Home » Is It Legal To Tow A Wood Splitter: Here’s The Truth

Is It Legal To Tow A Wood Splitter: Here’s The Truth

As you likely know, the job of splitting wood with conventional tools is back breaking work.  Sometimes a splitting maul and wedge just won’t cut it.  

Enter the hydraulic log splitter.  The best friend of anyone who uses wood heating or just likes having a supply of nicely split logs for campfires.  Best of all, these powerful machines are even designed to be towed behind a vehicle.

As a first time buyer of a log splitter, you likely have many questions.  Chief among them is whether it’s even legal to tow a wood splitter on the road?  It’s a fair question and very important to know.

Most states legally allow log splitters to be towed on the road with some restrictions.  Log splitters are usually rated for towing speeds of 45 mph or less.  However, it’s a good idea to call the DMV for licensing requirements as well as state patrol for information on specific laws when towing a wood splitter in your state.  

Still not sure?  Stick around and you’ll gain the knowledge you need to get your log splitter where it needs to go.   

Do you need a license plate for a log splitter

Surprisingly, the answer to this question is hardly clear cut.  Each individual state decides what kind of vehicle, equipment and trailers need to be registered and licensed.  

From my research, there is a fairly clear consensus that log splitters are defined as towable equipment (welders, air compressors, cement mixers, etc), which in some states are exempt from licensing requirements.  As long as you obey traffic safety laws and tow within the guidelines of the log splitter manufacturer, you’re good to go.  

In other states, the legality of towing a log splitter is murky at best.  Your local DMV might tell you to register and license your splitter, while law enforcement may say no need.  Or visa versa.  That leaves all of us a bit confused.  

In the end, it’s a good bet that there are licensing requirements in place. Even if it’s just a log splitter.  

While we all know that the DMV loves to nickel and dime us, there are also safety implications for towing a log splitter.  Part of getting yours registered and licensed is to ensure that the wood splitter complies with traffic safety requirements.  Things like speed ratings on the wheels, lights and tow chains are all essential in many areas.  

Hopefully, you live in a state that clearly lays out the requirements for towing equipment like a log splitter on roadways.  If not, you’ll definitely want to read this next section.    

Who do you call for answers

Before you hook up that splitter behind your truck, you may want to find out if it’s even legal to tow it in the first place.  Ignorance may be nice when you don’t get caught but we all know that ignorance doesn’t give us a free pass when the law catches up to us.

Instead of facing a hefty traffic ticket for illegal towing without proper registration and licensing, try making a few phone calls first.  There are a couple places you can call to get more definitive answers.

The best source to find out if towing a wood splitter is legal in your area is the Department of Motor Vehicles.  The DMV in your area likely handles any applicable licensing.  Chances are you won’t be the first person calling to ask if it is legal to tow a splitter around.  While they may not know the exact laws, the DMV staff will probably be able to tell you if registration and licensing is required to pull it around on the road.

Didn’t get a satisfactory answer?  The next best place to call would be your police department.  Just be sure to call the non-emergent number to get a hold of someone at your local station.  

Traffic officers or state patrol are going to be the ones to pull you over and issue a ticket.  So, who better to ask?  Get the answer straight from those who enforce the law.  It would also be wise to write down the name of whoever you spoke to incase an officer still pulls you over for towing a wood splitter. 

What about rental splitters

Not everyone wants to shell out thousands of dollars to own a splitter.  For infrequent wood splitting needs, the best option is renting one.  

After finding a local equipment rental dealer, you still need to tow it to the job.  So, that begs the question: do you have to worry about licensing or registration for a splitter that’s a rental?  

I’m not an expert on road licensing laws, but I would venture a guess that if licensing is needed in your area, it would be handled by the equipment owner.  With that said, any towing violation is still your problem.  Even if the guy at the rental shop said you’re fine to tow it, you are on the hook for any tickets if it’s actually not legal.

It’s also possible that rental places require you to transport the splitter around in a trailer.  After all, it is probably well used and the risk of something happening during transit isn’t a liability they want to have.  

Can all wood splitters be towed

Not all log splitters are created equal.  Sure, they can all turn tree rounds into firewood chunks but not all are intended to be driven down the road.  And just because many come with a trailer coupler to fit a tow ball, it doesn’t mean they are designed for high speed roadways. 

Before towing any log splitter, always check the manufacturer’s rating and towing suggestions for your particular make and model.  

The majority of towable log splitters are rated for short trips of less than 10 or 15 miles or around your property.  While most are sturdy enough to handle short duration transport, a combination of factors make it a risky endeavor to tow them long distances.

If you need your wood splitter to be mobile, there are some key features it should have. 

