Until just a few years ago, I had never tackled a trail where I didn't drive to the trailhead and back home again. Though I suffered a handful of breaks from time to time, I was almost always able to limp my 4x4 home without the assistance of a tow rig. These days, however, I've become accustomed to pulling my 4x4 on a flatbed car hauler to alleviate any worry of not being able to make it home due to broken parts. Since the expense of owning and storing a flatbed trailer isn't in the cards for most, the ability to flat-tow a vehicle behind a pickup or RV using a removable towbar is an excellent alternative.
Currie Enterprises offers a universal, collapsible towbar to fit many Jeep models, including CJ, YJ, and TJ. The company also recently introduced a towbar kit for the all-new Jeep Wrangler JK. The TJ setup mounts directly to the stock or aftermarket bumper, while the CJ and YJ kits utilize special towbar front shackles that incorporate a quick-release pin for the towbar. The new JK towbar setup uses a special subframe that secures to the front framehorns and doesn't interfere with the factory bumpers. The Currie towbar will not fit properly with some aftermarket bumpers.
Currie tow shackles are manufactured using 1/4-inch-thick steel side plates finished with corrosion-proof gold zinc. Energy Suspension urethane bushings and bolt-in center braces are preinstalled and are secured using Grade 8 hardware with integrated zerk fittings. The Currie towbar includes a safety-chain kit and quick-release brackets that are easily installed on the shackles. When not in use, the towbar can be folded up and easily stowed.
Flat towing your 4x4 takes more than just a towbar. You will also need to ensure that you meet your state's requirements for flat towing and have the appropriate lighting to be legal. We found the easiest way to meet the lighting needs is to pick up a set of magnetic tow lights that plug into the existing wiring at the rear of our tow rig. The lights provide tail and brake lights as well and left and right turn signals. They can also be turned around to provide amber hazard lights should they be needed. There is also the issue of disengaging your engine and drivetrain so they won't spin without lubrication. This can be achieved in many 4x4s by placing both the transfer-case shift lever and transmission shifter in Neutral. Some manual transmissions require the shift lever to be placed in gear to keep the mainshaft from spinning; however, if the shifter should accidentally fall into gear while towing, quite a bit of damage can occur.
It's a good idea to use a bungee cord to secure the shifter in place to avoid such occurrences. Vehicles with manual-locking hubs and full-floating rear axles with manual hubs can simply disengage the hubs so the wheels will spin freely. Many who flat-tow will also remove the driveshafts to completely disengage the drivetrain. You'll also need to leave the key in the ignition to unlock the steering wheel, or damage can occur. Some transfer cases, such as those used in full-time 4WD and AWD systems, cannot be flat-towed because they do not offer a true Neutral. Check with the vehicle manufacturer or consult your vehicle's owner's manual to find out if your vehicle is capable of being flat-towed before doing so.
Lastly, remember to limit downhill speed since your tow vehicle's brakes are more susceptible to heat fade because of the increased weight. Some states also require a towed vehicle or trailer that weighs more than 3,000 pounds to have a braking system. A variety of supplemental braking systems are available through RV supply stores.