By Mark Polk
RV Education 101
In recent years, towing with all four wheels down, using a tow bar, has become more popular. Some of the reasons for its growing popularity are the ease of hitching and unhitching, not having to deal with a trailer, and the fact that more automobile manufacturers are building vehicles that can be towed with four wheels on the ground without modifications.
Before deciding to tow a vehicle with all four wheels on the ground, do your homework. Some manufacturer-approved vehicles can be towed without any modifications to the drivetrain or transmission. But many other vehicles will require some type of modification. Many factors affect whether a vehicle is flat-towable, such as automatic transmissions, two-wheel drive vehicles, four-wheel drive vehicles, the type of transfer case and more.
Here are some things to consider when selecting a vehicle to tow with four wheels on the ground.
1. Many vehicles with automatic transmissions cannot be towed with all four-wheels down unless the vehicle is four-wheel drive, and even then it requires a transfer case that can be shifted into neutral.
2. Front-wheel drive vehicles with manual transmissions and most four-wheel drive vehicles with a manual transfer case are among the best choices for towing with all four-wheels down.
3. Even if you have a vehicle that can be towed with all four-wheels down, it’s quite possible that it will have towing speed and/or mileage restrictions. Be sure to follow any special towing instructions or procedures found in the vehicle owner’s manual. You might be required to remove a certain fuse before you tow the vehicle, or to stop towing after so many miles and start the vehicle to allow drivetrain components to be lubricated. Following any and all special instructions can save you money and protect the vehicle warranty. 4. If a vehicle is approved by the manufacturer to be towed with all four-wheels down the owner’s manual will provide specific instructions on the proper procedures to use when towing. If the manual does not provide specific instructions on whether or not it can be towed with all four-wheels down, or if you’re unclear about any towing restrictions, check with the vehicle manufacturer. Don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer to get specific information about towing a vehicle. Your vehicle warranty could be voided from damage caused by towing a vehicle and not following the manufacturer’s guidelines.
5. In many cases where vehicles are not approved by the manufacturer to be towed with all four-wheels down, they can still be towed in this manner by adding some type of aftermarket accessory. The most common problem is that when the engine is not running, components in the drivetrain that require lubrication are not being lubricated. Towing a vehicle like this can result in thousands of dollars worth of damage, and/or the vehicle could overheat and catch on fire. There are specialty aftermarket products and modifications available, such as drive shaft disconnects and/or transmission lube pumps, that can be added so a vehicle is mechanically capable of being towed without damaging the drivetrain components.
6. For many reasons, some vehicles are not approved by the manufacturer to be towed with all four-wheels down. It may be that the vehicle will not track or follow the motorhome properly, or maybe a component of the drivetrain could be damaged. Sometimes it is because of liability and warranty concerns. Another reason is the expense involved for a manufacturer to test and approve vehicles for towing with all four-wheels down.
7. If for some reason the vehicle you want to tow cannot be modified for towing, for whatever reason, you still have the option of possibly using a tow dolly or a car trailer. All vehicles can be towed on a car trailer, as long as you don’t exceed weight ratings, and most front-wheel-drive vehicles can be towed with a tow dolly. See Towing methods article on FMCA.com.
It’s important that you understand all of the towing options available to you and that you take the time to research what method is best suited for you. There are many things to consider: overall cost, weights, aesthetics, supplemental brakes, vehicle modifications, warranty, difficulty hooking up and unhooking, and more.
|RV expert Mark Polk owns RV Education 101, a North Carolina-based company that produces and sells educational videos, DVDs and E-books on how to use RVs. Mark has more than 30 years of experience in RV maintenance. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1996 as a Chief Warrant Officer Three, specializing in wheeled and track vehicle fleet maintenance operations. He and his wife, Dawn, started RV Education 101 in 1999. They travel with their two boys in a 35-foot Type A motorhome.