RV Tow Bars and Towing

One of the most common towing situations in the United States involves flat-towing a small car or SUV behind an RV. For those lucky permanent road warriors, pulling a small car allows them to set up camp virtually anywhere and use the towed car for local jaunts to tourist attractions and to run necessary errands.

This kind of towing is called "dinghy towing," named after the way yachts haul small transit boats in their wake. Dinghy towing has claimed such a big share of the towing scene that a whole line of specialized equipment has been developed to support the practice, including light wiring, supplemental brake actuators for towed vehicles, supplemental transmission lubrication pumps, and quick disconnect couplings for the driveshaft.

There are two common ways of dinghy towing: using a tow bar or a tow dolly. A tow bar is distinguished by the fact that all four wheels of the towed vehicle stay on the pavement. The tow bar attaches to the front bumper area - often to special attachment points installed in the car's bumper. There are companies that make custom tow bar brackets that attach to the vehicle frame.

When you tow, you need to make sure that the front wheels are pointed straight ahead, or the car will try to pull your tow vehicle one way or the other. But many steering locks will hold the wheels slightly off dead center. So when towing, the steering must remain unlocked, as the wheels will naturally come back to center when in motion.

You also need to make sure that you have followed the manufacturer's recommendations with regard to the towed car's transmission. Transmissions are designed to be turned by the engine, and this process pumps gear oil or automatic transmission fluid through the gearbox. When you tow a car with its drive wheels (front or rear) on the pavement, the wheels turn the transmission and in some designs, this can lead to transmission damage.

One reason why 4WD vehicles such as Jeeps have been popular as towed vehicles is that the 4WD mechanism includes a transfer case that can be placed in neutral, isolating the transmission from the wheels. Front wheel drive cars with manual transmissions are also a good bet. Your car's owner's manual will tell you if it can be safely flat-towed.

Your best bet for flat-towing is to consult your RV or trailer center. They will have the most current information on products, legal requirements, and the suitability of your towed vehicle

DO

  • Consult your vehicle's owner's manual before flat-towing
  • Use safety cables at all times
  • Leave generous stopping distance
  • Use clearly visible trailer lights
  • Familiarize yourself with and adhere to all applicable state and local regulations.

DON'T

  • Assume you can flat-tow any car
  • Tow without complete legal safety gear
  • Flat-tow above the posted speed limit

For more tips about RV maintenance and service, contact Mike at mikeb@rvglass.com

or call (800) 551-9149 ext. 2030