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Towing Equipment: Care and Maintenance





Ryan Thomas
Blue Ox 

             

    Flat towing is the quickest and simplest way to take your car with you when you go RV-ing. For this reason, tow bars rather than tow dollies, have become a very popular choice for everyone from the weekend warrior to the full timer. Any towbar manufactured by any company is a piece of technology; a piece of machinery not unlike your motorhome or car, van, truck or SUV that you’re towing.  Most motorhome owners are so strict with their maintenance routine on their units that they hardly exceed the window of oil changes by more than a few miles, if at all.  Maintaining a tow bar is just as important and just as potentially costly if ignored.

 

The first step in proper care and maintenance is the initial setup. Proper height alignment and connections are crucial to the performance and life of a tow bar and baseplate. The tow bar can be no more than 4 inches higher on the motor home side and never lower on the RV than the towed vehicle.  If an extension is added for say a bike rack, it is even more imperative the tow bar not be at a severe angle.  It’s all geometry and physics; the farther back you move the pivot point of the tow bar from the rear axle of the coach, the more vertical movement you get and more leverage is applied to the receiver hitch, tow bar and baseplate. 

 

It is very important to run the safety and electrical cables under the tow bar. Crossing the safety cables underneath the towbar is the recommended method as should the towbar become disconnected, the crossed cables will keep the vehicle straight in addition to catching the towbar rather than allowing it to drop and drag on the ground.

 

Pins are probably one of the easiest items to inspect.  Visually inspect that the pins attaching the tow bar to the baseplate are in good condition.  Pull them out and feel the surface to insure they are not wearing.  Check the operation of the retainer pins that hold the main pin in place; make sure they still have a good strong resistance when you snap them in place to secure them.  Don’t forget to check the 5/8” pin that holds the tow bar to the motorhome receiver hitch as well.  Replacement parts are inexpensive and I recommend replacing any pins that appear worn with genuine factory replacement parts. 

 

Cleanliness is another important part of maintaining a tow bar. When driving down the road, a tow bar attracts a lot of dirt and road grime. It seems harmless enough, but if it works into the tow bar it can cause premature wear. It is very common for someone to accumulate large amounts of road grime on their tow bar when they use a lubricant, such as WD-40, on the outside of the tow bar. Some customers think that their tow bar is too stiff for them to use and end up spraying down the joints and legs with a spray lube or grease. In most cases, doing this causes much more harm than good. The lubricant will leave a residue which acts like glue when driving down the road and you will end up picking up more grime than if the tow bar had just been left dry. If lubrication of the bar is necessary, it is always best to use dry silicone spray and nothing petroleum based.  It is also good idea, when the RV owner washes their motor home, to also wash or spray off the tow bar.

 

Check to insure the legs of collapsible tow bars latch properly and adjust them according to the instructions provided with the unit from the manufacturer.  The two biggest contributors to premature wear on tow bar parts are loose bolts, which allow excessive movement between mating parts, and miss-adjusted leg latches, which allow too much for/aft movement while towing. 

 

Some tow bars are equipped with a rubber boot, which protects the inside legs from dirt and water.  If a tow bar is “sticky” or the legs do not slide in and out easily follow these simple steps:  Remove the small cable ties holding the rubber boots on the legs and slide the boots back.  Wipe clean each inside leg and apply a light coat of multipurpose grease to insure smooth operation.  Secure each boot back in place with an 8-inch nylon cable tie. 

 

Tow bars with exposed legs require more attention.  Since they are not protected, dirt and road grime can get into the latches and actually cause them not to latch properly.  Insure you regularly clean these legs to maintain proper function.

 

Towing a vehicle 4-wheels down is the ultimate way to bring auxiliary transportation with you.  Adding towbar maintenance to your regular RV maintenance schedule will insure you get the most use and life out of your towbar.