Can a RAV4 be Flat Towed


Have a RAV4 and aren’t sure it can handle being flat-towed? Maybe you have a trip coming up and you want to be a bit more prepared? You’ve come to the right place for answers!

Some select manual RAV4’s are capable of being flat towed, but even in those rare cases, it’s highly discouraged. There are a few Toyota models, all manual transmission vehicles, that could handle being towed, but the bulk of models wouldn’t make the trip.

Take a look below for why RAV4’s aren’t made for flat-towing, and for some ideas on what you could do instead!

So, What’s Flat-Towing?

In case you didn’t know, there are different kinds of towing out there, so let’s discuss the varieties in-depth for a moment, looking first at that flat-tow in question.

Types of Towing

  1. Flat-Tow
  2. Dolly (Roadmaster)
  3. Wheel-Lift
  4. Flatbed (no extra parts)

Further details on the tows:

Flat-Tow

Also known as “4 Wheel Down”, (because all four wheels are flat on the ground through the duration of the tow), Flat-Towing is usually the most popular kind of tow because of its inexpensive and user-friendly nature. It’s also the lightest option, not having too many heavy parts to it.

Most people like this kind of tow because it’s easy to use, but it does require assembly and disassembly so it’s a bit time-consuming and involves making lots of adjustments to the pieces that vary depending on the car being towed.

Dolly

Unlike the 4 Wheel Down/Flat-Tow, the Dolly method only necessitates two wheels on the ground, on a tow ramp. Depending on the car size and make, the Dolly kind of tow can be dangerous, specifically for cars that are already in questionable shape.

But, if you have a RAV4, the Dolly method isn’t too bad a choice. Most who have ever used a Dolly to move their RAV have used a particular brand, the Roadmaster Tow Dolly, and swear by the thing because of its easy transport and “one size fits all” character.

Wheel-Lift

Similar to the Dolly tow, the Wheel-Lift only picks two tires up off the ground. Where the Wheel-Lift and the Dolly differ though is in the placement of the tow and the mechanics. A Wheel-Lift tow is an electric, hydraulic machine, used to lift a car off the road by the wheels, with the help of machine power.

*This tow is usually attached to the back wheels of the car (to the rear tires).

Flatbed

Flatbed towing is the safest option (great), but not always the cheapest option (not so great). Essentially, Flatbed Towing is exactly as it sounds, a sturdy surface lowered to load a car into its flatbed, where the said car is towed to whatever destination.

This method of towing doesn’t require any extra parts or assembly, but because this tow adds a bit more weight to the towing vehicle, the gas money may increase (asking for more gas to stop and go because of the heavy load). So, if you’re really worried about nicks and scratches, the Flatbed Tow is the safest option by far.

Your RAV4 From Head to Tow

Knowing what we now know about tows, in all their forms, why can’t RAV4’s be Flat-Towed?

Here’s why:

RAV4’s, like most other Toyota makes and models, are CVTs.

*(CVT stands for continuously variable transmissions, which is common in most modern cars, having automatic shifting instead of manual. No more having someone shift through gears by hand).

Because RAV4’s have CVTs if the car’s wheels are rolling on the ground without the engine on, the driveshaft doesn’t get proper lubrication and the poor thing gets mighty confused. With all four wheels on the ground, it thinks it’s driving and needs to shift gears but because it’s not getting the right amount of liquids to keep it running smoothly (due to the engine being off), the car’s running on fumes.

And this course of action can seriously damage your transmission. So, really flat-towing is not the way to go or any kind of towing with all four wheels touching/rolling on the ground.

Flat-Towable Vehicles

That all being said, there are some RAV/Toyota vehicles that can be Flat-Towed (if need be).

The Flat-Towable Vehicles:

  • Toyota Corolla
  • Toyota Yaris

There are a few other vehicles mentioned on various websites, known to be able to handle the heat of a Flat-Tow (like the Toyota 4Runner, Toyota Land Cruiser, and the Toyota Tacoma), but there were mixed reviews from previous consumers and car enthusiasts.

So, we’ll stick with the two Toyota’s that are 100% agreed upon as the Flat-Tow-Able vehicles: the Corolla, and the Yaris. What these two cars have in common, as well as the others listed in parenthesis, is the fact that these Toyota’s are all manual cars, with manual transmissions.

Because the manual makes are not used to shifting gears automatically, the driveshaft doesn’t lose any lubrication and everything is as normal. No running on fumes, no damage to the transmission. Though this is the case, most will suggest that if you flat-tow a manual vehicle, it’s best to start the car at rest/fuel stops or at the end of towing, leaving it to idle for a good thirty minutes.

Having the engine on will allow for the lubrication in the shaft to continue, causing the car to run smoothly as before the tow. This technique can’t be used on automatic cars because where the lubrication is needed in the driveshaft on an automatic, the lubrication for manuals is needed in the input shaft which spins the cluster.

When the engine isn’t on, the input shaft doesn’t spin, and that allows for safe towing without worrying about the car trying to spin on its own, (manuals are used to doing nothing without a driver’s say).

Alternate Towing Ideas

So, which towing method is the best for a RAV4, then? The Wheel-Lift and Flatbed are the most-trusted kind of tows for RAV4s.

This is because both the Wheel-Lift and the Flatbed tows offer the best support and the most support for your vehicle. This will allow for less damage to both the exterior and interior (transmissions) of your car.

So at the end of the day, don’t flat-tow your RAV4, but feel free to try out Wheel-Lifting or calling for a Flatbed Truck! These tows will help the best for this type of vehicle.

Will Turner

Will has an absolute passion for 4x4s and loves discovering all of the small details about each model. Will joined the Four Wheel Trends team in early 2021 and has been a valuable contributor ever since!

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