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Old 11-14-2013, 10:43 AM   #1
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Towing a vehicle

Hello all: We have sold our 34ft Excella and now have a 395XL Motor Home.
The question I have is what way to tow a vehicle. Do we flat tow or dolly a car.

Russ
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Old 11-14-2013, 10:52 AM   #2
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We flat towed our Suzuki Samurai because you could put the standard transmission in neutral. As I recall we needed to stop and run the engine each day to lube the transmission.

Most auto transmissions would need a dolly, but I think there are after market modifications to remedy this. Depends on the vehicle.
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Old 11-14-2013, 11:12 AM   #3
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Motorhome Magazine publishes an annual Dinghy Towing Guide, that identifies which vehicles can be flat-towed. But each year's issue only covers that model year; for an older car, you'd have to find that model year's issue. Which should be available online, if you search for it.

Many automatic-transmission cars can be flat-towed, at least front-wheel-drive models. But there may be speed or distance limits. My auto-tranny Honda Fit can be flat-towed, but no more than 65mph (I generally tow at 60mph) and for no more than 500 miles before starting the engine and cycling the gearshift to recirculate the transmission fluid. That isn't a problem for me because I don't have a 500-mile range on my Airstream anyway. Every time I stop for fuel, I start the Honda's engine and go through the three-minute refresh so I'm good until my next fuel stop.

Four-wheel-drive vehicles usually have to be either flat-towed or trailer-towed, not dolly-towed. Two-wheels-down on a 4-wheel-drive vehicle doesn't work very well.

Standard-transmission models can usually, but not always, be flat-towed.

Sometimes the limit on flat-towing isn't the transmission, it's the front end alignment. Unless the front wheels will track straight when you're going straight, and automatically turn to follow the RV's turn, you can't flat-tow without ripping up your front tires.

If you dolly-tow or trailer-tow, your towing weight also goes up for the same vehicle, and so does the weight on the hitch (which dips into your GVWR as well as your GTWR). But to balance out that drawback, with a dolly-tow or trailer-tow, you don't need a supplemental brake system in your toad, and you don't need supplemental brake lights and turn signals on your toad, either; the trailer or dolly has the brakes and lights.

Another drawback to the dolly-tow or trailer-tow, in the campground you've got to provide room for the trailer or dolly as well as for the toad. But to balanace THAT drawback, you can't back up a flat-towed toad, but you can back up a trailer or dolly.
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Old 11-21-2013, 03:50 PM   #4
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My toad is a 99 Suzuki Vita 4X4 auto w/196,000 on it. Put the tow bar on, automatic transmission in park and the transfer case in natural. Towed it from the time I bought it new. Never changed anything but tires, brake, and one radiator in all that time. Well the oils and filters too.
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Old 11-21-2013, 04:17 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dirtturner View Post
Hello all: We have sold our 34ft Excella and now have a 395XL Motor Home.
The question I have is what way to tow a vehicle. Do we flat tow or dolly a car.

Russ
Do you already have a car now that you are thinking about towing. When I bought my 2005 396XL my wife had a 2003 Mercury sable wagon, low miles. But it could not be towed 4 wheels down. So we traded that in for a 2013 Chevy Sonic automatic. It can be towed 4 wheels down by following the instructions in owners manual. It works great.
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Old 11-21-2013, 04:40 PM   #6
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Do you already have a car now that you are thinking about towing. When I bought my 2005 396XL my wife had a 2003 Mercury sable wagon, low miles. But it could not be towed 4 wheels down. So we traded that in for a 2013 Chevy Sonic automatic. It can be towed 4 wheels down by following the instructions in owners manual. It works great.
I considered the Chevy Sonic before deciding on the Honda Fit.

Side note, consider your tail-swing when deciding on a toad. That bit about front-end alignment making a difference goes double for a motorhome with a long rear overhang. In a turn, first your toad will track to the outside of the turn, then as you get farther into the turn, it will follow your motorhome. So in a right turn, the toad will swing out to the left before starting its right turn.

Extremely nimble cars— those that naturally oversteer— will tend to try to trip themselves. As you start a right turn, the RV's tailswing pulls the toad a bit to the left first, and the toad's wheels turn to the left. But as you continue into the turn, the wheels don't want to straighten up and continue to the right, they want to continue to the left, all the way. Thus you're dragging the car rather than towing it, and your tires are doomed. The usual fix is to put bungee cords on the steering wheel to force the steering to center itself. But a car that naturally under-steers doesn't need the bungee cords; the steering tends to self-center all by itself. I first saw that phenomenon on a Smart Car, which completely took it out of the running when I was looking for a toad.
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Old 11-29-2013, 08:59 AM   #7
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......... That bit about front-end alignment making a difference goes double for a motorhome with a long rear overhang.....
Nice post, could you please explain your reference to front end alignment, MH alignment?, toad alignment?, or both.
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Old 11-29-2013, 09:19 AM   #8
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Nice post, could you please explain your reference to front end alignment, MH alignment?, toad alignment?, or both.
Toad's front-end alignment. Bad alignment can prevent the toad from tracking straight while being towed.

Some vehicles have caster/camber adjustment that keeps them from tracking straight even when correctly aligned, unless you bungee-cord the steering wheel to make it pull the front wheels back to the center position after a turn.
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Old 11-29-2013, 09:26 AM   #9
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Toad's front-end alignment.......
Thanks, we tow a 2 door Wrangler and have not had any tracking issues. It seems like the lighter toads might be at greater risk of squaring off the front tires.
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Old 11-29-2013, 06:34 PM   #10
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I towed a 76 (I think)Subaru 4X4 wagon. Towed great down the road, but hit a dip/bump while turning and the steering would go to (left/right)lock. Would sometime do it with a bungee cord on the steering wheel. Was still the funnest toad I every had.
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