I have a few questions regarding towing an enclosed car hauler with a 40-foot motorhome.
1) Are there state laws that would prohibit it? Maybe length or license specialization?
2) How accessible are most campgrounds when you have the trailer, motorhome and the car out that was being towed? Will we run into logistical issues while traveling and booking campsites to accommodate them?
3) Pros or cons for this type of towing vs. flat towing a vehicle?
Most states have length restrictions, usually in the 65- to 70-foot range for max combined length, so you need to be aware of that. If you want to travel without worries, I’d suggest staying under 65 feet. Some states do have special license requirements, but that is usually triggered by the gross weight of the tow vehicle. If you are properly licensed in the state that you’re domiciled or registered in, you can generally use that license to lawfully drive in other states that you visit.
Some folks may disagree, but in general, if you choose to carry your car in or on a trailer, it will be a limiting factor in several ways. An enclosed trailer does provide significant protection for your vehicle, but also significantly complicates your parking routine. Backing a trailer, especially a smaller one, behind a 40-foot motorhome can be done, but it isn’t easy. While many RV parks have pull-through sites available, many state and national parks don’t. That means you’re likely to be parking in a back-in site from time to time. The trailer will be a factor in campsites, and if you are towing a big trailer, it will often keep you out of some campgrounds and RV parks due to length restrictions. I’ve found this is especially problematic in the east, as access roads tend to be more challenging and parks and campgrounds are usually smaller.
Compared with towing a car four-down on a tow bar, setting up and breaking camp will require more time and effort. It’s quite doable, but the tow bar will always win over the trailer when it comes to ease of use and simplicity. When you disconnect the car from the tow bar, there’s just the car to park, and the tow bar folds up on the back of the motorhome, and takes up very little space. With a trailer, once the car is unloaded, you have to find space to park both the car and the trailer. This can be a challenge in some campsites. The bigger the trailer, the more challenging it is.
Finally, a trailer adds the tongue weight of the trailer to the back of your motorhome, this can cause issues with weight distribution and gross vehicle weight. A tow bar has a tongue weight of essentially zero, so it doesn’t affect the balance and total weight of the motorhome. Of course, regardless of how (or what) you choose to tow, careful attention must be paid to hitch-weight ratings and proper trailer or towed car supplemental braking.
In my experience, many RVers who start out with a car trailer or even a tow dolly will discover that it’s a pain dealing with the trailer or dolly every time you park. Many will switch to 4-down towing after a year or two, because it is easier. Unless you have special needs, like a classic car you don’t want exposed to the road and weather behind your motorhome, or you want to carry (and secure) additional tools or other possessions and toys behind you, the tow bar is probably the better way to go.
We would like to camp in cool weather without electricity. Can a battery safely run a furnace blower?
Your RV’s house battery will run the furnace, but if you have only a single battery, it may not be enough to keep the furnace running all night if it is really cold. Two batteries will usually support the furnace for 24 to 48 hours before they are depleted, depending on what else you might be running (lights, fans, etc.). Many RVers choose a vent-free propane heater for boondocking or dry-camping because they require no DC power to operate. Olympian catalytic heaters are an example of this type of heater. These heaters run off your RV’s propane system and require installation of a gas line and fittings to support them. Another popular option is the line of Buddy Heaters, which can run on a small portable propane cylinder, making them very easy to use. Have fun and stay warm!
We are new to the RV world! We bought a 29-foot travel trailer in June. It is being stored in a farm shed with one side open. We have removed all food and cleaned it thoroughly. We have placed mothballs and pieces of soap around the tires and hitch. We have a number of dryer sheets placed on the inside as well. What else do you recommend for prevention of mice during the winter here in Minnesota?
Removal of food and water are important, but mice will often enter RVs to nest even when no food is in there. The best way to prevent a rodent infestation is to mechanically exclude them. That means plugging every potential access hole or gap in your RV’s exterior. You can use expanding foam reinforced with hardware cloth or steel mesh, steel wool or sheet metal. It can be a formidable task, but, unfortunately, most other methods are less than 100 percent effective. Repellents may or may not work, and many typically suggested repellents (dryer sheets, mothballs, etc.) seem to work better for some folks than others. Poison can be effective, but only if placed inside the rig and all sources of water inside are removed. These poisons cause the mice to seek water outside the rig. This is supposed to prevent them from dying inside your RV. The keyword here is “supposed.” If you decide that poison is appropriate, go to a local feed or agricultural supply store rather than the supermarket to buy it. The industrial-grade product is cheaper and more effective.
