The Isuzu Rodeo was part of a family of SUVs produced by Isuzu since 1990 and up until 2004 in the United States and Canadian markets. Known more for ruggedness than luxury, the Rodeo proved to be dependable, albeit a basic option for buyers that needed no frills. You could either have a RWD or 4WD configuration, which would’ve made for an excellent flat towed vehicle. But, doing so isn’t as straightforward.
Can you flat tow an Isuzu Rodeo?
There are some situations in which you can flat tow an Isuzu Rodeo, but it’s not as straightforward as with other vehicles. The first instance in which you can do this is for short trips, no more than fifty miles, and in this case, it’s easy. But, for longer distances, you might need to go through a more complex process.
This process involves disconnecting the shafts. There are many ways to go about this, and it isn’t a procedure that the factory approved. But, as we’ll see later, there are
The Isuzu Rodeo is one of the many products under the Isuzu MU family, which, in turn, used the TF frame. It was a five-door SUV and had a smaller counterpart, a three-door option called the Amigo in the United States.
Buyers could choose between RWD and 4WD and had a limited choice of engines. The first-generation Rodeo, available in 1990, came with a 2.6L inline-four engine putting out 119 hp or a 3.1L V6 with, strangely, the same horsepower. But it did produce more torque.
You could only get the automatic transmission on the V6, and the most basic versions had manually locking wheel hubs. But, the XS and LS versions came with automatic locking hubs. And, as we’ll discuss later, these are essential for flat towing.
The Isuzu Rodeo was also sold with a Honda Passport badge in the United States. The vehicles are identical, except for minor interior changes.
In 1998, Isuzu came up with a second-generation platform featuring a curvier design. Powerplants also changed, with the company offering a 2.2L inline-four as a base engine and a 205-horsepower V6 as optional.
One of the features that made the Rodeo stand out from the competition was its rugged 4WD system. It came with a Dana 44 rear axle putting out plenty of torque, plus easy-to-use low range gearing. The last generation used push-button four-wheel-drive. And that’s when we start talking about flat towing.
But, before we get into the technical details of why the Isuzu Rodeo isn’t the best option for flat towing, let’s explain what this practice consists of.
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.
Interestingly, this is the case with the Isuzu Rodeo. In the following section, we’ll discuss some of the technical aspects behind this SUV.
Why the Isuzu Rodeo isn’t ideal for flat towing
Though the Isuzu Rodeo was a rugged SUV that came with a 4WD system and low range gearing, flat towing wasn’t easy. The reason for this is the vehicle’s transfer case.
A transfer case allows the driver to shift between high- and low-range gearing. You can select neutral in some cases, such as the GMC Canyon, Ford F-150, and some Chevrolets. This means that the transmission is disconnected from the engine.
But the Isuzu Rodeo’s transfer case doesn’t come with the option to shift into neutral. This means that the transmission and engine never disengage. So, rolling the vehicle in these conditions can lead to damage.
However, you can flat tow an Isuzu Rodeo for a short distance, if it’s necessary. But only those vehicles with 4WD.
Be sure to have your transfer case in 2H, your transmission in neutral, and that your towing vehicle aligns appropriately with the Rodeo. Once you hook both of them together, you can only flat tow with a maximum speed of 30 mph and for a distance of 50 miles.
As you can see, these conditions are limiting. But, there is another way, which is more labor-intensive, to flat tow an Isuzu Rodeo. Like we mentioned before, it’s not factory-certified, nor is it as easy as other procedures. Let’s discuss it in the following section.
There is an alternative way to flat tow an Isuzu Rodeo.
This method applies to both the RWD and the 4WD Rodeos, consisting of disconnecting the drive shafts.
The driveshaft is a long cylinder that sends power from the transmission to the front and rear axles. It connects with the axles through a coupler that then hooks into a differential.
To disconnect the shafts from the couplers, all you need are the appropriate size cube wrenches. But, you need to fasten them to avoid scraping them on the ground (and possibly worse damage). It can be an uncomfortable process for some people, as it requires lying on the ground and is labor-intensive.
So, if this isn’t your idea of a fun Friday night, you can install Drive Shaft Coupling devices or DSCs. These are mechanical couplers that you can operate to disengage or engage the shafts from inside the vehicle.
They can be pretty expensive, with some models costing $750, and you need to both in the front and back (if your Rodeo is 4WD). So, balancing the cost, some owners prefer to buy a trailer. The downside to this option is that you can’t put away the trailer once you get to your destination.
The Isuzu Rodeo came into the US market in 1990 and survived for 14 years until, in 2004, Isuzu decided to pull the plug. But, in those years, it earned itself a reputation for being rugged and capable.
It wasn’t luxurious, nor was it the best handling SUV out there. But, it could go anywhere, thanks to an optional 4WD system.
This system, however, rendered it unable to be used as a flat towed vehicle. It’s one of the instances in which a car comes with a transfer case but doesn’t have a true “neutral” setting. So you can’t disengage the axles from the transmission, which can lead to damage.
But, since this vehicle has gained a cult following, many people have found clever ways to disengage the shafts and enable the car for flat towing. These methods include manually disconnect the couplers or buying a DSC.
These options are expensive, however. One can set you back hours of labor, and the other one can set you back considerable cash. So, a third way to solve this problem is by buying a trailer and towing your Rodeo on it.
All of these have their pros and cons. But, what we can safely say is that the Isuzu Rodeo is the best option for flat towing, as it requires too much work. Hopefully, this article clearly explains the reasons why.