Before you begin the process of purchasing and setting up a vehicle to tow behind your motorhome, you want to be sure that your
dinghy towing set-up will be safe. Sadly, there's no "quick 'n' easy" way to do this, but you wouldn't want it to be. Safety is not something you want to cut corners on. To many times we see RV'ers use the logic that their motorhome is very big and it should easily handle towing something no matter what the size. But the truth is, many motorhomes are almost at their weight limits before they ever leave the showroom floor. Throw in personal items, food, interior and outdoor accessories and your motorhome might not be safe to tow certain size vehicles.
Weigh Your Options
Before deciding on a dinghy, take your motorhome to the scales with it's normal load of water, fuel, occupants and accessories. All truck stops have easily accessible scales and it only costs a few dollars to use them. If possible try to find a set that is wide enough to allow you to make a second pass with only the right or left side wheels on the scales. This will give you both front and back wheel weights along with side to side weights. It is import to balance out the load and keep your motorhome within the set axle limits of it's chassis. Just because your RV has a hitch installed does not mean it can tow every vehicle, take the time to ensure your tow vehicle will not take you over the motorhome's gross towing weight rating and or the gross vehicle weight rating. Make sure you don't exceed your tow limits. Granted, weight alone isn't the only factor to consider, but you can eliminate a lot of tow vehicle searching by making this your first step. Just remember that you should be looking at your coach's towing limits, not your tow hitch's limits. While the tow-hitch limit is important, it won't matter how much it can pull if your coach isn't rated for your dinghy!
Towing and Warranties
Before you finalize the purchase of your dinghy, think about how you intend to tow it. While many vehicles will do fine on a dolly or trailer, if you plan to flat-tow it you should check with the owner's manual for suitability before committing. You can wind up violating your warranty by flat-towing a car that isn't certified for it. Some cars might be okay for towing only with certain after-market accessories, such as a transmission lube pump to help keep the transmission cool during towing. It's always best to do research and ask the vehicle manufacturer or dealer if you are unsure.
If your coach already has a hitch installed, the ratings should already be listed on it. If you have to supply your own, check it's weight rating against the heaviest load you intend to tow, remembering that it needs to also meet your coach's limit. However, the ride height of your coach will probably not match the ride height of your dinghy. You'll need a drop-hitch to make sure the towing and ride height are the same. They generally come in 2 inch to 10 inch height variations. Also, make sure it uses good Grade-5 bolts, and don't skimp on the thread-locker. Out on the open road is the
last place you want them walking out!
There are two types of tow bars; A-frame and self-aligning. Which one you get depends on your budget. A-frame tow bars, available as "solid" or "folding", are the most economical and are quite strong, but they are heavy and require storage space to be made available. They also have a limited number of applications, usually having to be attached to specific makes and models of baseplates. The folding kind will fit a wider range of vehicles than the solid versions, but the applications are still limited.
Self-aligning tow bars also come in two varieties; coach-mounted and dinghy-mounted. The names pretty much tell you the differences between the two. The coach-mounted versions are generally regarded as more desirable because they make hitching a one-person operation. The self-aligning tow bars adapt to a significantly wider range of baseplates, so all you have to do is find out from the manufacturer if they offer baseplates for your dinghy.
Baseplates can be the most labor-intensive part of setting up for towing. Hitches and tow bars are intended for a wide variety of applications, but baseplates are specific to your dinghy. You can't take the baseplate you used to tow your 1987 Yugo and expect it to tow your 2014 Dodge Durango. Installing a baseplate will require some tool knowledge. Some vehicles need to have the front bumper removed for proper installation while others may require drilling into the bumper and trimming bumper fascias, grills, and/or splash guards to get a proper installation. The good news to all of this is that modern baseplates tend to blend in with the vehicle's lines and are barely noticeable.
Also remember that all 50 states require safety chains and cables on top of this. They should be firmly secured to the dinghy, crossed under the tow-bar, and then onto the hitch. They need to be long enough to allow the complete turning radius without binding, but not long enough to drag on the ground.
Retrofits and Other Options
If your dinghy is not rated for flat towing, you still have options. Many existing vehicles can be made flat tow-able by using retrofit equipment. Rear-wheel drive and Four-wheel drive vehicles can benefit from an after-market coupler that disconnects the drive shaft with a the pull of a lever. Automatic transmissions, especially older ones, will often require a transmission lube pump to keep the gears cool and lubed as the gears spin while being towed. Dollies and trailers are alternatives to flat towing, but they take up valuable space when you stop to camp, plus you have to count the dolly or trailer weight when calculating your towing weight. Dinghy braking devices are highly recommended and legally required in most states for safety and towing control, but RV underskirts and rock guards are optional and help to protect your dinghy from road debris.
There are many ways to safely take your dinghy along on your road trip. To find out what's right for you, and to see what else is available to make your trip safe and enjoyable,
contact us today!