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dcteague New Reader
10/5/17 7:53 p.m.

Anyone have any experience using a tow dolly for track car purposes to avoid having to haul a trailer?  I have a v6 Venza that'll be fine up to 3500lbs, and a 2700lb track car that isn't registered.  Considering just throwing a couple crappy rear wheels/tires on for towing purposes and hauling it using a dolly vs a trailer to avoid having to buy a new tow vehicle.  The Venza would be a great for other purposes at the track in terms of carrying other stuff, and if the dolly has brakes and appropriate turn mechanism, seems like an ideal setup.

84FSP Dork
10/5/17 7:58 p.m.

I have had good tow dolly luck with a VW Rabbit.  The trailer is a nicer ticket to avoid tire changes and rear wheel wear.  Assuming we are comparing cheap open trailers vs tow dollies for streetable vehicles I’ll take the dolly.  Drivers for this are space constraints, time to load trailer, unload trailer, and reliance on lighter weight towing vehicles.  If I had a tow beast and some place to put an enclosed trailer it would be a different answer entirely.

rslifkin SuperDork
10/5/17 8:15 p.m.

Personally, due to lack of brakes with a tow dolly, I consider them unsafe to use unless we're talking a sub 2000 lb car behind an F-350 or something of that scale. 

Pulling a car with a Venza?  That's just not going to happen safely.  It just can't tow enough to do it. 

dcteague New Reader
10/5/17 8:32 p.m.

I've found a tow dolly with brakes and active steering.  Curious about the Venza comment - its a 4000lb+ SUV.  I saw someone pulling a Z3 with a Honda CRV on a trailer - that seemed a bit odd to me, but on a dolly that seemed reasonable.

Nitroracer UltraDork
10/5/17 8:36 p.m.

I've had a tow dolly with eletric brakes so they do exist but aren't terribly common for cheap.  Many spend their times behind giant motor homes that could care less about towing a few extra thousand pounds.

My issues with the dolly were two fold.  One my racecar was too low and ripped up the bumper loading.  Once loaded, I realized my straps wouldn't fit around the wider front wheels and tires like they do on narrow stock tires.  I've since upgraded to a 18' trailer, but with the tow vehicle you have I wouldn't go that far.

rslifkin SuperDork
10/5/17 8:59 p.m.
dcteague said:

Curious about the Venza comment - its a 4000lb+ SUV.  I saw someone pulling a Z3 with a Honda CRV on a trailer - that seemed a bit odd to me, but on a dolly that seemed reasonable.

The issues with the Venza towing in my mind are: suspension too soft to carry much tongue weight and provide good stability, trans probably doesn't hold up well to that kind of use, independent rear suspension gains camber as you add weight back there, leading to poor tire wear if you tow frequently. 

ProDarwin PowerDork
10/5/17 9:08 p.m.

^How much tongue weight will you get with a dolly anyway?  I thought that was the major issue with them... hard to get enough tongue weight for stability.

Vigo UltimaDork
10/5/17 9:20 p.m.

What is the track car? Approach angle and clearance between tire and fender are big concerns. If you have a low car you're going to have a hell of a time getting it on a dolley without damaging it and if there is no tire-to-fender gap you're going to have a hell of a time getting the straps around the tires without jacking the car up WHILE on the dolley. 


I've owned a tow dolley for probably over 10 years now. I'll never let go of it but there are many things it's bad at, and loading lowered cars onto it is pretty close to the top of the list. 

Also, i've towed 3000+ lbs of car+dolley behind a 3000lb car and done full panic stops in Houston rush hour and been fine. I could explain why i think that is but it's easier to say that there are a lot of factors besides the rough size/weight of the tow vehicle.

