buttons.

    At 24-1/2", the Slim Jim tool included in this professional kit is made from stainless steel for added firmness, corrosion resistance and durability. As its name implies, the thin profile slides into the door cavity to reach door linkages for simple opening of any vehicle.

    Access Tools’ contractor kit also includes two options to reach the door lock knob. The Button Strip was designed for insertion into narrow gaps for grabbing vertical buttons, and with its handle-operated lasso, the Button Master was specifically created to pull up knobs.


    Save your customer’s day

    Unintentionally locking keys in a vehicle can be an embarrassing moment for your customers and cause unnecessary delays in their busy lives. Be a hero and come to their rescue with the right lockout tools from Zip’s AW Direct.

    Our rundown today of five different types of lockout kits should give you an idea of what you’ll need to respond to your next dispatch. If you don’t get a lot of those calls, a basic set may be right for you. However, if you handle a lot of them, consider a more comprehensive kit.

    Several more options are available at Zips.com. Click on the ‘Shop Products’ tab on the top navigation bar and then scroll down to Lockout Tools. Here, you’ll discover more kits and individual tools in a number of different categories.

    Find the options that are right for your operation. We also sell how-to manuals and include instructional videos on our product detail pages. These resources will come in handy the next time you head out to a lockout call.

  • Employee Profile: Jimmy Geerts

    by Nate Kuennen | Jun 17, 2022


    Zip’s team member Jimmy Geerts operated large, eight-wheeled recovery trucks in the military and even helped to build a heavy-duty rotator when he first started here, but he has since found his niche in small wrecker assembly at New Hampton, IA.

    Work and life on a smaller scale suits him just fine. A native of nearby Alta Vista, Geerts hails from a community of just 200 people, and he is one of only seven employees who work in Zip’s newly-renovated--and air-conditioned--light-duty plant on the West Campus here.

    The crew there is separated into three teams. Depending on the model, lighting package and accessories, each team can turn out a light-duty wrecker in a week and a half. Some build sheets take a little longer; others are a little less complicated.

    As a former Iowa National Guardsman, Geerts said he understands the value of teamwork and appreciates the fact he can turn to his co-workers for advice and assistance when he needs it. He said they can almost read each other’s minds.

    “It’s really been a learning experience since I’ve started here,” said Geerts, now two and a half years in. “I feel like I learn something new every day. It’s awesome working with the guys here. It’s very good to have them as resources. We really work well together.”

    Geerts said he likes building new tow trucks because the parts, chassis and bodies are fairly clean to work on. He also said there is usually more room to work if he needs to run wires before the body is mounted to the chassis. Where things get a little cramped is on the topside.

    From brooms and shovels to dollies and jacks on the deck, “they pack a lot of stuff on these little things,” Geerts noted. “You really need to find spots to make all these things fit just right. It can be quite a puzzle at times.”

    Geerts said the best part of each build is when the truck passes quality control and they turn it over to the customer. The finished product gives him great satisfaction. “You can really take pride in knowing you helped build it, and the customer appreciates the work you put into it," he said.

  • Employee Profile: Steven Kurash

    by Nate Kuennen | May 23, 2022


    You can’t spell car carrier without care, and you can’t build one without it, either. That’s what team member Steven Kurash puts into every rollback he assembles at Zip’s West Campus production facility in New Hampton, IA.

    Kurash--this week’s Meet an Expert-- joined Zip’s as a truck builder eight years ago and is now a crew lead on one of seven two-person teams at the carrier plant. He helps train new employees and is often tasked with building many custom carriers and as well as special edition show trucks.

    “Anything that’s a challenge, that’s what I like,” said Kurash, who has also helped design some of the storage brackets seen on many Zip’s car carriers. “If I had to build the same truck every day, I would get bored pretty easily.”

    Starting from the chassis up, Kurash said he and his partner produce--on average--50 to 60 car carriers each year. Depending on the build sheet, he said it takes three to four days to complete a standard rollback, whereas some of the more custom units can take quite a bit longer.

