So you want to tow your F-150 truck, perhaps behind your RV?
You have three choices, either on a tow dolly or four-wheel-down or on a trailer.
Read on as we dive into the issues of using a tow dolly.
Towing a Ford F-150 on a dolly – can it be done?
The quick answer is no. Ford does not recommend that the Ford F-150 is towed on a dolly. Neither a rear-wheel drive or a 4WD model should be towed on a dolly, according to Ford. They also additionally warn that none of their AWD/4WD vehicles can be towed with two wheels lifted off the ground.
Before we dive into this a bit more let’s review what a tow dolly is and the differences between tow dolly towing and four-wheel down towing.
What is a tow dolly?
A tow dolly is like half of a trailer!
You drive the front two wheels of your vehicle onto the dolly and they remain above the ground. You secure your vehicle with straps and any other mechanism required for the model of dolly. Most tow dollies will have their own braking system.
What is the capacity of a tow dolly?
All tow dollies have a maximum weight rating. The towed vehicle should not exceed this rating.
For U-Haul dolly rentals the limit is 3,450 lbs for front-wheel drive cars and 3,900 lbs for rear-wheel cars. For Penske rentals the limit is 4,300lbs. There are however larger capacity dollies on the market and it’s possible to find them with a capacity of close to 5,000lbs.
However, you can see a key constraint in towing a Ford F-150. The curb weight (i.e. unladen weight) of most F-150 models is well above 4,000lbs and many are above 5,000lbs. This will exceed the capacity of many tow dollies and be uncomfortably close to the limit for almost all Ford F-150 trucks.
How to tow with a dolly
There are a few key things to remember when towing a vehicle on a dolly.
- Attach the dolly to your towing vehicle before you load
- Do not load the towed vehicle
- Don’t back up with the vehicle on the dolly!
The video on the right gives a great introduction to how to load a tow dolly.
What vehicles can be loaded on a tow dolly?
In general tow dollyies are suitable for front-wheel drive vehicles and not rear-wheel, or AWD/4WD vehicles.
However if you do try to tow a rear-wheel or AWD/4WD vehicle then you must ensure that the driveshaft is disconnected and secured. It is not enough to have the vehicle in neutral as this could damage the transmission. See our glossary section for an explanation of some of these terms.
You may be tempted to put the transfer case in neutral and dolly tow. Not everyone agrees that is bad for every vehicle on the market, but Ford definitely do not recommend it. So it is probably not worth risking the health of your Ford F-150’s transfer case.
Advantages and disadvantages of using tow dolly
- Can be cheaper than a full car carrier trailer
- Less load on the towing vehicle than a full car carrier trailer
- Four-wheel-down tow can require professional installation that is car-specific
- Easier to switch out vehicles than using four-wheels-down towing
- As discussed above, unsuitable for many vehicles
- The dolly takes up space at your destination. Can be a squeeze with tight RV spots at campgrounds
- Do not have to modify your vehicle at all. e.g. mounting hardware
- Takes more time to hitch and de-hitch than using four-wheels-down
- Can’t reverse. (Also applicable for four-wheel-down towing)
- Can be greater wear and tear since more of the vehicle’s weight is transmitted through the rear wheels, since the front wheels are raised off the ground
Want to be kept up-to-date on developments on this site? Use the signup for occasional emails. We hate spam and you email is safe with us!
Tow dolly state regulations
When using a tow dolly you must comply with the regulations of the states that you are traveling in. We can’t go through every state here, but as an example here are some rules from Massachusetts.
- Tow dollies are exempt from registration requirements
- Various rules on the correct plates to use for dealers, repairers, owner-contractors and transport.
Glossary of Terms
There is a lot of jargon out there, so let’s break it down!
- Differential. When your car goes around a corner the wheels on the outside of the curve travel further than those on the inside of the curve. It’s just geometry! This is why it’s not generally desirable to have wheels that are connected by a rigid axle (like in a Hot Wheels model car). A differential allows the wheels on the same axle to turn at different rates. This also helps distribute power from the engine to the wheels.
- Transfer Case. The transfer case is required on 4×4 or AWD vehicles. It distributes engine power to both the rear and front axles. The differentials then distribute power from the axle to the wheels. The transfer case can be thought of as a differential between the front and rear axles. It helps ensure both front and rear wheels are turning at the same speeds and synchronized. This is not necessarily a given, since different gearing ratios, or different tire sizes can cause unequal speeds to develop. Many transfer cases allow the driver to switch between 4WD and 2WD modes.
- Transmission. The transmission connects the engine to the axle(s) and ultimately the wheels. It’s the connection that provides power to the wheels. It contains the gearbox and helps regulate the power that is being delivered to the wheels. When you are standing idle in your car at the traffic lights the transmission disconnects the engine from the wheels so the engine can continue without delivering power to the wheels. Transmissions are generally either manual or automatic, depending on whether the driver is operating the clutch to change gears. n
Frequently asked questions
Can you tow a Ford F-150 with a tow dolly? No, Ford does not recommend it.
How do you tow a Ford F-150 4×4? You must either tow it on a full trailer or four-wheels-down. Follow the instructions in your manual for towing with four-wheels-down.
If you have remaining questions please contact us.
Please refer to the disclaimer for important notes and limitations on this article