Many RVers enjoy the ability to flat-tow a vehicle behind their RV. The benefits are tremendous, particularly for those of us with very large motorhomes. Jeeps are very popular as “toads” or “dinghy vehicles”, but if you’re a proponent of flat towing like we are, knowing what Jeeps can be flat towed (some can’t!) is important.
So, today we’re jumping into the weeds to investigate which Jeeps are worth considering as flat-towed dinghies, and why.
- 1) What is Flat Towing?
- 2) Can Any Vehicle Be Flat Towed?
- 3) What Jeeps Can Be Flat Towed?
- 4) Which Jeep Models Can Not Be Flat Towed?
- 5) Why is Transmission Lubrication Critical to Flat Towing?
- 6) Can an Automatic Jeep Be Flat Towed Behind an RV?
- 7) Can I Flat Tow a Jeep Behind a Class C RV?
- 8) What is the Best Tow Bar for Flat Towing?
- 9) Final Thoughts
What is Flat Towing?
We’ve flat towed our Honda CR-V behind our motorhomes for close to a couple of decades now, and our lives wouldn’t be complete without our dinghy. Having a small vehicle with us is quite necessary not only for the purpose of navigating cities, catching dinner and a movie, grocery shopping and the like, but also to move us through some of the areas where only nature abides, in rough country that offers some fantastic experiences & places we’d never be able to visit in a large RV.
We’re proponents of flat towing for a number of reasons, and you can read our full post on towing a car behind an RV for a more complete perspective. But, in general, flat towing is simply towing a vehicle with all four wheels on the ground, sometimes referred to as “four-down towing”.
This involves attaching a suitable tow bar to a vehicle that can be flat towed and allowing the vehicle to ride behind the RV on all four of its own tires. There are several benefits to this method of towing, not the least of which are the ease and speed of connecting and disconnecting the tow vehicle, and the small amount of space (in most cases almost none) the entire system requires.
With flat towing, you don’t need to get your car up onto a tow dolly or trailer, so you save a lot of time and hassle. And because the components are far smaller than a dolly or trailer, you don’t need to worry about finding extra space at your campsite.
Can Any Vehicle Be Flat Towed?
No, not all vehicles can be flat towed. And just as today’s post explores what Jeeps can be flat towed specifically, it’s very important to research and understand clearly whether any vehicle you may be considering can be flat towed. Flat-towing a vehicle that is unsuitable for the purpose is likely to result in significant damage to your tow vehicle, and can even be dangerous.
Our post on what cars can be flat towed behind an RV noted that the best resource for identifying cars that are approved for flat towing is the annual Motorhome Magazine Dinghy Towing Guide, which covers vehicles manufactured over the past 30+ years. But even after checking the dinghy towing guide, there’s no more important place to confirm that flat towing is allowed than an individual vehicle’s owner’s manual.
What Jeeps Can Be Flat Towed?
Jeeps are among the most popular vehicles to tow behind an RV, with the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee the most common. Let’s take a look at which Jeeps can be flat towed, and which cannot.
While this is a general guide based on information that is current at the time we’re writing this post, and is based on our best research, the only way to be sure that any vehicle is safe for flat towing is to check the owner’s manual for that vehicle.
You also need to be aware of your RV’s towing capacity as well as the weight of the towed vehicle you’re considering.
An owner’s manual may also have specific instructions related to towing which must be followed. You may be instructed to remove particular fuses, leave the keys in the ignition, or take other actions to ensure safe towing of the vehicle, for example. Make sure that you’re aware of all manufacturer’s specifications related to towing before hooking up a tow bar.
Speaking of tow bars, in addition to making sure you can use a tow bar with your particular setup, you’ll also need to confirm that you’re installing a base plate that’s compatible. Most of the Jeep models that are capable of being flat towed appear to be compatible with base plates from the major towbar manufacturers (we think Roadmaster is the best). But again – you always need to confirm that the towing equipment you purchase is safely compatible with your setup.
And finally, keep in mind that the specifics of all vehicle models – Jeeps included – may vary from year to year. The fact that you were able to flat-tow a particular Jeep model from the past does not mean that the model you’re currently considering can be towed. Always confirm definitively that the vehicle you’re planning to flat tow is capable of safely being flat towed.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at several Jeep models as we continue our investigation into what Jeeps can be flat towed.
