Welcome to our Towing Systems Resource Page
A towing system includes everything from the hitch, to the towbar, to the baseplate, to the wiring. We also help you make decisions about optional accessories. This resource page is designed to give you the information that you need to make informed decisions about Towing systems for your particular application.
We currently have installation videos up on our Towing Systems Videos page to the right of this paragraph.
Towing Systems 101
Towing a vehicle behind a motorhome requires a complete system that includes a connection point on the RV, a method of connecting the towed vehicle to the RV, safety and breakaway protection, proper lighting and control function and a method of braking the towed vehicle. Of course, knowledge about what can be safely towed behind the RV, whether a vehicle is "towable” and what particular issues that need to be addressed with respect to the towed vehicle when towing must all be addressed. For more information on these aspects we refer you to the respective owner’s manuals for the RV and the prospective Tow Vehicle. A good comprehensive discussion is found in our book: "All the Stuff you Need to Know about RVing”. Always choose safety as your primary selection criteria when making a decision of this magnitude.
The Tow System:
A tow system is comprised of a number of components.
The Hitch Receiver on the RV: Typically this receiver is installed by the RV maker or the chassis maker. It is securely mounted onto the RV’s chassis so that it can pull the weight of a towed vehicle. It is important to comply with the ratings found on the receiver and the RV so that you are complying with the safety requirements. This Hitch Receiver is delivered with the RV. Usually it is a 2” size that accepts industry standard components. Some very large buses use a 2-1/2” size.
The Tow Bar: This component is the physical connection between the RV’s hitch receiver and the towed vehicle’s connection point (called a baseplate or towing bracket). Some tow bars are a fixed style, usually having a fixed length and fixed width between the connection points. Some are mounted on the tow vehicle when it is not being towed, others remain on the RV and all can be removed. The most popular style is one that has movable and adjustable arms that make connecting and disconnecting the Towed Vehicle much easier.
Safety Cables: For safety reasons and to comply with the law in many States and Provinces, an additional method of connecting the towed vehicle to the RV is required. This is accomplished by safety cables, which are equipped with hooks of various styles and may be coiled to keep them up off the road, especially in situations where one side may be longer and the other shorter, such as in turns. These cables must carry a rating equivalent or exceeding the tow bar’s so that in the event that the towbar disconnects or breaks the towed vehicle can be safely controlled.
Baseplate or Tow Bracket: This component is installed onto the frame of the towed vehicle and provides the connection points to the tow bar. Installation of it will most likely will require some relatively straight forward disassembly of the front fascia of the tow vehicle to access the frame and make the connection. Detailed instructions are provided by the baseplate maker. As an additional safety measure the baseplate should include some permanent safety cables to ensure that the baseplate remains secured to the frame of the towed vehicle in the event that the securing bolts, break or come loose. The connection points may be removable so that they do not show when the car is not being towed. Some brands place a support bar across the vehicle to provide additional support for the connection points.
Wiring: Safe towing of a vehicle behind a RV requires that the taillights, brake and signal lights of the tow car show the functions that are shown on the RV. Many modern RV’s have their rear lighting placed so that it can be visible even when towing a vehicle however the towed vehicle lighting must also be operative. Wiring runs from the front to the rear of the towed vehicle, often along the driver’s side door area under the door sill plate where the vehicle maker runs its electrical harness. For vehicles that have a LED taillight assembly, or one that does not allow an extra bulb to be installed, then the connection is made to the vehicle wiring using a diode lighting kit. If the taillight has a conventional bulb and there is suitable access, then an additional bulb is placed in the two lens assemblies of the towed vehicle. The wiring from the RV to the towed vehicle is run through a cable known as a cable extension. Usually this cable is coiled so that it does not drag during turns. It will have four or six wire connections. An adapter may be required to match the RV connection point. We recommend the six wire style for two reasons: One, the connection area is larger giving better conductivity and two, there may be the need for an additional wire transfer information/power between a braking system and the RV. Only four wires are needed for the lighting, thus up to two additional wires are available for other purposes.
Drop/Rise Receivers: Ideally the towbar should be level when connected between the RV and the towed vehicle. Combining the various RV types with the wide variation in Towed Vehicles can lead to situations where the connection points are not level. Generally a tolerance of 4” (10cm) is considered the maximum off level tolerance. For more than that distance, a drop or rise receiver is required. This receiver fits into the RV Hitch Receiver and moves the tow bar up or down to bring it closer to level. It is critical that this component be rated to handle the weight of the tow vehicle. A system is only as strong as its weakest link.
Other considerations: It is important to know that the makers take a systems approach to their towing system. They are also aware that for various reasons RVers may choose to adapt from one brand to another. The majority of the towing equipment makers can adapt their tow bar to another brand’s baseplate to tow bracket. A braking system while not a specific component of a "towing system” is an important component. See our Braking System Info Page for more details.