Can You Tow a Subaru Outback with an RV?


If you are looking to purchase an RV, or even rent one, and you are the proud owner of a Subaru Outback, you may be wondering can you tow a Subaru Outback with an RV.

I did some research, and here’s what I found out:

You can tow a Subaru Outback with an RV, but it can damage the transmission or the AWD system. If you have a manual transmission, then flat towing is okay. But if you have an automatic transmission, the only way to safely tow your Subaru Outback is on a trailer.

All AWD vehicles need to be towed with either all four wheels on the ground or a trailer.

But that’s not all there is to know about towing a Subaru Outback behind your RV. In this article, we’ll go over whether you can tow your Outback and the best way to do so.

Just keep reading to learn more!

Will towing a Subaru Outback with my RV damage the car?

Towing an Outback with an RV tow dolly can damage the transmission and/or the AWD system. Subaru vehicles with automatic transmissions can only be towed with all four wheels off the ground. 

Towing an AWD Subaru Outback with the front tires on a dolly won’t necessarily damage the transmission.

But it will damage the AWD system, which is contained in the rear of the transmission. If you’re thinking of towing it with the rear tires, that, as well, is not advisable.

Towing your Subaru Outback with the rear tires will damage the transmission.

For Outbacks with automatic transmissions, the output shaft only gets lubricated when the engine is running. This means that the vehicle can suffer severe transmission damage if towed with the driven wheels rolling along the highway.

The driveshaft turns, but it doesn’t get lubricated.

Subaru Outbacks can be towed without damaging the vehicle, though. You either need to tow it with all of its wheels off the ground, or it can be flat towed, which means that all four wheels are on the ground.

Can a Subaru Outback be towed on a dolly?

Never tow an AWD vehicle, including Subaru Outbacks, on a dolly. Towing an Outback with two wheels off the ground through a dolly will either damage the transmission or damage the AWD system.

They need to have either all four wheels on the ground or off the ground. Doing so can cause severe damage to the vehicle.

Towing on a dolly will cause excessive wear on the clutches and other internal parts of the transmission and transfer case. So, you won’t be able to see the damage, but you will be able to smell it.

You won’t be able to evaluate the extent of the damage without tearing down the transmission and transfer case.

Extensive damage will result in a very expensive repair bill. But even just determining the amount of damage can result in a hefty bill. The time and effort that goes into removing and evaluating a transmission is pretty rough all on its own.

In fact, Subaru’s Owner’s Manual for a 2018 Subaru Outback specifically states:

“Never tow AWD vehicles with the front wheels raised off the ground while the rear wheels are on the ground, or with the rear wheels raised off the ground while the front wheels are on the ground. This will cause the vehicle to spin away due to the operation or deterioration of the center differential.”

Owner’s Manual, Section 9-14.

Can you flat tow a Subaru Outback?

You can flat tow a Subaru Outback with a manual transmission, but not an automatic. However, Subaru no longer recommends flat towing any of their vehicles.

With a manual transmission, the transmission fluid is moved around into the gears just by rotation. But an automatic transmission cannot circulate transmission fluid unless the engine is running.

Flat towing a Subaru Outback with an automatic transmission will result in severe damage to the clutch plates.

Flat towing will cause additional wear and tear on your tires, though.

Subaru no longer recommends flat towing any of their vehicles for distances greater than 31 miles and over 20 mph. So, if you are planning on traveling at greater speeds and distances, trailering your Outback is the recommended method.

(source (Section 9-18))

The place to get this sort of information is from your owner’s manual.

If you don’t have yours handy, you can find one for your vehicle HERE. Just enter your year, model, and trim package to get all of the information you need regarding your vehicle.

How do you tow an AWD car behind an RV?

The best way to tow an AWD car behind an RV is on a car trailer. If you’re going a short distance, it’s okay to flat tow it at slow speeds. An AWD car should never be towed on a dolly.

Most RVs come from the factory with a tow hitch installed. If it didn’t, you could often add them. The most common type of hitch is a ball and receiver.

Hitches are rated based on the amount of weight they can pull. So be sure to refer to your trailer and vehicle weight before towing. Your RV will have a towing capacity, as well.

You’ll also have to make sure to connect the wiring harness from the trailer to the RV. This controls the brake lights, turn signals, license plate lights, and sometimes, the trailer’s electric brakes.

It is imperative that the wiring harness is hooked up. If it’s not, you risk getting into an accident, as you won’t have any brake lights or turn signals on your trailer.

If you’ve been around RVs for any amount of time, you’ll often hear the terms RV and motorhome.

An RV is any type of recreational vehicle, including those with motors. But not all motorhomes are RVs. Just check out this recent article to learn more about the differences between the two.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Does it matter for towing if my Subaru Outback is an automatic or manual transmission?

If you are towing a Subaru Outback on a trailer, it doesn’t matter if your vehicle is automatic or manual. But for flat towing, it must have a manual transmission. 

Subaru no longer recommends flat towing any of their vehicles more than 31 miles. They also recommend that you go no faster than 20 mph.

So, if you are towing your car to, say, a nearby repair shop, flat towing is fine as long as your vehicle is a manual transmission. But if you are going on a long trip, you should trailer your Outback, whether you have a manual or automatic transmission.

No matter what transmission you have, you should not tow it on a dolly.

It could damage the car, or it could cause the car to spin away. Now that we’ve established that you are going to trailer your vehicle, no, it doesn’t matter if you have a manual or an automatic transmission. The engine won’t be running, and the transmission won’t be turning.

If you are using your Subaru to do the towing, a manual transmission is your best bet.

Automatic transmissions are opined to be weak and unable to handle the stress of towing. If you already have an automatic transmission and are considering towing something with it, make sure that you are getting the transmission serviced regularly.

You may even want to consider adding a transmission cooler to it to prevent it from getting overheated. Finally, it’s important to know your vehicle’s towing capacity. Too much weight can cause permanent damage.

So make sure you know your trailer and your cargo’s exact weight before pulling off. Refer to your owner’s manual for the exact towing capacity.

Did I answer everything you wanted to know about whether you can tow a Subaru Outback with an RV?

AWD vehicles must be towed with all four wheels either off the ground or on the ground. Anything else could result in damage to your vehicle and high repair bills.

If you have an automatic transmission, plan on getting a trailer to tow it. You can’t flat tow an automatic, and you certainly can’t use a dolly.

You can flat tow a manual Subaru Outback for short distances at slow speeds.

If you are using your Subaru Outback to do the towing, a manual transmission is your best bet.


Photo which requires attribution:

There’s Just Something About Having a Tow Hitch by Alan Levine is licensed under CC2.0

Cassandra & Jeff Campbell

Cassandra and Jeff Campbell travel on and off with their 3 daughters in a Newmar Baystar Class A Motorhome. They write extensively on both RVs, campgrounds, parenting on the road tips, remote learning & schooling, and much more!

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