Introduction to Towing with an RV
Towing a vehicle behind your
motorhome can be a pleasant experience and allow you the flexibility to enjoy
your lifestyle to its fullest. When it comes to seeing the sights, running to
town for supplies or taking day trips, your towed vehicle will allow you a
There are three ways to bring your towed car with you and
you need to decide which option best suits your needs.
The first one is using a trailer that allows you to
raise all four wheels of your towed vehicle off of the ground. These are most
commonly used with vehicles like Corvettes, Lexus or classic cars. Transport
Units will vary in price from $1500 to $6000.
The next option is a tow dolly. These get the front wheels of the towed vehicle
off the ground. There are some advantages to using a dolly: By putting a front wheel drive
vehicle on a dolly you will not need a lube pump or other device to make the
vehicle towable. Tow dollies are useful for vehicles you don’t want to or can’t
tow 4 wheels down. Dollies are a great option if you intend to use it with
multiple vehicles or want to time-share it with friends. If braking is a
concern, be sure to check if the manufacturer has this option available for
immediate or possible future use.
The final & most popular choice is to tow all 4 wheels down
using a tow bar. The main reason for choosing a tow bar is convenience. Tow bars
give you the least amount of equipment to deal with to tow your vehicle. The
biggest disadvantage with dollies and trailers is what to do with them when you
get to the campground. Many campgrounds do not have room to let you park a
trailer or dolly on your site along with your motorhome and towed vehicle. In
most cases you would have to unhook the trailer and park it somewhere away from
your campsite. With a tow bar you can unhook and the towing equipment will fold up and stay with
your motorhome or your car and not take up any additional parking space. A tow
bar is also lighter to carry than a dolly or trailer and prices for a tow bar
start out lower than either a dolly or a trailer.
There are three
general types of tow bars available: (1) Self-Aligning Motorhome Mounted (Blue
Ox Aventa II or Aladdin), (2) Self-Aligning Car Mounted (Blue Ox Acclaim) and
(3) Rigid A-Frame (Blue Ox Ambassador). When choosing a tow bar, dolly or
trailer be sure to check on the support that will be available as you travel
across the country. Some smaller companies do not have the dealer network or
ability to help you after the sale.
Rigid tow bars, as their name implies, are a solid welded
tow bar without any adjustment to give you help hooking up. When you hookup you
must drive the towed vehicle to the exact spot which will allow you to put the
tow bar’s coupler on the ball of the tow vehicle. It is often a two-person job,
one driving while the other holds the tow bar up and guides the driver. Rigid
tow bars are the least expensive and generally some of the lightest tow bars you
can buy. If you are in good health and have a driver you can trust that can help
each time you hook-up this may be an option for you. Also, if you only tow once
or twice a year this may be the type of tow bar for you situation. Rigid tow
bars generally have to be removed from the car and stored when you are not using
Self-aligning tow bars provide you with the opportunity to
hook up by yourself. The self-aligning feature allows you to drive up close to
the motorhome and then let the tow bar adjust to the vehicle’s position. Then
the tow bar will extend out to its rigid tow position as you pull ahead with the
motorhome. Many users have called these tow bars temper savers and marriage
savers. The choice between car mounted or motorhome mounted is a choice you will
need to make.
Car mounted self-aligning tow bars were the first folding
self-aligning tow bars built. They were the industry standard for several years.
When you are not towing with these tow bars they will fold and stay on the front
of your car. Most models also have a quick release system so they can be taken
off quickly and easily. This type of tow bar has served people who deliver new
motor homes and trucks or rental trucks very well. Hitting a pole or a wall in
parking lots or other people parking in front of your car are common ways to
damage the tow bar and possibly the bumper of your car. Being with the car may
leave the tow bar in an area where it can be easily stolen off the car while you
are gone. Also, leaving the extra weight of the tow bar on the front of the car
affects the front suspension. Another disadvantage to this type of tow bar is
cosmetics. Most people do not want to strain with the weight of these tow bars,
so they will leave them on the car and this takes away from the look of your
Motorhome mounted tow bars are the latest & most popular
innovation in tow bars. The main advantage of a motorhome mounted tow bar is the
replacement of the ball coupler with a swivel joint. This allows the tow bar to
be used without a drop ball mount, which in many cases hangs low enough to drag
when a motorhome drives through a dip or starts up a ramp. The storage of the
tow bar on the motorhome leaves the front of your car look much nicer when you
are not towing. The motorhome is less likely to be left in a place where theft
is a major problem and the tow bar can be locked into the receiver hitch of the
motorhome to deter theft. This type of tow bar is also lighter and easier to
handle than its car mounted counterpart.
