Towing a car behind your recreational vehicle (RV) can be a convenient way to have transportation ready once you reach your camping destination.
However, it’s not as simple as just attaching your car to your RV and hitting the road. It requires careful planning, consideration of your vehicle’s capabilities, and knowledge of different towing methods.
Whether you’re an experienced RVer or a newbie, towing a car behind your RV can seem daunting. You may worry about added wear and tear on your vehicle or potential transmission damage.
These are valid concerns, but they can be mitigated with the right know-how and equipment.
Choosing the right towing method is crucial for the safety of both your car and your RV. Different cars require different towing methods, based on factors such as their transmission type and weight.
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Understanding Different Types of Towing Methods
There are three main ways to tow a car behind an RV: Four Down Towing, Tow Dolly, and Car Hauler. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, which we’ll discuss in detail below.
Four Down Towing
Four down towing, also known as flat towing or dinghy towing, refers to the method where all four wheels of the car being towed remain on the ground.
This method is popular due to its simplicity and convenience, requiring only a small tow bar for connection. However, not all vehicles are suitable for four-down towing.
Many vehicle transmissions, particularly those in automatic cars, do not allow for this option and can suffer significant damage if towed in this manner.
If you’re unsure, refer to the Dinghy Towing Guide or consult your vehicle’s manufacturer.
A tow dolly is essentially a mini trailer that carries the front two wheels of your car while the rear wheels roll on the ground. This method is particularly suitable for vehicles with front-wheel drive transmissions.
Loading the car onto the dolly is relatively straightforward, usually requiring only driving the car up onto the included ramps and securing it with heavy-duty ratchet straps.
However, tow dollies add extra weight to your RV, which can impact fuel efficiency and the overall towing capacity.
A car hauler, commonly known as a trailer, carries your entire car off the ground.
This is the safest way to tow a car, especially if you have an older or more valuable vehicle, as it does not cause any wear and tear on the car.
Car haulers can accommodate all-wheel-drive or 4-wheel-drive vehicles, which are typically unsuitable for other towing methods.
However, car haulers are heavier than other options and require sufficient space for storage when not in use.
Step-by-Step Guide to Safe Towing
Now that you understand the different towing methods, let’s look at a step-by-step guide to safe towing.
Step 1: Determine Your Vehicle’s Towing Compatibility
Before deciding on a towing method, you need to understand your vehicle’s towing compatibility.
This involves consulting the manufacturer’s guidelines and considering aftermarket additions for incompatible vehicles.
Consult the Manufacturer’s Guidelines
Refer to your vehicle’s owner manual or the manufacturer’s website to find out if your car can be towed, and what restrictions may apply.
This information is typically listed under the section titled ‘Towing’ or ‘Recreational Towing’.
If you’re unable to find this information, contact your vehicle’s manufacturer directly for clarification.
Consider Aftermarket Additions for Incompatible Vehicles
If your vehicle isn’t designed for the towing method you prefer, there may be aftermarket products available that can make it compatible.
For example, transmission lubrication pumps can enable certain automatic transmission vehicles to be flat towed.
However, these modifications should be done by a professional and verified with the vehicle’s manufacturer.
Step 2: Choose the Right Towing Method
Once you’ve determined your vehicle’s towing compatibility, it’s time to choose the right towing method.
This involves assessing the pros and cons of each method and considering your personal preference and comfort.
Assessing the Pros and Cons of Each Method
As discussed earlier, each towing method has its own set of pros and cons. Four-down towing is simple and convenient but isn’t suitable for all vehicles.
Tow dollies are versatile but add extra weight to your RV. Car haulers offer the safest way to tow a car but are heavy and require additional storage space.
Make a list of these factors and consider which method best meets your needs.
Personal Preference and Comfort
Your comfort and ease of use should also factor into your decision. Some people might find it easier to connect and disconnect a tow bar for four-down towing, while others might prefer the security of a car hauler.
