Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Do NOT do this to your toad!

It's been said that the problem with common sense is that it's just not that common. In this case, the driver of a Class A motorhome not only forgets to take his "toad" – a pickup truck – out of park when he hits the road, but doesn't fix the problem even when he's made aware of the situation by helpful motorists. This video is a bit long, but stay tuned to the end to see just what kind of damage can occur from dragging, rather than towing, your toad. And please, don't follow in the videographer's footsteps and attempt to shoot a video with your smartphone while driving. What was that about common sense again? (Posted by Sandy Burns)

Thursday, February 06, 2014

High-tech tail light options for your "toad car"

Got a toad-car or thinking about hitching one up to your motorhome? If you tow "four down," you'll need to have some way to let the folks behind you know what your intentions are. That means some way of connecting your motorhome stop, turn, and tail light system to that of the toad car.

It's not always easy to hook up to the toad car's lights. In many cases, RVers simply have to add 'auxiliary' lighting system. This often translates attaching additional lights to the back of the car, then running wires up to the motorhome. We've seen some – shall we say – "creative" ways of doing this. Some RVers actually bore holes in the back of their toad cars and add a couple of light fixtures which then reside there permanently. Not great for resale value, but for them, it works. Others attach a set of magnetically mounted lights to the back of the toad, then struggle to figure out how to run wiring up to the motorhome. If the wires run over the paint job, flapping wires can quickly wear holes in the paint. Unsightly and a resale killer.

But there's yet another way: Magnetically mounted wireless tow lights. Under this system, a wireless transmitter is hooked up to the trailer light plug on your motorhome – typically a four or six pin connector. A receiver built into the tow lights then receives the signal from the motorhome, and actuates the tail lights on the toad car. Batteries (sometimes rechargeable) in the tow lights provide the juice to operate them.

There are plenty of wireless tow light systems for sale on the Internet. Several "varieties," are available on amazon.com. Here's an advantage: Amazon customers can comment on their purchases and how they worked out. We suggest you look closely at user comments, as there are problems that some units seem to have. One is that if the magnets on the tow lights aren't strong enough, hit a bump, and your tow lights jump off the toad car and smash on the pavement. Others have complained about "intermittent connections," perhaps from too poor a signal from the transmitter back to the tow lights.

courtesy awdirect.com
A little research did suggest looking into what professional tow truck drivers use. These guys in the field can't afford to have their tow lights vanish; and they rely on their stuff working. Costs can be a bit higher than some – think about close to $200 for a professional "light bar" style set. Here's one example.

Another option? Hire an automotive electrical specialist to wire your toad car to use its own lights when connected to your motorhome. It'll cost you, sure enough, but should be reliable. Of course, the wireless option allows you to "take it with you" when you get a different toad car.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Equipment for towing "four down"

bradleygee on flickr.com
For motorhome folks who want to take a toad with them, there are choices to be made. Put your car on a trailer, designed to keep all the cars tires "off the pavement"? Or use a dolly, where the front wheels are trailered, but the car's rear wheels log every mile. Or how about towing, "four down," meaning, you tow the car directly, all wheels on the pavement. There are advantages – and of course disadvantages – to each method. Let's talk about making your car "four down" ready.

Some cars come from the manufacturer with the ability to be readily towed four down. Simply add the appropriate hitching materials (face plate and tow bar), some electrical connections, maybe an auxiliary braking system, and you're good to go. But not all vehicles are so easily towed. There are plenty of cars out there whose automatic transmissions simply aren't approved for four-down use. Enter aftermarket equipment that can modify the vehicle.

Drive shaft coupling systems: If your choice of a toad car is rear-wheel drive with an automatic, this system simply uncouples the transmission from the drive shaft, making four-down towing possible. What's required is having the car's original drive-shaft removed and reworked, then reinstalled with a special clutch system. With this system, your toad's odometer doesn't rack up miles while under tow.

One thing to keep in mind – when it comes time to change toad cars, you won't likely be able to take the system away and install it on your new car – it's specific to make and model.

Transmission fluid pump: If you've a front-wheel drive car (and a very few rear wheel drive), this system will typically work for you. Why do you need it? With four-wheels down and turning, the automatic transmission is engaged and requires lubrication. Most front-wheel-drive cars come from the factory with a lubrication system that requires the car's engine to be running to get the required lube flow. This after-market system adds a lubrication pump, typically powered by the motorhome.

What to look for? Some manufacturer's provide a warranty that covers, not only their product, but also covers damage to your towed car if the system should fail. Not all do, and unless you have a lot of faith (and a lot of money) we'd look elsewhere. Some systems include an electronic monitoring system that mounts up in the motorhome cockpit that warns if the system has failed.

Unlike the drive shaft coupling system, you can generally take the transmission lube pump system with you and install it on your next toad car with little (if any) extra expense.

Axle-lock systems: Only for front-wheel-drive automatics, this system is placed on the car's axle shaft (half-shaft). Turn the axle-lock "in or out" for towing. This one is specific to your toad car, so once again, you won't be taking this setup with you to the new toad.

Regardless of which of style of units interest you, be sure to check with a sales rep or manufacturer to talk about your toad car specifics.