Can You Flat Tow a 2019 Toyota 4Runner?


Driving through the country in a motorhome is a great idea. The open roads and the creature comforts inside your mobile home make for an ideal trip. But navigating such a massive vehicle through city roads or a quick visit to the supermarket is uncomfortable. Many motorhome drivers tow a car to help them with these needs. So, can you do this with a 4Runner?

Can You Flat Tow a 2019 Toyota 4Runner?

You shouldn’t flat tow a 2019 Toyota 4Runner because doing so increases the risk of damaging components like the transmission. Toyota doesn’t recommend flat towing for any of the Toyota 4Runners, automatic or manual, from 1996 to today. 

There’s one main reason why you shouldn’t tow the 2019 Toyota 4Runner. The transmission requires constant lubrication with the engine running. When you’re flat towing, the wheels would be turning, but with the engine off. So, the chances of the gear moving without any lubrication are higher, which could damage the internal components. 

You can modify your 4Runner to be flat towed, but these are labor-intensive processes that incur very high costs. 

For RV owners, flat towing is a popular option. But flat-towing, otherwise known as dinghy towing, is more than hitching and rolling. It’s a technical procedure that requires you to know both your RV and your car. 

Also, there are special tools that make flat towing safer. These tools don’t take away from the fact that the 4Runner cannot be flat towed, as it comes from the factory. So, let’s find out why. 

Why Can’t You Flat Tow a 2019 Toyota 4Runner?

The Toyota 4Runner is a 4×4 with a 4.0L V6 (or a 2.7L I4, which was only available in 2010), mated with a 5-speed automatic transmission. The engine sends the power to the wheels via a transfer case, which can either move two wheels or all four. It can also engage low-range gearing to increase torque (otherwise known as 4×4). 

In most of its off-roading catalog, Toyota has designed the components to use continuous lubrication. There’s a pump inside the transmission that runs with the engine turned on. It lubricates the gears inside the transfer case and the drive shafts that send the power to the rear and front wheels. 

When you’re flat towing a vehicle, the wheels are turning. All the mechanical components inside the transmission and differentials are moving. But there’s no lubrication. The increased friction damages gears, shafts, and bearings. 

Plus, with the added strain, internal temperatures can go up. This heat can damage seals and degrade the lubrication between components. 

You might have heard that cars with manual transmissions are easier to flat tow because you can shift them into neutral. But, while there are manual 4Runners, you cannot apply this reasoning with Toyota’s trusty 4×4.

This configuration, too, requires the pump to keep working to move the transmission. So, the manual Toyota 4Runner (which is most common in the third generation, from 1995 to 2002) cannot be flat towed safely. 

In fact, according to Toyota, many of its off-roaders and SUVs cannot be flat towed. We wrote about how you cannot flat tow the Toyota Tacoma. Please read our article about this to find out more. The following table gives you just some of the models. 

ModelYearManual TransmissionAutomatic Transmission
4Runner1996-todayNoNo
FJ Cruiser2007-2014NoNo
Land Cruiser1992-todayNoNo
Sequoia2001-todayN/ANo
Tacoma1995-todayNoNo
Tundra2000-todayNoNo

So, we’ve talked about how you cannot flat tow most Toyota vehicles, including the 4Runner. But we haven’t discussed what flat towing is. So, let’s find out what it is and how it can damage your 4Runner. 

What Is Flat Towing?

Flat towing is towing a vehicle behind another one, on all four wheels (hence the “four-down” towing moniker). Another popular term is dinghy towing since the car behind resembles a dinghy on a trailer. 

It’s common to see flat towing with RVs and motorhomes. Given their size and power, they are ideal for this job. Also, the towed vehicle doesn’t suffer from much aerodynamic drag. 

To flat tow safely, you need more than just a hitch. First of all, you have to consider the physics of the vehicle that you’re towing. Most cars and trucks have the engine in the front and are lighter in the back. 

Because the rear wheels have less weight, they can lose traction. The vehicle could begin fishtailing, which can lead to significant accidents. 