The Jeep Wrangler is among the most popular toads on the road. Prominently featured in our post on the best vehicle to tow behind your RV to maximize exploration, the versatility of the Wrangler on any terrain is hard to beat. In fact, the Jeep Wrangler offers a couple of trim levels (the JK and JL) that offer 4WD (four-wheel drive) for really maximizing exploration out in the backcountry. These are also great vehicles for RVers who travel in areas where the snow flies.
If you’ve got a couple of kids or a dog and a bunch of gear you want to carry – say for skiing or snowboarding – the Jeep Wrangler has plenty of cargo space for you, and that’s another plus.
The Wrangler’s ability to be flat towed makes it an incredibly popular choice for RVers who frequent areas where 4WD is useful and for folks who just like driving a Wrangler.
There are a few reasons to steer clear of a Jeep Wrangler, though: if you need more cargo space, or if you’re an RVer who tends to drive your toad for long distances (the Wrangler’s suspension doesn’t get high marks for smooth sailing… driven at highway speeds, in fact, a rough and loud ride is a common complaint among Wrangler owners).
But there’s another consideration you should be aware of where the Jeep Wrangler is concerned, and that’s the weight variation among its trim levels. Depending on the trim level chosen, the weight of a Wrangler can vary by as much as 2,000 pounds.
For some, this may not be a concern at all. But if you’ve got a Class C RV with a 5,000-pound tow capacity, you certainly don’t want to choose a 5,100-pound Jeep Wrangler as your tow vehicle. Yes – there are some Wranglers that are that heavy. And that brings us to a very important point.
If the GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) of any toad you’re considering, Wrangler or otherwise, is 80% or more of your RV’s maximum tow capacity, you’ll want to reconsider your options.
Remember – safety is everything, and you don’t ever want to be pushing your RV’s ratings for safe flat towing. Not ever.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Grand Cherokee is another of Jeep’s most popular vehicles. However, not all Grand Cherokee trim levels can be flat towed, so if you’re interested in the Grand Cherokee as your flat tow vehicle, you’ll need to be aware of a few very important considerations.
First, the only trim levels of the Jeep Cherokee that are safe for flat towing are those that have Quadra-Trac l and ll, or Quadra-Drive ll because these trim levels offer what’s called “4LO” (sometimes written as “4-LO”, “4-low”, or 4WD-low). This is a low-speed 4-wheel-drive, meaning that it provides more torque at low speed. 4LO offers an additional gear reduction that delivers more torque to both the front and rear wheels, and this is an important distinction.
The purpose of 4LO (low-range) is for very steep climbs or for getting out of a difficult spot in extreme off-road situations. (More torque doesn’t mean more traction, though, so slippery surfaces (snow, ice, mud) can be dangerous.
Without getting into the finer specifications of Quadra-Trac l and ll and Quadra-Drive ll, we strongly advise you to consult the owner’s manual of any Jeep Grand Cherokee you may be interested in looking at as your tow vehicle. You want to make sure you’re not voiding the manufacturer’s warranty for one thing, and more importantly, you never want to compromise safety, no matter how much you love a vehicle.
Finally, bear in mind the GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) of the Jeep Grand Cherokee as it compares to the towing capacity of your particular RV. These vehicles can weigh between 4,500 and 5,500 pounds, which not only pushes the flat tow limits of a Class C RV but also of some Class As.
In fact, we’ll go so far as to say that the Jeep Grand Cherokee should be reserved for only large, heavy Class A or Super C motorhomes with very robust tow packages when being considered as a flat tow vehicle. This leaves only a few models of the Jeep Grand Cherokee to be safely flat towed behind some of the largest Class A rigs on the road. Don’t hate us for saying this – we know you love the Jeep Grand Cherokee and we agree it’s a great vehicle. But, The RVgeeks will always put safety first.
The Jeep Cherokee is available in a number of trim levels. Only certain trim levels of the Cherokee are capable of being flat towed behind an RV, so once again, you’ll need to be familiar with the specifications of each trim level you’re considering.
Trim levels of the Jeep Cherokee that have a single-speed PTU (Power Transfer Unit) CANNOT be flat towed. These would include all 2WD (2-wheel-drive) trim levels.
You can only flat tow a Cherokee with a two-speed PTU (Power Transfer Unit).
The PTU is an AWD (all-wheel-drive) transfer case that allows power to be distributed to all four wheels (either part-time or full-time). Driving conditions determine how much power is distributed to the front and rear.
So, NO single-speed PTU Jeep Cherokee can be flat towed, (meaning no 2-wheel-drive trim levels or trim levels with any kind of transfer case other than a two-speed PTU).