    Kurash said he takes a great deal of pride in the finished product and even takes pictures and videos of each build and keeps track of where they end up. He said he hopes the customer appreciates the extra effort and attention to detail he puts into each car carrier.

    “I’m very picky on my trucks,” he said. “I don’t care if it takes a little longer. It’s going to be done right. I don’t want to see it coming back for any reason if I can help it.”

  • Investing in an Air Bag Lifting System

    by Nate Kuennen | May 19, 2022


    You’ve seen them deployed at recovery scenes by professional heavy-duty towing and recovery companies. Now, you’re thinking about adding a set to your operation. In today’s blog, we are going to answer some basic questions related to compressed air bag lifting systems.

    Produced from thick, pliable rubber to withstand extreme weight loads, air bags rely on compressed air to lift heavy objects, upright overturned vehicles or shift loads to the proper location. The source of the air can vary, but each bag usually has its own color-coded supply line for easy identification at the recovery scene.

    Depending on the manufacturer, air bags range in size from 6” square to 57” in diameter and can reach up to 7’ tall. Square, high-pressure bags generally provide the initial clearance to insert taller bags, while cylindrical, low-pressure bags finish the lift. Round landing or catch bags control the descent.

    On heavy-duty rollovers--such as a tractor-trailer on its side in the ditch--a series of lift bags are positioned under the wall of the trailer. As the bags inflate, wide straps and slings from the wrecker on the roadside lift at the same time to assist in the maneuver.


    Catch or control bags are then placed underneath the casualty to soften the landing as the tractor-trailer reaches its critical tipping point. Straps from the wrecker also help control the landing, and as the weight of the trailer falls on the bags, air is released as the casualty drops back on its feet.

    By using air bags on both the lift and descent, heavy-duty tow operators are reducing the risk for further damage to the customer’s vehicle and the cargo inside. Depending on the weight of the load, semi trailer walls generally lack the structural integrity for a recovery using straps alone.

    Lifting in unison along the entire length of the trailer helps eliminate potential weak points. Deploying catch bags under the frame side of the trailer also helps reduce shock loading as the vehicle comes to a rest and thereby prevents a secondary rollover due to a slingshot effect.

    This controlled action protects rims, tires and suspension components from further damage. This maneuver also preserves--as best as possible--the cargo located inside the trailer and can usually prevent a costly and time-consuming off-load of the pallets or freight.

    Towing companies can generally recover the expense of air bag lifting systems by charging a separate line item for the service on their invoice. Depending on the size and quantity of a kit, the investment can be as high as $50,000. Most companies dedicate a separate response trailer for the set up.

    In addition to the air bags, other accessories required for a successful heavy-duty recovery may include an air compressor for the lift side, a blower for the landing side, air hoses to supply each bag and a deadman controller to operate all of the lifting bags at once.


    Frequently Asked Questions

    To determine if an air bag system is right for your fleet, we put together a series of questions to help you make your decision:

    Q: Are there different types of lifting bags?
    A: Yes. High-, medium- and low-pressure lift bags in square or cylindrical shapes.

    Q: What is the name of the bags which control the descent of a vehicle being uprighted?
    A: Terms and descriptions vary among manufacturers, but they are typically referred to as landing, catch or control bags.

    Q: How is air generated for the bags?
    A: The air can be supplied by a compressed gas cylinder, an air tank, a stand-alone compressor, a truck-mounted compressor, gas-powered blower or even a manual foot pump.

    Q: Are lifting bags safe to use?
    A: Yes, lifting bags can withstand four times the bursting pressure safety factor (EN 13731).Accessories are also fitted with safety valves which do not allow excessive pressure to build up.

    Q: How do I choose a suitable lifting bag?
    A: The following data is required to choose a suitable high-pressure lifting bag:

    • Shape of the load
    • Weight of the load
    • Required lifting height

    Q: Do lifting bags perform well on soft ground?
    A: Lifting bags are made from flexible, durable rubber, and the wide footprint provides stability on any surface. They can function in many different environments and weather conditions.

    Q: What size lifting bag is the most popular size?
    A: The 22''x22'' size is very popular. The working pressure of 116 PSI max translates to a 23.2 ton lifting capacity.

