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Navigating the World of Light-Duty Wreckers & Autoloaders
There are a lot of options when choosing a light-duty wrecker or autoloader. It’s no secret that Miller Industries manufactures the top brands of light-duty wreckers and autoloaders on the market. We make a solution for almost every need, but finding the right fit for your needs is what we aim to achieve. Understanding the options and the key features that can help you maximize your productivity are what make the difference when it comes to profitability.
Whatever your decision and needs are, we have the Century, Vulcan, Chevron, and Holmes light-duty wreckers and autoloaders to meet them. Our knowledgeable distributor network is ready to answer any questions, and help you decide the right wrecker for your needs.
What does this really mean?
For light-duty wreckers, we are talking passenger-style vehicle or motorcycle towing. While we make conventional light-duty wreckers with the tow sling and drop-in style independent wheel lifts, the customer trend has moved away from these traditional styles to focus more on Autoloaders. The idea of an autoloader is one that was built around productivity and minimizing the labor effort when recovering a disabled vehicle. With their integrated wheellift/boom assembly they can lower, tilt, extend and retract hydraulically with full control right from the driver’s seat. This means you don’t have to get out of the truck- except to set proper primary and secondary securement restraints. Autoloaders, are well suited for roles such as repossessions and impound where getting in and out of the job site fast is critical. As far as roadside recoveries go, the autoloaders can help reduce the time a tower is facing oncoming traffic.
So why would anyone not want an autoloader, and perhaps choose a conventional light-duty wrecker with independent wheellift/boom assembly? The primary reason is the added recovery capabilities that a conventional-style light-duty unit has. Having independent extendable boom functions opens up your options for recoveries. Having more boom height means that you can handle more recovery-type jobs, it’s that simple. With the conventional style independent wheel lift, the crossbar is not in the way as you elevate the boom either. What’s more, while some autoloaders have the option for outside controls, the conventional style light-duty unit usually has these mounted on both sides of the wrecker body. This makes a challenging one-person recovery job that much easier.
Not All Wheel Lifts are the Same
Wheel lifts are an integral part of the modern-day light-duty wrecker. It used to be that a tow sling was the latest option for safely towing a vehicle with a light-duty wrecker. Now with the advent of self-centering wheellift crossbars, and auto-stop limiting switches for fast hook-ups, those old tow slings are fast becoming a thing of the past. So, let’s talk autoloader wheel lifts for a minute.
Let’s say you walk into your local Miller Industries Distributor and look to order a new wrecker for your fleet. Did you know that we offer 3 different crossbars for our autoloader wheellifts? We do, and each has its own advantages. Finding the right fit for your needs and budget is what this article is aimed to help you with.
Generation 1 (Gen 1) Crossbar
The Gen 1-style is super-easy to use with little experience level required to operate it. The design of the tire L-arm retainers provides a straight square frame to the tire. This can be very forgiving in the event that you don’t quite get the L-arm centered on the tire, you can simply bump the controls to slightly open/close the L-arms and let the tire slip into place. Another point to consider is that the Gen 1 crossbar design is the less expensive of the three autoloader wheellift options that we offer.
Generation 2 (Gen 2) Crossbar
This style crossbar requires a little bit more experience to operate, due to its angled L-arms. The angled tire L-arm retainers provide more contact surface with the tire and thus superior holding power. Other features like a cut-out in the center of the crossbar add extra clearance for reaching under center-mounted oil pans on vehicles. Another great feature of the Gen 2 crossbar is that it has enclosed hydraulic cylinders for added durability.
Auto Grip II
This uniquely designed wheellift has an enclosed hydraulic cylinder that connects to a roller that provides power for the chain-driven L-arm retainers. The Auto Grip II doesn’t have any physical stops for the L-arm retainers, so it can grab multiple-size tires without the need for a spacer. This can come into play when a vehicle has one regular tire on one side and a donut or spare tire on the other. Another benefit of this design is that the L-arms fold back onto the sides of the crossbar when they are in the closed position. This allows you to utilize the Auto Grip II’s crossbar as a tow bar by chaining the disabled casualties axle to the crossbar. Looking for a new rollback with an autoloader style wheellift on the back? An interesting note is that Auto Grip II is also the only autoloader style wheellift available as an option on our 10 & 12-series car carriers.
Keeping Your Options Open
Limitations aren’t our style!
When choosing your next light-duty wrecker or auto-loader, we don’t want you to be limited by the brand or model of unit you pick. In some cases, design dictates necessity. We have worked very hard over the last several years to provide multiple options across all of our brands and models to suit your needs. We also understand that getting a new unit shouldn’t mean you have to relearn how to do the job. We offer different style in-cab controls right from the factory to meet your preference so you can keep using what you are most comfortable with. You have the option to choose which style of in-cab controls you want. When looking at a Vulcan® 807 or a Century® 312 autoloaders you even have the option for added outside controls.
One of our most versatile autoloaders is the Chevron™ 408, because it has the option for added rear stiff leg style hydraulic jacks. These jacks really help the unit dig in during rear winching situations. With the 408’s standard dual 9,000 lb. planetary gear recovery winches this unit really delivers results.
When it comes to the wrecker body and toolboxes, we also offer a wide variety of configurations for your light-duty wrecker or autoloader. Whether you elect for a steel body or perhaps need aluminum or composite body to resist road salts and chemicals, we have them all. Depending on the length of your chassis, adding a pass-through tunnel box is a great way to maximize your storage ability on your wrecker.
Other features like swing-out dolly storage brackets help to keep efficiency an option regardless of the model of wrecker you choose.
Light-Duty Maintenance Corner
Keep Your Wrecker in Top Condition
Maintenance on your wrecker or autoloader is critical to maximizing its longevity. Miller Industries products are durable and have stood the test of time, but not without some tender loving care. Simple routine steps like proper lubrication of grease points, changing fluids, and other maintenance items go a long way toward keeping your wrecker in top condition.
Here are a couple of helpful resource links: