Saturday, April 13, 2013

Adventures in Towing


When we finally pulled up stakes and left our long term camping spot in Brooksville, Florida, we had one last order of business to take care of on our way out of town. We had to make a pit stop at the local RV shop to get our tow package installed. It was to be a relatively short visit (two hours or less) and while not cheap we pretty much knew what to expect for parts and labor. We were prepared for that estimate. You can see where this is headed, right?

I should back up some and explain the whole towing situation a bit. When flat-towing a car (all four wheels on the ground) there are several components you need. The first is the base plate on the car. When we bought our car it already had this. Cool! That’s the most expensive piece of the tow bar set-up. Double cool that we didn’t have to buy that! The tow bar itself is the next most expensive piece needed. Then you also need a wiring harness and a couple of other odds and ends. We had gone into the shop much earlier on to see what exactly we would be needing and a cost estimate. Total for what we still needed to get came to about a thousand dollars. OUCH! And if that wasn’t bad enough, we got the very bad news that we would also be needing a supplemental braking system for the car. We had “ass-umed'” that since we weren’t towing a large vehicle we didn’t need to worry about that. Then we got the REALLY bad news that a breaking system costs about another thousand dollars. Oh. Crap. Not in the budget at all. Not for even a minute.

After that news we went home and suffered multiple panic attacks. Then we did what we do best. Went online and started scrounging around for used pieces to the puzzle to bring our costs down. First score was a used tow bar on Craigslist. We saved ourselves about $450 on that. Then we went to Ebay and found a used Brake Buddy which saved us $550 on that. Essentially, we had just cut our cost in half. Go Us!

When we went into the shop for the install, we found out that the used tow bar was more than just used, it was useless (hey scumbags who sell worthless stuff to people and lie about it…justice will find you eventually!). It was stripped out where it attached to the RV. They were able to tighten it up enough to reduce the play by about 50%. But they couldn’t guarantee it holding for any length of time. They said it might hold for a very long time or it might fail right away. Really bad odds on our safety and that of others on the road. Not a chance we could take. They could go ahead and put a brand new system in for us no problem. But we were very low on funds at the time. Hello again panic attacks!
We were about ready to put off leaving for yet another week, when we would have more money. But we were so fed up with being stuck in one spot. We NEEDED to break free and hit the road. So we sucked it up and used the credit card, which we are loathe to do. But it got us mobile so we are grateful that option was there.

After the tow bar failure, our next worry was that the Brake Buddy might not work either. I think that would truly have brought us to tears right on the spot. But thankfully, it operated perfectly. The Brake Buddy is a super cool gadget that rides in the car, attaching to the brake pedal and pushes on it when needed.

This contraption is wired into the RV. It activates whenever you break hard.
Then an arm that is clamped onto the car brake pedal pushes the brakes for you while being towed. Nifty huh? 

All hooked up and ready to go.....FINALLY!

So they got us all hooked up, showed how to use everything and sent us on our way. Karin found towing to be not so bad after all. Really no difference in the feel. Just have to remember how much longer we are for lane changing and such. And along with losing our towing virginity, we also finally lost our backing up virginity (I seriously just said that?). And that turned out to be not such a big deal either. We may  just survive after all.   Smile

10 comments:

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    1. Uh huh! But I'm over it. Really. :)

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  2. What the Duck said! I'm sorry that happened to you. But ... you overcame. Good for you!

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    1. Thanks Kim! You live and learn. And sometimes you take chances that pay off and sometimes they don't. It's all good in the end. :)

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  3. One more (set of) hurdle(s) tackled. Way to go!

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    1. Yup! And that was a biggie. So happy to have that all done with. :)

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  4. That looks like a really old Brake Buddy but glad it works!

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    1. Not sure how old it is, but it looks just like the Brake Buddy Classic they sell currently. All I care is that it works! And that overall it's pretty simple to use. :)

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  5. This post is really helpful. Thanks! With my new rig, I'm at the decision-making point about whether to tow a vehicle and, if so, what vehicle and how to tow it.

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  6. Just two suggestions, if I may...lessons I learned on my own, the hard way. 1.) Always make sure you are on the straight-away when you are ready to unhook. If your tow vehicle is at even a slight angle, it is MUCH harder to disengage due to the pressure on the shorter "arm." 2.) Always be sure to engage your tow vehicle parking brake BEFORE you disconnect. (Like I said, I learned the hard way. ;-) )

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