If you own an older motorhome, especially one high in mileage, there’s a likelihood that it could break down while on the road. Even if you consider yourself a decent backyard mechanic, there could be a time when your wrenching skills won’t cut the mustard, and you’ll be forced to tow your trailer. This unfortunate event can cause an enormous amount of stress if you don’t have a clue how to do it safely.
Being prepared for a motorhome breakdown can lessen your mental load while driving your home on wheels. In this article, we’ll cover how to tow your broken motorhome, as knowing how to tow a broken RV or motorhome will come in handy for beginner and seasoned RVers alike.
The Towing Capacity Is a Crucial Factor in Towing a Broken RV
Regardless of the best method, you’ll need to know the towing vehicle’s towing capacity. This can be easily accomplished by looking at the driver’s side door frame with two different weights listed. Here you’ll find the Gross Combined Weight Rating and the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating.
These numbers tell you exactly how much weight the vehicle’s engine and chassis can safely tow. Using some simple math, you’ll arrive at the weight the towing vehicle can haul. Never try to tow a motorhome heavier than the towing vehicle can handle. Doing so can cause damage to the towing vehicle, or worse, can cause an accident due to trying to haul too much weight.
Safely Towing a Broken RV Depends on Your Motorhome’s Class
There are four classes of motorhomes, and knowing which class yours is will be crucial when towing a broken motorhome. The most important information when towing a broken RV is the vehicle’s weight. The vehicle specifications below are a generalization. When towing your motorhome, please refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the exact weight and length.
No matter which motorhome class you own, if you feel yours may have reached the end of its life, you may want to consider selling it before you end up stranded somewhere on the side of the road. Some specialized dealers will pay top dollar for yours, no matter its mileage or condition.
Class A motorhomes are the biggest on the market. They can range anywhere between 29 to 45 feet in length. Depending on the model, they weigh between 33,000 to 36,000 pounds. Some monstrous-sized Class A motorhomes can weigh even more.
A Class B motorhome is usually between 18 to 24 feet long and is the smallest class. These lightweight motorhomes can weigh around 6,000 to 11,000 pounds.
Slightly larger than Class B, a Class B+ motorhome is slightly longer than Class B. Class B+ motorhomes are usually 23 to 25 feet long and weigh in around the same as a Class B.
A Class C motorhome falls somewhere between Classes A and B. They typically range between 30 to 33 feet and weigh 10,000 to 12,000 pounds.
How to Tow a Broken RV: The Tech and Legal Details
First, ensure that the towing setup is safe and legal. Here are some technical tips to consider:
1. Check your vehicle’s towing capacity: The first thing is ensuring that your car or pick-up truck can tow your motorhome safely. Check your vehicle’s owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer to determine the maximum weight it can tow.
2. Choose the right hitch: You’ll need a hitch rated for your RV’s weight. A weight distribution hitch is recommended to help distribute the RV’s weight more evenly across the vehicle and trailer. Ensure the hitch is installed correctly and all bolts and connections are tight.
3. Attach safety chains: Safety chains are required by law and provide extra security in case the hitch fails. Attach them securely to both the vehicle and RV.
4. Install trailer brakes: Most states require trailer brakes on trailers over a certain weight, so ensure your RV has them installed and works properly.
5. Check your lights: Make sure your vehicle’s lights are working properly and that your RV’s lights are connected and working too.
6. Practice driving and parking: Towing a large RV can be tricky, especially for beginners. Practice driving in a safe area, parking, backing up, and turning.
7. Be aware of your speed: Towing a heavy RV can affect your vehicle’s handling and braking. Drive at a safe speed and leave extra room for braking.
8. Check your RV regularly: Stop periodically to check that the RV is securely attached and everything is working properly.
Remember that towing any RV with a vehicle (car or truck) can be challenging and requires careful preparation and attention to detail. Always prioritize safety and follow all legal requirements. Remember these tips no matter what broken Class B, C, or camper you need to tow.
Can You Tow a Crashed Motorhome with a Tow Dolly?
If your Class B or Class C motorhome breaks down, you can use a tow dolly to haul it with a full-size pick-up truck. You’ll need to ensure the truck has adequate torque to tow a motorhome safely. Using a tow dolly is usually an effective way to get your broken-down motorhome to a garage; just make sure that the tow dolly and motorhome are properly aligned before starting.
Can You Tow a Motorhome with a Tow Bar?
One of the main uses of a tow bar is to be attached to the rear of a motorhome and used to flat tow a vehicle behind it, but they can be used for other scenarios. For example, half-ton or larger trucks can tow Class B and C motorhomes. Depending on the model, a tow bar can safely haul up to approximately 17,000 lbs. This is perfect for Class B, B+, and C motorhomes.
Is it Better to Flat Tow or Dolly Tow Your Broken RV?
This will depend upon which class of motorhome you need to tow. Class A motorhomes generally require a flatbed truck or a specialized tow truck to get them to a garage, but most Class B and C motorhomes can be safely towed using either the flat tow or dolly tow method. Here’s a brief explanation of both methods showing their differences.
