For this video & blog we’re delving into the world of dragging one heavy thing behind another heavy thing. That’s the scientific explanation. The practical reason however, is that we’d like another set of wheels besides our massive RV. Driving a semi-truck to get groceries sounds ridiculous! We began a quest to learn how to properly tow our pickup and found some incredible resources along the way. One of those being Roadmaster, a company specializing in RV towing products and located a half hour from home. We contacted them for information to help answer our towing questions, and before we knew it, our journey to towing enlightenment culminated at a factory tour. Climb aboard as we share our visit to Roadmaster and see how towing components are made.
Now that you’ve seen how tow bars are manufactured at Roadmaster, the next step is to set up your own towing package. A month ago, we had zero experience with RV towing and began logging many hours on forums, blogs, and Youtube to learn the do’s and don’ts. Compelled with our dreams of empty beaches, sunshine, and perfect waves, we’ve found there are 4 steps to tow a vehicle in these upcoming adventures.
4 Steps to Towing Your Own Vehicle
Step 1 – Choose a vehicle to tow
Start by taking a trip over to Good Sam’s “Guide to Dingy Towing“. Select the guide which corresponds to the year of the vehicle you’d like to tow. Scroll down and the guide will show you most makes and models of vehicles for that year. If your vehicle is on the list, that indicates it is “flat towable” and the guide will also list any limitations that might apply. (In our next step we’ll select tow type, so even if your vehicle didn’t show up on this list you might still luck out with another towing option.)
Let’s use our truck “Ramona” as an example: She’s a 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 4×4
In the 2010 Dingy Towing Guide, I find our truck on the list which indicates Ramona is indeed flat towable a.k.a. towable with all 4 wheels on the ground. The guide also shows a curb weight of 4,893lbs. We’ll need to compare this with our RV’s tow rating so that we don’t hook up more than we can safely tow. The guide also states Ramona gets 13-18 mpg…not in our wildest dreams! Everything else looks good though, so we’ll move on to the next step.
Step 2 – Select your tow configuration
Tow Dolly – Many people start off with tow dollies and eventually convert to tow bars. I would strongly suggest not getting a tow dolly unless your vehicle wasn’t on the flat towable list above. I don’t say this from my own experience (which is nil), but rather from the advice of every experienced RVer I’ve spoken with. Tow dollies will work just fine and get the job done, however they don’t save you much money and often complicate difficult situations. For example, a visitor to the dam where I work accidentally turned into a restricted access gate. He tried backing up but didn’t have enough room to move the rig around and began the process of disconnecting his Jeep, his tow dolly, and finally turning his massive motorhome around allowing the unhappy traffic to pass by before he put it all back together. The options below would still require him to have disconnected his Jeep but would’ve allowed him to do it much much faster. Also, I’ve been told that some RV parks will not allow clutter (i.e. tow dollies) in the RV site. Essentially, avoid the allure of tow dolly’s seemingly simple operation unless you really need one.
Motorhome Mounted and Vehicle Mounted tow bars
Each of these options seem to be the preferred choice for the full time and experienced RVers I’ve spoken with. If needed, both options allow for a quick disconnection such as in the situation above. They also fold down into a small package keeping your site clean and uncluttered. As a newbie I think what originally turned me away from tow bars was the complex diagrams and vehicle specific parts required for proper operation. Don’t let these initial complexities scare you off, once your tow bar is setup life will be so much easier!
So, motorhome mounted or vehicle mounted…? I don’t think there’s a wrong answer, but below are a few things you can ponder to see which best suits your needs.
- Probably 90% of the market is using this style of tow bar (so we should too right?)
- 2 bars connect to after-market brackets on your vehicle
- They come in all different tow ratings so whether you’re towing your smart car or a school bus you’re covered (make sure you are within the legal size limit here)
- When you drive to get those groceries, your car doesn’t have “stuff” hanging from the bumper since the “stuff” stows on the back of the motorhome
- A much smaller part of the market but I’m not sure why since they are the easiest to disconnect
- 1 coupler clamps to the ball hitch on your RV, similar to most trailers
- Also comes in many tow rating options
- You car has a large tumor (removable but heavy) stowed above its bumper
I think you’re basically choosing between a slightly easier connection (vehicle mounted) or a normal looking car that’s free of clutter (motorhome mounted).
Step 3 – Install vehicle mounting brackets (unless you’re opting for the tow dolly)
- Most of these require minimal modifications to your vehicle and are bolted to sturdy parts of its chassis. We haven’t installed ours yet, but we can update you with more details when completed.
Initially, I thought supplemental braking was more crap for consumers to spend money on. Then I thought about those 2.5 tons following closely behind us. As I realized my family will likely be onboard, questioning about whether to skimp on supplemental braking was no longer a question. Besides, our expensive toys and gear are in there too! With all my toys, I mean, my family’s well being in mind, safe braking power now seems a necessity. It’s also one that could land you a big fat ticket if you don’t follow the law. See what is required here. This too I will update when we select our best match. For now, here are the 3 types of supplemental brakes we learned about during our factory tour.
Direct braking systems
connect to the RV’s braking system (hydraulic or pneumatic) and allow proportionate braking. Since our diesel motorhome will have pneumatic air brakes, that same air supply (powering the Brakemaster) will ensure even brake pressure in both vehicles.
Hidden braking systems and Brakes in a box
Each use an electrical signal from the RV. When you apply brakes in your RV a signal is sent to the controller which either pulls a cable (Invisibrake) or pushes the brake pedal (Evenbrake).
Nearly all of our links go to Roadmaster products, that’s no coincidence. We encourage you to search around and see if other manufacturer’s products meet your needs better than ones we’ve found here. Personally however, after touring the Roadmaster factory and learning everything is manufactured here in the US (not just assembled here with foreign parts) and that every system is tested before leaving the factory (not only a random sampling from a large batch) and that their tow bars are stronger than the competition (a competitor’s 10,000 pound bar failed the test they use on their own 6,0000 pound bars) we have no reservations choosing Roadmaster’s products. If you haven’t already, check out our video from the factory tour and see why we feel so confident in our selection.