    Q: How is the air pressure measured?
    A: PSI (imperical) or Bar (metric). For example, an 8 Bar rated bag has a maximum pressure of 116 PSI.

    Q: What is the typical lifespan of a lifting bag?
    A: When properly maintained, you can use lifting bags up to 15 years before replacing.

    Q: What is the biggest advantage of flat lifting bag compared to conventional one?
    A: Flat lifting bags have greater surface contact and improved stability. You may be able to stack more than one together, giving you the desired lifting height.

  • Motorcycle Towing: Using A Light-Duty Wrecker

    by Nate Kuennen | May 06, 2022


    When you look at the business end of a light-duty wrecker, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of real estate available to transport a motorcycle. Unlike a car carrier, there are no platforms, no side rails and limited stability. All you have to work with is a narrow wheel lift.

    However, if your wrecker is equipped with an auto loader or a self-loading wheel lift, you’re in luck. Several wrecker manufacturers and after-market suppliers have designed brackets to help. They bolt onto or pin into the center beam of your auto loader just for the purpose of transporting motorcycles.


    Common to most late-model equipment, this T-shaped extension makes life easier when picking up a disabled bike. The extra length of the auto loader accommodates the size of most motorcycles out on the road. The crossbar provides tie-down points on each side of the bike.

    Uniquely designed for this type of wheel lift, storable motorcycle kits typically include brackets for both the front and rear wheels. Some also include a small loading ramp.

    The front wheel bracket likely includes a cradle to lock in the front tire. Beveled or flared sides help guide the motorcycle onto the center beam and prevent the tires from sliding sideways during transport. Most kits require only two straps on opposing sides to fully secure the bike upright.

    Most of the new light-duty wreckers assembled by Zip’s are sold with auto loaders. If you operate in an area with moderate to heavy motorcycle traffic, you may want to consider an auto loader and a motorcycle attachment. This will have you prepared for when that next bike call comes in. Plus, you can add more functionality to your fleet without the added expense of more trucks.

    For tips on loading a motorcycle onto a car carrier, click on this blog post. Here, we discuss three options for loading a motorcycle on a car carrier. We also discuss strapping points on a motorcycle which can apply to securing a bike to an autoloader.

  • Motorcycle Towing: Using a Trailer or Car Carrier

    by Nate Kuennen | May 06, 2022


    Each spring, warmer weather tends to lure motorcycles out of hibernation and likely increases your chances for a two-wheel towing service job. Be prepared for your next dispatch with the proper procedures and aides for loading and securing a disabled motorcycle onto a car carrier.

    Here are a few helpful hints from the team at Zip’s AW Direct. Again, this is just for rollbacks and recreational motorcycle trailers. We will look at loading & towing a motorcycle options for light-duty wreckers in a future blog.


    Pre-Planning is Key


    Before you leave the shop, make sure you have enough tie-down straps for the job. A fully dressed road bike can weigh up to 800 pounds. Depending on your equipment, you may need up to six lasso straps or more than one motorcycle sling kit to secure and haul a motorcycle.

    Secondly, pack enough clean, soft towels­--like microfiber cloths or plush covers. They protect polished and finished surfaces from contact with the straps or D-rings. Your customer will more than likely be on scene during the loading process, so you will want to show you care about their investment.


    Three Types of Loading Procedures

    We have found there are three common ways to load and secure a motorcycle onto a flatbed or car carrier. Each method hinges on the available tools, and what equipment you carry will depend on the frequency of motorcycle recovery calls.

    • Manually with tie-down straps only
    • Manually with wheel chocks and limited straps
    • Winch on with wheeled dollies and tie-down straps

    Manually loading a motorcycle onto a car carrier involves the most effort. Hopefully, a second person is available to help, or the owner of the bike can lend a hand at the scene. If working alone, you will likely need a running start to get enough momentum to push the bike up the incline.

    If this is your only option, we suggest you keep the kickstand down and place the bike in gear. This allows to keep the motorcycle in place once it’s loaded onto the flatbed and you release the clutch. Before you roll the bike up, engage the clutch with one hand and cover the brake with the other.

