Towing capacity of older Honda Civic

Hi everyone~
I’ve never been in a “chat room” before (is this considered a “chat room”?), but I would like to hear from some of you about my question. I have a 2000 Honda Civic with 167,000 miles on it. I bought it used about 4 years ago. Next spring I’d like to take off for some camping and I’m wondering if my car could tow a “teardrop” camper? Unfortunately, I have only an automatic transmission - which I’ve been told makes a difference. I will be going out west and traveling in the high mountains and am concerned about burning out my engine…or whatever.

If towing a small camper like a teardrop isn’t feasible, what other (relatively inexpensive) options would I have for car camping (besides just using a tent)? Any ideas would be welcome.



I believe your car is a very poor choice for towing anything heavier than a Radio Flyer

If you look in your owner’s manual, I suspect it states that towing is NOT recommended

Nevertheless, if you choose to tow that camper, I highly suggest that you add a supplemental transmission cooler

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Get a good tent.

Tell us what your owner’s manual says about the towing capacity (if any) and we’ll discuss your situation from there.

Mountains + teardrop + Civic= no go

What about a motorcycle camping trailer? Those are light enough for a MC to tow, How much does a teardrop trailer weigh?

Heres one. I don’t see why you cant tow a small trailer like this behind a civic. Everyone around here acts like you need a dually diesel pickup to tow a lawnmower around.

Something like that, maybe, as long as it’s not loaded down with much else, at all. That’s 620 lbs dry, 1200 lbs gross. A ‘teardrop’ trailer can be MUCH more, way more than an older Civic should handle on mountain roads. Brakes, especially.

Nope. Can’t do it. I suppose your Civic could conceivably tow a small trailer up some mountains. But from a liability standpoint I don’t think you’ll find anyone willing to install a hitch on your car. It was never meant to tow anything, either structurally or powertrain-wise.

Something else to ponder, you may get the thing up the mountain, but how are you going to get it down? I don’t think the steering, suspension, brakes, and tires are up to the job of safely navigating down the Rockies with an additional 1,000 lbs behind the car.

Starting is optional. Stopping is mandatory.

The Great American towing conspiracy.

You don’t need a pickup truck to tow.

Quote from article.

It wasn’t always like this. In the sixties, you’d see 40hp VW Beetles pulling a trailer. In 1976, my VW Beetle died in Ohio heading back to Iowa, so we left it and hitch-hiked the rest of the way. My girlfriend’s Mom was driving a 70hp Corolla, which was rated to tow 1800lbs, exactly the weight of my VW. She generously offered it. Towing the Bug home, the Corolla never broke a sweat.

Interesting article. In Northern England there were all kinds of small buzz boxes pulling camping trailers for the weekend. With a standard car, I’ve never had a problem with a pop up camper in all kinds of weather or mountains. One time the gravel pit loaded my trailer with 3000# of sand with my 74 Cutlass pulling it. Had no trouble at all with the car or brakes, but trailer never made it all the way without blowing a tire. My main concern would be with the transmission taking a beating and then brakes, but maybe a unit under 1000# would be ok.

I own the same basic Civic you do, (6th generation - mine is a 1998), and according to my owner’s manual, the towing capacity is zero.

In order to tow one of those small tear-drop trailers, you need at least 1,500 pounds of towing capacity.

I think the least expensive RV setup would be an old police cruiser and a popup camper trailer. I’ve found the pop-ups are more waterproof if you strap tarps over the canvas bed covers after you set them up.

I wouldn’t even tow a small motorcycle trailer with your Civic, because the automatic transmission in your car is an infamous weak spot in the Civic’s drivetrain. It doesn’t need the extra stress of any trailer. Motorcycles have very different hardware in their drivetrains, and a very different power-to-weight ratio. If a motorcycle had a transmission as fragile as your Civic’s automatic transmission, I wouldn’t tow a motorcycle trailer with that motorcycle either.

