One might think that if you own an RV, you will have almost no use for a car, but you may be wrong in there. It is pretty common to see RVs with a smaller car in tow. If you need quick supply runs, or god forbid an emergency, having a smaller vehicle in tow ready and available is quite handy. The bottom line is when you want to go somewhere outside the campground, you will need another car.
Here we will talk at length and in detail about safety in Towing vehicle behind RV. We are also going to cover the different methods for hauling a smaller vehicle with your motorhome. Not just that, but we also talk about doing it as safely as possible. We spent the time (so you do not have to) in bringing together this comprehensive guide for you to safely enjoy your motorhome.
Table of Contents
- Should I Tow a Car Behind My Motorhome?
- Towing Vehicle Behind RV: The Basics
- Three Different Methods of Towing a Car Behind Your Motorhome
- Flat Towing Method
- The Tow Dolly Method
- The Flatbed or Enclosed Trailer Method
- Final Words
Should I Tow a Car Behind My Motorhome?
Once an RV arrives at a motorhome campsite, it needs parking in alignment with connections to utilities. The facilities include water, gas, and electricity to power up all the modern amenities inside the motor home.
So you see, convenience is mainly the reason why a smaller vehicle is brought along for the trip. Imagine having to unpark and unplug all the connections when you needed to go to the drug store or for groceries.
Driving a 25 – plus feet motorhome in city streets is no fun, and finding a parking spot for it is no easy task. Having a toad with you while driving a motorhome will allow you to visit urban areas of the location while having your RV camped for the night in a convenient location. Once again, the convenience of towing car behind your camper van begins to be a relatively appealing option.
So a lot of people are doing it, should you get a ‘toad’ as well? It depends on where and how you will be spending your moments with the RV. If you are on a sightseeing trip and do not want to miss anything, a smaller vehicle can get you almost anywhere while your motorhome sits on a camp. If you are doing it to get away from city life and enjoy nature, you can tow other things like a boat or an ATV.
Ultimately, towing vehicle behind your motorcoach is decided by the activities you will undertake while on the road.
Towing Vehicle Behind RV: The Basics
Are Your Vehicles Set Up For It?
Determine if your car specifications allow for towing as a priority in learning how to tow a vehicle behind RV. Secondly, you also need to make sure that its weight does not exceed the motor home’s capacity to tow. Unfortunately, some cars do not allow towing unless there is special equipment involved. The best vehicles to be towed are those that come factory-ready for it.
Cars that are towing-enabled takes less time to set up and safer to start with. Any vehicle is okay for towing as long as it does not exceed the weight capacity of the RV and the towing method used for it. If your motorhome is a Class C above, you can just about pull most SUVs, Jeeps, Pickups, and sedans of the regular size.
To be on the safe side, before attempting to tow a vehicle, consult both manuals until you have the exact limitations of both the cars. Besides, you can call up your dealership and find out directly from them if your vehicle needs modification before being towed.
Essential Towing Equipment You Cannot Do Without
There are a lot more things to consider when towing a vehicle behind motorhome than merely attaching it to a tow hook. Most cars and RVs need a separate towing kit installed for safe traveling. There are three ways of towing vehicle behind your RV.
The methods vary but there is a standard set of equipment you need to have whatever method you decide to use. Let us take a closer look at each of them below.
- Hitch – This is a device that is attached to your RV specific for towing. They can come in the form of a receiver type construction or a fixed-drawbar type of hitch. Receiver type hitches are the preferred kind of fixture as they can accommodate most aftermarket hitch accessories. A hitch will commonly have a hitch ball receptor. Modern motorhomes will most probably be equipped with a hitch for a toad and dinghy towing.
It is very important to know the weight rating of your hitch receiver, and they are clearly marked often in the receiver itself on a sticker. Check out the image below for the most common location of information regarding the hitch rating.
- Receiver – This is an integral part of the hitch as at will be in this part that a hitch ball will be slotted into. They will have different ratings and you can look them up via the same information that’s printed on a sticker on the receiver itself.
- Hitch Ball – A trailer hitch ball attaches to the hitch ball mount and comes in different sizes and ratings as well. This is deliberately shaped like a ball to provide the toad’s pivot and smooth turning while towing. The ratings can either be found on top of the ball or around its base.