researching a towing system, do not overlook the baseplate. The baseplate bolts
to the frame and is custom designed for each specific towed vehicle. Different
baseplates will show significantly more than others will and a few require
cutting of the bumper for installation. Some of the newer models have removable
attachment tabs, which allows you to remove all exposed parts from the front of
the vehicle. Baseplates come with all the necessary hardware to install them and
will bolt to a secure place on the towed vehicle. On occasion you will need to
drill holes in the frame to attach the baseplate, but no special tools are
Blue Ox provides all of the accessories that you may need
or want for towing. For safety purposes, federal law requires RV activated
taillights and safety cables. Also, most states and Canadian provinces have laws
on the books concerning braking for trailers. Brakes are required on trailers
with GVWR’s as low as 1,000 pounds in some states. Enforcement of these laws has
not been followed most places in the United States. Interpretation of the law’s
application to cars in tow has probably been a big reason why these laws have
not been actively enforced. British Columbia province in Canada has been
actively enforcing this law, stopping people, writing tickets and making them
drive the tow car separately if they do not have the proper equipment. The main
thing to remember with auxiliary braking systems is that they are just what they
state – auxiliary brakes. They are not meant to stop your motorhome any faster.
They are designed to assist in slowing down the towed vehicle and reduce the
stopping distance that was changed due to the addition of the towed car.
Most front wheel drive manual transmission cars can be towed
with all four wheels on the ground with no modification. Most front wheel drive
automatic transmission vehicles will need a lube pump or similar device in order
to tow it four wheels down. Rear wheel drive automatics will require a device to
disconnect the driveshaft in order to tow four down.
There are some
front wheel drive automatic transmission vehicles that can be towed without
modification. Here are some examples: All Honda and Acura vehicles; All Saturn
vehicles; 1995 and newer Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire with 4T40E
transmission; 1997 and newer Chevrolet Malibu and Olds Cutlass with 4T40E
transmission; 1999 and newer Pontiac Grand Am with 4T40E transmission. Also,
some 4 wheel drive vehicles can be towed (both automatic and manual
transmission). Refer to your vehicle’s owners manual for specific instructions
Inspect the tow bar, dolly or trailer for loose
bolts and worn parts. Tighten loose bolts and replace worn parts before hooking
up. If you have bolts that are consistently coming loose, use Loctite or put on
a double nut to keep them tight.
1. Hook up on a flat smooth surface.
2. If you have a coupler
style tow bar; check the fit of the coupler on the ball. Adjust the coupler if
3. Hook up the tow bar.
4. Set up the towed vehicle’s steering
and transmission to tow.
5. Check your parking brake to ensure it is
6. Latch the legs on a self-aligning tow bar.
7. Attach the
safety cables. Cross the cables between the vehicles and wrap the cables around
the tow bar legs to keep them from dragging.
8. Attach the electrical cable.
9. Check the function of all lights on both
10. Locate your spare key and lock the towed vehicle’s
11. Drive with care and remember your vehicle will be about 25 feet
longer while towing.
Each time you stop,
check the tow bar, base plate and cables to make sure they are still properly
attached. Check the tires of the towed vehicle to make sure they are not going
flat. If you are using a dolly or trailer, check the wheels to make sure they
are not hot to the touch. If the wheels are hot, it may indicate a brake or
bearing problem. Each day before you start check the lights to make sure they
are working properly. Between trips clean the towbar and cables to keep them in
good shape. Also, clean and lubricate the tow bar as recommended by the