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Towing a vehicle with your RV

Towing a vehicle behind an RV offers another dimension to camping. There are many things to consider when deciding to tow a vehicle with your RV. Safety should be a primary concern.

There are many choices of tow bars, base plates, supplemental brake systems, etc. You must be careful to not overload the towing capacity of your RV. There may be state laws to follow too, and you must know if your vehicle can be towed or if it needs a trailer.

It’s with these things in mind and more that we’re providing a comprehensive overview of towing a vehicle via an RV. Please note though every application will be different, and you must ultimately determine all factors when choosing equipment and applicability.


You must determine if the vehicle you want to tow can actually be towed. Many vehicles aren’t capable of being towed with all tires on the ground. In those cases you need to decide if you want to use a trailer with your RV. Your towed vehicle owner manual has a section about recreational towing that describes how it can be towed.

The reason most people choose towing with all wheels on the ground is simplicity. If you use a trailer, you’ll have to find a place to store these items when not in use, and many RV parks don’t offer accommodations for trailer storage. You must also strap and unstrap the towed vehicle to the trailer every time you tow, but an advantage is these units can be equipped with brakes negating the need for a towed vehicle supplemental brake system.


Your RV is designed and rated by the manufacturer to tow maximum weights. These are usually listed on the driver door frame. The gross axle weight rating (GAWR) and gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) are critical to safe and reliable operation. To find out if your towing combination is within these limits, you’ll have to go to a vehicle scale location and weigh everything. The trailer hitch on your RV is also rated for a specific towing capacity. You need to check your owner manual specifications for the tow hitch weight limitations.


A tow bar is the device used to connect an RV to a towed vehicle. Tow bars come in two designs, and both perform the same function. Fixed arm style tow bars are inexpensive and indestructible. Telescoping arm tow bars jump in price, require minor maintenance, and can wear out over time, but offer easier hitching and self storage. Some telescoping designs fold up and remain on the RV while another has the tow bar folding and remaining on the towed vehicle.

When in use, a tow bar needs to be close to level. Tow bar manufacturers all have instructions stating it needs to be close to level. Your new tow bar will come with instructions including specifications for maximum deviation from level over the length of the bar. A base plate is the tow bar connection point on the towed vehicle. These are usually vehicle specific and manufactured by several companies. They mount to the towed vehicle frame, and you should be aware many vehicles will require modifications for installation of the base plate.


The need for supplemental brakes is widely debated. Some argue their vehicle is rated to tow well over the actual weight. Laws requiring supplemental brakes in a towed vehicle aren’t uniform in each state with no federal regulations as a guide. Some states have a performance standard requirement stating the ability to stop from a defined speed within a specified distance. So do you need supplemental brakes? Many people will say they believe they’ve saved them from multiple accidents so they’re nice to have as an extra safety precaution.


The reality is there isn’t a perfect supplemental brake system for everyone. Each has something someone else thinks another product handles better.

There are several manufacturers of systems that essentially sit on the floor of your towed vehicle and operate the brake pedal using inertia sensors and in a few designs, air pressure. An arm must be attached from the unit to the towed vehicle brake pedal every time you want to tow. You could also use a hybrid system that utilizes electronics and activators.

A lot depends on how often you tow and in what conditions. Will you be hitching and unhitching often, or is your plan to tow infrequently? If you want to tow different vehicles, a drop in floor system may be your solution since one can be moved from a vehicle to another. If you’ll be hitching and unhitching often, look into a system that’s easy to hook up. A supplemental system that requires routine installation and removal of the brake actuator arm inside the towed vehicle may not be for you when it’s raining or snowing. If you’ll be towing in icy conditions, you may want to consider a system that allows independent operation of the towed vehicles brakes.

You should also have a breakaway backup if your towed vehicle becomes unhitched. Many systems account for this in their design, but some require additional equipment.


You must have turn, running, and brake lights on your towed vehicle. Virtually all RVs have an electrical outlet that provides these circuits at the rear. Many people decided the easiest way to hook them up is to use magnetic mount lights with a wire running to the RV directly. Another option is to use the towed vehicle’s lights and tap into the lamp circuits. While this can be somewhat complicated, once installed, it’s the easiest way to hitch and go.

Determining which wire controls a circuit on the towed vehicle can be difficult. Damage to your towed vehicle’s electrical system could occur if wiring is installed incorrectly so it’s an important thing to know. When using a supplemental brake system, it’s possible for the operation to override the turn lamps causing the turn signals to stop flashing on the towed vehicle when the RVs brakes are applied. Some supplemental brake systems account for this with their design. Others require a fuse to be removed to deactivate the brake light circuit.

To simplify wiring, there are aftermarket products designed to “plug and play.” While these claims sound great, be aware it’s not always as easy as the sales information sounds. If you’re handy and understand low voltage applications, wiring your towed vehicle will take some time, but it’s not difficult. Wiring diagrams are available online for every type of towing application.


We’ve found towing a vehicle behind an RV is almost as easy as driving one alone. The issue becomes when you get into a situation where you need to back up. You can’t back up a flat towed vehicle unless it’s in a straight line. Then you’ll only make it a matter of feet at best. If you’re using a fixed arm tow bar, you may find it nearly impossible to become unhitched to get your towed vehicle out of the way to back up the RV.

Your RV won’t have the same acceleration, but with a supplemental brake system properly installed and adjusted, your stopping distance shouldn’t be affected. One issue we’ve heard occurring infrequently is a flat tire on the towed vehicle. Your RV is much wider than the towed vehicle, and you won’t be able to see it in the rear or side view mirrors. If the towed vehicle has a tire failure, it’s possible to travel for miles before realizing it. By then, the tire is completely destroyed and usually the wheel too. There are remote tire pressure sensors and monitors to inform you of tire pressure problems on your towed vehicle.

You may read reports of supplemental brake systems malfunctioning and applying the towed vehicle brakes. These reports are almost always accompanied by high repair costs for new brakes, rotors, tires, and even bearings and spindles. This problem could’ve almost certainly been avoided if the supplemental brake system was properly installed with a pedal pressure alarm. Unfortunately, the monitor is often left out of the installation as it must be wired physically from the towed vehicle to RV.