How to Tow a Vehicle Behind an RV

How to Tow a Vehicle Behind an RV
Towing a car behind your RV makes sense for a lot of reasons. Motorhomes are gas guzzlers that are inconvenient to park and maneuver around town. It's easier to leave your motorhome at the park and use a toad or dinghy to run errands. You'll save money, time and frustration. Before hitching a car to your RV, you should consider the performance and safety requirements of both vehicles. Your owner's manuals are a good place to start.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • RV and car owner's manuals
  • Manufacturer's phone numbers
  • Tow-bar system, dolly or trailer
  • Drive shaft coupling, axle-lock or lube pump (if needed for tow-bar system)
  • Rock guard and car shield
  • Safety chains
  • Supplemental brake control system (if using tow-bar system)
  • Brake connections to RV (if using dolly or trailer)
  • Light connections from towed vehicle or trailer to RV
Step 1
Learn what your vehicles can handle. Start by looking up your motorhome's towing capacity in the manufacturer's towing guide. Most RV's have a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds but you should limit your car's weight to 3,000 pounds or less. The tow-ability of your car depends on its make and model, type of transmission and whether it's front, rear or all wheel drive. Check with the manufacturer to learn their requirements.
Step 2
Choose an appropriate towing method. Your car can be towed with four wheels on the ground, with one set of wheels on a dolly or with all four wheels on a trailer. Most standard transmission vehicles can be towed with four wheels on the road but very few automatic transmissions are safe to tow this way. If you use a dolly your drive axle tires should be on it with the free axle tires on the ground (the drive axle is in front on front wheel drive cars and in the back on rear wheel drive vehicles). Make sure your car's gross weight doesn't exceed your trailer's load capacity, if you choose this option.
Step 3
Get the hardware for your method. If your car can be towed with four wheels on the road, you'll need a tow-bar system to do it. Traditional V-bar systems are difficult to hitch and unhitch and they damage the appearance of your car. Modern systems have telescoping arms and ergonomic hitches that make towing a lot easier. When you aren't using them you can fold up the telescoping tow-bar systems and stash them in your car or RV.

Cars that aren't designed to be towed with four wheels on the road can be converted in one of three ways. A drive shaft coupling can be installed in rear-wheel-drive vehicles to disengage the drive shaft, an axle-lock can be installed in front-wheel-drive cars to disconnect a front axle or a lube pump can be connected to some automatic transmissions to keep them lubricated. If you prefer to tow your car with a dolly or trailer, make sure it has its own brakes.
Step 4
Meet the safety requirements. Motorhomes can kick up a lot of road debris. Protect your car by mounting a rock guard on the back of your RV and a car shield on the tow-bar.

Safety chains are required in tow-bar systems but you should use them with every towing method to eliminate the possibility of a breakaway. If you choose a tow-bar system, you'll also need a supplemental brake control system to activate your car's brakes whenever your motorhome's brakes are applied. In the same way you're required to have lights on your car that are controlled by the lights on your RV. These lights can be your car's internal lights or a separate pair of external ones.

If you tow with a dolly you'll also need working lights on your car and every trailer is required to have its lights connected to the RV. The braking system on dollies and trailers should be activated by the brakes in your motorhome.
Step 5
Adjust your driving habits. The extra weight and length of your towed vehicle will increase your stopping distance, decrease your performance and take up more space on the road. Keep this in mind when you merge on the freeway, change lanes, turn corners or look for parking. Leave plenty of room between yourself and other vehicles so you can react to changing conditions without tailgating or cutting them off.

Article Written By Dan Eash

Dan Eash began writing professionally in 1989, with articles in LaHabra's "Daily Star Progress" and the "Fullerton College Magazine." Since then, he's created scripts for doctor and dentist offices and published manuals, help files and a training video. His freelance efforts also include a book. Eash has a Fullerton College Associate of Arts in music/recording production and a Nova Institute multimedia production certificate.

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