It’s imperative to do the research before purchasing a dinghy vehicle
Unless you own stock in Uber or Lyft (or you really like bicycling or walking), we’re guessing you’d prefer to drive your own vehicle once you arrive at your destination on your motorhome holiday. It’s for this reason that dinghy towing remains so popular — it allows you to explore your surroundings without breaking camp, and can be a blessing if your motorhome breaks down.
But before you choose a vehicle for dinghy towing, you’ll need to decide what type of vehicle you want to tow, and if you want to go new or used. For example, if you like traveling to out-of-the-way places, you might consider an SUV. Or, if the motorhome’s towing capacity is limited, perhaps you want the smallest, lightest car you can find.
Everyone loves that new-car smell, but consider that your shiny gem will be towed behind a motorhome that kicks up dirt, sand, road salts, gravel, tar and even paint that can damage the finish. Add to this the potential for a rogue hailstorm, and you can see why many RVers prefer to buy a used dinghy.
Once you’ve decided on what to buy, the next step is to find out if it’s towable. Many vehicles can’t be towed with all four wheels on the ground because damage to the automatic transmission can result. This is especially concerning in newer vehicles — which may have sophisticated drive systems and/or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) — so make sure the vehicle is towable before committing to a purchase. You can do this by looking in the vehicle’s owner’s manual (usually under “towing” or “recreational towing”) for the specific car you’re considering. You can also visit www.motorhome.com and download a copy of the dinghy guide for your vehicle model year. Most manual-transmission models are towable, but not all of them — so again, due diligence is required. It’s best to check all sources before signing on the dotted line.
You may have seen or heard of some vehicles being towed that are not in the dinghy towing guide and/or may not even be approved for towing, and wondered how that is even possible. Some manufacturers haven’t tested their vehicles to see if they can be flat towed for an extended period of time, so it’s easier (for them) just to recommend against it. In other cases, it may be possible, depending on the vehicle and its engineering limitations. Remco, for example, offers fluid pumps for some transmission applications that will make towing possible. Keep in mind, however, that the vehicle manufacturer won’t warranty any kind of drivetrain damage caused by dinghy towing if the practice isn’t explicitly approved in the owner’s manual — so you’ll be on your own if something goes wrong.
Next is the matter of the vehicle’s electrical system. In order for the steering wheel to be unlocked so the front wheels can turn with the motorhome, the ignition key often must be switched to the “ACC” (accessory) position, which can drain the vehicle’s battery. Some manufacturers call for the removal of specific fuses to prevent this from happening, while others require the negative battery cable to be removed, which may require things like the clock and radio stations to be reset when it’s reconnected (another good reason to carefully review the owner’s manual). There are, however, aftermarket products that allow you to effectively disconnect the fuses and/or battery with the flip of a switch, and charge-line kits that will prevent the vehicle’s battery from going dead while in transit. It’s just a matter of how much trouble and/or expense you’re willing to endure to tow a given vehicle.
With a little research and the right products, you’ll be among the many who enjoy touring the countryside via motorhome and dinghy.