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There are many terms for it: tow truck, breakdown truck, wrecker, recovery vehicle, or a breakdown lorry. Many terms to define a vehicle used for towing.

A tow truck is a specialised vehicle used to move other vehicles, whether due to disablement or improper parking. Invented in 1916 by Ernest Holmes, Ernest was a garage worker. He was inspired by the effort and amount of tools he and six other needed to pull a car out of a creek. Once improved, Ernest started manufacturing his design commercially. Today, the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum displays his antique wreckers and the tools and equipment he used to build them.

There are five general types of tow trucks, used in different situations. The first is called a Boom. This recovery vehicle uses an adjustable boom winch to recover vehicle from a ditch or similar dilemma.

 The Hook and Chain is used to tow a vehicle on the one axle, by pulling it up by chains by the other. The vehicle rest against a heavy pair of rubberised mats. Four-wheel cars, however, cannot be towed by such a sling, as it can amount to problems with the car's drivetrain.

The Wheel-Lift fits a large metal yoke under the front or rear wheels of the car, so as to cradle them. The front or rear end of the vehicle is drawn of the ground by either a pneumatic or hydraulic hoist. A Flatbed (also called a Rollback) is a breakdown lorry with a bed fitted on the back of the truck. The bed can be hydraulically inclined and moved to ground level. A vehicle is fitted entirely on the bed.

The fifth commonly used recovery vehicle is called a 'self-loader' (Integrated). This vehicle is usually used for repossessing or moving illegally parked cars.