Does Towing a Car Behind an RV Put Miles on It?

Newer models of cars will not have miles added onto the odometer as the measuring system is electric and relies on the transmission turning to count the miles. However, vehicles with older, mechanical odometers will have the miles counted as the systems rely on the wheels turning.

Several experienced RV owners will have a seemingly complicated list of things their towed vehicles need to have; knowing why will help you choose your own.

Does Flat Towing Add Miles To The Odometer?

Flat towing does not add miles to the odometer; however, it does add wear and tear to the rest of the vehicle. In addition, as the wheels are still turning and moving, the other connected parts will continue to experience damage like they would in regular use.

Many people correctly think that a car that is not being run or in gear will not have the miles it is moving counted. However, all vehicles from the last 30 years have electronic odometers; these measure the distance that has been driven from the gearbox and not from the wheels.

It is vital that you understand this, as many cars that RV lovers own will have low miles on them but will not have been driven like an average car. This has created a space where RV owners have vehicles with several new sets of tires with engines that have barely been used. Here is a guide: https://www.carmax.com/articles/flat-towing-vehicle-options-explained

Does Using A Tow Dolly Add Miles To Your Car?

A towing dolly that lifts only the front wheels will be slightly better for the car, as they only add wear and tear on the back two tires. However, if you have a front-wheel-drive vehicle, this will mean that only the wheels are turning as there is no drivetrain attached to the wheels that are turning as well.

It is recommended that you have a smaller vehicle anyway, as this will have less of an impact on the mileage of your RV. However, smaller vehicles are almost all front-wheel drive vehicles and are perfect for keeping your car from gaining too much wear and tear damage.

As frustrating as it can be to go from the large SUV you may typically drive a small hatchback vehicle that you have towed, they are the best value for money. In addition, many car manufacturers have started making smaller SUVs that are front-wheel drive, broadening your options.

I prepared for an extensive road trip across the country in my RV, I faced a logistical dilemma. I wanted the freedom to explore the smaller roads and towns without maneuvering my large, 32-foot Class A motorhome through tight spaces. The solution was clear: I needed to tow my car behind the RV.

After some research, I settled on a tow dolly as the most suitable option for my front-wheel-drive sedan. The model I chose was robust, with a sturdy steel frame and a capacity to handle vehicles up to 4,500 pounds, well above my car’s weight. The dolly itself weighed about 500 pounds and featured two 13-inch wheels with heavy-duty radial tires, designed for long-distance towing and stability.

The process of using the dolly was straightforward but required attention to detail. I started by positioning the dolly in front of my car, aligning it with the tow hitch on my RV. Once the dolly’s coupler was securely fastened to the hitch ball and the safety chains were in place, I drove my car up onto the dolly’s ramps, front wheels first, until the tires rested snugly against the wheel stops.

Strapping down the car’s front wheels took some effort. The dolly came with adjustable wheel straps that I had to ratchet tightly to ensure my car wouldn’t budge an inch during the journey. I double-checked the straps, pulling on them to make sure they were secure, and then locked the ramps into their upright position.

With everything in place, I conducted a final inspection, making sure the tail lights on the dolly were synced with the RV’s system. It was crucial that other drivers could see when I was braking or signaling. I also made sure to check the tire pressure on both the dolly and my car, as proper inflation is key to safe towing.

The maiden voyage with the dolly went smoother than I had anticipated. The RV’s side mirrors provided a clear view of the dolly and car in tow, and the added weight behind the RV was hardly noticeable, thanks to its powerful V10 engine. I took turns wider than usual and allowed for extra stopping distance, mindful of the precious cargo I was pulling.

Towing my car opened up a world of possibilities. Whenever I reached a destination, I simply unloaded my car from the dolly, and I was free to explore without the constraints of my large RV.




When Does Towing Not Add Damage To Your Car?

When the entire vehicle has been lifted onto a trailer, wear and tear will be added to your vehicle, with most larger RVs comfortably handling this. Also, as all four wheels of the car you are towing are lifted off from the ground, they won’t turn and move the internal parts of your vehicle.

It is essential to consider this an option, as many people forget that there are still moving parts even if they are not adding miles to their towed vehicle. Also, with just the rear wheels on the road, they will experience wear and tear much faster than the rest of the wheels, requiring regular rotation.

Further, if you are flat towing your car, the drivetrain, wheels, and gearbox parts will also be spinning. This does cause some wear and tear on the moving parts, requiring them to be serviced or fixed long before the rest of the engine may have to be serviced.

Why Does Towing A Car Not Add Miles To It?

Everything was mechanical before modern vehicles had electric odometers that needed power and measure the mileage from the gearbox. This meant that if the wheels normally turned, the odometer would count it; if the wheels turned in the opposite direction, many odometers would count down.

In the early 1990s, this changed, and electric odometers became the normal thing for manufacturers to install in cars. These odometers need current to flow through them to count the total miles being done and measure the miles from the gearbox system, which means any movement will count.

When the car is not in position, with the key either turned off or only allowing the radio to play, the electric odometer does not receive any power. This stops the odometer from counting how many miles the car has while being towed to any location.

Does It Matter What Gear The Car Is In?

No, it does not matter what gear the car is in; however, all tow vehicles should preferably be in neutral gear. This allows the wheels to turn freely without transferring the motion to the gearbox and then the vehicle’s engine.

The brakes of your car will not be engaged while towing with a tow dolly or when flat towing, and your vehicle will most likely not have a large engine. Therefore, if you start towing the vehicle while in gear, you will cause irreparable damage to every component in it.

Unless there is someone in the car and it has trouble starting, your towed vehicle must be in neutral gear when it is being towed. Ensuring that your vehicle can be towed with an automatic gearbox is also important, as some cars cannot be towed like this.

When Can You Tow A Car Behind An RV?

You will have to consider this before purchasing the vehicle you want to tow behind your RV, as not all cars can be towed. For example, most automatic vehicles need to be lifted entirely, with the driven wheels not moving at all when it is being towed.

This is the reason that flatbed tow trucks have become the standard way to move any broken-down vehicle. Automatic gearbox systems use a torque converter to shift gears that get heavily damaged when the wheels turn while the car is being towed.

Because RV towing is only popular in the United States, most of the cars made by American manufacturers have special settings for being towed. When purchasing your vehicle, you can talk to the dealer, and they will usually have a few vehicles that already have everything needed to be towed.

How Do You Tow A Vehicle With All Four Wheels On The Ground?

To tow a vehicle behind an RV, you will usually find special dollies that connect to the vehicle’s front wheels. These can either lift the wheel or lock around the vehicle’s axle; these systems are made to have the car towed as a trailer would normally be towed behind the RV.

When doing this, the vehicle’s steering is locked, preventing the front wheels from turning left or right. This means that as the RV drives through the streets, the car turns and goes along with the direction of the RV, allowing for stress-free towing of the vehicle.

The vehicle will usually have to be neutral as the wheels will need to be turning freely, with no breaks at all engaged. An excellent way to think about how the vehicle will be as an extension of the RV itself, not necessarily a separate vehicle with any power or momentum of its own.

The Ford Escape, Jeep Wrangler, and Honda Fit, CR-V, Civic, are popular choices for pulling behind and RV aka dinghy towing.