Can You Flat Tow A Jeep Cherokee? (Explained)


Can You Flat Tow A Jeep Cherokee?

The Jeep Cherokee went from a rugged 4×4 to a comfortable crossover SUV that can handle itself offroad. Throughout the generations, the platform has seen multiple versions and trim levels. This is vital to know which of the Jeep Cherokees you can tow behind your RV. In this article, we’ll cover this in further detail.

Can you flat tow a Jeep Cherokee?

You can only flat tow Jeep Cherokees that come with the ActiveDrive II, a two-speed Power Transfer Unit. So, any Cherokee that comes with only 2WD or any other kind of transfer case cannot be flat towed. There are plenty of trim levels, and we’ll cover them all in the sections below.

Flat towing is a common practice nowadays. Motorhomes are great for the open highways, but their massive size makes them uncomfortable for city streets. So, many people choose to pull a smaller vehicle behind the RV for any quick errand. This is also known as “dinghy” or “all-four” towing.

There are certain precautions that you must take. First of all, the vehicle must be able to go through this without any permanent damage. And, more frequently, we see that not all cars have this capacity. So, we’ll explain some of the critical aspects you need to know before going through this.

But, first, it’s essential to understand what flat towing is. So, in the next section, we’ll give you all the information you need.

What is flat towing?

Flat towing is when you pull a vehicle behind a motorhome on an RV through a specialized hitch and base plates. While you can flat tow several vehicles, it’s most common to do so with those that come with 4WD or manual transmission.

When you’re flat towing a car, its wheels are turning, but the engine isn’t. Depending on the vehicle’s design, this could lead to damage. For example, in most automatic cars, the tires’ rotation can put an additional, atypical strain on the clutch and gears.

In front-wheel-drive cars, the differential and transmission operate so that the tires need to rotate at a precise speed. As a result, flat towing could lead to damage.

Given this motion and the forces acting on the vehicle, it’s best to have a car that can disconnect the wheels from the transmission. Of course, the easiest way to do so is through a manual transmission. But, some 4WD can also do this.

4WD vehicles have a transfer case. This set of gears allows the driver to choose between high and low-range gearing.

There are transfer cases that can shift directly into neutral. Thus, there is no link between the transmission and the wheels. But, not all vehicles can be flat towed, even if they come with a stick shift and 4WD.

Toyota is one such example. Some of their vehicles, like older 4Runners and Tacomas, seem perfect for the job. But their design requires that the engines and transmission be in constant lubrication if the wheels are in motion. So, flat towing them could cause specific components to move without the oil pump dishing out proper lubrication.

Fortunately, Jeep is a company that has produced vehicles that you can flat tow. There are several models out there, such as the Wrangler and Gladiator. But, one of the most common questions is whether you can flat tow a Cherokee. We’ll explain which Cherokees you can flat tow in the next section.

These are the Jeep Cherokee trim levels you can flat tow.

Currently, the Jeep Cherokee comes with several available trims. Most of them have either the 2.4L Tigershark inline-four engine or the 3.2L Pentastar V6. These engines put out 184 hp and 271 hp, respectively.

The most recent generation, known as the KL, comes with the latest nine-speed transmission. This new design is very compact, making it easier to install, and provides more miles per gallon, but it’s a complex system.

There have been reliability issues with the Cherokee’s new transmission. So, understanding whether you can flat tow your Cherokee or not is vital.

The KL platform can be either front-wheel-drive (FWD) or four-wheel-drive (4WD). In this case, you can only tow those that come with 4WD. Jeep calls its 4WD system the ActiveDrive II/2-speed Power Transfer Unit.

And these are:

  • Upland
  • North Edition
  • Trailhawk
  • Trailhawk Elite
  • Latitude (4×4)
  • Latitude Plus (4×4)
  • Altitude (4×4)
  • Latitude Lux (4×4)
  • Limited (4×4)
  • High Altitude (4×4)

Those trim levels with a (4×4) next to them indicate the presence of a transfer case. If there’s no parenthesis, then the trim level is only 4×4, and you can flat tow them. If your Cherokee is FWD, then you cannot go through this procedure.

But you can’t just hitch the Jeep Cherokee and drive off. Instead, there are several steps to follow. These are:

  • Set your transmission in Park
  • Shift the Power Transfer Unit into neutral
  • Disable the Auto Park Brake Feature (this prevents the Electric Park Brake from engaging). To do so, check on the Uconnect Settings.
  • There are no distance or speed limits.

So, now that we’ve seen which of the trim levels you pull behind an RV, let’s dive further into the tools you need to do so.

This is what you need to flat-tow a Jeep Cherokee.

To flat tow any vehicle safely, you need several tools. Jeep is one of the most popular brands to use in these situations. So, there are several Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) that can provide the necessary gear.

The first component that you need is a proper hitch. Chances are your motorhome already comes with one, but you need to make sure it’s up to the task. Check the weight and ensure that your dinghy vehicle doesn’t exceed it. If it isn’t strong enough, then you need to upgrade it.

Then, you need a way to connect with the towed vehicle. You can do this through base plates. These are devices that you put on your car, usually by bolting.

Base plates come in many shapes and sizes. But, usually, you’ll find that the cheapest ones are more visible. However, if you prefer a sleeker look, you can opt for more expensive options that aren’t visible.

It’s important to note that base plates have several components, such as a reinforcement bar and clamps. Installing them is easy and shouldn’t take long.

Another critical element is the tow bar. These interlock with the baseplate. There are plenty of models out there, and the selection criteria depend more on whether your vehicle fits them or not.

Finally, and most importantly, you need additional braking power. Again, you can achieve this through safety cables that allow for braking and indicators, and stoplights.

These cables work hand in hand with a supplemental braking system. Since your motorhome is doing all the stopping, it’s best to help it. These upgrades work by distributing the load evenly across more points of contact, improving braking distance.

Alternatives to flat towing

If you have an FWD Jeep Cherokee, you don’t necessarily have to sell and buy a new one. Instead, you can opt for other methods.

Using a dolly is a safe and easy alternative, especially with FWD cars. It’s not as cumbersome as a trailer but still lifts the front tires, ensuring the transmission and differential are safe.

You can also use a full trailer. While this is more cumbersome and adds some weight, it’s still easy enough to handle. Most motorhomes are powerful enough to tow the combined weight of a car and a trailer.

Closing thoughts

Many people choose to flat-tow a vehicle behind their RV or motorhome. Though driving through the open roads is a breeze, these massive vehicles can be a hassle on smaller, urban streets. In addition, everyday tasks like parking and shopping can be uncomfortable.

So, a solution is to tow a smaller vehicle behind. But, as many manufacturers migrate to automatic and CVT transmissions, it’s increasingly harder to find a suitable option. Fortunately, Jeep has always supplied this demand.

The Gladiator and Wrangler, which come with manual transmissions and transfer cases, are ideal for this job. But, surprisingly, the Cherokee as well.

Yes, it’s an automatic, compact crossover, but it still comes with a transfer case. Thanks to the ActiveDrive II Power Transfer Unit, you can quickly shift the vehicle into neutral, with the process we explained above.

If you have any doubts, always check the owner’s manual. Flat towing is a great way to solve your mobility needs when using an RV. Hopefully, this article gives you more information so that you can do so safely.

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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