We recently purchased a fifth wheel, 35 feet long. We would like to cover it for the winter. We were told by someone in the RV business that the poly coat on the camper will be ruined by a cover. Do you have any experience with this/with covers?
We appreciate your response,
Randy and Joanne
Hi Randy and Joanne,
You can certainly use an RV cover when storing your rig. Just be sure to get a good quality cover that can be secured to the rig, and make sure it is constructed of breathable materials. A plain plastic tarp may do more harm than good if it allows moisture to build up underneath it! When shopping for a cover, look for the descriptive keyword “breathable.” This means that the cover will not be totally waterproof but will allow moisture that gets under the cover to evaporate. RV covers are available from Camping World and a number of online retailers. Check out www.rvcovers.com. You can expect to pay $200 to $400 for a high-quality cover for your RV’s particular size, and I would be wary of “cheap” covers. Buy a name brand, like ADCO or Coverite, and it will serve you well. Be sure to attach it firmly to the RV with tie-downs as specified in the instructions. The cover should not be loose enough to flap in the wind, as that can damage painted surfaces.
I just read your Mark My Words: Winter Survival Edition. Most of it doesn’t apply to me since I’m not really a cold-weather person and not inclined to go camping in that weather, especially since my current camper is a pop-up. But reading your tip about shrink-wrapping the windows reminded me of back in the ’80s when I had a ’67 VW Bus (the last year of the original split-windshield body style) with a camper conversion that had been done by a travel trailer company in Elkhart. The windows in it were the old mobile home style made up of a series of slats (I believe they were referred to as Jealousy windows when I was a kid) and they leaked so bad that going down the highway papers (and sometimes other stuff) would be blowing around in the back. I was working at the time in a print shop that had a shrink-wrapping machine in the bindery department, and in the fall I would take the screens out of the camper and run them through the shrink wrapper to make storm windows out of them.
It worked pretty well, except that the windows weren’t the only leaks in that old bus.
That’s a great story, Dave!
Yeah, I had those windows in my first RV, a pickup camper, and they leaked like crazy. I think the word is “jalousie,” which Google says is French for “jealousy,” LOL!
I have some comments about your mention of anti-freeze in November’s column. Last winter I winterized my Forester motorhome and weekly would check on its condition. The antifreeze in the toilet bowl formed slushy ice, which caused my concern. It was undiluted. The pink antifreeze was bought at Walmart and I was able to get the manufacturer’s phone number. The company’s representative assured me that it was “designed” to turn to slush in colder temperatures but would not freeze solid. They had been making this formula for many years with no issues. No one at Walmart had ever heard of this and neither had I. Goes to show that you’re never too old to learn a few new things!
Thanks, Roger! Water is the only non-metallic substance on the planet that expands when it freezes. That’s why I always tell folks to get all the water out of the pipes they can before pumping in the antifreeze. Antifreeze might freeze, but it won’t expand and damage your pipes.
In your reply to Jeremy concerning the spark plugs on his V-10 “to take it to the dealer, that way if they screw it up, it’s on them,” was spoken by a truly uninformed consumer. My answer to Jeremy, with my experience, would have been something along the lines of, “Yes these engines have a history of issues with changing the spark plugs. However, the dealer or any good shop that has done many of these can take precautions to try and ensure damage-free replacement.” I would suggest having a conversation with them at the outset to see what their policy/charges are should the worst happen. Again, any shop that has dealt with these is also properly equipped to handle broken plugs if need. Oh, and replacing spark plugs early is cheap insurance. Waiting for it to run rough or throw a code is just waiting for trouble… Just my opinion after spending almost 50 years in the automotive industry, over 30 of them as a tech.
Thanks, Ernie! Good advice, I’ve had to Helicoil a couple spark plug holes myself, never on a V-10, but on motorcycles. Most of my problems started by trying to horse a plugin with a wrench. If they don’t thread in all the way to the gasket or seat by hand, stop and find out why!