Toyota investigating retractable and moveable tow hooks

Three recent Toyota patent filings look at different ways to mount tow hooks for better crash performance.

One of these filings, which was published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) April 25, 2024 (and originally filed October 19, 2022), discusses tow hooks that would extend out when in use and retract into housing the rest of the time.

Toyota pivoting tow hook patent image

This arrangement could help improve safety, Toyota claims. In the patent filing, the automaker notes that rigid-mounted tow hooks can transmit impact forces to other parts of the vehicle, potentially causing damage. This design uses a shearing pin that will break if an impact is hard enough, causing the tow hook to retract and thus absorbing some of the force.

Another patent filing, submitted by Toyota and published by the USPTO within the same timeframe as the first, features a similar idea. Here, though, tow hooks would pivot up and down. Again, Toyota believes allowing the tow hooks to move when hit will improve a vehicle’s crash performance.

Toyota tow hook assembly patent image

The third patent filing, which surfaced around the time as the other two, proposes a more complex mounting assembly that would act as a crash structure for two hooks. The tow hook would be attached to a “crush box” designed to deform on impact, absorbing the force of the impact rather than transmitting it to other parts of the vehicle.

Not all patented ideas make it to production, but these three iterations at least indicate that Toyota is thoroughly investigating different tow-hook mounting options. And with the continuing proliferation of off-road variants of SUVs and pickup trucks, a closer look at the safety of permanently-mounted tow hooks might be a good idea.