Can You Back Up When Flat Towing/Dinghy Towing?

What Happens When You Reverse Or Back Up With A Flat Towed Vehicle?

If you read the manual that came with your tow bar you will most likely come across a section that says you should never back with a towed vehicle connected. But what happens when you do?

When you flat tow a vehicle the front wheels must be unlocked so they can turn with your RV.

This is why the tracking of a flat towed vehicle is so good, the wheels follow you.

Because the wheels are unlocked the second you start to back up they normally start to turn instantly and as far as they can.

See Also: RV Truck & Trailer Towing Capacity – How Much Can I Tow?

This sudden turn of the towed vehicle causes it to jam into the tow bar which puts a ton of strain on it. It might even bend it.

Another thing is all the pins, couplings, levers, joints on the tow bar are made to be strong going forward.

Putting pressure on them in the opposite direction may compromise certain parts which could cause a break or disconnect over time.

This is especially true if you have a non-binding tow bar with telescopic arms like the Blue Ox Avail (click to view on Amazon).


Can I Back Up When Flat Towing If Someone Is In The Vehicle?

So you can’t reverse when flat towing because the wheels will turn sharply and jackknife the towed vehicle. So what if you put someone in the towed vehicle with the engine running so they can steer?

People have tried this and I’ve never heard a story or seen it work as planned.

It may get you a little bit of distance but trying to match what someone is doing with their wheels in another vehicle (especially a long RV) is easier said than done.

Related: Towing Cars Behind RVs – The Flat Towing Guide

You also increase the risk of destroying the tow bar. If you don’t have the wheels matching each other exactly it will put pressure on the tow bar in between the two.

Now you will have not only reverse pressure but side pressure as well.

It just doesn’t seem worth it when you think about all the things that could go wrong.


In an emergency you may be able to back up a few feet while flat towing.
In an emergency, you may be able to back up a few feet while flat towing.

How To Back Up With A Flat Towed Vehicle In An Emergency

Life isn’t always predictable and sometimes you just have to reverse to get out of a bad situation.

If you must reverse with a flat towed vehicle then your best option is to have someone watched the wheels of the towed vehicle while you reverse very slowly, not moving the steering wheel at all.

You can theoretically reverse a few feet if it’s straight back, on a level surface, without moving the wheels.

Once you’ve backed always inspect the tow bar thoroughly to make sure nothing was bent or damaged in the process.

See Also: Best Wireless RV Backup Cameras & Systems Reviewed


Do I Have To Disconnect The Vehicle Any Time I Need To Reverse?

Yes. You should always just disconnect the dingy or flat towed vehicle if you need to reverse your RV, it’s the safest and easiest way to go about it.

If you get a good non-binding tow bar like most of the ones in this article (click to view) unhooking your towed vehicle should be quick and easy.

Most of the premium choices can even be quickly disconnected on unlevel ground.

Being able to disconnect quickly in an emergency is another reason to get an installed, non-removable auxiliary braking system in your towed vehicle (click to view flat tow braking options).

It’s a more difficult install but it can be worth it if you need to just get in your car and drive.

Have any more questions about reversing while flat towing? Leave a comment below.

by Jenni
Jenni grew up in a small town in Idaho. With a family that loves camping, she has been towing trailers since a very young age.

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