Flat Towing a Jeep CJ Best Practices
Correct procedure for towing your Jeep without a trailer
I am buying a 1974 Jeep CJ-5 from a buddy of mine. It's in pretty good shape, but I'm going to be flat-towing it about 500 miles to my home. What gear should I put it in in order to flat-tow safely? Transmission in neutral? Transfer case? Is there anything else I should be concerned about?
Considering the distance, the safest thing to do is unlock the front hubs and
disconnect the rear driveshaft at the axle. You can technically flat-tow a Dana 20 with the transmission in Park or 1st and the transfer case in neutral, but for long distances we feel it's safe insurance to just disconnect the rear driveshaft. It's just four nuts, after all. We'll usually pop the rear driveshaft loose at the axle, wrap some duct tape around the U-joint so the caps don't get lost, and then bungee cord the driveshaft up and out of the way, leaving the driveshaft attached to the transfer case. There's no need to disconnect the front driveshaft, as unlocking the front hubs is sufficient and technically does the same thing.
Our general rule of thumb is to leave the driveshaft connected for distances under 150 miles, but for a long tow like you're talking about, it's just better to disconnect the shaft. There's less stuff spinning, less wear and tear, and less potential for something to go wrong. Aside from the drivetrain, you're going to want to make sure the steering wheel is unlocked (not an issue on your '74 but would be an issue for a 1976 or newer), have some safety chains that connect to the frame of the Jeep, and add some lights or rig the stock taillights with diodes so they can be used as towing lights. Last but not least, be aware that most states have a law about supplemental brakes on anything being towed over a certain weight (usually 1,500 pounds). Though rarely if ever enforced, this means that you should technically have a braking system rigged up that applies the brakes on the Jeep whenever you apply the brakes on your truck. There are a variety of different electric and vacuum-operated systems out there that will do the job. If you plan on flat-towing regularly, it's not a bad idea to invest in one of these systems, but if it's a one-time deal, just be sure to leave yourself plenty of extra stopping distance.