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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.

Highways Agency on flickr.com
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.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

An enclosed trailer may be your alternative to four-down or dolly towing

For motorhome owners, there's nothing like having a "toad" car with you. Park the RV in camp and leave it there. Use it as a home base, while the toad car gets you out and about with ease. But toad cars come with their own set of woes. As you travel through the country, you'll see plenty of motorhomes towing their cars, either "four down" on a tow bar, or on a tow dolly.

Either four-down or on a dolly, here's the hitch: It's just generally impossible to back up your motorhome with the toad attached. To do an effective back-up, you'll need to unhitch, move motorhome, and re-hitch again. But if your motorhome has muscle enough, and you pocketbook money enough, here's another alternative: An enclosed car trailer. Yep, it's a rolling garage for your faithful toad car, and there can be some advantages.

courtesy Millennium Trailers

First, your toad car stays clean and dry while "out of use." There's no wear-and tear on the tires or drive train. You can back up your enclosed trailer without having to unhitch. Need space for extra goodies? Get a big enough enclosed trailer and your car can have plenty of company in the form of tools, other recreational stuff, and those endless what-have-yous. Add a roll-down screen and you can have an effective, bug-proof patio while camping.

Still, there are other things to consider that might put you off the idea. You'll have yet a third "vehicle" to title, register, and insure. You'll also need to keep an eye on the extra length the trailer puts behind your motorhome to make sure your "combination" length doesn't put you out of bounds in terms of legal length restrictions. Depending on where your travels take you, you may find it difficult to "park" the trailer while camping. Some parks have "overflow" parking areas if the camp site itself is too small, but you may end up paying for the overflow spot.

If the idea still appeals, most enclosed trailer RVers recommend doing a lot of looking before you shop. Some trailers are skinny enough that getting out of your car, once you've driven it up inside the trailer, can be a bit of a problem. Like, "climbing out the window or the hatch back." Still others counter that wider trailer can make up for that, or some that have appropriately placed access doors that allow you to swing open the driver's door once inside. Others swear by using a winch system to simply pull the toad car into the trailer.

There's a lot to think about, and enclosed trailers can be a bit pricey. Look around in campgrounds and if you see one, ask the owners for their opinion. Like all things RV, everybody has an opinion they love to share.

Want to see more? Here's a link to an outfit that sells new, used, and custom enclosed trailers.