    Once onto the deck, raise the rollback to a level position with a smooth, steady motion. Do not jerk the bed or fully retract it until the motorcycle is secured with straps. This prevents it from accidentally tipping over.

    Also, make sure the back wheel of the bike is fully onto the deck surface before reclining. You can also place blocking behind the wheel to discourage negative movement.

    Adequate Strapping Points

    Depending on the weight of the bike and how many accessories are in the way, you may need to secure the bike with four to eight straps. Each pair should be installed in opposing directions at 45-degree angles to the flatbed surface. Fairings and saddlebags may present additional challenges, but here are some typical tie-down points:

    • Lower triple tree assembly at the front
    • Aftermarket crash bars on the side
    • Openings in the rear wheel

    With no other options available, the kickstand should allow you to stabilize the bike until you can strap it down for transport. We discourage straps across the seat, fuel tank or handlebars; and again, buffer your strapping with soft cloths to prevent unnecessary scratches or blemishes to finished surfaces.


    One equipment aide that could be helpful during the manual loading process is a front wheel chock. These metal brackets are permanently bolted to the surface of the car carrier or trailer deck and help keep the motorcycle upright during strapping and transport.

    Once installed, the cradle on these chocks can be adjusted for the front tire size. Fewer straps are probably needed with this option since the mechanism is able to hold the motorcycle in position. However, the manual loading process remains the same, and strapping should be adjusted according to the operator’s preferences and comfort level.


    Best Option for Reduced Effort

    The loading option offering the least amount of effort is using wheeled motorcycle dollies. Here, the front tire of the motorcycle is placed into the cradle, and straps are temporarily hooked from the triple trees to eyelets on the dolly. This balances the motorcycle as the carrier’s winch pulls it up onto the deck with V-straps.


    Once you have the motorcycle positioned on the carrier where you want it, remove the straps from the eyelets and hook them securely to the keyhole slots on the carrier deck or to another secure point along the siderails. Place additional strapping where necessary. The motorcycle does not have to be removed from the dolly or caddy prior to transporting a motorcycle.

    When first loading a motorcycle onto the dolly, it is best to position it at the lip of the tailboard or ramp. This prevents the wheels from rolling forward when you first push the bike onto the caddy. You will also want to insert the straps into the eyelets beforehand so you can simply reach down from the seated position and hook them around the front forks.

    Unlike wheel chocks, wheeled dollies are designed for interim use, and the wings easily collapse for storage in the underside compartment of your car carrier. This way, they are out of the way until you need them, which this time of year, may be more often than you think.

  • How to Choose a Winch: Sizes, Motors & Gears

    by Nate Kuennen | Apr 28, 2022



    Winches are designed to reduce the workload in many industrial settings and preserve the fun in most off-road recreational activities. Through gear reduction and auxiliary power, they provide extra pulling strength when and where you need it most. This can be off the trail, in the ditch, on the farm or in the water.

    In our previous blog, we looked at the different types of winch lines available. Today, we are going to discuss the various options to consider when you want to purchase a new winch. While recognizing the convenience of manual and portable units, we will focus our attention in this blog on the different varieties of permanently-mounted winches available at Zip’s AW Direct:

    • Power: Hydraulic or electric
    • Drive: Planetary or worm gear
    • Capacity ratings: Line and speed
    • Spool direction: Overwind or underwind

    Hydraulic planetary winches can be rated as high as 130,000 lbs. However, for the daily demands of towing and recovery, 30,000-lb. rated winches can typically handle the job.

    Electric winches stocked by Zip’s are normally used in light-duty applications and range in capacity between 1,000 lbs. and 15,000 lbs.


    Electric or Hydraulic

    Running off AC or DC power, an electric winch is generally easier to install and operate. Off-road enthusiasts such as ATVers and UTVers rely on the vehicle's battery to power the motor. This is useful for self-recovery if they get into trouble off the trail. Weekend mariners also use electric winches to load their boats onto trailers and to control their sails out on the water.

