Can You Flat Tow a Toyota 4Runner? Essential Towing Guide

By Derrick •  Updated: 04/23/23 •  8 min read

When it comes to towing your Toyota 4Runner, you may be wondering if flat towing is a viable option. Flat towing, also known as four-wheels-down towing, involves pulling a vehicle with all four wheels on the ground. This method is commonly used by RV owners who want to bring a secondary vehicle along on their trips.

However, before you decide to flat tow your Toyota 4Runner, it’s crucial to consider the potential risks and complications associated with this towing method. Understanding the manufacturer’s recommendations and the potential impact on your vehicle’s transmission, drivetrain, and other mechanical components is essential to make an informed decision about flat towing.

Can You Flat Tow a Toyota 4Runner?

Flat towing a Toyota 4Runner can be a bit of a challenge. Unlike some other vehicles, most Toyota trucks, including the 4Runner, are not designed for flat towing due to their transmission and lubrication systems. This means that if you plan on flat towing your 4Runner, you should proceed with caution and be aware of the potential risks.

However, there are some exceptions. If your 4Runner has a manual transmission, it may be suitable for flat towing. But, even in this case, it is still not highly recommended due to the potential for transmission damage and other issues.

The safest way to tow your 4Runner is using a car trailer or flatbed. This method keeps all four wheels off the ground, preventing any potential damage or wear on the vehicle’s transmission and drivetrain. To give you an idea of what you’ll need, here are the typical weight ratings:

  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) for Toyota 4Runner: 6,300 pounds
  • Average Car Trailer Weight: 2,000 pounds
  • Total Load (4Runner + Trailer): Around 9,000 pounds

Before towing your 4Runner, it’s important to consult your owner’s manual and follow all manufacturer-recommended guidelines for safe towing procedures.

Flat Towing Basics

In this section, we’ll discuss the basics of flat towing, also known as dinghy towing, and how it works with various types of vehicles, including four-wheel-drive and two-wheel-drive vehicles.

Dinghy Towing

Dinghy towing refers to the practice of pulling a vehicle behind another, specifically, an RV, using all four wheels of the towed vehicle. This method is popular among RV owners, as it allows you to have a smaller vehicle available for transportation once you reach your destination.

When flat towing, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to prevent any damage to your vehicle’s transmission or other components. Factors such as transmission type, vehicle weight, and the use of auxiliary braking systems should all be taken into consideration when deciding whether a vehicle can be safely flat towed.

Four-Wheel-Drive Vehicles

Four-wheel-drive vehicles can be more challenging to flat tow due to their complex drivetrain systems. Some models, however, can be towed if they have a manual transfer case that allows the driver to place it in neutral. This disconnects the drivetrain components, allowing for the vehicle to be safely towed without causing damage.

Always consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual, as well as the manufacturer’s towing guidelines, to ensure your four-wheel-drive vehicle can be safely flat towed. Many modern vehicles may have restrictions or require specific procedures for flat towing.

Two-Wheel-Drive Vehicles

Two-wheel-drive vehicles are generally easier to flat tow, especially if they have a manual transmission. When the transmission is placed in neutral, the vehicle can be safely towed without causing damage to the transmission or other components. Automatic transmissions, on the other hand, may not be well-suited for flat towing, as the transmission’s lubrication system may not function properly while being towed in neutral.

Again, it’s crucial to follow your vehicle’s owner’s manual and the manufacturer’s specifications to determine whether your two-wheel-drive vehicle can be flat towed and any precautions you should take during the process.

Toyota 4Runner Towing Features

In this section, we will discuss the towing features of the Toyota 4Runner, including its towing capacity and available towing accessories.

Towing Capacity

The Toyota 4Runner has a towing capacity of approximately 5,000 pounds. This is suitable for various towing scenarios, such as:

  • A small boat
  • A camper
  • A trailer

This towing capacity provides you with the flexibility to transport various items with ease and confidence.