If you aren’t prepared to spend money on a vehicle with towing capacity, get a really nice tent, a big air mattress, and a 12 volt compressor. RVing is fun, but it’s also expensive, even for a small unit.

Others are right that you don’t need a truck for towing, but you do need at least a large sedan for a small teardrop camper trailer. A compact won’t cut it.

Towing something from Ohio to Iowa is way different than Rocky mountain towing, don’t you think?

“It wasn’t always like this. In the sixties, you’d see 40hp VW Beetles pulling a trailer.”

The first sentence says it all. It’s apples and oranges. I owned many cars from that era. Some it was hard to drill a hole through the dash to install some do-dad the metal was so thick. Back then they didn’t design to razor thin margins…

A thirteen year old Civic is much less capable then a new one. All the negatives of an older car are enhanced by heavy loads. Sure, you can try to tow anything with an older Civic. Just don’t expect it be he same car when you finish. Also, tow weights are with one person aboard and little if any additional load. Do some research and find your total capacity. It will be easily exceeded if you carry anything on board, over working the brakes into submission and rendering you unsafe.

In England, the travel speeds are low, the distances are short and they have no choice using these types of cars given gas prices. The average yearly miles traveled is lower, it’s an island. Biggest problem is the tail wagging the dog and the handling imbalance. If you travel 25 to 40 mph on flat ground, you can tow anything. Try stopping with a Corolla or Civic with 1000 lbs.

But, listen to these proponents. Just let us know when you tow with a thirteen year old Civic. I want to be somewhere else. The biggest reason that cars are rated so low about towing, is we are a nation filled with idiots for drivers who don’t have a clue about how to safety do it. If you have to ask, you aren’t ready. So, take a chance if you must. Just remember that little thing called liability and if anything happens, you could be living in what’s left of that tear drop…

A “BIG” +1 for @dagosa here. Vehicles can pull a lot of weight but that’s not the same as towing. Towing encompasses a lot of variables like being able to tow the weight without damage to the vehicle and being able to safely steer and stop. Think about the other people on the road and make sure you can safely accomplish what you set out to do. Sure, I can pull a lot of weight with my pickup but there comes a time when the safety margin is reached. The old Civic reached it’s safety margin for towing when it left the factory.

In addition to the reality that a Civic is not a good tow vehicle to begin with, then there is the fact that the added stress of towing is likely to kill the car’s 13 year old transmission.

After 13 years and over 160k miles, many transmissions are nearing the end of their lifespan to begin with. But, if you factor-in Honda’s historical transmission problems, you have the formula for likely mechanical breakdown while on this road trip.

Personally, I can’t think of too many worse car repair scenarios than looking for an honest trans shop in an unfamiliar area, and with the added burden of having to do something with that trailer when the now-dead Civic is towed to a repair shop.

Ok, So the OP better not put 4 225lb adults in that civic either, it wont be able to stop, and it will self destruct. I don’t think pulling a 600lbs trailer with two people on board would be an issue. Towing a 1500lbs trailer would be silly.

I tow a small utility trailer with a small riding mower behind a prius. It tows it just fine, I barely know its back there, Its no different than hauling 4 people.

You can probably tow a very small trailer on a limited use basis. I wouldn’t be towing every weekend with the Civic.

It’s NOT just the engine hp that I have a problem with…it’s the fact that the Civic is a fwd vehicle. One reason why the VW bug is a better choice is because it’s RWD. Much more stable when towing.

I also wouldn’t be towing ANY trailer with the Civic on the highway.

For years my brother-in-law in Holland towed a small, light, streamlined trailer with a 1980 Mitsubishi Lancer, sold as a Colt in the US. It had a manual transmission and he stayed in 3rd gear and drove slowly. The car lasted 12 years, but he probably used up one clutch.

I would not dream of recommending this to any North American driver visiting this site. The instruction manual for the car probably did not recommend it either.

A Civic automatic is particularly unsuited to towing.