    However, this type of winch requires constant power to operate and needs rest between duty cycles. Conversely, a hydraulic winch requires a pump and additional plumbing to supply oil pressure to the winch motor but offers a longer running time. The trade-off for these additional hoses and components is increased power, improved durability and quieter operation.


    Planetary or Worm Gear

    Winches produce their pulling power through gear reduction. Although rotating at a higher rate, the motor doesn’t have to work as hard with a larger reduction ratio.. This ratio counts the number of times the motor is required to spin to get the shaft and the winch drum to make one revolution.


    A planetary gear borrows its name from the solar system. A “sun” gear is connected to the center shaft of the winch motor which then transfers torque to smaller gears “orbiting” around the sun. The smaller gears engage an outer ring gear to turn the drum. This multiple gear configuration translates to greater pulling power and speed.





    A worm gear consists of a cylindrical bar or worm screw with a spiral thread that drives a toothed gear. The hydraulic worm gears offered at Zips.com can pull up to 30,000 lbs., while electric worm gears can pull up to 9,000 lbs. A worm gear has a low transfer efficiency, increased gear reduction and much slower line speed.



    Line Ratings and Speed

    As stated earlier, winches are rated for their pulling capacity and line speed. They are the first factors you should consider when purchasing a winch. The maximum pull for a given winch is based on the first layer of spooled line and diminishes by approximately 10 to 12 percent for each additional layer of rope. 

    When sizing your winch, you will need to determine which layer will do the most work in your application. The following example of reduced capacity is based on five layers of 3/8” steel rope on an 8,000-lb. rated winch:

    • First layer: 8,000 lbs.
    • Second layer: 6,700 lbs.
    • Third layer: 5,700 lbs.
    • Fourth layer: 5,000 lbs.
    • Fifth layer: 4,500 lbs.

    According to Ramsey Winch, the rated line pull of the winch must be high enough to pull your vehicle’s gross vehicle weight (GVW.) It also must overcome resistance when stuck or on an incline. This particular winch manufacturer recommends a rated line pull at least 25% greater than your GVW. This helps account for any additional weight–like fuel–in the vehicle you are recovering.

    Winches are also rated for line speed, rope diameter and length. Hydraulic planetary winches tend to have a faster line speed, which can be critical to getting tow operators off the road in a timely manner.

    Line speeds are typically measured in feet per second under minimal load. For hydraulic units, the flow of hydraulic fluid to the drive—usually 15 gallons per minute maximum--determines the line speed rating.


    Spool Direction

    Winch lines can also be spooled in an underwind or overwind direction, and winch motors are positioned in either a lefthand or righthand configuration with forward and reverse controls, depending on model. Each winch has a clutch to engage for operation or disengage for free-spooling. Please refer to the winch’s owner’s manual or the rotation decal affixed to the winch housing for proper spool direction.

    There are a number of factors to consider when purchasing your next winch. We hope this blog helps in the decision-making process. Be sure to follow manufacturer instructions for installation and maintenance of your new winch. Here are some good tips to follow to ensure a long lifespan, regardless of type and size of winch you choose to purchase:

    • Lubricate grease fittings on winch, housing and drum monthly.
    • Check hydraulic oil level and electrical connections weekly.
    • Scan winch line for flat spots, stress and fraying daily.
    • Avoid bird’s nesting with power wrapping and cable tensioner.
    • Inspect mounting bolts and tighten as necessary
  • Cleaning Hi-Vis Apparel: Washing, Drying & Stain Removal

    by Nate Kuennen | Apr 25, 2022


    You wear hi-vis apparel to ensure your personal safety in high-traffic work areas. The bright colors, reflective striping and breathable materials combine to keep you visible and comfortable on the job. Ask any emergency personnel, tow truck operator or construction crew member, and they’ll tell you how important hi-vis outerwear is to their profession.

    However, given the conditions you work in, keeping ANSI-rated apparel looking its best may be a challenge. Grease, oil, mud and grime all seem to find their way onto your vests, shirts, coats and bibs. Preventing those undesirable substances from making a permanent home on your clothing takes some effort. We’re here to help with some advice on caring for your hi-vis garments.

