Motor Home – Dinghy Towing

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Our best set up, Motor home with cargo trailer

Since we started RVing, way back in the stone age, Lynda and I have had several different types of RVs. They have ranged from small travel trailers to large motor homes. Each type has its advantages as well as disadvantages, no set up seems to be the perfect solution.

When towing your RV whether it be a 5th wheel or a travel trailer there is no need to worry about getting around once you have set up camp. Simply detach your towable from your tow vehicle and you are ready to head to town or take a tour without the worry of the extra weight of the RV behind you or negotiating through city traffic.

Motor homes as well as truck campers present a problem when it comes to getting around after setting up camp. For Lynda and I touring in our class ‘A’ motor home was our favorite way to see the country and maybe the safest.

When traveling in our motor home our vantage point was higher than the rest of the traffic allowing us to see far ahead and be aware of potential traffic problems.

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Our 3rd & favorite Motor home

However once parked we were stuck without a way to get around unless we broke camp and drove the large beast to town or where ever. Needless to say we avoided leaving our camping area unless absolutely necessary.

It didn’t take long for this to become a pain. On our next trip we hauled a large cargo trailer containing among other things a motor cycle. This helped enormously……….. but if it was too hot or cold or too windy we would not venture out.

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My bike – 950 V-Star

At first I enjoyed using the motor bike for grocery runs etc. although I couldn’t carry many items in the saddle bags and pack sack so trips every other day were necessary.

 

Once we sold our motor home and bought a travel trailer it was much more convenient using our tow vehicle to get around and explore.

Trailering a Vehicle

We have all seen large and small motor homes towing all sorts of vehicles, these are commonly referred to as toads or dinghys. Towing a vehicle when you are touring with a large motor home is a must. It can be almost impossible to get around in a city or large town with the huge beast.

If you are considering this configuration for traveling the first consideration should be the allowable towing capacity of your motor home. This can be found in your owners manual or often on a document glued to the back of a door or inside a closet.

Some smaller motor homes are not built for towing. Exceeding the towing capacity can cause damage to your motor home’s running gear or worse if you are involved in an accident your insurance could be void. Towing may also void your vehicle warranty.

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Almost all vehicles can be towed using a  two wheel tow dolly, or a four wheel trailer although these methods are not the most convenient. When travelling and stopping for the night, if a pull through RV spot is not available you may need to unload your vehicle from your dolly or trailer and then maneuver your dolly or trailer so it can be uncoupled to enable you to back into your spot.

Dinghy Towing

The best way to bring a vehicle with you is to flat tow, in other words to tow just the vehicle without a trailer or dolly. This is referred to as Dinghy towing of flat towing.

Years ago, finding vehicles suitable for flat towing wasn’t all that difficult. Most cars and trucks with manual transmissions could be towed, as could most four-wheel-drive SUVs with manual transfer cases.

But things have changed with the introduction of electronic automatic transmissions with front wheel drive and full or part-time four wheel drive. Great inventions although they have complicated finding the right flat towed vehicle.

 Lubrication is Key

Unfortunately not all vehicles are towable. It all has to do with transmission lubrication. Automatic and even some manual transmissions will not receive lubrication if the engine is not running.

Severe transmission damage can occur if these vehicles are towed with the drive wheels rolling along the highway turning the drive shaft.

Normally, a vehicle can be pulled dinghy style if it has rear-wheel drive and a manual transmission, or four-wheel drive and a manual transfer case that can be placed in neutral. Chrysler’s Jeeps and Ram pickups are popular dinghys.

The best way to make sure a vehicle is suited to flat towing is to check the owner’s manual. Most automakers state clearly in every model’s manual whether it can be towed on all four wheels or whether it must be hauled on a flatbed truck or trailer or pulled “two-down” with the driven wheels off the ground.

As a side note it is a good idea to check to see how your motor home should be towed in case the need arises. One of the motor homes we owned had to be towed from the rear with the front wheels on the ground.

You’re Not Dead Yet

If you already own the vehicle you wish to tow but it isn’t suitable for flat towing, there are devices that can be added to some vehicles to make them suitable, including drive shaft decouplers and transmission lubrication pumps.

Most RV dealers and factory repair facilities can install these devices and instruct you on the proper use and maintenance for care free dinghy towing.

If you do not own a towable vehicle, but are in the market it’s best to concentrate on those that are factory-ready. This will go a long way to making less work and easier coupling and uncoupling your toad (towed vehicle).

Other Things To Consider

Make certain you check and double check the owners manual, some popular dinghy tow vehicles like the Ford Escape have been re-designed and are no longer flat towable.

Another important thing to consider when flat towing is an auxiliary braking system for your dinghy. In most states it is mandatory to equip your vehicle with a braking system that works in tandem with the motor home brakes. This makes towing much easier and safer.

If you are considering towing a vehicle behind your motor home this article should help.

Check out this website for towables http://www.edmunds.com/

For your convenience I have compiled a comprehensive list of equipment and items you may need for your RV and camping travels, complete with product  links, click here to check out my list & links.

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Thanks for visiting.

Gord B.


 

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