The second aspect which is crucial for safety is braking. You need to make sure that there’s a connection that engages the towed vehicle’s lights. You will also need a supplemental braking system, which helps in slowing down the car for you. 

So, let’s make a list of the essential list of tools you need for safe flat towing.

The most important tool is a hitch. If your motorhome doesn’t come with one, be sure to get one that works for heavy-duty towing and can connect to the following tool: the tow bar. 

Tow bars provide both stability and mobility for you to tow safely. They commonly come in the form of a triangle, with both bars joined at the hitch. A good tow bar will have chains to act as support in the case of an emergency. The tow bar connects to the towed vehicle via two bolted joints. 

Tow bar wiring connects the motorhome to the towed vehicle, and the braking lights activate when you’re slowing down. Braking is essential, so a supplemental braking system will help you have more control. High-quality braking systems can help reduce the braking distance by 50%. 

As you can see, it’s a complex process that can have dire consequences if you don’t consider all the safety measures. Plus, towed vehicles could have catastrophic damages. So, if what can you do if you need to pull your 4Runner?

A Car Trailer Is Your Best Bet For Towing The 4Runner

Now that we’ve seen that you cannot safely flat tow a Toyota 4Runner, you might still have doubts as to how to tow it if the need arises. The best option for towing your 4Runner is using a car trailer. 

The Toyota 4Runner has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of approximately 6,300 pounds. Considering that a car trailer could weigh, on average, 2,000 pounds, the total load you need to tow would be close to 9,000. 

Motorhomes can tow up to 15,000 pounds, so they should pull your 4Runner easily. To use a trailer safely, you should have the necessary tools to ensure a proper connection between the motorhome and the trailer. It’s always ideal to have braking assistance and electrical connections, as they operate the brakes and lights. 

Given the 4Runner’s weight, combined with the trailer weight, you might have to use a special license to operate this combination. Be sure to read our article about Commercial Driving License (CDL) to see if you need one. 

Word Of Caution

There is a lot of information out there about how, with some modifications, you can flat tow your 4Runner. These articles talk about disconnecting the driveshaft and tying it to the frame with cables. 

This method, from the start, sounds ludicrous and is very dangerous. You’re risking your vehicle’s integrity. Think about it: what happens if the cable snaps in the middle of the highway? But, you’re also disconnecting a vital component that has a defined pressure and tension. 

Of course, there’s a solution for everything. Several aftermarket devices disconnect the driveshaft for you. These are driveshaft disconnects. With a simple lever or knob, you can disconnect your driveshaft and reconnect it when you need to.

You can replace the engine-driver lubrication with external pumps. They can lubricate the necessary components for flat towing. But they’re expensive components that don’t always work well. 

These are modifications that could void your insurance and warranty. So, keep that in mind if you plan to go ahead with installing aftermarket components. Plus, these modifications can add up in price. By the time you’ve readied your 4Runner for towing, you’ve probably spent more than the cost of a properly-equipped car trailer. 

Closing Thoughts

This article aimed to answer if you can flat tow a 2019 Toyota 4Runner. The answer is you can’t. Even the owner’s manual advises against doing this. The 4Runner’s transmission and transfer case both need lubrication from a pump connected to the engine. 

The engine needs to be running for all components to receive an adequate amount of lubricant. If you roll a Toyota 4Runner with the engine off, you run the risk of increased friction and heat on elements like the gears, shafts, and bearings. This friction could lead to catastrophic damage. 

The best solution for towing a Toyota 4Runner is to use a car trailer. The vehicle’s combined weight and the trailer are lower than most motorhomes and RVs’ towing capacity. Plus, the process is safer when you use the proper tools. So, next time you need to flat tow your Toyota 4Runner, don’t. Use a trailer instead.

John Nelson

You can find John stringing a hammock from the back of his SUV to a tree camping in the outdoors most weekends during warmer weather. John loves the outdoors and the freedom four-wheel-drive vehicles offer.

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