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Buying a truck that was towed behind RV

I am looking at a 4x4 that was towed behind an RV, hence its low mileaage for its age (20000 miles for a 2010 Ford Ranger). Is there anything I need to consider when it was being towed? What wear and tear should I look for?

If it was towed properly it should be OK. However, I would have a capable 4X4 shop go over it. A wrecked drive train can be expensive to fix. Budget $200 or so for a proper inspection.


And check the paint in front - RVs can kick up a lot of road junk right into the front of the toad, so if they didn’t get a bra for the truck or have a full-width mudflap on the RV, you might be looking at a paint job.

How was it towed? Does it have a manual transmission or an automatic transmission?

If it has a manual transmission, you’re golden. I don’t know what the price is, but I’d love to land one of those with such low mileage.

If it has an automatic transmission, I would have several questions:

  1. Was it towed on all four wheels, or or were all four wheels off the ground when it was being towed on a trailer?
  2. Was the vehicle altered for towing on all four wheels?
  3. If the vehicle was altered, how was it altered (locking hubs, auxiliary transmission pump, etc.)

The thing about towing a vehicle that has an automatic transmission (especially a 4x4), is that towing it unmodified on all four wheels can damage the powertrain, especially the transmission, because the transmission is turning, but the fluid isn’t pumping. The best thing to do on a truck like this would be to tow it on a trailer, but it would be safe to tow it on all four wheels if the wheel hubs can be disconnected from the rest of the linkage.

I recommend you find out how the vehicle was towed and whether it’s been modified. If you have any concerns about the transmission, get it checked out by your mechanic before you buy, but that’s something you should be doing anyway, with any used car purchase.


The 2010 4x4 ranger can be flat towed if it has a dealer-installed neutral tow kit, so OP should check that.

It does have a neutral tow connection

Then, if an inspection by a mechanic says it’s OK, I’d think it would be fine. But make sure the transmission and 4wd systems are checked.

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Best way to tow a truck… is with a Front dolly.

. If FWD only truck…then you’re all set.
. If RWD or AWD truck then disconnect the driveshaft to rear wheels.

I’ve discussed this issue with RVers who have used both a front dolly and towed a vehicle flat, and I’m told that loading a vehicle (car or truck) on a dolly is a lot more labor intensive than hooking up an equipped vehicle for flat towing. Having never done both myself, I take their word for it.

One elderly woman I spoke with used a front dolly for years because it’s what her husband wanted, but after her husband passed, she had to try to load and connect the vehicle on the dolly by herself. When she got her next car, she got a the gear to tow it flat, and she she found it much easier to connect and disconnect the car from the RV.

There are advantages to using a dolly. It has its own brakes and its own lights, but to call it the best way ignores all of the advantages of towing flat. If you’re towing with a smallish or midsize class B RV, the weight of the dolly might put you over your towing capacity, depending on what you’re towing.

Whitey…if it’s a true “4X4” setup (NOT AWD)…all the prior owner needed to do was place the transfer case in neutral, at which point, it has 0WD, and the auto tranny is safe…could even be left in park!

I’m thinking that might even be the reason it was chosen as a “dinghy”: unlike a RWD, which would require you drop the drive shaft (or at least leave it running in neutral), a 4X4 tranny can be isolated from the rest of the drivetrain via the transfer case.

Towing a car using a dolly is easiest when towing a FWD car, but otherwise it still requires removing or disabling the drive system on the towed car. Not to mention the extra work hitching up the dolly, driving and securing the towed car onto the dolly, and what do you do with the dolly when you get to your destination? If I were to own an RV and a tow car, I would only consider a model that could be flat towed. Dollies simply aren’t worth the hassle and expense.

Reminds me of a funny story. Last summer someone decided that it would be appropriate to tow their 1990 Thunderbird SuperCharged 5-speed behind their RV. This was their first experience towing behind an RV, and somehow thought a dolly would be best. They drove the car onto the dolly, and out of habit put the car in reverse as if they were parking it normally. They strapped the car onto the dolly and took off down the highway at 60mph. The engine damage from being turned backwards at 6000rpm with no oil pressure was fantastic!

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:fearful: Is it bad that I want to see pictures of the carnage???

According to the 2010 Dinghy Towing guide this Ranger has to have the option listed above to flat tow.

I see quite a few RVs on the freeway, with vehicles in tow

And I’ve never seen anybody using a dolly or flatbed trailer

As asemaster and others said, it really must not be worth the hassle for some folks

What would happen when you get to the campground? I’d be worried about somebody stealing the dolly or the trailer, as soon as I’m out of sight

The engine R&R was for another tech in the shop. I saw the engine opened up but didn’t think to take pictures. But there were rocker arms broken and the supercharger was lunched as well.

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I defer to your knowledge regarding 4x4 vs. AWD. I know very little about the linkage between the transmission and the wheels on anything other than RWD or FWD. However, knowing what I know about RVing, I think you left out an option: locking hubs, or more accurately, unlocking hubs. Locking hubs aren’t the best way to disconnect the wheels from the transmission, as I’ve heard they can be hard to use and easy to misuse, but on a RWD vehicle, putting locking hubs on the rear wheels would allow it to be towed flat.

There are a lot of people who use a dolly. It greatly increases your options, because you can tow any FWD vehicle without modifying it. When you get to the campground, you just leave the dolly attached to the back of your RV. After all, you brought a vehicle so you wouldn’t need to drive the RV for local travel, so there is no reason to unhook the dolly while you’re camping unless it’s to back out of a parking spot because there were no pull-through spots available. I haven’t looked closely enough to know for sure, but I believe these dollies are lockable. With my utility trailer, the latch that secures it to the ball hitch has a hole in which you can insert a padlock or a specialized trailer lock like the item pictured in the lower right below. If you’re really worried about it getting stolen, you can also add a locking hitch pin and a coupler lock like the yellow item attached.

I tend to be vigilant about security, so whenever I use my trailer, it’s locked to the vehicle using a locking hitch pin and a padlock, and whenever I leave it parked, it’s locked twice, once with the yellow lock at the top of the picture, and again with the a padlock like the one in the picture.

You can actually get a system that will proportionally actuate the toad brakes when the RV’s brakes are used. It uses a ram to press the brake pedal in the toad when it gets a signal from the RV.

There are also systems that directly connect to the towed vehicle’s brake system under the hood, and that highlights another advantage of a dolly: some dollies have surge brakes. Surge braking is a very simple system, as opposed to electric trailer brakes that require a control unit on the tow vehicle and an electrical connection between the brake control unit and the trailer.

When it comes to towing, I think surge brakes are the greatest thing since sliced bread. They use the trailer’s momentum to both activate and power the brakes, which I think is very innovative.

They are pretty wonderful, but you’re still stuck getting the car off the dolly and then unhitching the dolly before you can park when you get to the campsite versus just unhitching the car and being done with it. A lot of campsites also take a pretty dim view of storing a dolly on the grass, and if the motorhome is a big one there’s probably not enough room on the pad for both.

RVing is a lot of work in between vacationing. If I have to dump black tanks, I’m at least gonna make it easy on myself with the toad. :wink: