Flat towing vehicles behind a motorhome is a necessity for many RVers. And in this article we’ll cover the top three things that you’re going to need for RV flat towing.
Now when we say flat towing, what does that mean? Well, what we’re talking about is towing a vehicle behind your RV. And it has all four tires on the ground.
So that’s what flat towing means. Now let’s get started on the list of the top three things you’ll need for flat towing.
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Table of Contents
- Flat Towing Vehicles – Tow Bar And Base Plate
- What About Installation?
- Flat Towing Vehicles – What About Weight?
- Flat Towing Vehicles – The Braking System
- Built-In Braking Systems
- Flat Towing Vehicles – Inertia Braking Systems
- Inertia Braking Cons
- Flat Towing Vehicles – Lighting Systems
- Auxiliary Lighting Systems
Flat Towing Vehicles – Tow Bar And Base Plate
Number one, you are going to need a tow bar and a base plate to make flat towing a success.
The tow bar goes in the hitch of your RV and has arms that extend out. Then the base plate attaches to your towed vehicle.
And the base plate is what the arms of the tow bar connect to. Then it can pull your vehicle down the road safely.
Now before you buy any vehicle out there, make sure that a base plate is available for it. The reason I say that is these days it’s hard even getting tow vehicles. Especially with the supply chain issues we are facing now.
But even if you get the vehicle, you may find that the base plate is not available for some reason.
So before you get any tow vehicle make sure you can get the base plate to connect to that vehicle for your tow bar to connect to.
What About Installation?
Now the next thing to decide is whether you’re going to install the base plate yourself or not.
Now if you’re not really mechanically inclined, I have a suggestion for you. You probably should have someone who knows what they’re doing do it for you.
That’s because base plates require a lot of alteration in many cases to the
towed vehicle. Sometimes things have to be cut out or screwed in to make it work.
And if you don’t know what you’re doing you may not do it right. So first off, decide whether you’re going to install it or not.
If you’re not going to do it, get somebody who’s really good about making those kind of alterations to vehicles. And have them do it instead.
Flat Towing Vehicles – What About Weight?
Then the next thing is to get a tow bar that fits that vehicle. Now the reason I say that is that some vehicles are very light. Like a Fiat 500. And almost any tow bar is going to work with that.
But suppose you want to pull a full-size truck. Well then, that’s quite a bit more weight.
And you probably should make sure that you get a really heavy duty tow bar that’s going to fit that kind of weight. So match the tow bar with the weight of your vehicle.
The next thing to consider is what brand are you going to buy. And there’s two major brands on the market. One is Blue Ox and the other is Roadmaster.
Honestly, either one is great. But you’re going to hear from people that say this one’s better or that one’s better.
The reality though, is they both are used extensively by RVers all over the place. And with very good success. So just make your choice and go with it. You really can’t go wrong either way.
Flat Towing Vehicles – The Braking System
Alright, so that’s your tow bar and base plate. Now the second thing you’re going to need is a braking system for that towed vehicle.
And that’s because when you’re going down the road, the car is not on. It’s turned off. And there’s no way for the brakes to be working in any way while you’re traveling down the road.
So you have to come up with a braking system for it. Because it’s a whole additional weight that you’re pulling back there.
If there’s braking on the towed vehicle, it makes it so much easier for the RV’s brakes. Now you have a couple of choices here for braking for your towed vehicle.
Built-In Braking Systems
Number one, you can get a built-in system that’s super easy and super convenient when you’re towing. Because all you have to do is just plug it into the RV’s wiring harness. And you’re ready to go.
View an RV flat towing built-in braking system here
So when you put the brakes on up in the RV, the brakes go on back in the towed vehicle as well. It’s all very easy, and very convenient.
Then when you’re done traveling, you just unhook and you’re done. However, those kind of built-in braking systems are a real challenge to install.
They’re not easy at all. And because of that, the installation can be very
expensive. Because they don’t go in real quick either.
In fact, a very experienced person may take several hours of installation time. And of course, we know how expensive that can be when mechanics
are doing that.
So it can be expensive to get a built-in towed vehicle braking system. But also to have it installed as well.
Flat Towing Vehicles – Inertia Braking Systems
So there’s another way to go here that you could choose. And that is to choose an inertia brake instead.
View an RV inertia braking system here
Inertia brakes are really just braking devices that fit right in front of your driver’s seat. And usually it has an arm that comes out and attaches to the brake pedal.
Here is another type of RV inertia braking system
Now it works on inertia. So when you put on the brakes in a car you lurch a little forward usually, right?
When the inertia brake detects that there’s a lurching forward, it pushes that arm and depresses the brake pedal.
So suppose you put on the brakes in the RV and and lurch forward some? Then in the towed vehicle, that device senses it and it puts the brake on back there too. And generally they work pretty well in most situations.
Inertia Braking Cons
But here’s the con with those kind of inertia brakes. They must be set up every time you tow. You can’t just leave it in there.
It’s not a set it and forget it device. You’ve got to put it in and take it out every time that you tow.
But the good news is that it can be transferred from one vehicle to another. So it’s not like a built-in braking system. Because it’s really hard to take that out once you’ve installed it.
And that’s because you’ve made it part of your braking system. With an inertia brake though, if you decide you want a different tow vehicle back there, just change the vehicle and the inertia brake can be used with it.
So it’s very convenient in that respect. But it takes a lot more work to put it in and take it out of the towed vehicle every time.
So when it comes to braking, you have your choice. Do you want the convenience of just plugging in every time, in a matter of minutes? And then being ready to go for your braking?
Or do you want to save money with the inertia brake? Because they’re much less expensive than buying the built-in brake and having it installed. So that’s your choice.
Flat Towing Vehicles – Lighting Systems
Now let’s move to our third thing that we are going to need for flat towing. And that is a lighting system for the towed vehicle.
So that when you put the brakes on in the RV, the brake lights in back of the towed vehicle come on too. That way people can see that you are stopping. Or when you put your turn signals on so they see that you’re turning.
Now once again there’s two options you could go with. There is a built-in option. And it’s going to require a lot of installation.
It’s not quite as involved as the braking system. But it’s going to be expensive to have someone install it for you.
Now if you do it yourself, that’ll be fine. But you better know what you’re doing when you tie in to your towed vehicle’s electrical system.
The good news is that once you do, all you do is just hook into the motorhome wiring harness. And your towing lights are all set.
Then when you put on your turn signals in the RV, they go on in the towed vehicle too. And when you put on your brakes in the RV, the lights go on back there too. And the same with your driving lights as well.
So it’s very easy, very convenient. And just plug and play so to speak. However, there is also another way to go.
Auxiliary Lighting Systems
You can buy an auxiliary lighting system instead. And these are usually made up of magnetic lights that go on the back of the towed vehicle.
They usually sit right up there on the roof. They just stick on with the provided magnets.
And then there’s a wiring system that hooks into the wiring harness of the RV. Now the great thing about these auxiliary lights is that they’re super inexpensive.
View a set of auxiliary towing lights here
In fact, they’re only about 20 or 30 dollars for a set. And you’re off to the races.
The con is that you’re going to have to set them up every single time you tow. And you have to be careful with where you place them.
Because if you put the wiring on your vehicle’s paint, sometimes the movement of the wind can cause the wiring to scar the paint. So you have to be careful with the way that you set it up every time.
And here again there’s a choice to be made. Are you going to spend the money to have a built-in lighting system installed? Or are you going to
use the auxiliary lighting instead? It’s entirely up to you.
Well, those are three things you’re going to need to think about before you get that towed vehicle. Lets review them briefly:
- A base plate and tow bar that fits your towed vehicle
- A braking system for the towed vehicle
- A lighting system for the towed vehicle
What I recommend is, before you buy whatever vehicle you’re getting, do your homework.
Number one, find out if that vehicle can be flat towed. Because not all of them can.
If it can, find out if it has a base plate available for it. And then choose your tow bar and base plate.
After that, you have two more decisions to make. Are you going to put in a built-in braking and lighting system? Or use an auxiliary one instead. There’s pros and cons either way you go.
Well that’s it for now. Have safe and happy travels. Until next time…..