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My family and I are moving from California to Louisiana on 8/31/2018; my car, a manual 6-speed, 2015 Kia Soul, will be hitched to my mothers automatic, 2016 Jeep Cherokee via tow dolly. I have read over and over that it is okay to leave a car running with its A/C running while stationary for hours on end—is it still feasible to have my Kia running with its A/C on while being towed by tow dolly for 3-4 hours at a time, then shut it down every 3-4 hours when we stop for restroom breaks and the such, the whole nearly 1,600 miles?

So why would I want to do something like this? Our main car will be plum full with people and our pets, yet I have an outdoor cat I want to bring to Louisiana also rather than abandon her or sentence her to euthanasia by dropping her at some shelter. I want to kennel her in my car being towed, but only if I can leave the towed car running, while in neutral with the A/C running on low. Like I said, we plan to stop incrementally approximately every 4 hours, so I’ll be able to check my car and my cat.

  • I'd recommend more frequent stops (every 2 hours instead of 4). 4 hours is a very long time to be cooped up in a car. – Hobbes Aug 27 '18 at 9:33
  • Welcome to Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair! From my point of view, there should be no issues for you doing this. A vehicle can idle for as long as it has fuel to run it. I'm sure you realize this, but cats don't like to leave a given area, especially an outside cat. Be careful the first time you let it out of the kennel, as it will most likely bolt and you'll never see it again. Good luck in your travels! – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Aug 27 '18 at 13:37
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    If you have the trailer tow package installed on the Jeep, your towing limit is ~4500 lb; otherwise the Soul's 2884-3232 lb (depending on configuration) is over the standard 2000 lb tow limit of a Cherokee. Beyond that, get some calming pheromones (e.g. Feliway), as these can help reduce your cat's travel stress. I also second @Hobbes ' comment of making more frequent stops to check in on your furry friend. If she's particularly anxious you may want to see if your vet can give you a couple of anti-anxiety pills like diazepam that will help keep her calmer and more relaxed during the trip. – Doktor J Aug 27 '18 at 15:38
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    Will your batteries survive this? – Mast Aug 27 '18 at 16:20
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    @Mast - Wondering what batteries have to do with anything? If the towed vehicle is running the engine, it will be charging the battery ... maybe you could explain? – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Aug 27 '18 at 17:56
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Why not have someone drive it properly - fewer people crammed into one car and you can swap passengers at each stop - it seems a safer option...

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    IDK how this works in the States, but in Europe the speed limit while towing is much lower than for a non-towing car. 80 vs 120 km/h would make an appreciable difference to travel time. – Hobbes Aug 27 '18 at 9:34
  • One disadvantage to this approach is an idling car being towed behind another vehicle is going to use far less fuel than a car being driven at highway speeds. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Aug 27 '18 at 13:34
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    Seconding this. I'm also concerned by the towing arrangement - your top speed will be reduced, your wear and tear on the Jeep goes up, and a quick Google search tells me you're probably over the Jeep's towing capacity. If the Jeep is so full, split the drivers and caravan. You'll travel faster and keep a closer eye on the cat. – Saiboogu Aug 27 '18 at 14:32
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    @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Sure, but fuel consumption in the towing vehicle (Jeep in this case) will be significantly higher that if it's not towing anything. I'd wager that the Jeep also gets worse mileage than the Kia, in which case it'd use less fuel overall to drive both. But, I am guessing. – 3Dave Aug 27 '18 at 17:24
  • Also towing dollies are designed for short distance emergency use, not for going hundreds of miles. Far better to drive both cars as Mike suggests. This also means someone will be in the second car to comfort the cat, which is likely to be very scared during such a long journey. – Nick C Aug 27 '18 at 18:50
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From a mechanical perspective yes, it's actually a very good idea. If I were to tow someone in a broken-down car, I'd have them let the engine run anyway because it would send power to the powersteering pump and brakes, making it safer for the guy being towed, because he can help me brake and it would be easier to turn at low speeds.

If you could have someone in the towed car, that'd be even better, but you can do this without stressing about it too much. I'd ask a vet if they would be willing to give the cat something for the nerves though.

Another advantage to the scenario being presented is that airflow through the cooling system will be higher than in a parked vehicle. Just note that some US states prohibit passengers in a towed conveyance, regardless of operating status.

  • another advantage to the scenario being presented is that airflow through the cooling system will be higher than in a parked vehicle. Some US states prohibit passengers in a towed conveyance, regardless of operating status. – fred_dot_u Aug 27 '18 at 8:55
  • Great points. I'm going to add them to my answer for future visitors. – Captain Kenpachi Aug 27 '18 at 9:08
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If you were doing this in the United Kingdom you'd need someone to sit in the vehicle being towed to operate the brakes. We have a very strict 750kg limit on unbraked trailers. Assuming your tow vehicle is going to be fully loaded with people and their sundries I'd also say you'd have to be careful not to exceed the maximum allowable mass on the tow vehicles weight plates.

I also worry about what would happen if the vehicle being towed stalls just a few minutes into a four hour driving stint. If you have someone sat in the drivers seat then they can re-start it but if it's unmanned then the internal temperatures would presumably sore (or the running fans would flatten the battery?).

My personally preferred option would be to drive both vehicles. By all means drive in convoy and make regular stops. The alternative would be to hire a vehicle transporter trailer and put your vehicle on that. I'd abandon the idea of leaving the cat in there too. You're crossing many states and I'd assume the chances that leaving an animal unattended would no doubt contravene some state or town bylaw along your route. You may be better served either moving enough possessions from the tow vehicle to the trailer-ed vehicle to accommodate the cat carrier or have someone book an internal flight and transport the cat that way.

I don't mean to sound negative but what you are planning would be illegal in the UK, hence I have an inherent aversion to what you are suggesting.

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