2012 Chevrolet Sonic Long Term Road Test


2012 Chevrolet Sonic: Can You Tow it Behind a Motorhome?

January 8, 2013

2012 Chevrolet Sonic

Sure, you can tow any car behind a motorhome if you have a trailer, but that's not the preferred method. The ideal situation is pictured above: a so-called "dinghy" vehicle rolls behind on its own four wheels, ready to be disconnected and driven around on side trips while the motorhome sits parked with its awning unfurled and its sliders popped out in full relaxation mode. The extra towed weight and storage hassle of a trailer puts an unwelcome damper on such proceedings.

This activity goes by many names: dinghy towing, flat towing and four-down towing to name a few. As you can imagine there are mechanical implications for the car involved.

Some transmissions depend on a rotating input shaft driven by a running engine for lubrication, others don't. Some all-wheel drive systems can deal with it, others can't. Manual transmissions are generally less troubled by this activity than automatics, to the extent that such use in many cars is restricted to manuals only. Others warn against dinghy towing altogether. The owner's manual usually has the details.

Where does this all leave the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic? Can you tow it behind a motorhome?

The short answer is yes. And it doesn't matter if your Sonic has an automatic or a stick-shift gearbox.

This is good news because the Sonic has a few other things going for it that are appreciated by dinghy towing folk. It's inexpensive, costing between $15,000 and $20,000. You can get it as a hatchback or a sedan. It's fuel efficient to the tune of 33 mpg combined and as high as 40 mpg on the highway. And it doesn't weigh much. Our 2012 Sonic LTZ turbo weighs 2,743 pounds, well under the 3,000-pound threshold that triggers the need for a remote motorhome-to-car braking system in some places.

Of course Chevrolet does want you to follow a few specific procedures before you head out.

Before hooking up (nose-first only) they want the automatic version to have its engine run for at least five minutes to fully lubricate the innards of the transmission. This step isn't necessary if the Sonic in question has a manual gearbox, like ours.

After latching on they ask that you shift to park (or first gear in a manual) and set the parking brake as a precaution against someone else in your party climbing into the motorhome and driving off as you rummage around in the Sonic's fuse box to remove the DLIS fuse.

Why remove the fuse? Because the next crucial step is to turn the ignition key to the accessory position, which unlocks the steering so it can turn freely while towing. You'll leave the key in this position all day, and certain lights will burn the entire time if you don't pull the DLIS fuse. It's not good form to arrive with a dead battery.

Now it's time to shift the transmission back into neutral, release the parking brake and double-check both of these a couple of times before you finally lock the door with a second set of keys you'll want to carry. Your Sonic is finally ready to roll, but GM warns that damage could occur if you tow it at speeds greater than 65 mph.

Beyond that, Chevy warns that each time you stop your motorhome for refueling you should get back in if your Sonic (if it's an automatic) and run the engine for five minutes to circulate transmission fluid once more. You'll want to do this every morning, too. And when you do unhook at your destination you'll need to reinsert the DLIS fuse you pulled out earlier on.

These sorts of precautions will sound familiar to dinghy towing regulars. The main thing is any Sonic can be a dinghy regardless of transmission, and this compact has a lot of other things going for it that make it a good choice for the job.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 16,943 miles

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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2012 Chevrolet Sonic in VA is:

$151 per month*
* Explanation
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