Vehicles You Can and Cannot Tow 4 Wheels Down

How to Properly Tow Your 4 Wheel Drive Vehicle

Man driving off-road vehicle over rocks
(Karen D'Silva/Getty Images)

If you travel a lot and you own a 4-wheel drive vehicle like a Jeep, Toyota TJ, Ford Explorer or any other 4x4 vehicle that you like to play with offroad, chances are you'll want to tow your 4-wheel drive vehicle along with you instead of driving it to the offroad destination. That being said, if you regularly go to far away locations to explore various off-road trails and don't want to sleep in your jeep, then this is a given if you'll be traveling in a motorhome or RV.

4 Wheels Down

Towing a vehicle 4 wheels down (also referred to as "dinghy towing" or "toading" by some hardcore offroaders) has many advantages and is becoming more and more popular. Perhaps it's because this method of towing has little or no effect on the handling, gas mileage, or overall wear of your coach. Not only that, when you tow a vehicle along with your motorhome it gives you the freedom to go sightseeing, shopping, or exploring on a whim without having to take that huge house on wheels with you.

4 Wheels Up

On the other hand, to tow your vehicle 4 wheels up (meaning the wheels are off the ground), you'd have to purchase a trailer, and towing 2 wheels up (meaning the front wheels are off the ground) comes with its own share of inconveniences from using a tow dolly.

Towing 4 Wheel Drive

Without a doubt, the Saturn appears to be #1 choice of a vehicle to tow among most RVers, but what about those who want to tow their 4 wheel drive vehicle? Towing a Jeep with all wheels down has simple instructions.

The best tow vehicle is one that can be towed with its wheels on the ground, is relatively lightweight, and doesn’t register miles while being towed. The lighter the vehicle is, the less wear and tear on the RV and towing system. Does your 4WD qualify?

Check These Lists

  • Motor Home Magazine provides a list of tow-able pickups and SUVs that is updated each year in their Jan/Feb issue (and online). You can also find their list of towable vehicles from previous years there as well.
  • These are vehicles that are factory approved by their manufacturers for towing behind a motor home. Some vehicles require special procedures which must be followed, including speed and distance limitations.
  • Trailer Life compiles annual factory tow ratings for trucks, sport utility vehicles, vans, and automobiles. Here you can find tow-rating data for 1999 through the current model year. For tow ratings prior to 1999, you get year-specific data directly from them.
  • Bob's Travel Center maintains a Tow Vehicle Guide which lists the towing limits for current-year makes & models.

Non-Approved Vehicles

Most vehicles that are NOT approved by their manufacturers for towing on all four wheels can still be towed using aftermarket accessories such as a cable-operated drive shaft-disconnect device (rear-wheel-drive vehicles only), a drive shaft-disconnect device, or free-wheeling hubs (front-wheel drive).

Bottom Line

The general consensus on towing is that you can tow any front wheel drive manual transmission vehicle as far as you want and as long as you want. As an added precaution, you might want to consider a Lube Pump or Axle Lock to ensure that no transmission damage will occur.

Most 4WD vehicles with a manual transmission, manual transfer case and manual lock out hubs can be towed on all four wheels safely with no problems.

If your 4WD has no manual lockout hubs and/or no manual transfer case, then you will need a coupling device on the rear drive shaft to tow it safely.

Knowing what you can or can not tow 4 wheels down could help save you a lot of money in repair bills.