When you’re driving your RV across the country, there’s no better feeling than the open road. But navigating a motorhome through the maze of small city streets can be a hassle. So, for those urban stops you need, you might consider flat towing a smaller vehicle. Subaru is a trendy brand among adventure seekers, but does it make for a good dinghy car? Let’s find out.
Can a Subaru Be Flat Towed?
You cannot flat tow any Subaru vehicle, even if they come with a manual transmission. Many companies have stopped offering stick shift models. But, the Japanese manufacturer still puts out some cars with this option. But, you shouldn’t be tempted to pull it behind an RV if you don’t want expensive damages.
I can hear the comments now… “well so and so on YouTube flat tows a Subaru and they don’t have any issues!”
Am I right?! I said the exact same thing! I did.
I was so sure that a Subaru could be flat towed I reached out to media relations at Subaru and this is the direct reply I got back. I was shocked!
We do not recommend flat-towing for any Subaru vehicles as noted in the owner’s manuals.
These rule applies not only to Subaru but to many other vehicles. Automatic transmissions operate in such a way that flat towing isn’t possible.
In most cars, the engine, transmission, and tires are all connected. So, rolling the vehicle could damage vital components such as the gears.
You might even find some manual transmissions that cannot be flat towed. Toyota, one of Subaru’s main partners, offers several SUVs and pickups with a stick shift. But their lubrication system needs to be running whenever the wheels are turning. So, you cannot flat tow them.
We’ll discuss these topics in detail further in this article. But, one thing is for sure. Flat towing isn’t as easy as it used to be.
So, even if Subaru offers a manual transmission, the factory still doesn’t recommend that you do so. But, what’s so critical about this practice. Let’s find out.
What is flat towing?
Flat towing, otherwise known as dinghy-towing, is when you pull a car behind your RV or motorhome. As the name states, the vehicle that you’re towing is flat. All four wheels are touching the ground and rolling.
RVs can be uncomfortable to navigate through small city streets, drive-throughs, and parking lots. So, many people take a smaller vehicle with them.
The towed car hooks to the RV through a specialized hitch. So, for all other purposes, it’s rolling at the mercy of the tow vehicle. Even the braking comes from the RV.
Whenever a vehicle is rolling on the ground, parts inside it are in motion. The wheels drive the axles, which in turn, move the differentials and shaft.
In some vehicles, there’s no way to unplug the shaft from the transmission. So, with the rolling, the transmission could rotate in a direction opposite to its original design. This can accelerate wear and even create irreparable damage.
A vehicle with a manual can disconnect the transmission from the shaft simply by shifting into neutral. So, this configuration can be better for flat towing. But, this doesn’t mean that all vehicles with manual transmission can go through this.
Some cars with a manual transmission require permanent lubrication. This means that the pump must be on, which requires the gears to operate normally. Flat towing could jeopardize many components.
Another aspect to take into consideration is with front-wheel-drive cars. Because of their design, most of these vehicles cannot be flat towed, even if they’re manual. So, always be on the lookout for this.
Most vehicles today cannot be flat towed. The best way to know if you can flat tow your car is by checking the user’s manual. So, let’s talk a bit more about this Japanese brand.
Why can’t you flat tow a Subaru?
Subaru hasn’t approved its vehicles for flat towing for several years. In fact, in motorhome magazines, you no longer find the Japanese manufacturer as an option. This is because these vehicles come with complex 4WD and AWD systems that might suffer irreparable damage when towing.
You might read in forums that some people have flat towed their Subaru vehicles with no problems. And, that might be true. Since the manufacturer doesn’t actively support flat towing, you might encounter warranty issues.
Plus, the manual might mention flat towing within the Emergency Towing section. This is only for extreme situations. Unfortunately, even dealers can say that you can flat tow your Subaru but then back out of it.
Let’s talk about a vehicle that might be atypical on this website, the Subaru BRZ. This small and nimble sports car comes with a tried-and-true six-speed manual transmission. It’s even rear-wheel-drive, and you can quickly shift it into neutral.
So, it’s perfect for flat towing, right? Well, no. The car’s design doesn’t allow for this. Even if some internet expert claims it’s possible. Let’s look at some of the current Subaru models and the transmission options they come with.
|Subaru||Impreza/VX||CVT or 5-speed manual|
As you can see, basically all of the Subaru models available right now cannot be flat towed. Now, it’s not that you can’t flat tow any vehicle.
In fact, many specialty websites provide yearly lists that include not only the manufacturer but the specific models you can flat tow. Let’s talk about some of Subaru’s competition that you can flat tow in the next section.
What are some brands you can flat tow?
As we said before, there are many references on specialty websites that can tell you which vehicles you can flat tow. The good thing about these sites is that they also provide a lot of additional information. You can find special tips and tools that you can use for safer flat towing.
If you want a rugged SUV that you can still use comfortably on and off-road, then you can consider the Jeep Wrangler. The manual version is as basic as it gets.
With its solid axle suspension, rugged construction, and robust engines, the Wrangler can get you anywhere. Plus, since its design is so basic, it can also be flat towed with extreme ease. In fact, it’s one of the easiest of the bunch.
There are no speed restrictions or distance caps. Plus, interestingly, you can flat tow both the manual and the automatic, so that’s more options for you.
Ford F-150 (2009-2018)
The Ford F-150 in those years is ideal for flat towing. Not only is the F-150 a tried-and-true, reliable workhorse, but the 4WD makes them flat-towable.
You need a 4WD model because it comes with a transfer case. This allows you to shift into neutral, making for safer flat towing.
Within these years (2009-2018), you do not have any speed restrictions. Be sure to check on the newer models if they can be flat towed.
Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon
These mid-size pickups are great for flat towing. But, make sure they’re 4WD. Again, you need the transfer case to shift into neutral.
If you have these options, then the Colorado and Canyon are ideal for the job. Not only are they lighter than other trucks, but you can do some heavy work with them once you get to your destination.
Ford Escape Hybrid
That’s right, there’s a hybrid on the list. While the earlier Escape generations were great for flat towing, the latest isn’t—only the Hybrid works in these conditions.
This is because you can shift into a “neutral,” where both the electric and standard motors disengage. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Some things to consider
When you’re flat towing, you’re likely exceeding State regulations. There are maximum weights that you can pull without brake assistance. So, if you’re towing a car, chances are you need to hook it up to a braking system.
But this precaution isn’t only to avoid a ticket. These systems help you brake safely.
They provide additional braking that would, otherwise, depend entirely on the motorhome’s brakes.
Also, why not consider a trailer? You’re already towing anyway. So, if your car can’t be flat towed, you can hook up a trailer and, thus, ensure that you’re not damaging your vehicle.
Driving a motorhome is a great experience when you’re out on those long, endless highways. But, if you’ve got to pull to a store, park, or even order on the drive-through, it can get complicated.
The first requirement is that your vehicle is manual or can shift into neutral. That’s why a Subaru might be tempting. After all, they’re rugged, reliable and some come with a manual transmission.
But, Subaru vehicles aren’t ideal for flat towing. Their design means there can be irreparable damage to the transmission and other components. In fact, Subaru hasn’t supported flat towing for years. So, doing so can also incur warranty issues. This doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t flat tow any vehicle. Some brands that allow for this include Jeep, GMC and Chevrolet, and Ford. Be sure to check out the manufacturer’s guidelines before d