As far as towing a very light car behind an F350, that brings up a point i've made to others when discussing towing. I would bet MONEY that I can hook a tow dolley up behind one of my 3000 lb cars and panic stop in a shorter distance than an UNLOADED F350. It was only fairly recently that the larger trucks got 'decent' 60-0 stopping distances. If you're talking about a 10+ year old 1-ton truck then they START with about a 30-50ft longer 60-0 stop than a typical 3000lb car even with no extra weight. Now, how much weight do you have to add to each vehicle before those lines cross? Hard to say, but it's not much of a stretch to say that a Venza towing a 3500lb load will stop as short as an older 3/4 or 1ton pickup with the same load.  Now, stopping distances arent everything, and repeatability comes into play if you're talking about coming down mountains etc, but the point is that heavier isn't automatically better and  if you're making decisions based on what you assume to be best without questioning it, you probably won't be in the right mental state to catch curveballs either.  Hell, i just drove a stock 04 Tundra that couldn't even get into ABS because the brakes were so weak. They felt normal under light braking. If i assumed it was safer than hooking up behind a properly functioning smaller vehicle just because it was a 'big truck', it wouldn't have done me any good. My point is to think and question rather than offer or accept dumbed-down generalities or assume that you are actually safer just because you threw a bigger tow vehicle at it. 

vwcorvette GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
10/5/17 9:22 p.m.

I use my 05 AWD Astro to tow my IT Rabbit with a tow dolly  that does not have brakes nor fancy steering. No problems at all other than making sure to pull into a place I can pull out of.

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/5/17 9:22 p.m.
Jaynen SuperDork
10/5/17 9:35 p.m.

What about all the issues people talk about like having to disconnect driveshafts or make sure the car can be safely towed in neutral etc

irish44j UltimaDork
10/5/17 9:41 p.m.

Another option is to flat tow, which IMO may actually be preferable to a dolly. Josh Sennet (bluej on here) flat tows his e30 rallycross car with a Lincoln MKZ (aka a Ford Escape) and has no problem with it. Only downside is having to change all four tires from street to track. In the end, it's less weight behind the Venza. All you really need to do is put a couple boltholes in the track car bumper to attach a tow bar.

As noted above, if it's an actual racecar, you may have issues getting it on a dolly.

mad_machine GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/5/17 10:01 p.m.

the only issues I have with flat towing and dollies, what if you wreck at the track?

sevenracer Reader
10/5/17 10:06 p.m.

I used a tow dolly a few times when I first started racing.  It always worked, but a trailer is much better.


1.Lowered car difficult to load and tie down.

2.  If you wad up the car or break something on the rear axle, may not be transportable home.

3.  On race car, required to disable steering lock, so had to use ratchet straps to "lock" steering to keep car from crabbing while towed.

4.  Not sure you won't get hassled by law enforcement for having a car "on the road" with no plates/registration.

Ahh memories, my buddy and I used to borrow a truck from his work and that tow dolly from a friend when we could, or rent u-haul trailers.  Forget racing, just getting a trailer (spend 2 hrs at uhaul waiting for trailer to be turned in), car loaded and tow lights working was an adventure in itself.  more than once, wound up duct taping walmart bicycle lights to the car or trailer b/c we couldn't get the trailer wiring to work - think I still have a set squirreled away in my 24ft enclosed trailer to this day.

Greg Voth
Greg Voth Dork
10/5/17 10:47 p.m.

I've towed several cars behind my wife's 2004 Forester on a dolly. 

It works but I don't like it. Short trips are no problem but highway speeds are a little white knuckle if it starts to sway.  I usually just take the back roads and keep the trips under a couple hours.

Longer than that and I borrow a truck and trailer.

Pete Gossett
Pete Gossett GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
10/6/17 5:43 a.m.

In reply to dcteague :

In IL an IN at least the towed car must also be registered since two wheels are on the pavement. A friend got ticketed once for that. 

RealMiniParker UberDork
10/6/17 6:42 a.m.

 I went with a utility trailer that my car fits on. Tow dollies can only tow cars. Utility trailers tow cars, dirt, lumber, furniture, or whatever the hell else SWMBO wants you to move. wink

John Welsh
John Welsh MegaDork
10/6/17 7:25 a.m.

