Can You Flat Tow A Honda Pilot?


With more people hitting the road for long travels, many questions about flat towing come up. Driving an RV is great on the highway, but it’s uncomfortable to navigate on smaller roads.

So, pulling a smaller vehicle behind is an excellent solution for those quick visits to the supermarket. In this article, we’ll discuss whether you can use the Honda Pilot for this task. 

Can You Flat Tow A Honda Pilot?

Honda recommends that you don’t flat tow the Honda Pilot, as it can damage internal components, but there are other great Honda options you should consider if your goal is to flat tow your next vehicle.

This SUV comes with either front-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive and an automatic transmission. Such a combination isn’t ideal, which is why no flat towing magazine or website lists the Honda Pilot as a viable option. 

The Honda Pilot is Honda’s biggest SUV. It comes with a 3.5L V6 that puts out decent horsepower and torque, but it isn’t designed for hard work. It’s one of the few larger SUVs that come with an FWD option instead of RWD, but it’s been a success for Honda since its release in 2002.

Already on its third generation, the latest Honda Pilot puts out 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. It comes with a six-speed automatic transmission as standard, but you can upgrade to a nine-speed that improves fuel economy.

While the Pilots figures won’t blow the competition away, but they’re enough to give the Pilot up to 5,000 pounds of towing capacity

But, the Pilot comes with a Continuously Variable Transmission or CVT, which is one of the worst options for flat towing. Before we get into why you shouldn’t use your Pilot as a towed vehicle, we’ll discuss flat towing in more detail. 

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.

Like those with CVTs, there’s no way to unplug the shaft from the transmission in some vehicles. 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 consistent lubrication. This means that the pump must be on, which requires the gears to operate normally. Therefore, flat towing could jeopardize many components. Examples of this situation are Toyotas. 

Most vehicles today cannot be flat towed due to the transmission and drivetrain configuration. The best way to know if you can flat tow your car is by checking the user’s manual.

In the following section, we’ll detail why you shouldn’t flat tow your Honda Pilot. 

Why Shouldn’t I Flat Tow A Honda Pilot?

The Honda Pilot Owners’ manual is clear on this topic. If you flat tow the Honda Pilot, you risk damaging transmission components that the warranty will not cover. 

If you have an FWD Honda Pilot, then you can tow it with the front wheels off the ground. To do this, you can use a tow dolly. But, the factory states that you should do this only in emergency situations. 

The Honda Pilot, in either FWD or 4WD configurations, uses an automatic transmission to send power to the wheels. When you’re flat towing a vehicle, you force the wheels to turn, making the gears inside move. However, since the car is turned off, there’s no proper lubrication, the temperature increases and there can be accelerated wear. 

Also, the Honda Pilot uses a proprietary four-wheel-drive system called a VTM-4, which stands for Variable Torque Management. It operates by combining control modules and electromagnetic coils, acting as a mechanical wet clutch. 

To help the VTM-4, the Pilot has a series of gears and clutch assemblies in the rear axle housing. These components operate at a defined pressure and temperature. Rolling them with the vehicle turned off could force added pressure and force, leading to damage. 

But, does this mean that you can’t flat tow any Honda? Well, not quite. Let’s find out in the following section. 

What Honda Vehicles Can I Flat Tow?

If you love this Japanese brand and want to flat tow, you can consider other Honda models. Unfortunately, there aren’t many, but they’re approved by many magazines within the flat towing community. 

Honda Accord Sport

Until 2020, you could buy the Honda Accord Sport with a manual transmission, which made it great for towing. But, Honda discontinued this option in 2021 due to poor sales. 

So, if you have a manual Accord Sport, you’re in luck. In essence, you have both a great, reliable car and one that you can flat tow. The procedure is easy: you put the transmission in neutral, turn the ignition to accessory mode, and ensure the steering wheel doesn’t lock. 

It’s essential to turn off all electrical devices, as this prevents the battery from draining. Plus, if you’re towing for more than eight hours in one day, you need to remove critical fuses. But, again, check the owner’s manual to confirm which you need to remove. 

The speed limit is 65 mph, with no distance limits. Thanks to its weight of 3,155 pounds, the Accord Sport is easy to tow and shouldn’t be a challenge to most RVs. 

Honda Fit

This diminutive hatchback is both fun to drive and economical. But, just like the Accord Sport, Honda decided to stop selling the Fit in 2021 due to poor sales and their active promotion of the HR-V. 

So, if you have a Honda Fit with a manual transmission, that’s great. It’s an excellent urban car and makes for a perfect towed vehicle. Plus, it weighs only 2,522 pounds, so no RV should have a problem with pulling it. 

The procedure is the same as the Accord Sport, with a speed limit of 65 mph and not distance limits. To flat tow this car put the transmission in neutral, turn the ignition to accessory, and ensure the steering wheel doesn’t lock. 

It’s essential to turn off all electrical devices, as this prevents the battery from draining. Plus, if you’re towing for more than eight hours in one day, you need to remove critical fuses. As always, check the owner’s manual to confirm which you need to remove. 

Flat Towing Hondas

When summer rolls in, more and more people will take to the open road in their RVs. Then, to drive into town, they pull a smaller car behind the motorhome. This is called flat-towing. 

Since Honda is such a popular brand in the US, many people wonder if they can tow the Pilot, Honda’s biggest SUV. So it makes perfect sense: it’s comfortable, can carry seven passengers, and has plenty of cargo room for groceries and supplies. 

Plus, thanks to its 4WD system, you’re more confident when navigating slippery terrain. But, unfortunately, Honda doesn’t approve the Pilot for flat towing. 

There are many reasons for this, but the most important is the transmission. The Pilot comes with a six or nine-speed CVT, which operates at a defined pressure and temperature. Forcing it to move with no lubrication can cause wear and tear. 

The Pilot comes with either FWD or 4WD configurations, which are also not ideal for flat towing. In addition, the forced rotation of the wheels moving on the ground can lead to internal forces that accelerate wear, or worse, cause irreparable damage.

But that’s not to say that you cannot flat tow any Honda vehicle. For example, the Accord Sport and Fit with manual transmissions are both viable options. But Honda ceased production of both of these in 2020 due to low sales. 

Hopefully, this article answers your questions regarding flat towing a Honda Pilot. It’s not the ideal vehicle to do so and knowing this can help you prevent any unwanted damage.

Kern Campbell

I've had a passion for four-wheel-drive vehicles since I was a kid riding in the back seat of my Grandfather's Jeep Grand Wagoneer. I have owned a lot of vehicles over the years. They each have their pros and cons and I look forward to sharing my knowledge with you so you can find the vehicle that's just right for your needs.

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