The Car Pro Guide To Dinghy Towing


I have people who ask me on the Car Pro Radio Show all the time about the best car to tow behind their RV, usually a motorhome. For those who have never traveled in a motorhome, once you get where you are going, there is a lot of work to be done. You have to level it, most people hook their rig to water, electricity, sewage, open the awning, put up the TV antenna or dish, etc. Often you work 30 minutes to an hour to get everything on your checklist done. Then the worst possible thing happens: your spouse says, “honey, we’ve got to have some milk”. UGH. This, my friends, is why you tow a car! Plus, sightseeing in a huge motorhome isn’t any fun, especially for the driver.

Some people tow a wheeled dolly and just drive their front-wheel drive tow car up on it, put it in neutral, and off they go. However, most people like to tow their chase car with all four wheels on the ground, using a tow bar. This method is called dinghy towing. The problem is, many vehicles cannot be dinghy towed without tearing up the transmission or other components of the vehicle.

If dinghy towing is new to you, there is much to learn before you get started. First, you have to know the towing ability of your RV so you don’t pick something too heavy. Most states require the towed vehicle to having braking ability proportional to the motorhome, and full lights on the vehicle. You will need a tow bar system attached to the front of the dinghy car, and safety chains are required in case of separation. You should know, too, that backing a dinghy vehicle is almost impossible past a few feet, so when parking your rig, always try to use pull forward spaces.

Often, people want to use their current daily driver to tow behind their RV. You need to do a lot of research to make sure the vehicle is able to be towed with all four wheels flat. Most vehicle owner’s manuals will tell you. One option if your vehicle cannot be towed is a driveshaft disconnect device that allows your vehicle to free wheel at all times. The downside is sometimes they are difficult to engage, and can cost from $750 to $1500.

For those who are going to buy a new vehicle to dinghy tow, find out upfront before you shop, which vehicles you can use. For many years, almost all manual transmission vehicles could be towed flat, but there are fewer manual transmissions even offered today, making this more difficult. With many vehicles today, there are also procedures you must follow.

For instance, if you want to dinghy tow a Buick Enclave, you have to run the engine every morning for five minutes, and remove two fuses from the fuse box. If you want to tow a Chevy Cruze, it must be a stick shift. If you want to tow a Ford Edge, you have to start the engine every morning, then every six hours afterwards, and when you start it, you must shift to drive, reverse, then to neutral in that order. You can tow a Ford Fusion, but only the hybrid version. If you want to tow your Jeep Wrangler, it must be four-wheel drive, if you buy a Toyota Corolla, it must be a standard transmission and you must leave the ignition switch on accessory mode the whole time.

Hopefully, you see why the research is so important. I recommend a checklist for the dash of your towed vehicle. If you take off with your towed vehicle in park instead of neutral, you’ll do a lot of damage. The same is true if you forget to leave the steering wheel unlocked. It is always good, too, to double-check your towing hookup, brake connection, and light connections.

A couple more thoughts on this subject: do your own research on which vehicles can be dinghy towed, do not take the word of a salesperson. Too often, they will shoot from the hip just to make a sale, and you can quickly find yourself with a voided manufacturer’s warranty. Secondly, and luckily, has an exceptional list of vehicles that can be dinghy towed, and I highly recommend you use that information. Also, there is other information on towing products that can be very useful.

Dinghy towing can seem overwhelming at first. Take your time, absorb all the information you can, and keep safety first.

Photo Copyright: tobkatrina/Shutterstock
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