If the Jeep Cherokee you’re considering has ActiveDrive ll or has a 2-speed PTU, you may be able to tow it behind your RV, though as always we recommend confirming this with your owner’s manual or Jeep dealership (we’ve read that there are actually some trim levels of the Jeep Cherokee that require the use of a Mopar tow kit specifically, otherwise you’ll be voiding the manufacturer’s warranty).
This is why we continue to repeat – perhaps to the point of being annoying – that you really must confirm definitively whether the vehicle you want to flat tow can be safely flat towed – and how. There are intricacies involved that you might not otherwise be aware of (which is why we’re likely to repeat this again before the end of this article).
Folks seem to like the fuel efficiency of the Jeep Patriot, and we can certainly understand that (especially these days). Fuel efficiency is one of the many things we appreciate about our Honda CR-V with manual transmission.
The Jeep Patriot averages around 23 mpg city and 27 mpg highway, and that alone makes it an attractive tow vehicle.
Another benefit of the Jeep Patriot as a tow vehicle is its weight. There are many RVs on the road that have a 5,000-pound tow capacity. With the Patriot weighing in at between 3,100 and 3,400 pounds, it’ll fit the bill for a smaller Class A or even for a Class C motorhome.
However, only the manual transmission models of the Jeep Patriot are capable of being safely flat towed behind your RV. Even so, there are a number of specifications related to flat towing which you’ll find in the Patriot’s owners manual, and failing to follow them may void the manufacturer’s warranty.
The Jeep Liberty is popular for its significant cargo space. If you need to drive several people or dogs or lots of gear, the Liberty has sufficient room to allow you to do so comfortably.
At 16 mpg city and 22 highway, it’s not the fuel-efficient vehicle the Patriot is, but sometimes priorities demand a more cavernous, less efficient vehicle. The Liberty is also heavier than the Patriot, weighing in at anywhere from 4,076 to 4,290 pounds.
Here’s the flat tow skinny on the Jeep Liberty, however: While you can flat tow a 4WD (4-wheel-drive) Liberty, the transfer case MUST be shifted into Neutral, with the transmission in Park.
2WD (2-wheel-drive) trim levels can only be flat towed if the driveshaft is removed/disconnected (requiring significant effort and/or third-party parts installation).
And – let’s sing it all together now – check the owner’s manual or consult your Jeep dealership to be sure you can safely flat tow the Jeep Liberty you’re considering, and to familiarize yourself with all specifications for flat towing that particular vehicle.
This one’s easy. All trim levels of the current Jeep Gladiator can be flat towed behind an RV. While this is great news for Gladiator loyalists, as you might expect there are some caveats here…
The Gladiator’s owner’s manual has very specific instructions for flat towing, and they must be followed to the letter unless you don’t mind risking your manufacturer’s warranty (which is never a good idea because specs and instructions are generally laid out with good reason) and the life/health of your Gladiator’s drivetrain.
To flat tow your Jeep Gladiator, you may need to have a flat towing package professionally mounted to the frame of the vehicle, for example. Otherwise, you may void the warranty which means that if your Gladiator is damaged due to improper towing techniques, you’ll be responsible.
All together now…to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy…
Check your owner’s manual or consult your Jeep dealership for details.
Which Jeep Models Can Not Be Flat Towed?
There are two Jeep models that aren’t worth considering when looking at vehicles that can be flat towed. These are the Compass and the Renegade:
Jeep Compass & Jeep Renegade
The Jeep Compass and the Jeep Renegade aren’t suitable for flat towing (no – not even if you shift them into Neutral).
With certain vehicles like these, towing with the drive wheels on the ground is likely to result in damage to the powertrain. (The powertrain consists of both the engine and the drivetrain. The drivetrain delivers the power to move the wheels.)
With the Compass and the Renegade, you’d probably want to have a dolly for the front-wheel-drive models or a trailer for the four-wheel-drive models. But you definitely – without question – do NOT want to flat tow either of these vehicles.
If you try to flat-tow a vehicle that isn’t suitable for flat towing, one significant issue you’re likely to encounter is an improperly lubricated transmission. And as you might imagine, this can result in serious damage.
Let’s take a look…
Why is Transmission Lubrication Critical to Flat Towing?
Some years back, and not all that long ago really, any vehicle with a manual transmission (and many vehicles with automatic transmissions) could be flat towed without risk to the transmission.
Not so with the newer generation vehicles that have advanced electronic features. The advent of multiple gear ratios has rendered many vehicles incapable of being safely flat towed, and that includes many manual transmission vehicles.
