Our caravan has reached a point of perfection. We have a comfy converted Sprinter for living and a spunky little Jeep for exploring. The Jeep grants either of us the freedom to go where we want, when we want. We can enjoy 4×4 terrain not accessible to us in our van. On a more practical note, we have a spare vehicle in the event of a breakdown. And yes, the Jeep is insanely fun to drive.
It’s become important for us to have the freedom to do things separately sometimes. Go ahead and make your jokes that the honeymoon is over, but all the married couples out there will hear me loud and clear that a little breathing room is essential sometimes.
Brian and I got married a little over a year ago and we live together in our Sprinter van and on our sailboat. We are rarely more than 40 feet away from each other, which is like being roped together on a glacier for years at a time. Yes, we adore each other but sometimes we have different ideas about what to do and when to do it. I want to spend a lot of time with my friends. Brian wants to do endurance adventures which sound too painful for me to want to participate, like 40-50 mile trail runs.
We’ve done pretty well together in a small space, but we were starting to dream of a handy escape pod either of us could use whenever we wanted. We bought a Jeep from a Craigslist seller in St. George, Utah. It was reasonably priced and already had a tow bar! Score!
Immediately after buying it the Jeep began paying big dividends. I was driving it for the first time, following Brian in the Sprinter. Big, black clouds of smoke started to come out of the exhaust pipe of the Sprinter and I texted Brian frantically: “pull over!”. A hose Brian recently replaced came loose and caused the clouds of smoke. No worries, Brian hopped in the Jeep and went to the hardware store to get the correct tool to tighten the hose clamp on the new hose. Problem solved!
Next, we arrived in Springdale, Utah. Several of my friends were going to a music festival that night and I hadn’t seen them for several months. I was beyond excited to be with them and Brian wanted to relax that evening and not go out. I raced off in the Jeep and stayed out late with my friends. I felt light, elated, like the world was at my fingertips again. No longer did I need to reach consensus with my partner to go out and impulsively enjoy myself. The next evening I watched an eclipse with the same dear friends, and it became an evening I’ll always remember.
The Jeep has already proven to be a great thing for us and I’m surprised more people are not towing Jeeps behind their vans. As we began to explore the idea of towing a Jeep with our Sprinter we didn’t find much information. A lot of RVs tow Jeeps but it’s rare for a van to tow a Jeep. I think MORE vans should tow Jeeps, since it makes a nomadic lifestyle more satisfying and fun.
One of my goals for this blog is to provide useful information about living in a van, so here are the details about towing the Jeep. I am just the reporter. Brian did the work, and he did a great job!
1. Get a tow bar and trailer hitch, obviously.
2. Add an Auxiliary Braking System to the Jeep
Most RVs towing Jeeps don’t have this, but a Jeep weighs little compared to the monstrous weight of a large RV. Our Jeep weighs about half what our Sprinter does, with an approximate weight of 3,300 pounds for the Jeep and 6,300 pounds for the Sprinter. The brakes on our Sprinter would wear out quickly if they were providing braking for both the Sprinter and the Jeep being towed.
Here is how our auxiliary braking system works. When the brake pedal in the Sprinter is pressed, the auxiliary braking system also presses the brake pedal in the Jeep. We chose the SMI Stay n Play Duo auxiliary brake system and have been happy with it. Brian and our wonderful family member, Tim, installed it in several hours. It does require cutting the brake line, so be ready for that. This braking system is easy to set up each time we tow, with only a simple switch to activate it.
When we’re not towing the Jeep we get about 20 mpg in our Sprinter. While towing the Jeep it decreases to 15 mpg, which we are still pretty happy with.
Driving the Sprinter while towing the Jeep feels good. Acceleration is a bit slower and so is braking, but otherwise driving it is a smooth experience. Brian and I have both driven it on highways and in cities and we agree it drives well. It is important to go more slowly on highways and to drive defensively in cities, but that’s true anytime a vehicle or trailer is being towed.
5. Never back up while towing the Jeep. No, really! Even if you’re an experienced trailer driver, like Brian, the Jeep is nearly impossible to back up successfully.
I hope after reading this more people with Sprinters will consider the added benefits of towing a Jeep. It has made living in a van better in many ways for Brian and I and we love our Jeep!
On a side note, it’s important to follow proper procedures when towing the Jeep. Towing it incorrectly will ruin the transmission. We had to rebuild the transmission in our Jeep soon after purchasing it, and the shop who repaired it suspected it was towed incorrectly by the previous owner. It’s important to follow a checklist and approach the towing process with the proper diligence. It’s kind of early for us to pay a big repair bill, and we’re quickly learning about the extra love a Jeep needs (and deserves).