    Safety apparel is made from a range of materials: from thin polyester mesh for your vest to polyurethane-coated ripstop fabric for your rain gear. Regardless of textiles, though, the first place you should look for the care of your garments is on the manufacturer tag sewn into the interior neck, back or side area. Those instructions will spell out your next steps.  

    hi-vis-care-blog--apri-2022-low-res-1-2  hi-vis-care-blog--apri-2022-low-res-7


    Getting Started

    IMG_0074 (1) before (1)

    Before you begin to wash, give yourself a headstart toward a clean result by following these basic tips: 

    • Make sure to knock off all loose dirt with a brush
    • Wipe away any residual grime with a dry cloth
    • Spot clean stains with a safe remover
    • Pre-soak if allowed by apparel manufacturer

    Some garments feature a water-repellent finish so removing debris may be easier than other styles. Pre-soaking may help but is not required and sometimes not recommended. Check your tag to be sure. Failure to remove surface dirt and grime may result in the impurities becoming embedded in the fabric and ending up as a permanent stain.

    For stain removal, pre-treating is likely your best option. You may be able to apply a mild stain remover before washing, such as OxiClean or Shout. A degreaser or mineral spirits may also work but only in cases of hand-washing. We do not encourage solvents in a machine wash setting. It is best to pick a concealed area to see how the garment will react before proceeding.

    Here are some basic reminders for stain removal:

    • Find a stain remover approved for fluorescent fabric
    • Test the cleaner in a less visible area
    • Treat the spots with a clean cotton rag
    • Gently rub remover into stain
    • Wipe off excess solution and grime


    Washing and Drying

    Now that you’ve prepped the surface, it’s time to wash. Some garments allow for machine washing, either at home or in an industrial setting. If that’s the case, we recommend washing in cold water on the delicate cycle with a mild detergent. Shampoo may also be an option instead of laundry soap. 

    To prevent fading and discoloration, you should avoid using bleach or fabric softener. You bought these garments for their illustrious properties. You don’t want to diminish that effect on the first wash. You should also turn your garments inside-out and wash with like colors and fabrics. In other words, don’t wash a mesh vest with blue jeans.

    Drying instructions will vary also. The main point to remember here is you don’t want to damage the heat transfer tape or adhesives used to apply the reflective stripes to your apparel. Again, refer to your garment’s care instructions. Tumble dry on low may be an option. Otherwise, hang drying may be your only choice.

    Here are some points to consider if you plan to machine dry your hi-vis apparel:

    • Put on the lowest temperature setting possible
    • Remove apparel immediately after cycle is complete
    • Hang up to prevent wrinkling and creasing on stripes


    Special Considerations

    As we noted earlier, safety apparel with reflective tape requires special attention. Improper washing techniques may diminish the garment’s protective qualities. If you’re unsure how your treatment plan will work, you may need to test clean in an inconspicuous area or simply spot clean the apparel altogether.

    Other fabric considerations include working with apparel that has snaps and any hook-and-loop closures like Velcro. These fasteners may catch on mesh material and cause fraying. To prevent potential damage, you may need to button everything up before throwing them in the wash. You should also not leave your soiled apparel in a pile on the floor or in the back of your truck until wash day. Try and wash everything right away to prevent dirt and stains from setting in.


    Please note some safety garments may give you an advantage by offering color-block and stain-block technology to help repel impurities. Additionally, several apparel manufacturers offer hi-vis clothing with “black bottoms” to conceal dirt and help you maintain a professional, clean look. If either of those styles and ANSI ratings work for your needs, perhaps they should be added to your wardrobe.

    Whether you’re looking to upgrade or just maintain what you have, we realize you’ve made a significant investment in your hi-vis outerwear. You want it to last and look its best so you can be seen by others. Proper care of your apparel is key to its longevity and continued visibility. We hope you find these tips helpful.

  • Types of Winch Lines: Synthetic vs. Steel

    by Nate Kuennen | Apr 14, 2022


    Winches and winch lines are valuable tools across a variety of industries and applications, including towing and recovery, transportation, agriculture, construction, oil and gas and off-road recreation.

    Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to look at the different types of winches and winch lines out there to discuss what you need to look for when upgrading your equipment or ordering new. Today, we’ll touch on the five winch line types available from Zip's AW Direct.

    • Synthetic Rope
    • Fiber Core Wire Rope
    • Steel Core Wire Rope
    • Super Swaged Wire Rope
    • Super Flex Wire Rope


    Synthetic Winch Lines


    The first kind of winch line we’ll look at is Synthetic. Gaining in popularity in the towing & recovery industry, this braided fiber rope has been around commercial applications for decades with a proven track record in many industries, according to Jeff Lechtenberg, product manager at Zip’s AW Direct.

    Zip’s stocks diameter sizes ranging from 5/16” to 7/8” and are available in lengths up to 250 feet. Larger diameters and longer lengths can certainly be accommodated and are used in many applications. Synthetic winch lines can be used with winches installed on endless types of equipment and vehicles. Producing a maximum strength-to-weight ratio, synthetic ropes are equally as strong in pulling capacity but up to eight times lighter than steel.

    “Synthetic rope is so lightweight that it floats,” Lechtenberg said. “It doesn't store as much energy under load as steel lines do, and they do not have sharp burs so it can be handled without gloves. They are also “torque-neutral” so a swivel hook or shackle is not needed - your line won’t twist like a steel line.”

    Synthetic rope is also available in a rainbow of colors so you can custom match your rope to your vehicle or you can color coordinate your winch lines to their specific capacity or winch controls. Here are a few more benefits from Lechtenberg to consider with synthetic rope:

    • Zero corrosion
    • Repairable in the field
    • Wear resistant
    • Sun resistant
    • Impervious to many chemicals
    • Low stretch
    • Reduced flex fatigue


    Steel Winch Line Varieties


    If you are more of a traditionalist, there are several types of steel winch lines to consider, beginning with Fiber Core wire rope. Made from extra improved plow steel, these winch lines ensure a longer life span by excreting lubricant under pressure to minimize wear and corrosion on the wire.

    Next, Steel Core winch lines are also made with extra improved plow steel, which provides superior strength and flexibility. Steel core winch cables offer greater crush resistance and a higher nominal strength compared to fiber core, but they are not as flexible as fiber core.

    Another type of steel winch line is called Super Swaged. Meaning the rope starts off as the next size bigger but, through a process called swaging, is compressed down to the next size smaller. As a result, the outer wires have a larger surface area than standard winch lines.

    The working load limit remains the same as the original diameter. The compact design offers greater strength than standard winch lines of the same size. Although less flexible, they also provide better resistance to abrasion, kinking and drum crushing.

    The last type of winch line to review today is Super Flex wire rope. This type of winch line offers better performance and increased longevity. It does so by containing more wires within a given diameter, resulting in less fatigue. This makes the line more resistant to wear and tear.


    Ordering and Hardware

    All of our replacement winch lines include attachment hardware. However, if you need to replace a hook, thimble, clip or socket, we have the parts you need in our Hooks and Hardware department at Zips.com. You can also order any type of the five winch lines described earlier here as well.

    Before you order your new winch line, double-check your winch’s owner’s manual or its identification plate and find the correct wire rope size. It is recommended to follow the winch manufacturers required diameter and lengths. In the towing and recovery industry, automotive car carriers typically use 3⁄8" rope, medium-duty tow trucks typically use 7⁄16", 1⁄2" or 9⁄16" rope and heavy-duty tow trucks typically use 5⁄8", 3/4" and 7/8” rope.


    Measure your rope as shown in the diagram above or slip a socket wrench over the plain end for a fast, accurate measurement. Be sure to measure the distance between the outside edges of the two opposite bundles. Not the distance between the flat sides.

    Lastly, consider the appropriate Working Load Limit (WLL) for your winch and recovery efforts. Winch lines are rated by size capacity and Minimum Breaking Strength (MBS). WLL is determined by a safety factor of the MBS. For example, a 3:1 safety factor means the MBS is three times the WLL.