The main reason for this change involves the pump within the transmission. The job of this pump is to continuously supply oil to properly lubricate all components of the transmission. However, when the vehicle isn’t running, the pump isn’t running either, and therein lies the bulk of the problem.
When you’re flat towing a non-running vehicle (all four wheels on the ground), the differential and other internal components are forced to continually rotate without lubrication (vehicles with CVT – continuously variable transmission – are particularly sensitive to this issue).
So, in a newer model manual transmission, for example, you have the input shaft spinning the clutch, and lubrication continuously being distributed to internal components when the engine is running. However, when flat towing, the input shaft doesn’t spin because the engine isn’t running. But the rear wheels rolling along will spin the main shaft (yes, even with the transmission in neutral) without lubrication, thus damaging the transmission.
Our tow vehicle is a good example of this. Our 2002 Honda CR-V (manual transmission) has been flat towed behind our motorhome for about 18 years, and it remains in fantastic condition to this day. A CR-V makes a great tow vehicle, however, the newer model CR-Vs can’t be flat towed (if they could, we’d get a newer model when ours is ready for an upgrade!)
But this is the price of progress. Progress in one area sometimes exerts a cost in another area.
Can an Automatic Jeep Be Flat Towed Behind an RV?
Regardless of model or transmission option, the Jeep Wrangler or Jeep Gladiator can be flat towed. With either vehicle, you’ll likely need to depress the brake pedal and shift the transmission to Neutral, but as always consult your owner’s manual or your Jeep dealership for proper flat towing instructions.
Can I Flat Tow a Jeep Behind a Class C RV?
You can indeed flat tow several Jeep models and trims behind a Class C RV. As noted in several places in this article, the important consideration (in addition to choosing a model and trim that can be flat towed in the first place) is weight.
CONFIRM your Jeep tow vehicle’s GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) and your Class C RV’s tow capacity, and then follow all manufacturer’s instructions and specifications related to flat towing your tow vehicle.
As noted previously, the weights of many Jeep models vary significantly from trim to trim, so be careful to confirm that the trim of the model you’re interested in towing falls within a reasonable weight to be towed by your RV.
What is the Best Tow Bar for Flat Towing?
As we noted in detail in our post on the best tow bar for flat towing, the Roadmaster Nighthawk Towbar is the best tow bar for flat towing in our opinion. We come to this opinion with wide-ranging experience, having flat towed for nearly two decades. We’ve used several tow bars in that time, and the Roadmaster Nighthawk is our clear favorite.
First, the Nighthawks have non-binding latches which are TRULY non-binding (we’ve actually TRIED to make this tow bar system bind and we can’t!). Roadmaster’s Freedom Latch is a game-changer. It’s easy to use and non-binding every single time we unhook. Every time! (If you’ve ever dealt with tow bar binding, you’ll understand why we’re gushing here.)
And you don’t have to spring for the most expensive model to get the Freedom Latch feature. Less expensive models (listed as “All-Terrain” in Roadmaster lingo) include it as well.
We also love the prominent LED lights that run along the tow bar arms and are illuminated anytime our RV’s lights are on. This means that even in total darkness, traffic around us is alerted to the fact that we’re towing a vehicle behind our very long Class A motorhome – a safety feature that cannot be overstated.
There’s also an enclosed channel for the power cord and safety cables, keeping them all safely and conveniently at hand… another feature that makes this tow bar system outstanding.
And hooking up the Roadmaster Nighthawk is easy – check out our post on how to hook up your car to your RV tow bar for complete details.
Jeeps can make a fantastic tow vehicle for RVers, and they’re certainly a very popular choice. But the answer to the question of what Jeeps can be flat towed is somewhat complicated.
While it’s clear that not all Jeep models and trims can be flat towed, it’s safe to say that none of the 2WD (2-wheel-drive) models are suitable.
In an effort to simplify things a bit, we’d say that while many (perhaps most) of the 4WD (4-wheel-drive) Jeep models can be flat towed, NO Jeep (or any other vehicle) should be flat towed without confirmation from the vehicle’s owner’s manual or from your Jeep dealership (or both!) that the vehicle is flat towable AND how to properly set up the vehicle specifically for flat towing.
As we’ve seen throughout this extensive article, even within a model of Jeep, there may be certain engine/transmission combinations that are required for flat towing, while other combinations may not be flat-towable at all. And that can change from one model year to the next.
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