Flat Towing With A Motorhome
updated for 2021
Our decision to tow a vehicle has served us very well. After looking at all the towing options; flat towing was the one that made the most sense in our situation. It might be different for you. When deciding to tow a vehicle (dinghy) behind your motorhome there are three options you can choose from - flat towing, (also called four wheels down towing), or using a tow dolly or flatbed trailer. There are pros and cons to each of these towing solutions but we are going to focus primarily on flat towing.
Check Out Our Podcast Episode
Flat Towing With A Motorhome
Driving your RV with Your Dinghy
We have owned three different motor-homes over the years and towed a dinghy with each one. It's not hard to tow with your motor-home; the dinghy for the most part will just follow your motor-home. The only thing you need to do is plan ahead somewhat because you can't backup with your dinghy attached. The mechanics of flat towing are not the same as towing a trailer. This really comes into effect when entering a gas station. You will need to make sure you have room to turn around when you are finished fueling and get back on the road. It is not usually a problem if you use truck stops or bigger gas stations.
Of the three RVs we have owned the only one I didn't like towing with was our 42’ motor-home with a tag axle because it had a short tail swing. The dinghy turned too tight to the side of the road when cornering. I had to compensate for it more in tight corners. With the RV we have now which is 36’ it has the right amount of tail swing and towing is super simple. The tail swing allows the dinghy to track perfectly behind the motorhome. A little tail swing works to your advantage when you are towing.
"Flat towing should be easy and quick -
not a big chore"
Motor-home Towing Capacity
When considering towing with your RV, you need to start with your motor-homes towing capacity. Most Class A RVs today have a tow rating of at least 4000 Lbs. Some of the larger coaches can handle up to 15000 Lbs. Once you know your towing capacity you can start finding the right size dinghy to match up to your motorhome.
Buying a Dinghy
Now, when looking for a dinghy you will want the easiest towing vehicle you can find with the simplest tow set up. You just want to hook up and go - the easier the better. While some vehicles are easy to tow, others require specific procedures to be followed before and during towing to prevent damage.
Try to avoid any vehicle that has these special requirements. Picking a dinghy that’s super easy to hook up and tow may not your dream car to drive but it’s worth it if you want easy hassle-free RVing. Do a little research before you purchase a dinghy. Find out make how it will tow and what’s required. Motorhome Magazine published a list of the top 10 Most Popular Dinghy Vehicles which is a great place to start. They also publish yearly Dinghy Towing Guides for researching.
The also published annual towing guides. These are great resources when shopping for a tow vehicle. You may have to buy back copies of the year of the car you might be shopping for. If you are buying new, your salesman will most likely NOT know if the car or truck can be flat towed. When in doubt, read the owner's manual, don’t take the dealers advice alone. Here is some things to think about before buying your toad.
1 Approved for flat towing by the car manufacturer
2 Towing Limits of your Motorhome
3 Transmission type: Manual or four-wheel-drive , some automatics
4 Free movement of the steering column without the key
5 No fuses need to be removed before towing
Flat Tow Necessities
Flat towing requires some upfront purchases. You will need a base plate for your vehicle and a tow bar that is made for your model and year of vehicle. Also needed are brake light wiring and a supplemental braking system. Let’s take a look at each of these.
Tow Bar and Base Plate:
You will need a base plate and tow bar that is custom made to fit your vehicle. A lot of companies make them like Blue OX, Roadmaster, Demco. The base plate is permanently mounted your dinghy frame and is where your towbar will attach.
It is important to consider buying a tow bar that is strong enough to pull a heavier, larger vehicle if you want or need to upgrade your dinghy. Then all you will need to purchase is a base plate that fit the new vehicle. Something to think about when shopping for your vehicle. Buying from a manufacturer like Roadmaster or Blue Ox that builds base plates for most all the towable vehicles has saved us money in the long run.
Brake Light Wiring:
Brake light wiring is the next thing to think about purchasing. A few different kits are available to choose from. There are kits where you add a separate brake light bulb by adding a light socket to your taillights, and kits that you splice into your vehicle wiring with the use of diodes to prevent electrical feedback or custom vehicle wiring kits that you just plugs in quickly and easily - no cutting or splicing of wires.
I found a custom kit for my 2015 Jeep Cherokee it was called Hopkins Custom Tail Light Wiring Kit for Towed Vehicles. It was very simple to install it just plugged into accessible wiring harness with no splicing.
Auxiliary Braking System
You will also need an auxiliary braking system also called a supplemental braking system. If you pull a dinghy you must have an auxiliary braking system not only is it required by law its not safe to tow without it.
There are a variety of options to choose from. There are portable units, permanently mounted systems, proportional braking systems, progressive braking systems and vacuum assisted braking systems. Doing some research will help you decide on the right one for you.
Over the years we have tried several different systems and each have pros and cons. The one thing that we will most likely never do again is to install or permanently mount one in my dinghy. We did that and when we wanted to put it in a new dinghy it wouldn't fit, it was money down the drain. It was however the easiest braking system ever, because you didn’t have install the braking box every time you traveled.
The best option is one that can simply go from dinghy to dinghy. You may have two different cars you want to be able to tow. Having one braking system that can go into either would be smart. There are a lot of braking systems available like Roadmaster Even Brake, Roadmaster Invisibrake, BlueOx Braking System, Demco Stay-in-play Duo Braking System, RVibrake so before making any decision be sure to look at all the options.
The hardest part of flat towing is the initial installation of your base plate, wiring, and auxiliary braking system. Once that is in place you can hook up and go in just minutes. Find a trailer dealer or RV dealership to do the installation. If you decide to do it yourself be sure to follow the directions carefully there is a lot riding on it being properly installed.
Ready To Tow!
Here is the best part! When it's time to go to that next campground just drive your car up behind your motorhome and within a few minutes your ready to go. If it's done right it really easy to hookup.
IMPORTANT!!! Do a rolling test to make sure your not dragging your dinghy. We have seen people drag their dinghy before. If you don’t catch the fact that you didn’t do your set up correctly, you can do a lot of damage to your car. Next, do a test of your brake lights and turn signals before you drive off.
We have a system worked out when hooking up our dinghy. Luann drives the Jeep up close enough for me to hookup the connections and tow bar while she puts the transfer case in neutral. We then install the braking system.
Inside the coach, I call her on my cell phone, and press the brake pedal and test the turn signals. If she says it's all good, I start pulling the dinghy a few feet for a rolling test and then we are good to go. By working out your own system you can be sure everything is right when your starting your trip. It makes it really fast and easy to do.
Flat towing is an easy way to have your vehicle with you when you travel in your motorhome. Finding the right accessories and getting them installed properly will give you a fun and easy RVing experience.
How We Tow
In the fall of 2018 we purchased a used 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, We didn't want to tow a new car. The car weights 4028 lbs, and so far tows very nice. We add a BlueOx baseplate BX1136 and we are still using the Blue Ox BX7420 Class IV Towbar we purchased five years ago. For the braking system we chose RVibrake, It is full of extra features that we wanted like, Small compact brake controller (that's quick and easy to install) it also has a Tire Pressure Monitoring System, Tow charger all controlled from one 7" tablet. We have always flat towed and it has served us well.
Want to learn more about RVing?
Download one of our FREE Get Started: RoadMaps to help you in whatever stage of the RV lifestyle you are in!
More Full-time RVing Goodness for You!