As you already know, flat towing is the method of towing a vehicle behind your RV that keeps all 4 wheels on the ground. It is a convenient way to tow and comes with many advantages. One is that it is very easy to connect and disconnect your Jeep.
The flat tow system is a device that will apply the brakes on the towed vehicle when the driver starts to press the RV’s brakes. Some models come with a manual override to allow you to apply the brakes without pressing the RV’s brake pedal.
To learn more about these systems for Jeep, just continue to read our article. It explores the issue so you have all the information you need to decide if this is a method that will work for you.
There are three different types of flat towing braking systems you can choose from. Each one while having the same purpose, will work in a slightly different way.
1. Proportional- this device has become very popular because it is very easy to install and use. Once installed, the tow vehicle’s brakes are applied when you apply the RV’s brakes and at the same intensity.
There is an inertia-based sensor that helps the system work the towed vehicle’s brakes when the coach begins to slow down. An actuator helps operate this towing system.
2. Direct- these systems are attached to your hydraulic or brake system in your RV. When you press the brake pedal the vehicle being towed will have its brake pedal pressed at the same time.
Air or hydraulic pressure is transferred to the vehicle being towed and you get a monitor to show you that the system is working well. This system is a bit more complicated to install but just as easy to use as the proportional system.
3. Vacuum-Assist - this braking system works with the power assist function on the vehicle being towed. You will need a vacuum source to operate this system and the actuator is connected to your RV through a wire harness.
When you press the RV’s brake pedal, then the signal tells the actuator to press the vehicle being towed brake pedal. An indicator light will illuminate letting you know the process worked correctly.
This is possible but not recommended. To flat tow your Jeep without a braking system, you would have to remove your front axle. Then you would have to release the parking brake.
While this seems to be simple and one method to use, there are some disadvantages to it. One of those disadvantages is that you can damage both your transmission and engine due to a lack of lubrication.
The other issue you should be aware of is that in some states it is illegal to tow anything without a braking system installed. Different states will have different laws and sometimes those laws are based on the weight of the item being towed.
Part of your decision that may influence you to tow without a braking system installed, would be the cost of those braking systems. One option costs almost $1200 when on sale and over $1500 when they are not on sale.
You would have to compare this cost with the potential repair bill if anything should happen to your Jeep while it is being towed. Also, if you are under warranty, check your coverage to see if the warranty allows this type of towing to be done.
It may not and if you do, then you will lose all your protection. Not to mention your insurance coverage. Check that as well to see if this type of towing is covered by your insurance.
There are different brands that make these types of systems and according to the first brand that we will mention, a tow brake system is required in 49 states and every province in Canada.
1. Blue Ox- they have the Patriot system and this system provides the same force as the force you use to apply your RV’s brakes. You can read about it at this link. The cost for this system is almost $1800 through the website.
2. Demco- this company’s braking system will cost you about $1600 when it is not on sale. It comes with all the parts and components you will need to make a complete connection with your RV’s braking system. It is a proportional system.
3. Roadmaster- is a supplemental braking system and it is on sale for the same price as the Demco version. It is a one-time setup and it uses cables to push the brakes when you push your RV’s brakes.
4. Brake Buddy- This option does not come with a good reputation but it works when it detects your RV is slowing down. There is a sensitivity control to help you adjust the stopping power of the braking system.
When it is not on sale, it is the most expensive system of these four brands. It costs almost $2000.
From 2 to 4 you can find descriptions for them at this link. or you can just type in the brand name in your search box and go to the specific company’s website for more details.
The answer to this is going to be decided on preference and budget. Everyone has their own favorite system with some people both liking and disliking the brake Buddy option.
Some RV owners prefer the Demco system and speak highly o fit while others have gone with the Roadmaster and then some installed the Roadmaster base plate and also installed the Brake Buddy.
E-trailer where most of our above list came from, says Demco is the best with Roadmaster next followed by Blue Ox, and bringing up the rear is Brake Buddy. From what we can tell, these companies make several versions of their braking systems to fit specific vehicles.
Other owners have combined systems for the best possible braking. At least two went with Blue Ox and RVi components. They have said this combination works to their satisfaction and they are happy with this method.
Two other brands you can consider would be the Hopkins 3 and the NSA-RB 4000-EV devices. Those two brands popped up on one top best list for this type of product.