Image source here
- Lighting Receptacle Plug – Without this, it would be unlawful to tow another vehicle as it is required by law to have an auxiliary brake lighting system in place for visibility when braking as well as signals for turning. Most trailer hitch systems already have a plug and play system in place, located near the general area of the receiver. This plug is among the most important Towing accessories & equipment because it directly affects your safety and those you share the road with.
Three Different Methods of Towing a Car Behind Your Motorhome
By far, only three reliable ways have stood against the potholes, the years, and the sheer weight of towing a vehicle behind an RV can make the motor home a real Car Hauler (Trailer).
Let us dive in and take a look at what you need to know about RV towing. We take you through the step by step process of each of these methods. This way you can be that much closer to making an informed decision about your own RV towing needs.
Flat Towing Method
This is the method of RV towing that gave a towed car its ‘toad’ and ‘dinghy’ nickname, and 4 Wheels Down mean exactly just that, you tow the dinghy with all its wheels freewheeling on the road. This way is also known as flat towing or dinghy towing. It is a straightforward and therefore very popular way of bringing your car along for the ride.
Adding to that, this method has no discernable impact on RV wear and tear and no significant addition to gas mileage. All this while safely transporting your car across your trip make this the go-to Towed method for many RV enthusiasts.
A towbar will connect to the front of the towed vehicle and from there connect to the back of the lead vehicle, which is the RV. The toad must have a base plate kit installed in front and the RV should have the corresponding RV hitch. This way, the towbar stands between the motorhome and the dinghy vehicle. Attaching the brackets, the safety cables, the wiring harness, and the supplemental brake system takes about 10-15 minutes when you are used to it.
What You Will Be Needing:
- Tow bar – The RV towbar allows you to pull along smaller vehicles via its own four wheels. It attaches to the ‘toad’ via a kit that is also installed on the vehicle to be towed.
- Base plate kit installed on the toad – Most cars with the exception of pickups or SUVs will not have this receiver installed as stock so you will most probably have to install a separate kit on your toad.
- Wiring kit – This allows supplemental turn indicators and brake-stop lights to work in your car in sync with your motorhome as you navigate the roads.
- Safety cables – Safety cables complement the main brackets and connections of the towbar and prevent total disconnection in case of a structural malfunction.
- Supplemental braking system – Is a system installed, usually pneumatic in nature, that syncs a mechanical braking force to be applied on the toad as you apply it to the RV or the lead vehicle. Towing four wheels down without this is not only extremely dangerous but highly illegal as well.
Towbar Setup Process
Step 1: Find a place that is as level as possible and park both your cars there. Being level is crucial because there is a limitation as to how wide the disparity between the height of the base plate is to the RV hitch. Make sure that the emergency brake for the RV is engaged.
Step 2: The number to watch is 3 inches, this should be the maximum distance from the hitch to the base plate. The best way to do this would be to measure from the ground up to the center of the RV hitch. Do the same with the attachment tabs on the front of the toad. After getting the figures, subtract the Toad measurement from the RV hitch’s measurements. If the result is greater than 3 inches, a hitch adapter should be used.
Step 3: Mount the corresponding end of the towbar to the RV. Secure the pins in the pinholes. Depending on the towbar model some would have multiple pins to attach. Ensure that the towbar is the shortest adjustment possible. Fold the towbar arms towards the RV to prepare for the next step.
Step 4: Drive the dinghy vehicle behind the motorhome, approximating the towing distance. When this is done, engage the emergency brakes for the toad.
Step 5: Attach the corresponding towbar arms to the front of the dinghy vehicle and then release the latches for the extendable arms. When the arms are attached and the lynchpins are secured, release the emergency brakes of the dinghy vehicle and slowly push away from the RV until the latches lock into position. Alternatively, you can ease your RV forward to achieve the same thing.
Step 6: At this point we assume that you have checked your cars manual as to the drive preparation for towing. Usually, the vehicles will need to be placed in neutral (for manual vehicles) for an automatic drivetrain, there could be some special requirements. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to avoid damage.
Step 7: Attach the safety cables for both ends of the towbar. This is extremely important to make sure that in the unlikely event of a break or a failure of the arms. The lines will take up the slack. The cables should be stowed along the bars and not dragging on the road surface.
