A few days ago we talked about tow cars for motorhome owners. Today let’s discuss tow bars and auxiliary braking systems.
Keep in mind that I am not a technical person, and I have not tested everything out there on the market, but I will tell you what we have used, what has worked for us, and what has not. As they used to say in the television commercials, your mileage may differ.
When we started fulltiming, we used a Roadmaster Falcon 5250 tow bar to tow our Toyota Tacoma pickup. The tow bar had a rubber covered release button on each arm, and we fought that darned thing for years. If the motorhome and truck were not aligned perfectly, it was almost impossible to remove the pins that locked the tow bar to the truck, and to depress the above-mentioned release buttons. We hated it.
A couple of years ago we upgraded to a Blue Ox Aventa II tow bar with a 10,000 pound capacity. In my opinion, it is a far superior product in every way. The Aventa uses levers to release the arms, and they are much easier to manage. With the Roadmaster, we were constantly struggling to release the arms, and since I have a touch of arthritis in both of my hands, it was painful. But that has never once been a problem with the Blue Ox.
If the van and motorhome are not perfectly aligned, I simply start the van’s engine and turn the steering wheel all the way in one direction, which releases the tension on one side of the tow bar, and then repeat the process in the other direction. I have shared this tip with users of other brands of tow bars, and they all said it made things easier.
It is important that your tow bar be level when going down the road. If it is mounted too high or too low on your motorhome, you will need an extension from the motorhome’s receiver to either raise or lower the contact point with the tow bar.
When we started out, we didn’t have an auxiliary braking system for the Toyota, basically out of ignorance. I didn’t realize the need for one, and later on, when we switched to our MCI bus conversion, I always said that the heavy bus weighed enough to stop the much lighter pickup.
I learned just how wrong I was, in a small town in Alabama one day, when some fool ran a red light and I had to make a panic stop. We had a motorcycle carrier on the back of the bus, and the pickup turned the tow bar inside out and ended up with the front wheels sitting on top of the motorcycle rack! Fortunately, I didn’t have a bike on the back of the bus, or it would have been totaled! Folks, if you don’t already have an auxiliary braking system on your tow vehicle, get one. All it takes is one idiot pulling out in front of you to cause a lot of damage to your motorhome and dinghy.
Our first auxiliary brake was a Brake Buddy, and we hated it as much as we did the Roadmaster tow bar. It was heavy, had to be put in place inside of the vehicle and hooked to the brake pedal every time we traveled, and then we had to find a place to stash it when not using it. We also had to use a wooden plank between the Brake Buddy and the driver’s seat because it didn’t match up correctly and tended to shift around in travel.
The final straw was when we arrived at a campground in Texas and discovered that the 12 volt plug had overheated and melted into the power receptacle on the van’s dashboard sometime during the day’s traveling. I called Brake Buddy and talked to a tech, who said “That happens sometimes” and told me that I could send the unit back and pay to have it rebuilt. I’m not thrilled when somebody takes such a cavalier attitude about their product burning itself up in my van!
We replaced the Brake Buddy with an SMI Stay-In-Play vacuum assisted brake and love it. It is smaller than the Brake Buddy, sits under the driver’s seat, never has to be moved in and out of the vehicle, is hard wired to power so there is no electrical plug to mess with, and when we’re ready to travel, all we have to do is turn the switch on and go. Again, a much superior product than what we started out with.
So that’s what works for us. How about you? What do you use?
Thought For The Day – A friend is a person who tells you all the nice things about you that you didn’t even know yourself.