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Monday, August 31, 2015

Turn your tow dolly into a utility trailer in minutes

Leave it to an innovative RVer to come up with the answer to what could be a thorny issue. If you've got a motorhome and tow your rig with a tow dolly, what do you do with the dolly when you're at home and not towing? Probably shuffle the thing off to the corner of the yard and leave it in "stasis" until it's time for your next RV trip. Why not make that dolly do more?

The same thought struck Joe Grape. Joe was a motorhome owner with a tow dolly. After buying a new riding lawn more, Joe had to borrow a utility trailer to get the mower home. Then his eyes lit on his "unused" tow dolly. Wasn't there some way he could convert that tow dolly into a utility trailer? And go one better – figure out a way so that the same system could be used by any tow dolly owner, regardless of the make or age of the dolly?

The Edgar, Wisconsin man got cracking and sure enough, Joe's "Tow Mate" is now a patented "universal flatbed attachment." The flatbed, which weighs in at slightly more than 100 pounds, can be laid down on your tow dolly, attached, and be ready to haul in minutes. With a payload capacity of 1,595 pounds, you can haul a lot of lawn mower, lumber, or what-have-you, keeping your tow dolly busy year-around.

The system doesn't require you to drill holes or make modifications to you dolly, and with a bed that's six by eight, there's plenty of room for hauling stuff. If your "stuff" includes say, a motorcycle, Joe can provide you with an optional motorcycle rail system that keeps your bike stable as you tow it down the road.

While Joe's website doesn't list a retail price, a little quick math shows it'll set you back less than $1,000, as Tow Mate will finance your new dolly bed for $70 a month for 12 months. The new company is looking for dealers, too. Learn more at tow-mateusa.com, or ring them at 715-370-3342.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A "toad" maintenance issue easily overlooked

Many folks who tow their cars "four down," without using a trailer or tow dolly also use a speedometer disconnect system. After all, when it comes time to sell the "toad," who wants to how high mileage that really isn't "drive" miles, but mostly a lot of "tow" miles. But there's a bit of a drawback.

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Without the benefit of a firm odometer reading, it may be possible to miss out on vehicle maintenance schedules. No, when the engine on the toad isn't running, it's not racking up maintenance issues that are handled via oil changes and lube jobs. But even if the engine is off while you're towing, "the wheels on the bus [still] go round and round." Yep, if you're not keeping up with tire rotations, it can cost you dearly.


So here's the deal: It's important to keep track of how many miles your tires have traveled. Some RVers find keeping a logbook in the cab of the motorhome, and jotting down miles traveled with the toad behind, then adding the miles from the toad's odometer, will give them a good handle on when to rotate tires. Rotating your toad tires every 5,000 miles can help even-out wear issues between the tires. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Elio: Is there a three-wheeled toad car in your future?

Although fuel prices have been creeping down, there's still much to be said for cutting back on fuel expenses. If your big Class A drinks fuel at alarming rate, you may be interested in hearing about a potential new toad car. Well, technically it's a motorcycle, but it looks more like a car. The three-wheeled Elio promises 85 miles to the gallon on the freeway, 45 mpg round-town, seats two, and keeps you in out of the rain.



There's plenty of interest in this new "commuter car." As of August 17, over 28,000 people had put in money to reserve one of the new $6,800 wonder wheelers. It's small, to be sure – the length of a Honda Fit. With a low price and a three-year warranty, it's not surprising that many folks are interested in the unit.

This small, you may wonder about safety. The company says they've engineered in air bags, crumple zones, and a roll cage that will keep you safe in an accident. Despite the fact that the little thing is classed as a motorcycle, it still is definitely a car. Don't worry about crash helmets or license endorsements – just grab your standard driver's license, hop in, buckle up, and drive.

The company says it will sell the cars (manufactured in Louisiana) through a network of dealers in 60 "major markets." And service? Don't worry about getting in line at the dealership. If your Elio needs work done, the nearest Pep Boys store with a service bay will be the official repair facility. Production gears up next year, so you'll have to wait a bit for one of these units.

Those who've driven the prototype rigs say they drive like your typical small car. A standard six-speed transmission can be upgraded to an automatic. However, there is one twist that may make you think twice. The driver has an easy entry into this mini-rig – the door is on the left. Got a passenger? They've got to enter the car through that same door. In order to keep costs down, there is no "passenger side" door.

So how about that rig as a "toad" car? We asked Elio reps about how their new rig would handle being yanked around by a motorhome. Their e-mail response was, "Elio owners will be able to flat tow their vehicle although the details of how this will work are currently being finalized on our end. We have several ideas on how this will work best, and we will be prepared to share these details with our future Elio Motors customers in advance of production."

If we get more on this, we'll let you know.

See more on the Elio, or put in your own reservation here.