Step 8: Plug in the wiring harness and the emergency breakaway plug. This will synchronize the braking lights of the dinghy vehicle to the lead vehicle.
Step 9: Install and test the supplemental braking system for the toad vehicle. After everything is set up, you are good to go!
The Tow Dolly Method
This method is used primarily for vehicles with front-wheel drive transmissions and is essentially a towbar and a baseplate with two wheels attached. You will need the following for the tow dolly method:
- Ratchet straps – This is used to secure the front tires to the dolly, along with the locking system of the ramps themselves.
- Security chains –Used to secure the tow dolly platform to the frame of the vehicle above the area where the chains themselves are mounted on the tow dolly.
- Safety chains – These are redundant systems in place in case of structural failure
Tow Dolly Setup Process:
Step 1: With this Towed method, line up your RV, the tow dolly, and the vehicle to be towed on a level surface in a safe area.
Step 2: Attach the tow dolly coupler to the RV and lock it completely. Plug in the wiring harness and ensure operation.
Step 3:Fasten the safety chains and cables in a crisscross manner, passing through eyelets and onto the chains. Check to see that there is a slight slack and give in the chains for allowance during turns.
Step 4: Remove the safety pins on the tie-down ratchet assembly and remove the tire straps from the tire platform. Release the locking pin, allowing the dolly to tilt back.
Step 5: Make sure someone is guiding you as you drive up the tow dollys ramps. The tow dolly will even and right itself up as you drive your front wheels onto the tire platform.
Step 6: Center the tie downs for the tires and tighten each tire strap by manipulating the tow dollys ratchet handles. This may take some time until there is no more give on the tires. Carefully inspect the straps and make sure none are touching the brakes or suspension as this may cause breakage of the straps.
Step 7: Prepare you vehicle for towing according to the manufacturers manual. Do a test tow for a hundred feet and inspect everything on the Tow Dolly. Pay particular attention to the safety chains, the tire straps, and the cables. When all remained snug and secure, you are good to go!
The Flatbed or Enclosed Trailer Method
This is by far the easiest method among the three to transport a vehicle behind your RV. Not only that, but this is by far the most car-friendly way of lugging another vehicle around. This is especially useful for those that have all-wheel-drive vehicles.
However, the biggest problem is adding that extra length to the overall measurement of the RV and the hauler. Some states will have restrictions and limitations on the overall length of the contraption. To pull a car using this method, you will need the following.
- Ramps – Most car haulers will already have this as a stock feature, so ensure that you have these for getting the car up onto the trailer.
- Ratchet straps – These are the main methods to secure the tires onto the flatbed and keep it from swaying.
- Brake controller – A supplemental brake system is always needed for hauling another vehicle, in the case of flatbed trailers electric braking systems.
The Step By Step Process
Step 1: Park both vehicles in a level area, check and engage the emergency brakes. The trailer should be attached to the RV at this point. This is also the time to check the safety chains and cables, as well as the main connection of the trailer bed to the RV. It is also good to measure everything, just to be sure everything is to spec. Proceed to the next step if all is well.
Step 2: Prepare the flatbed trailer for loading the vehicle to be towed by freeing the tire straps and loosening them from their ratchets. Pull them towards the rear of the car hauler as you lay them flat on the deck.
Step 3: Arrange the loading ramps by releasing the latches and pulling them out.
Step 4: Ensure that the car is centered behind the RV and the trailer, never let anyone stand between the trailer and the car to be loaded. Make sure to enlist the help of more than one person.
Step 5: Slowly drive onto the platform while being guided by at least a couple of spotters. When it is centered engage the emergency brakes before exiting the car.
Step 6: Secure the vehicle with the tire straps and make sure to stow the ramps. Tighten the ratchet and fold down the handles once done.
Step 7: Perform the 100-meter hauling test and recheck everything for slippage or loosening cables. This is also the time to check the supplemental brakes as well as the signal and brake lights.
Properly following the instructions in any endeavor is key to an accident-free trip. The instructions above are as comprehensive as we can provide them, but the RV community and industry is an ever-changing one.
Please reach out to us if we missed out on something or you have any comments on how this guide has helped you settle for a choice. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out for any opinion, constructive or otherwise, about this guide.