Consider your skill level, physical ability, and personal preference when making your decision.
Step 3: Prepare Your Car and RV for Towing
After choosing the right towing method, you need to prepare your car and RV for towing. This involves installing necessary equipment and making sure everything is secure.
Necessary Preparations for Four Down Towing
For four-down towing, you’ll need a tow bar and a base plate installed in the front of your car.
Additionally, you’ll need some electrical wiring for the lights and safety cables for added security. It’s also recommended to have a supplemental braking system to enhance safety.
Necessary Preparations for Tow Dolly Towing
For tow dolly towing, you’ll need to load your car onto the dolly and secure it using heavy-duty ratchet straps.
Ensure your RV is securely attached to the dolly at the hitch ball and that the motorhome’s parking brake is engaged while loading.
Necessary Preparations for Car Hauler Towing
For car hauler towing, ensure your vehicle is properly loaded onto the trailer and secured. The trailer should have two axles for stability and low (or no) rails along the edges.
Check that the axles on the trailer are rated at least 3,500 lbs. per axle. Some trailers come with hidden ramps and different braking systems, so choose one that best suits your needs.
Step 4: Safely Execute the Towing Process
Once you’ve prepared your car and RV, you’re ready to hit the road. However, driving with a towed car requires additional caution and awareness.
Tips for Driving with a Towed Car
When towing a car, always maintain a safe speed and increase your following distance to allow for safe stopping. Be aware of the added length when turning or changing lanes.
Regularly check your mirrors to ensure the towed car is secure and stable.
Remember, most states require a license for the dolly and it’s illegal to back up the motorhome while the dolly and toad are attached.
What to Do in Case of Emergency While Towing
In case of an emergency, such as a flat tire or mechanical issue with your RV or towed car, pull over safely and turn on your hazard lights.
If you’re unable to resolve the issue on your own, call for professional assistance. Always carry a basic tool kit and a spare tire for both your RV and towed car.
Maintenance and Care for Your Towed Car and RV
Regular maintenance and care for both your RV and towed car can prevent unexpected issues and prolong their lifespan.
This includes regular check-ups and addressing common issues in towed cars.
Regular Check-ups and Servicing
Like any vehicle, your RV and towed car will benefit from regular servicing and check-ups. This helps to identify any potential issues early and keeps your vehicles running smoothly.
It’s especially important to regularly check the tires, brakes, and towing equipment for any signs of wear and tear.
Addressing Common Issues in Towed Cars
Common issues in towed cars include uneven tire wear, transmission problems, and brake issues.
If you notice any unusual noises, vibrations, or changes in performance, get your vehicle checked by a professional as soon as possible.
FAQs about Towing a Car Behind an RV
Below are some frequently asked questions about towing a car behind an RV:
Is towing a car behind an RV bad for the car?
Towing a car behind an RV isn’t inherently bad for the car, provided it’s done correctly. However, improper towing can lead to serious damage, particularly to the car’s transmission.
Always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure your car is suitable for towing.
What’s the best way to tow a car behind a motorhome?
The ‘best’ way to tow a car behind a motorhome depends largely on the type of car and its transmission.
Four-down towing is often preferred due to its simplicity and convenience, but not all cars are suitable for this method. A tow dolly or a car hauler may be more appropriate for certain vehicles.
What equipment is needed to tow a car behind an RV?
The equipment needed to tow a car behind an RV depends on the towing method.
For four-down towing, you’ll need a tow bar, base plate, safety cables, and potentially a supplemental braking system.
For tow dolly towing, you’ll need the tow dolly itself and heavy-duty ratchet straps. For car hauler towing, you’ll need the trailer and the appropriate securing equipment.
Is flat towing bad for transmission?
Flat towing can be harmful to the transmission of certain vehicles, particularly those with automatic transmissions.
Always consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual or manufacturer’s guidelines to determine if your car is suitable for flat towing.