Mike has been an automotive writer since 2007. He’s also the author of a 32,000+ word ebook on the inner workings of cars, suspensions, and engines, with 2 chapters on quick and easy performance enhancements. He’s been involved in the auto industry since the early 70s, doing everything from pumping gas and washing windows, to selling new and used cars and parts. He has NHRA and NASCAR (amateur level) track experience with Camaros, and has taught auto shop courses in high school. In addition, he’s built-up cars from scratch.
If you’ve ever had the need to tow your car, you know how much of a hassle it can be. This is true whether the car has an automatic or manual transmission, but let’s face it, vehicles with automatic transmissions present their own unique problem when being towed, unless they’re trailered with all four wheels on the trailer. When they came out with the 2010 Equinox, Chevrolet made many RV owners very happy.
What Makes Towing a Vehicle with an Automatic So Much More Problematic?
In short, it’s the automatic transmission itself, how it works. Unless you disconnect the driveshaft(s), towing the vehicle with the drive wheels on the ground will, not can or may, will ruin the transmission. This is because the fluid isn’t allowed to circulate in an automatic when the engine isn’t running. The pump is driven by the engine. Manual transmissions don’t have this problem because their lubrication system is what’s known as a bath-type lubricating system-the lower portion of the gears sit in the gear oil in the bottom of the transmission and as they rotate, they pick up and distribute the gear oil, lubricating the gears constantly.
The Chevy Equinox May Be Best Vehicle with an Automatic for RV Towing
The engineers over at GM were the first to tackle this problem in a way that makes it quite easy for anyone to tow their car behind something like an RV, even if they can’t afford an expensive dolly or four-wheel vehicle trailer. They created a transmission system that allows you to disconnect the drive wheels from the transmission internals, making it so you can tow the car with just a tow bar and not worry about destroying the transmission. It must be noted that this isn’t true for previous generations of Chevrolet Equinox was produced; just from 2010 to today’s 2016 Equinox – the current generation.
How They Did It
I can’t really get into the in-depth technical aspects of how it works because I’m not a transmission specialist. However, I do know it works because my parents have one and that’s the main reason they bought it, they didn’t like having to pull a dolly or four-wheel trailer behind their RV. What they did was create the 6T-series of electronically-controlled transmissions that maintains lubrication within the case with the engine off which enables flat-towing.In order to prepare your 2010 or later Equinox for flat-towing, what’s known as toadie- or dinghy-towing, all you have to do is pull a fuse after you get the car hooked up to the tow bar and leave the key in the ACC position to keep the steering wheel unlocked.
Getting Deeper into How to Tow an Equinox behind an RV
Looking at the Owner’s Manual for the 2012 Equinox, one sees six short steps to prepare the vehicle for dinghy-towing behind and RV (or pickup). Step one is to hook it up to the vehicle that will be doing the pulling/towing. From there, steps two and three are to pull the transmission lever into Neutral from Park after turning the key to ON/RUN. From there:
- Turn the key back to ACC
- Turn off the accessories like the stereo.
- To prevent the battery from running down on longer trips, pull fuse number 32, which is for the Discrete Logic Ignition Switch (See photo below.)
There are a few provisos/cautions that you have to be aware of, especially when towing for extended periods.
- GM recommends that you run the engine for about five minutes before setting off on your trip.
- Exceeding the legal limit of 65 miles per hour can damage your transmission.
- If you\re driving for more than four to five hours, they recommend starting and running the engine for about five minutes.
- Make sure the transmission fluid level is at the proper level-not too high, not low.
- Never tow a vehicle with mismatched front tire sizes. This causes the transmission to want to turn at different speeds and can cause severe transmission damage.
- It is not recommended to tow a Chevy Equinox of any production year equipped with all-wheel-drive.
- Trade organizations and GM recommend that you have a towed vehicle brake-assist system installed prior to towing any vehicle behind your RV.
- Most states require a secondary set of lights or trailer light wiring installed between the RV and the Equinox.
What Some Equinox Owners Have Done to Make Towing Even Easier
As you can see from the picture above, it’s not easy to get to the fuse that needs to be pulled. It’s even more difficult to pull that fuse. Perusing the recreational vehicle forums, one finds that what many people have done, and what the Federal Motor Coach Association (FMCA) an industry trade group, recommends is to install a cut-off switch in the circuit supplied by the fuse that needs to be pulled. This way you don’t have to have teeny but strong fingers to pull the fuse and you don’t run the risk of losing the fuse.
Wiring schematics that will help you locate and identify the wire that needs to have the switch spliced in can be obtained at your GM dealer. You can also have your local RV shop perform this upgrade for you while they’re installing the tow bar accessories. Shop around for the tow bar you like the most, there are literally dozens out there. Many of the better ones allow you to remove most of the visible tow bar components when they aren’t in use so you don’t mar or ruin the look of your Equinox from the front.
Honorable Mention in the Dinghy-Towing Category Goes to the Honda CR-V
Honda’s CR-V is another vehicle that many RV owners like because it can be flat-towed behind another vehicle. Except, mechanics don’t care for it because even the six-cylinder engine has a timing belt that isn’t as strong as the timing chain the Equinox V6 has. The procedure for preparing the CR-V for being towed flat is also more convoluted and skipping one of the dozen or so steps involved will damage your transmission seriously. In all, as far as automatic transmission-equipped vehicles go, the Equinox is the hands-down winner for dinghy- or flat-towing behind an RV or heavy duty truck.