If you own a motorhome, you can tow just about anything with wheels or on wheels behind your motorhome (and some people do). Most travelers with a motorized RV soon come to realize that towing an auxiliary vehicle is almost a necessity when traveling. Without a separate vehicle, travelers who plan on staying in a campground for more than a night or two would need to unhook their motorhome to drive to attractions or for supplies.
Some travelers opt to bring bicycles or motorbikes along, but for more than two people that is not really practical.
Towed vehicles (or boats or even airplanes) are called by two different names that are interchangeable. You will hear them referred to as a “dinghy” or alternately as a “toad.”
Which Vehicles Can You Tow?
Just because you have a motorhome and can tow vehicles behind it does not mean that every vehicle can be towed. Check the owner's manual of the vehicle you are considering towing to see if the manufacturer recommends towing, or if there are special towing requirements that are needed so as to not void the warranty. Even if towing of the vehicle is an approved use, there may be some restrictions that need to be followed to prevent voiding the warranty. The restrictions may include the distance and speed at which the vehicle can be towed, or they may define the manner in which it can be towed.
Some cars can be towed with all four wheels on the ground. These vehicles can be towed using the simplest and least expensive towing apparatus: a tow bar. Depending on the vehicle being towed, you may also need a device to disconnect the car's drive shaft, an axle lock, or a pump to lubricate the car's transmission.
Varieties of Tow Bars
There are two types of commonly used tow bars. The most basic variety is the rigid A-frame tow bar. They are simple, lightweight, and dependable for towing vehicles. They are also the least expensive of tow bars. They can be more difficult to hook up to the car because they do not adjust or collapse. If you plan on towing only on an infrequent basis, the A-frame may be the best choice for your budget. Because they are rigid and not adjustable, you will need to have your towed vehicle in exactly the correct position for hookup.
The more common type of tow bar you are likely to see is the collapsible tow bar. Motorhome owners who travel frequently when towing a vehicle find these to be the easiest to hook up. The arms are adjustable, allowing you to hook up the vehicle even it is not perfectly centered for the hitch. The tow bar adjusts itself as the RV is driven away; the arms extend, self-center, and lock in place to tow the vehicle correctly.
There are two different types of collapsible tow bar. Traditionally, these tow bars have been mounted on the vehicle being towed. When the vehicle is not under tow, the tow bar folds back over the front of the vehicle for storage. As it is easier to use and operate, this type of tow bar is very popular.
Motorhome-mounted tow bars fold away on the rear of the RV for storage. They will never have to be lifted off the front of the car. The RV-mounted tow bar also eliminates major modifications to the car body or frame, a consideration for resale value.
With either type of towing system, you will also need safety chains or safety cable in case of tow bar failure. These must be rated for the weight of the vehicle you are towing. Vinyl-coated cables are a good choice for towing cars as they are lighter in weight and less likely to cause wear on the front of the car (particularly on the paint job) or on the tow bars themselves.
Whether you are using chains or cable, you will always affix one end to the mounting bracket of the towed vehicle and the other end to the receiver of the motorhome. They are then loosely crossed beneath the coupler. This forms a cradle that supports the tow bars in the event of a failure. They must be slack enough for cornering but should not be so loose that they drag.
When towing a vehicle behind your motorhome, you will also need to have wiring hookups from the motorhome to the towed vehicle for the turn signals and brake lights. Many motorhomes come equipped with this equipment installed.