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Top 10 Towing Risks to Keep in Mind

Damaging a Towed Car
You should never ride inside (or outside) a towed trailer.
You should never ride inside (or outside) a towed trailer.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

There are many reasons you might need or want to tow a car behind a vehicle like an RV. There are three main options when towing a car with another vehicle. You could:

  • Use a tow bar to pull the car "four-wheels-down," also known as a flat tow
  • Use a tow dolly, which means only the car's rear wheels touch the road
  • Use a tow trailer, which carries the entire car "four-wheels-up"

If you use a tow trailer, you don't have to worry about damaging the towed car's transmission. Trailers also minimize the wear and tear on the towed car's tires. But trailers take up a lot of room and aren't as convenient as a tow bar when you just want to hop in the car and go sightseeing.

Before you use a tow bar, make sure the towed vehicle can travel four wheels down safely. Not all cars can travel four wheels down without suffering transmission damage. According to tow company Remco, any front-wheel-drive vehicle with a manual transmission is safe for towing four-wheels-down. The company suggests owners ask manufacturers if towing a specific vehicle four wheels down is safe and to get the answer in writing [source: Remco]. Cars with an automatic transmission may require a lube pump before they can be towed safely. And you may have to disconnect the driveshaft of a rear-wheel drive vehicle before flat-towing it.

Tow dollies can also damage a car if you don't take the proper precautions. If your car has rear-wheel, four-wheel or all-wheel drive, you may need to disconnect and remove your car's drive shaft prior to using a tow dolly. You should never attempt to back up with a tow dolly attached to your towing vehicle -- the risk of jackknifing is too great.

Finally, we'll look at the biggest risk you'll encounter when you're towing: trailer sway.