Figuring out How to Tow a Vehicle Behind Your RV Motor Home
Whether or not you are getting into full timing or just want to tool around in your motor home, you’ll probably want to bring a vehicle to get around – especially for extended stays. While this isn’t necessary for all situations, more often than not it’s extremely practical to bring your own personal car, rather than just relying on bicycles or walking to get around during your trip.
As for Sonja and me, since we are going to be living full time in our RV, we definitely need our car with us.
There are 3 main ways to bring your car with you:
- Flat towing
- Using a dolly
- Using a car trailer/hauler
Flat towing – is towing a vehicle with all 4 wheels on the road and the car follows the RV, this is done using a tow bar which goes into the hitch on the back of the motor home (this doesn’t use the ball) and hooks onto the front of your car, followed by safety chains which act as a secondary connection in case something fails. When flat towing you will usually need to have the face plate added to your car as it most likely does not come with one pre-installed. I had one installed for $1,035 so it’s not cheap.
Tow Dolly – is a device that hooks up to your hitch like a trailer, it contains 2 wheels and groves for the two wheels of your vehicle. Your car must be towed with the drive wheels (on the dolly) front wheels, if you do this backward your car will likely become unstable probably resulting in a crash or massive failure. The dolly usually comes with traps to secure the front tires, make sure to follow the instructions as they are provided!
Car Trailer – is a trailer that is specifically designed to have a car loaded into it. These trailers are usually quite heavy and are reinforced. Many come in 16′ to 25′ models. To use this you just hook the couplet up to the ball of your hitch, carefully drive your vehicle onto the trailer. (any models i’ve seen had built in ramps for this) You will want to position the car as close to the hitch as you can. Make sure you understand proper loading before trying this. Improperly loading a trailer can cause sway which will likely result in a crash. You will then need to use ratchet straps preferable to secure the vehicle within the trailer and you will be good to go. Follow any official instructions on loading a trailer, there are many different types of trailers each with a unique way of loading/securing the vehicle.
Our first question was how do we tow our car and CAN it be towed?
Researching how to tow my car brought up a more important question, I had found that most cars can’t be towed 4 down or flat towed, which is when you tow a car with all 4 wheels on the ground. If you can’t flat tow your vehicles then you might need a tow dolly. However, for our vehicle which is a 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo it can’t be towed on a dolly. It’s either flat towed or getting a trailer.
This brought up a major question for me:
Is it Better to Flat Tow/Tow a Vehicle or Get A Car Trailer?
This was a question that took me ages to figure out, but there were a lot of things to consider. One of the things that weighed heavily on potentially getting a trailer was I need to figure out a way to bring my dual sport dirt bike with me (UNRESOLVED) which i would definitely be able to do with a trailer.
Pro’s of Flat Towing and Dolly
- More nimble
- Easier to drive
Pro’s of Car Trailer
- Carry more stuff
- No wear on your vehicle
- Can tow any vehicle
- Hold their value
I thought for sure the car hauler trailer was going to be the way to go. However it had 2 major flaws, first and foremost was weight. The trailer that could carry my Jeep was going to be far too heavy. When I looked at the trailers, a 5,000LBS trailer weight rating was $2,600 which wasn’t a big deal because getting the tow rig is quite expensive and you can resale a trailer later. However the trailer weighed 2,000LBS which meant I could only load it with about 3,000lbs worth of stuff which is less than me jeep weighs. Excluding that, my motor homes towing capacity was only 7,500lbs…
***Stop here right now if you haven’t read about the motor home weighing section, it’s extremely important that you read that before attempting any tows or even before leaving in your motor home***
…my trailer hitch was only rated for 5,000lbs so I’d have to upgrade to get to the tow limit but it’s not worth it. Even at the 7,500lbs limit a trailer is too risky.
400lbs dirt bike
= 6,900lbs which is within the maximum allowable tow limit for the motor home however it brings numerous drawbacks and puts us extremely close to becoming overweight.
A trailer also would severely limit our list of places we could take the motor home, I mean, our Sunseeker Class C is 30 feet 10 inches long, adding a 20 foot trailer is really huge! At least towing a car we can take it off if needed but a trailer is 2,00lbs and huge, where would we put it?
Overall, yes we could have brought a trailer, but it would have required an upgraded hitch and would really get in the way.
As far as towing your car using a dolly, it’s much simpler than flat towing. Some cars can only be flat towed – such as my jeep – and some can only be towed using a dolly. It just depends on the make and model.
I guess it’s a matter of personal taste if it’s better to bring a trailer or tow a vehicle but I would say for the average person to just tow your vehicle, a trailer brings too many variables to the table.
What cars can be flat towed?
Most vehicles are not able to be flat towed. Usually it’s only for manual transmission vehicles however some automatics can be safely flat towed. Make sure to consult your owner’s manual before attempting to flat tow your vehicle, your owner’s manual will tell you if it can and then how to do it. I will give you a general idea however.
Have the car in neutral with the parking brake off. Make sure to find out how to disable the steering lock if your vehicle has one.
As I said before, most automatics are not equipped for this type of tow. However if you drive a 4×4 vehicle then you have a decent chance. What you need to look for is your transfer case shifter, if it has a neutral (N) then it can probably be flat towed but again, check your vehicles manual.
I will use how my Jeep’s manual’s instruction..
- Turn the car on
- Put the car’s transmission into neutral (N)
- Shift the transfer case into neutral (N)
- Put the transmission into park (P)
Can flat towing your vehicle cause your vehicle damage?
YES! This is why you need to be very careful when flat towing your vehicle and follow your vehicles owner’s manual! In fact, my Grandpa destroyed his tow saturn by screwing this process up so be careful.
The main concern when towing your vehicle is that – and this is especially true for towable automatics – there’s no transmission fluid pump running. However even for manuals the oil and gears can head up and cause damage. This is why towing for long periods of time nonstop is not recommended. If you want to tow for a long period of time then I would highly recommend buying a transmission pump.