While large motorhomes are appealing for their amenities, luxury, and interior space, they are large to navigate and park. They make for a great home base, but you will probably need another set of wheels for exploring the sights away from the campsite.
Seasoned RVers can offer a lot of advice when it comes to towing a toad, also referred to as a dinghy. We answer the most pressing questions, plus address equipment, safety, and general tips.
What is the best “toad”?
There are a lot of options for vehicles. Generally, you want to think about something small and easy to tow, which will make towing easier. One of the biggest considerations is the vehicle’s drivetrain. Some manufacturers recommend you do not tow a certain vehicle. In that case, buy a tow folly that can lift two wheels off the ground – instead of driving flat on four wheels – and avoid damaging the drivetrain. Off-roaders naturally gravitate to the Jeep Wrangler. As long as you have the appropriate equipment and you’re comfortable with the extra length beyond the point of your motorhome, you have your choice of cars, crossovers, SUVs, and even smaller vans.
How is a toad towed?
There are three ways you can do this, which were briefly discussed in the previous question. But first, there are several basic items to safety pull the car: a trailer hitch (if your RV didn’t come with one) and electrical connections (pin connectors are usually already installed near the hitch). You can tow the dinghy with four wheels down, with a tow dolly, or with a car hauler.
Four down – flat towing or dinghy towing –requires a small tow bar, base plate kit, wiring kit, safety cables, and supplemental braking system. The biggest issue, as stated, is your toad’s transmission and whether it’s designed to be towed behind a motorhome. The Dinghy Towing Guide can help you determine this. Plan to spend up to $2000 for all this equipment.
A tow dolly is used mainly for vehicles with front-wheel drive. The front two wheels of the car are on the dolly and the rear wheels stay on the road. There are several pieces of equipment you’ll need if you plan to use a tow dolly: ratchet straps and safety chains. Most dollies come with attached ramps, making loading a cinch. Your state may require a license for the dolly, so make sure to check ahead of time.
A car hauler is great for pulling all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicles. A car hauler is a trailer with two axles and low or no rails. Many come equipped with ramps and braking systems. If the electric brake system, then you’ll need a separate brake controller for the RV. A car hauler also requires a license. What can be tricky is finding space to store the car hauler at the campsite while you’re camping, especially if the site doesn’t pull through. On the plus side, a car hauler helps save wear and tear on your dinghy’s engine, transmission, and wheels.
Tips for Before You Leave
Practice: When you get an RV, especially if you’re brand new to RVing or you’ve changed RVs and the new one is longer than your previous one, then we recommend you take some practice runs before you embark on your first trip – practice backing up, taking turns, gather general awareness of your surroundings as you drive, and get used to how your RV handles (more tips). We recommend practicing towing a toad, as well, because it adds a new dynamic. First of all, it extends the length of your RV. It can also travel differently than your RV depending on how it’s connected (as explained in previous section, “how is a toad towed”).
Take your time hooking up: Practice this a few times before your first trip. Don’t allow for any distractions and carry a checklist so that you don’t forget any steps. Make sure the lights are working. Be sure the vehicle is freewheeling and in neutral before it’s going to be towed. Not doing so will result in ruined brakes and ruined tires. Also, keep the parking brake on while hooking up the dinghy. After you’re hooked up, check the lights (and toad brakes) for the toad every day spent traveling.
Tips for on the Road
Watch your turns: You don’t want to run over a curb or scrap against a stop sign. Don’t take any sharp turns until you know that both sides of the hitch arms are locked in place. Depending on the lengths from the coach’s rear axle to the hitch, and the length of the tow bar, the toad may tend to cut corners, especially if it’s four down. You’ll need to take wider turns. The toad should follow behind alright on the highway, just watch it carefully using the backup camera.
Watch distance: You could be 60-80 feet long when it’s all said and done. Take extra time and caution when passing another vehicle, and avoid from doing so when there is construction or tight lanes. Be cautious when switching back to the right lane after you pass someone; wait until the car is far, far behind you. There’s no rush to get back over. Check and recheck your backup camera and side mirrors. Take your time speeding up and slowing down, too – you have a lot of weight to start and stop and it’ll take you longer than you think.
Take care on driveways: If you’re visiting someone and the driveway doesn’t have a turnaround, you may want to park on the road (if it’s safe). Many driveways approaches are too steep for a motorhome to drive straight into, meaning you’ll drag either the bottom of the rig, the tow bar, or both, as you make your ascent. It may be better to park the motorhome somewhere or leave it at the campsite, and take the toad to make your visit.
Use the backup camera: When you’re traveling, double check how the vehicle is doing on a regular basis. As part of routine, one RVer on a forum shared that he likes to turn up the volume when first starting out so that he could listen for any squeals or strange noises. Once things are settled, he turns the sound back down.
Don’t back up: You can’t back up when you have a road hitched up to your RV. Be careful pulling into RV parks and gas stations. Basically, know your exit before you enter. You don’t want to be stuck in a sticky situation and blocking traffic or potentially causing damage.
Tips for at the Campsite
Try not to arrive at the campsite after dark. It’s too difficult to see and set up. When you arrive at the campsite, unhook the toad before backing into your spot. One RVer shared that it’s a good idea to use gloves to disconnect it, especially if the motor is at the back of the motorhome. The tow bars get hot from the motor exhaust. Use a spotter to help you back in, trusting them to tell you what’s on your left, right, and above of the RV. For this important process, communication by radio is quicker and louder than trying to use hand signals.
Care Tips for the Toad
Your toad needs to stay in tip-top shape so that it travels well on the road and can give you the flexibility you need when you reach your destination. It’s particularly important if it’s a vehicle you drive regularly at home. So, keep your tires in good condition, replace lights, keep up on oil changes, and have toad transfer case fluid condition and level checked frequently. Some RVers note to expect to change fluid at about half the recommended interval.