Demco and Hopkins have been around the longest. They have been in business for 70 years. Roadmaster has been around since 1970 while Blue Ox has been in existence since 1925. It is also owned by Automatic Equipment since 1991 that is unless that company has sold Blue Ox by now.
Here are the steps you need to take to flat tow your Jeep:
1. Install a base plate- this needs to be a custom fit to make sure it will work on your specific vehicle. If Your Jeep was made between 2007 and 2018 most base plates are compatible with those models as long as they have the standard factory bumper.
2. Tow bar- this component has to be compatible with the base plate. There is no room for customizing at this juncture. What that means is, if you use a Roadmaster or Blue Ox base plate, you will need a Roadmaster or Blue Ox tow bar, respectively.
3. Safety chains or cables- make sure you have strong tow hooks or D rings to connect this safety feature to your Jeep and tow vehicle. Both Blue Ox and Roadmaster include this safety feature in their tow bar kits.
4. Tow wiring harness- you need a source of electricity to turn on the brake lights of the vehicle being towed. And some braking systems require this harness to receive the signal telling them it is time to brake.
You can tap into your Jeep’s current electrical system and hook the wiring up or attach magnetic lights and keep the system separate.
5. Install your preferred braking system- instructions should be in the box the system came in.
One final thing, make sure to check your RV’s towing capacity as some Jeeps tend to be very heavy. You do not want to exceed that boundary.
The proper towing gear would be neutral. If you do not know how to put your Jeep in that gear, and it is more than just moving the gear shift, here are the instructions to follow:
First, the transfer case must be shifted into NEUTRAL. Here's how to do that:
The key must be in the "accessory" position:
- Depress and hold the brake pedal.
- Set Parking Brake
- Shift the automatic transmission into NEUTRAL (N) or depress the clutch pedal on the manual transmission.
- Shift the transfer case lever into NEUTRAL (N).
- Start the engine.
- Shift the automatic transmission into DRIVE (D) or the manual transmission into gear.
- Release the brake pedal and ensure that there is no vehicle movement.
**IMPORTANT: Shut the engine off and place the ignition key into the unlocked OFF position.*
- Shift the automatic transmission into PARK (P).
- Apply the parking brake.
- Attach the Jeep to the tow vehicle with a tow bar.
- Release the parking brake.
** Note: Damage to the transmission may occur if the transmission is shifted into PARK (P) with the transfer case in NEUTRAL (N) and the engine running!
** Note: Do not use a bumper mounted clamp-on tow bar on the Jeep Wrangler or Wrangler Unlimited JK. The bumper face bar can be damaged. You can shop all the bumpers we sell here
Then to shift out of neutral, here are the few steps you need to take:
Once you reach your destination, you will want to unhook the Jeep from the tow vehicle. Here's how to do that:
- Shift the automatic transmission into NEUTRAL (N) or depress the clutch pedal on a manual transmission.
- Shift the transfer case lever into the desired position (2-Hi, 4-Hi, or 4-Lo)
- Shift the automatic transmission into DRIVE (D) or release the clutch on a manual transmission.
Instructions from the manual are:
**The transfer case NEUTRAL (N) position disengages both the front and rear driveshafts from the powertrain and will allow the vehicle to move despite the transmission position. The parking brake should always be applied with the driver is not in the vehicle. (source for all of this information in this section)
Besides being mandatory in almost all states and Canadian provinces, there are some good advantages to installing one of these systems when you want to tow your vehicle on vacation.
1. Helps prolong the life of your RV’s braking system- adding more weight will wear out your regular brakes faster. With a tow brake system, those RV brakes have less pressure on them and they should last longer
2. Safety- many vehicles being towed can be quite heavy. Without a proper way to brake those vehicles, you could cause damage to both your RV and your towed vehicle. Or other problems may arise when the towed vehicle can’t stop fast enough.
3. Protects your warranty- It isn’t just the warranty of your towed vehicle that you need to worry about. It is the warranty on your RV that has to be protected as well.
Installing a good tow braking system when you want to bring your family vehicle on your next vacation is a good idea. These systems provide extra safety for you and your loved ones as well as protect your vehicles from damage.
There are a lot of good tow braking systems brands out there and you should investigate them all to make sure you get the right one for your specific vehicle and RV. It is also legally required to have them.