The most obvious is a 2 inch ball coupler.  A 2 inch ball is the standard size on most vehicles capable of towing.  

Once that is checked off the list, confirm that your splitter has tires approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT).  DOT approved tires are rated for speeds up to 45 mph.  For those of you with a log splitter that has a few years of service under its belt, make sure the tires are in good shape before taking to the road.  

Another important, but often overlooked, detail for safe towing is the style of log splitter.  Full beam log splitters have longer axels making them far more stable for towing.  Their relatively high center of gravity is better distributed over a wider base.  Full beam splitters are less likely to flip over on sharp turns.  Half beam splitters, on the other hand, are much narrower.  They are great in terms of ease of use but not great for anything more than short towing trips.

Best towable log splitters     

Now that you know more about towing a wood splitter, let’s take a look at some of the best towable splitters you can buy.

Oregon 35 Ton Gas Splitter

Not only do the 16 inch DOT approved tires, wide axel and 2 inch coupler make this thing a dream to tow, the Oregon 35 is also among the highest quality splitters for the money.  When you need a towable work horse for your firewood chores, this one is tough to beat.

Champion 27 Ton Gas Splitter

Champion has become a rising star for providing affordable equipment at budget pricing.  You get some serious power for your money with this splitter.  The Champion 27 Ton splitter is a simple package designed for any property owner with a pile of wood to split.  The 2 inch coupler, 16 inch tires and wide sturdy axel will help you tackle any splitting job away from home.

Yardmax 25 Ton Full Beam Gas Splitter

When your budget matters most, the Yardmax 25 Ton splitter delivers everything you need without breaking the bank.  A reliable 208cc Briggs and Stratton engine supplies the hydraulic ram with enough force to slice through all but the gnarliest logs.  As you would expect, a 2 inch ball coupler, wide axel and 16 inch DOT tires make mobile splitting a breeze.

How fast can you tow a log splitter

You’ve got your log splitter hooked up to the truck and you’re ready to start towing.  But not so fast.  It’s critical that you understand the speed limitations for your particular log splitter.  The manufacturer of your splitter should have very clear towing instructions in the owner’s manual.  Make sure you follow them.  

Other than the DOT tire speed ratings, there are other factors that limit not only how fast you should tow your splitter but also how far.  

Remember that the DOT speed rating is for new, properly inflated tires.  After a year or two of use, those tires are definitely not new, which makes it more likely that they may fail.  Besides, the tires are only one part of the equation.  The wheel and hub assembly, including the bearings, are not engineered to handle high speeds like a standard trailer.  

Bearings on log splitters are prone to over heating and fail if you exceed the manufacturer speed recommendations or drive a significant distance.  Limit your driving distance to less than 20 or 30 miles at a time.  The manufacturer may even advise shorter distances.  Don’t forget to maintain those bearings before and after towing as well.

In general, many towable log splitters are rated for speeds of 35 to 45 mph.  However, it is a good idea to always stay below the recommended speed when possible.  Under no circumstance should you take a log splitter on a freeway.  

Alternatives to towing

If all this talk of licensing and towing safety seems a bit daunting then there is always the option of not towing your splitter at all.  That’s not to say you can’t transport your wood splitter from one job site to the next.  Luckily, there are a couple alternatives to get your splitter from point A to B without worrying about damaging your splitter or towing it illegally.

Loading a wood splitter in a truck

You can get a log splitter loaded in the back of a pickup.  Honest, I’ve seen it done.  Yet, it’s not the easiest way to do it.  Log splitters are heavy so using ramps and a winch (manual or electric) mounted at the front of the truck bed is how people get it done. 

On the rare occasion when your log splitter needs to go on a long trip, loading it in your truck bed is doable.  It’s a good idea to have another set of helping hands around during loading and unloading.

Loading a wood splitter in a trailer

It might look odd putting a towable log splitter in a utility trailer but it’s probably the best way to transport a splitter on the road.  More than likely, your towing trailer is already licensed and it’s capable of towing long distances at higher speeds than the splitter itself.  

Use a trailer with a ramp if you can to make loading the splitter easier.  For those of you without a trailer, renting one is a possibility or borrow one from a friend.  

Final thoughts

Who knew towing a log splitter could be so complicated?  In the end, it’s likely that the only time it needs towing is when you bring it home after purchasing.  Or maybe the rare trip to a buddy’s house to help with splitting a few cords of wood. 

Would it be such a big deal to just hook it to the truck and not worry about all the rules?  Well, probably not.  Most short trips probably aren’t going to get you in trouble or cause damage to your splitter but that is up to you to decide.  Hopefully this article has helped you figure out the best way to tow a log splitter and how to find out if it’s legal where you live.