2012 Honda CR-V: Can You Tow it Behind a Motorhome?
January 14, 2013
You can tow any car behind a motorhome if you bring a trailer. But that's not the preferred method. The ideal scenario is pictured above: a so-called "dinghy" vehicle rolling behind on its own four wheels, ready to be unhooked and driven around on side trips while the motorhome sits parked with its awnings unfurled and its sliders popped out in full relaxation mode. The extra towed weight, loading time 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.
Automatics tend to be less compatible than manuals, in large part because of the way some of them are lubricated. Some all-wheel drive systems can hack it, others cannot. The only way to know for sure is to dive into the owner's manual.
The only transmission offered in the 2012 Honda CR-V is a five-speed automatic, but the drivetrain comes in front-drive and all-wheel-drive versions. The latter is more versatile for this sort of usage because it can tackle sightseeing terrain that's a bit dodgier.
But can it be done? Does the 2012 Honda CR-V make a good dinghy?
The answer is yes. Any 2012 Honda CR-V can be safely towed behind a motorhome, be it a front-drive or AWD version. The one caveat is this: the front-driver can also be towed with its front tires on a dolly, if you're into that sort of thing, but the AWD models cannot — only four-down dinghy towing for that one. But that's OK. That's what we're after.
As usual, Honda wants you to do things in a particular way to stay within the bounds of your warranty and avoid damage.
First, check your transmission fluid level and make sure it's between the upper and lower hash marks. This isn't really a dinghy towing thing — this state of affairs should always be the case — but it underscores the need to treat the transmission right before you subject it to this kind of use. And if you dinghy-tow often they advise you to change that ATF every 2 years or 30,000 miles instead of the usual interval.
After hooking up and latching on to the motorhome, step on the brake and start the engine if it isn't running already. Keeping your foot on the brake, move the shift lever briefly through all its positions. Finish by holding it in drive for five seconds, then shift to neutral and let the engine run for three more minutes. It is vitally important to make sure you do this last step from drive to neutral as described. Going from reverse to neutral instead could lead to "severe transmission damage," they warn.
Shut the motor off, leave it in neutral and make sure the parking brake is fully released. Turn the key to the accessory position and confirm that the steering is unlocked.
At this point you're set to go, and if you won't be towing more than a few hours you don't need to pull any interior fuses, especially if you make sure nothing is plugged into the cigarette lighter and the dome light is off. Don't laugh. During my last Oregon road trip I actually saw an RV towing a CR-V in the wee hours with the dome light still on. Don't be that guy.
If you are going to be towing 8 hours or more, then you should pull the 7.5-amp "accessory radio" fuse from the interior fuse panel. I have no idea if this prevents the dome light problem, but it's the only fuse they call out.
Beyond that, Honda asks that you do not exceed 65 mph, and they want to make sure you re-start the engine and repeat the transmission shifting and idling sequence described above after every eight hours of travel and each morning before you hit the road again.
Beyond dinghy towing, the 2012 Honda CR-V is a solid vehicle on many other counts. It really is the right sort of vehicle to have if you want to do some light off-roading or just want something more substantial than a sedan during your RV travels. Unloaded curb weights range from 3,300 pounds to just over 3,500 pounds.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 15,201 miles