A reader named Howard recently reached out to let us know something that at first seems quite trivial, but the more I thought about it, the more important I thought it may be. The something was the fact that for some vehicles, including the affordable Nissan Versa, Nissan is no longer including the screw-in tow/recovery hook. I’d bet that most of our readers have never even used or needed one before. Even so, I’m not sure I like the idea of them no longer being provided. Let’s think about this.
I suspect a number of car manufacturers are engaging in this same sort of nickel-and-diming, not bothering to include some basic safety and/or repair equipment with their cars.
I was focused on Nissan for this particular instance, but, again, I don’t think it is alone. What I do know for sure is that Nissan no longer provides the recovery hook — part number 51112-1JA0A — for, in Nissan’s own words, “many Nissan vehicles.”
Here’s what Nissan told me about this when I reached out:
Thank you for your inquiry. As far as your question, the part you’ve referenced – 51112-1JA0A – it is a service part and available through normal dealer channels. The recovery hook serves a very limited purpose for the customer, such as recovering a vehicle stuck in mud or snow. Many Nissan vehicles do not include a recovery hook – instead our complimentary roadside assistance (3 year / 36K miles) works for a majority of customers and tow operators have a suitable tool or connector that works for Nissan vehicles.
If a customer needs to secure their vehicle for transport, there are tie-down hooks welded to the vehicle’s structure.
Now, they’re not wrong — those hooks do serve a limited purpose, and Nissan’s roadside assistance likely will cover most needs in those first three years. Plus, if a customer really wants one, the service part can be ordered for, oh, $40 to $76 or so from a dealer or less if you look on eBay.
I think what bothers me about not including a basic recovery tool like this is that it just feeds into a continuing trend of unforgiveness in automotive design. Modern, painted, useless, expensive-to-repair bumpers are the usual example I use, but I think this counts as well.
Someone buying a Versa new is someone looking for a good value in a car, and is very likely not someone who even knows to look for a recovery hook under the trunk liner.
It’s also someone that, on, say, year four of owning the car, might find themselves stuck in some mud or misjudged a gravel driveway and put a wheel in a ditch (this happened right by my house like a month ago to a neighbor) or any number of other situations that results in a stuck car.
After finding the owner’s manual among all of the stuff in the glovebox and calling the Nissan recovery number to just find out the complementary service expired two months ago, it’s very likely this is a person not willing or able to pay for a tow truck to recover the car.
They may call a friend who’s got a truck for a little pull — after all, they’re barely stuck — and when they come and don’t find the recovery hook, what do they do?
Very likely, they improvise, and if so, there’s just so many ways for this to go expensively wrong — plastic bumper covers getting torn off, control arms or tie rods bent, exhaust pipes pulled off hangers — really, there’s all sorts of ways to rack up a repair bill in the hundreds or even thousands from a brief dance with a tow strap in the wrong place and a person desperate to get a car moving again.
I don’t know. I just don’t like the idea of this. Yes, they’re not used often, but when they’re needed, they’re really, really needed, and the people buying the sorts of cars most likely to skip them are the people least able to deal with an expensive repair bill that comes from this dumb bit of cast metal not being just chucked in the trunk at the factory.
So, I think I’ve talked myself into a decision: this sucks. Nissan — and, any other automaker considering this — I have a proposal: put the recovery hooks in your low-end cars for free, and charge for them in the fancy cars.
The people paying a lot for their cars are far more likely to be paying for recovery services anyway. It’s the Versa Note or Sentra buyer who might find themselves in a pinch where they need that recovery hook on some side road at night, not the Infiniti buyer.
Hell, for the expensive cars, you can even charge more! Go nuts!
But for the people who might really need the stupid thing, give it to them. It’s not going to break Nissan, but the lack of it could break those customers.
Cars should be forgiving. If a cast metal loop helps them be that way, then it’s worth it.
I have spoken.