Towing Accessories

To ensure your towing experience with your Toyota 4Runner is smooth and hassle-free, there are numerous towing accessories available. Some of these accessories include:

  • Tow hitches: Choose the right hitch for your specific towing needs.
  • Trailer wiring: Ensure your 4Runner’s wiring is compatible with your trailer’s wiring.
  • Tow bars: These will enable you to flat tow another vehicle, although the 4Runner itself is not recommended for flat towing.
  • Brake controllers: These help provide smoother, more controlled braking while towing heavy loads.
  • Sway control systems: These assist in preventing your trailer from swaying while being towed.

It’s essential to explore the available towing accessories for your 4Runner and choose those that best suit your towing requirements.

Flat Towing Alternatives

While it is not recommended to flat tow a Toyota 4Runner, there are alternative towing methods that can be more suitable and prevent damage to your vehicle.

Tow Dollies

Tow dollies are a popular towing option compared to flat towing. A tow dolly is a two-wheel device that elevates the front wheels of your vehicle off the ground. This prevents wear on the transmission and suspension components. To use a tow dolly, follow these steps:

  1. Position the tow dolly behind your towing vehicle and secure it.
  2. Drive your 4Runner onto the dolly with the front wheels cradled in the wheel supports.
  3. Secure the 4Runner’s wheels to the dolly using straps and safety chains provided.
  4. Ensure all lights and signals are connected and functioning properly between the two vehicles.

With a tow dolly, you can maintain the integrity of your Toyota 4Runner while safely transporting it to your desired destination.


Another alternative for towing your Toyota 4Runner is using a trailer. Trailers completely lift your vehicle off the ground, ensuring that no wear occurs on any components. To use a trailer, follow these steps:

  1. Select a trailer that is appropriate for your 4Runner’s weight and dimensions.
  2. Position the trailer behind your towing vehicle and secure it with a hitch.
  3. Drive your 4Runner onto the trailer, centering its weight for stability.
  4. Secure the 4Runner’s tires with straps or wheel chocks to prevent movement during transport.
  5. Ensure all lights and signals are connected and functioning between the two vehicles.

Using a trailer to tow your Toyota 4Runner can provide the highest level of safety and protection for your vehicle during transportation.

Safety Tips for Flat Towing

While flat towing a Toyota 4Runner is not generally recommended, if you choose to do so with a manual transmission model, it is important to prioritize safety. In this section, we will cover essential safety tips for flat towing, including braking systems and towing laws and regulations.

Braking Systems

When flat towing, it is crucial to have an effective supplemental brake system installed in your towed vehicle. This ensures that your towed vehicle brakes simultaneously with your towing vehicle, providing additional stopping power and reducing the risk of accidents during sudden stops or emergencies.

There are various types of supplemental brake systems available, including portable brake systems that can be removed when not in use and permanent, integrated systems. When picking the right braking system for your 4Runner, consider compatibility, ease of installation, and your specific towing needs.

Towing Laws and Regulations

Before hitting the road, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the towing laws and regulations in the states you will be traveling through. Towing laws may vary from state to state, and non-compliance may result in fines or legal issues.

Key points to consider when reviewing towing laws include:

  • Weight limits for towed vehicles
  • Required safety equipment, e.g., safety chains, breakaway systems, and lights
  • Maximum towing speed limits
  • Restrictions on towing length, width, and height

By following these safety tips and keeping up-to-date on the latest towing laws and regulations, you can increase the safety of your flat towing experience. Remember to prioritize safety and always be attentive when towing a vehicle.


After thorough research and analysis, it is clear that you should not flat tow a Toyota 4Runner. Flat towing can damage the transmission, drivetrain, and other mechanical components of the vehicle, as Toyota itself does not recommend this method for any 4Runners manufactured between 1996 and the present.

Instead of flat towing, consider using a flatbed trailer to tow your 4Runner. This method ensures that the vehicle is safely and securely transported, without causing any undue stress or wear on its internal components.

Always consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual and adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to towing. Doing so will not only help preserve the longevity and value of your Toyota 4Runner, but also ensure that you are keeping safety a top priority while on the road.


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