Fit To Be Towed

The convoy has rolled to its final stop. We traded in our Audi for a Jeep in New Jersey, and got our tow assembly installed in Washington, D.C. For those who’ve asked us, incredulously, over the past several months why it’s taken us so long to set up, it’s because the whole thing is a bit of an ass ache. You can’t just throw a couple of bungee cords on the bumpers of any two vehicles and head off. The list of stuff needed to make this work reminds me of an earlier “Reality Bites” post. Things are never as easy as they should be, or as they seem.

To get ready to tow we needed to trade in our car. Call this “Ass Ache Number 1.” We liked our car and didn’t plan on parting with it for a long time. So running off to get a new one wasn’t something either of us was excited about. And our choices of new vehicle were severely limited. Most cars can’t be towed with all four wheels on the ground; even fewer with automatic transmissions can be. So we had to give up a car we liked for one that we were lukewarm on, at best. Yay! Our choices were further constrained by weight issues. The trailer hitch and the motor home itself are only rated to tow so much weight.

Height also ended up being a limiting factor, and one that we almost overlooked. Tow bar manufacturers recommend a vertical difference of no greater than four inches between the motor home trailer hitch and the tow vehicle base plate connection. After some research, we discovered that the base plate pegs for the Honda Fit, our original tow vehicle of choice, were 13.5 inches off the ground whereas the tow receiver on our motor home is 22 inches. Math is hard, but even I can figure out that 22 minus 13.5 is quite a bit more than 4. It is more than 4, right?

A robotic breaking system for our Jeep

Keep in mind that there isn’t anyone who will tell you this. You have to figure nearly everything out on your own, and hope you don’t mess it up too badly. Had we bought the Fit as originally planned, we probably wouldn’t have been able to tow it without a dolly. That would have qualified as a bad hair day.

After we side stepped that landmine, all we needed was a tow bar, base plates, safety cables, wiring to connect the tail lights of the motor home to the tow vehicle, a supplemental breaking system, and a mechanic to install it all. Piece of cake.

Setting this all up adds about thirty minutes to the front end and probably fifteen minutes to the backend of our travel time. It adds 20 feet of driving length to our 35 foot motor home and raises a whole host of potential problems, limitations, and hazards while in transit. But somehow this still seems more sensible than driving across country in tandem. Not by much, though.

11 Comments on “Fit To Be Towed”

  1. Bob October 15, 2010 at 9:02 am #

    I hope your tow bar locked when you pulled forward. It doesn’t look like the right side is locked in that picture. I usually can get one side to lock when I connect the tow bar. Then I turn the steering wheel on the car towards the side that isn’t locked and pull the motor home forward. You can hear the tow bar click on the back up camera audio.


    • Brian October 15, 2010 at 11:58 am #

      Thanks for the tip. We make sure at least one side is locked before we head out (the release levers don’t really pop up that much, you have to diddle them to make sure).


      • Bob October 15, 2010 at 12:06 pm #

        You really have to make sure that both sides are locked before you tow. The problem is if they aren’t locked the car will swerve when you are on the brakes. The arms must be fully extended in order to lock. You will hear a click as they lock.


      • Bob October 15, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

        No diddling required. With the bars fully extended you may be able to push the levers down or not. Depends if there is a load on the bar. My car is light, so I can usually push the car back and get one side to lock. You will hear it click. Then turn the steering wheel towards the bar that isn’t extended and slowly pull forward. Listen for the click on your backup camera audio.


  2. Neil Laubenthal October 15, 2010 at 10:49 am #

    Other than the Jeep itself . . .what’s the damage for the remainder of the setup? Looks like most of a grand for the Patriot system based on a quick Google plus whatever the rest cost . . .maybe 2500 total?

    Once you tow a couple of times (since IIRC you’re still in the DC area where you got the two configured) please post how if affects both drive-ability of the combination as well as mileage on the RV.


    • Brian October 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

      That’s about right. If you’re handy you can save by installing stuff yourself, but I’m not that handy.

      As far as driving, I don’t really notice it that much. I’ll struggle a bit more going up hills I imagine. Looks like it knocks off about a half a mile per gallon.


  3. Chris H. October 15, 2010 at 5:00 pm #

    Hard for my old eyes to see clearly. Is that a Liberty?


    • Brian October 15, 2010 at 5:11 pm #

      Yup. We went with the Liberty because the Wrangler is almost as heavy, but not nearly as practical for an only car.


  4. Heather H. October 17, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

    Now Shannon gets to experience everything from the cockpit! I think my mother covers her eyes a lot, especially on narrow bridges and next to tractor trailers! Have fun!


    • Bob October 17, 2010 at 4:43 pm #

      No it’s more like, O O O O O Boooooob!



  1. Upon Further Reflection | Everywhere Once - May 29, 2012

    […] of that, however, prevented me from gritting my teeth in regret at having traded in our old Audi as I tried to navigate our Jeep through the crazy winding roads that took us from Silver City, NM, […]


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