To flat tow a broken-down motorhome, all of its tires will be on the ground when it’s being towed. All that’s required is to hook the motorhome up to the flat tow platform and securely anchor it. The downside is that your motorhome will wrack up the miles as it’s being towed. For owners of older ones, these added miles will put more stress on its drive chain.
When dolly towing a broken RV, its front wheels will be off the ground. One of the benefits of this type of towing is that your motorhome won’t incur additional mileage while it’s being brought to a garage for repairs. This doesn’t sound like much of a benefit, but for owners of older motorhomes, shedding off unnecessary miles can help extend the vehicle’s life. The less wear and tear on its drivetrain, the better. Dolly towing is only recommended for motorhomes that are front-wheel drive.
Can a Trailer Dolly Move a Broken Camper?
If your camper is small and extremely light, you can probably get away with moving it with a trailer dolly. Most manual trailer dollies can handle weights up to around 600 lbs, so if it’s under this weight and you only need to move your camper a short distance, you can use a trailer dolly. As a reference, the average teardrop trailer weighs approximately 500 lbs. If your camper is larger than the average teardrop, a trailer dolly isn’t the best way to move it.
Can You Tow a Broken Motorhome with a Regular Hitch?
You can tow a motorhome with a standard hitch but you must consider several factors. As with other methods of towing a motorhome, its weight and the torque of the towing vehicle are incredibly important, as is the weight for which the towing hitch is suitable.
To tow a motorhome with a regular towing hitch, a Class A motorhome is out of the question. Towing a Class B or C motorhome is possible, but you’ll need to use the proper hitch class. Below are the classes and maximum towing capabilities:
- Class 1: Up to 2,000 lbs
- Class 2: Up to 3,500 lbs
- Class 3: Up to 8,000 lbs
- Class 4: Up to 10,000 lbs
- Class 5: Up to 12,000 lbs
Considering most motorhomes are well over 6,000 lbs, Class 1 and 2 hitches aren’t sufficient for towing a motorhome. In most cases, you’ll need to use a Class 3 or higher to tow a motorhome safely.
Can You Tow a Broken RV With a Car?
The answer to this question will rely on which motorhome class you have and what type of car will be used to tow it. This shouldn’t be attempted with a Class A motorhome. Their sheer weight is almost certainly far too much for the average truck to tow, let alone a car. It could be accomplished with a Class B if the car has enough torque to pull the lightest of motorhomes; however, it’s not recommended. Towing a motorhome of any size requires some skill and should only be done by those with the proper equipment and experience.
Can You Tow a Motorhome with a Pick-up Truck?
Depending on the weight of your motorhome, towing a broken motorhome can most likely be accomplished. It’s highly unlikely that even the most powerful pick-up truck could accomplish this feat if you are trying to tow a massive Class A motorhome. However, for much lighter Class B and Cs, as long as the pick-up has enough torque, you can tow a broken-down motorhome.
Towing a Class B or C RV or motorhome with a truck can be done using the common tow dolly method. A tow dolly will keep your motorhome’s front wheels off the ground, saving you the mileage of getting your broken-down home on wheels for repairs.
Towing an RV or a motorhome is not to be done by amateurs. You may want to save a few bucks by calling a friend and getting it to a garage yourself, but there’s much more to it than that. Sometimes it’s better to call a professional and let them do the job for you.
What Is the Best Way to Tow a Broken Class A Motorhome?
Class A motorhomes are the beasts of the road, with most weighing in over well over 33,000 pounds. Since they are also incredibly long, some over 40 feet long, they are the most difficult motorhomes to tow by conventional methods. Pulling them is difficult enough, but maneuvering them is far from easy.
If you’re going to attempt to tow a motorhome of this length and weight, it’s highly recommended that it’s done by a professional. You’ll need to know the motorhome’s exact weight and only use a towing vehicle with more than enough torque for the job.
The best way to tow a broken Class A RV is to use a flatbed trailer. Loading a vehicle of this size and weight should be done by experienced professionals since the process is not easy. Other towing options include using a tow truck or semi-wrecker, but your safest bet is to hire a professional and use a flatbed trailer.
Is Towing My Broken-Down Motorhome Worth It?
Unfortunately, if your home-on-wheels has broken down, you don’t have much of a choice unless it’s on your own property. Besides the legalities of doing so, you don’t want to dump it where it broke down. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just walking away from the problem.
You’ll have to move it somehow. You can take your chances and attempt to tow it yourself with a friend’s help, or you can hire an expert to handle things for you. If you have no experience towing such a large vehicle, spending the money and letting the pros do it for you is much safer.
If your motorhome has broken down and left you stranded more than once, or you feel it’s inevitable that the breakdown is short, you have another option. Consider selling it to a business specializing in buying motorhomes that have served their purpose. You’ll get a fair price and can put that money down on a much better one.