  • ANSI Standards for Hi-Vis Safety Apparel

    by Nate Kuennen | Mar 30, 2022


    Where you work and what you wear makes a difference for your personal safety. as it relates to compliance with national standards for apparel and visibility on roadside construction projects and other high-traffic jobsites.

    Two professional organizations have identified three types of work environments and three classes of apparel for these requirements. The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) develops the standards, and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approves them.

    The ANSI/ISEA 107-2020 Standard on High Visibility Safety Apparel (HVSA) was first drafted in 1999. It outlines criteria for the general design, testing and labeling requirements for applicable garments.

    These compositions use fluorescent colors and reflective striping to grab the attention of passing motorists and other workers. This is especially important for crews working in high-risk industries such as towing and recovery, construction, and emergency response.

    The intent of these standards is to improve worker visibility and to reduce the number of roadside injuries and deaths. According to ANSI, nearly 1 in 5 construction workplace fatalities is defined as a “struck-by” injury. Which is when a worker is hit by a piece of equipment or vehicle.

    Although the ANSI/ISEA 107-2020 is a voluntary standard, hi-vis apparel such as vests, shirts and jackets must be worn to comply with federal regulations that cover work environments where struck-by hazards are present. All hi-vis apparel should provide 360 degrees of visibility.

    B103-HERO_Construction (1)

    The apparel standard separates garments by type, according to the following document  from hi-vis apparel manufacturer Kishigo: ANSI/ISEA 107-2020 - Basics

    • Type O is for Off Road work in zones that have restricted access to public vehicles but still pose a low visibility struck by hazard.
    • Type R is for Roadway work zones which include exposure to traffic (vehicles using the highway for purposes of travel) from public access highway rights-of-way or roadway temporary traffic control zones or from work vehicles and construction equipment within a roadway temporary traffic control zone.
    • Type P is for First Responders who are exposed to all the hazards of Type R work zones but also have competing hazards or require access to special equipment.

    The three main classes of garments are defined numerically. Each rule is affected by each Type category. Class 3 carries the most stringent requirements and is required for workers present near roadway traffic traveling in excess of 50 mph. Class 2 and Class 1 are less restrictive.


    Class 3

    In Canada, the Class 3 requirement calls for reflective stripes around the arms and legs and an X on the back of the apparel. In America, the standard looks at total reflective coverage contrasted against bright, fluorescent colors:

    • For Type R environments, Class 3 apparel requires 310 square inches of reflective material and 1,240 square inches of background material
    • In Type P environments, Class 3 also requires 310 square inches of retroreflective material but only 775 square inches of background material.
    • The minimum width of the reflective material for Class 3 in both Types is one inch in split trim design.


    Class 2

    Class 2 is designed for crews working near roadway traffic traveling 25 to 50 mph. Again, compliance is measured by total surface area coverage:

    • Class 2 for Type R requires 201 square inches of retroreflective material and 775 square inches of background material.
    • Class 2 for Type P requires 201 square inches of retroreflective material and 450 square inches of background material.
    • The minimum width of the reflective material for Class 2 in both Types is one inch in split-trim design.


    Class 1

    Class 1 is for off-road environments with traffic traveling below 25 mph. Workers may not be required by law to wear hi-vis apparel but may still work in an environment with moving equipment, vehicles and other potential harzards.

    • Class 1 for Type O work environments require 155 square inches of retroreflective material and 217 square inches of background material.
    • The minimum width of the reflective material is one inch.

    Hi-vis pants, bib overalls, shorts and gaiters are designated Class E and do not meet HVSA requirements when worn by themselves. When a Class E item is paired with a Class 2 or Class 3 top, the overall classification is Class 3.

    According to Kishigo, hi-vis apparel manufacturers are required to certify the performance requirements of the materials used and need to document that their finished products also meet the HVSA requirements.

    It should also be noted that the position of company logos and lettering can affect the ANSI rating. Additionally, not all hi-vis apparel meets ANSI standards. To learn more, a copy of the HVSA can be obtained from the ANSI website at www.ansi.org.

    Make sure your employees are safe and visible by understanding and following these standards. Calling attention to these high-traffic work zones through bright and colorful clothing with reflective striping can help reduce the risk for personal injury or death.