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The most common reason for towing a vehicle is basic convenience. Having your everyday vehicle with you means that you don't have to manuever a large, unwieldy motor home through back roads or parking lots when driving to and from your campsite or heading out on errands.
You can use a trailer to tow your vehicle, or a tow dolly, but both of these options take up too much space at campsites and RV parks. A more convenient, space-saving method of towing your car is to use a tow bar. With a tow bar you can easily bring your everyday vehicle with you on your trips, quickly detach once you arrive at your destination, and store the towing system components out of the way until you're ready to hitch up and leave.
There are 5 basic components required to flat tow a vehicle ("dinghy") with an RV or other vehicle ("tow vehicle").
The tow bar is the most recognizable part of a towing system. It is designed to link your dinghy to your tow vehicle so that it can be safely flat towed. The function of the tow bar is the same regardless of model or manufacturer. The differences lie in the type of mount, towing capacity and basic design.
Beyond those aspects, there are a wide variety of features associated with the various models, all of which are discussed in detail in the Roadmaster Tow Bar Features and the Blue Ox Tow Bar Features.
RV-mounted tow bars provide the most reliable, direct connection. Because this type of tow bar inserts into your motor home's trailer hitch receiver, there is no need for that additional connection point that car-mounted models require. Not having to use a coupler means that there is one less spot at which your system can become uncoupled. And there is no annoying rattle and play like you may find with a coupler.
Using a hitch lock you can secure the tow bar to your receiver. And because most RV-mounted tow bars can be safely stored on your motor home when they're not being used, you won't have to worry about packing away your tow system at the campsite.
The benefits of an RV-mounted tow bar include:
Car-mounted tow bars were the first introduced to the towing and RVing market. They function the same as an A-frame trailer, attaching to the trailer hitch ball on your RV with an integrated coupler.
The benefits of a car-mounted tow bar include:
The design and structure of tow bars varies between manufacturers. The basic configuration, though, is similar to that of an A-frame trailer. The tow bar attaches to your dinghy at the ends of the tow bar arms. The other end of the bar then hitches up to your tow vehicle via either an integrated coupler or by means of a receiver mount.
Base plates are the only piece of the puzzle that is vehicle specific. A vehicle that is being towed requires custom-designed base plates that specifically fit its frame. Once installed on your car's frame, the base plates provide attachment points for your tow bar.
Base plates install on your dinghy's frame using as many existing attachment points as possible without sacrificing strength or safety. When multiple base plate kits are available for a specific vehicle, installation will be nearly the same for each kit. The differences lie in the draw bar type and the number of frame bracket pieces. Typically, base plates consist of two main parts:
Roadmaster offers four different styles of base plates. To see a detailed overview of Roadmaster base plates, click here. Blue Ox only offers one type of base plate. To learn more about their lug-style attachment system, click here.
While most base plate manufacturers try to construct products to fit as many applications as possible, it is not uncommon to find that the company that made your tow bar does not have base plates for your vehicle. If you have a tow bar and base plates that are manufactured by different companies, you will need to purchase an adapter.
Why are adapters necessary?
Each tow bar manufacturer has a unique type of connection that is used to secure the tow bar to the base plate arms.
Roadmaster base plates
Most Roadmaster tow bars and base plates use quick disconnects to attach the base plates to the crossbar and tow bar.
Blue Ox base plates
The draw bar arms have two lugs that interlock with the lugs on the ends of the tow bar arms and then secure in place with a pin and clip.
The draw bar arms have two-prong ends that slide around the tow bar arm extensions and secure in place using a pin and clip.
If you have a Blue Ox tow bar, but you only have Roadmaster base plates with quick disconnects, then the Blue Ox triple-lug ends on the tow bar arms will not work with your base plates. The adapter you need will have one side that connects with the lugs on the Blue Ox tow bar and one side that has quick disconnects for use with Roadmaster base plates.
If you need an adapter, but aren't sure which type, consult the table here to help you choose.
Safety cables are crucial for any tow bar setup and are required by law in most states. They ensure that your dinghy does not detach from your RV in the event that your tow bar somehow uncouples from it, or that your dinghy uncouples from your tow bar.
In most towing setups, safety cables link two or three components together:
You are required by law to have a lighting system on your dinghy that functions in sync with your tow vehicle's tail lights.
For detailed information on the types of dinghy lighting available, click here.
For more information on supplemental braking systems, click here.
Be sure that your dinghy can be towed before taking it on the road. Some vehicles must be equipped with a transmission lube pump, an axle disconnect, a drive-line disconnect or free-wheeling hubs before they can be towed with a tow bar. Failure to properly equip your vehicle could lead to severe damage to its transmission. Check your owner's manual or call your dealer for specific information on your vehicle.
If your vehicle cannot be towed for any of the above reasons, you may be able to use a tow dolly instead.
Ensure that your tow bar setup is as level as possible, from the hitch of the tow vehicle to the base plates of the dinghy.
The end of the tow bar that attaches to the base plates should not exceed a rise or drop of 3 inches from the center of the RV hitch receiver
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