This combo wasn't ideal but it worked and worked well enough.   Montero w/5,000lb tow rating towing a combination of 4,200lbs so getting high into max capacity.  I towed for 1 hr on flat, rural. 2 lane roads.  The Montero is a large vehicle w/only a V6 so everything was slow and I had to keep the trans from engaging 5th gear.  If it did get into 5th even the slightest addition of throttle would cause a downshift to 4th so I just forced it to stay 4th.   Your intended combination will likely be even closer (or maybe over) the Venza's intended towing load.  

As mentioned, in some states if two wheels are on the ground then the vehicle has to be registered and have valid plates.  

Also, is the race car fwd?  Dollies are not really ideal of most rwd cars.  

fornetti14 GRM+ Memberand Dork
10/6/17 8:53 a.m.

In the past, I've used a tow dolley to move my front drive VW Rabbit race car to and from track days without issue.  

I pulled it with a 2006 Hyundai 2.7L V6 (front drive) and didn't have any issues and I didn't have trailer brakes.  Just take your time getting to/from events.  

For me, it was a budget and space issue.  If you have the budget and space, get a full trailer.  The nice thing about used tow dolley's is that a $400-500 dolley with newer tires will still be worth the same money 5 years from now.

rslifkin SuperDork
10/6/17 9:05 a.m.

As far as the lack of brakes with a dolly, the issue isn't necessarily outright braking power, but lack of stability under hard braking.  Having that much un-braked weight back there can lead to things wanting to jackknife if you get on the brakes hard.  When the item being towed is providing braking force, it'll do a better job of staying behind you.  

HFmaxi New Reader
10/6/17 9:22 a.m.
Pete Gossett said:

In reply to dcteague :

In IL an IN at least the towed car must also be registered since two wheels are on the pavement. A friend got ticketed once for that. 

Most states that I have towed in (mid atlantic / new england) require the vehicle to be registered if there are any wheels on the ground.

iceracer UltimaDork
10/6/17 10:50 a.m.

An empty dolly is easier to park than a trailer. wink

iceracer UltimaDork
10/6/17 10:55 a.m.

But I still preferred the trailer.  Less preparation at the track.

       Even if it was a pain to back into my carport.

Automatic transmissions are so helpful.  On the tow vehicle.

APEowner GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
10/6/17 11:00 a.m.

I've towed thousands of miles with a dolly and over a hundred thousand miles with trailers.  A tow dolly is light, relativly inexpensive and pretty easy to store.  If, you can afford, store and tow a trailer it's far superior to a dolly. 

If you go with a dolly I really, really, really recomend brakes.  Either surge or electric.  I had a Ford Escort on a dolly without brakes push my C10 right around sideways when someone pulled out in front of me one day.  That was a stark contrast to a panic stop in the Adirondack mountains late one night when a couple of deer lept out in front of the Lincoln Town Car I was using to tow a Yugo on a car dolly equipt with brakes.  Yes, I have weird friends but the point was that the combo with the surge brakes stopped in a straight line with minimal drama.


JBasham Reader
10/6/17 12:40 p.m.

My trip to Summit Point MP is 1:15.  I have trailered and dollyed a 2400# BMW with a 1997 Jeep GC Laredo with a 5K rating.  The trailer was miserable, the dolly was much better.

This summer I started flat towing my E36.  I love it!  Smittybuilt makes a really solid tow bar that caters to the 4WD market.

I can disconnect my driveshaft and hitch up my tow bar in the time it takes my friends with open trailers to load up their cars and get them strapped down. 

That being said it's a 302/T5 conversion so disconnecting the drive shaft at the diff is no big deal.  With the 2-piece BMW shaft, it would be a big deal.

With the 2400# BMW I have huge, bright oil pressure and temp lights that I can mount on the inside of the windshield and see through the rear view.  They're made out of trailer sidelights.  So I set the throttle cable to hold the RPMs at about 1800 and just tow it running in neutral to keep the transmission lubricated.

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