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Monday, May 20, 2013

Get long life out of your RV towbar system

It could be every motorhome owner's nightmare: A runaway towed car because of a fault with a tow bar. Imagine looking in the rear view mirror and seeing traffic behind you scattering in every direction – trying to avoid your toad. Keep this nightmare just that – not a real-life scenario, keep up with tow bar maintenance.

What causes tow bar failure? Most often abuse, and sometimes age. Folks with the tow bar industry say that the most common form of tow bar abuse is backing up, a definite no-no, or because of jackknifing the toad when a panic stop is made and there's insufficient or non-existent towed vehicle braking. The stresses placed on tow bar components because of these actions can severely compromise or kill your tow bar system. NEVER back your toad vehicle with the tow bar, it's as simple as that.

But what about age? At what age should you consider retiring your tow bar? Like the joke among us old folks runs, it's not so much the age, it's the mileage. Your tow bar is a lot like you: Every mile you put on the tow bar begins to slowly wear away at the joints. There's not any real practical "joint replacement" operation available for tow bars. At least once a year, experts recommend, push and pull on your tow bar, feel for looseness. If it feels loose, have it inspected by a professional.

What applies to the tow bar also applies to that all-important connecting surface to the vehicle: The baseplate. Here's an inspection habit for you. Every time you hitch up the toad car, grab those connecting points. Pull up and push down. You should feel "give" in the toad car's suspension system, yes, but never should you feel looseness or give in the baseplate or connecting bracket. If you feel any give or looseness, towing can put you a big risk. Don't tow, get it fixed.

Check out your tow bar manual for lubrication instructions, and follow the suggestions given. Tow bars and accessories need to be cleaned and lubed with regularity. And when you're not using the tow bar, store it away from the weather. Rust can cause you grief over the long haul.

Need a new tow bar system? Have a reputable shop do the install, and ask them to walk you through the hitch up procedure. Smart RVers will want to use their phone or video equipment to make a record of how its done for future reference. Keep a copy of the owner's manual in the rig and in easy reach.


  1. I have an original Roadmaster 5000 Stowmaster towbar that I bought in 1991, and it's been on three toads. Every 5yr. I return to the Roadmaster factory located in Vancouver, WA. where they inspect, clean and refurbish small parts free of charge. No appointment is necessary, I just show up at 08:00 in the a.m. and I am usually gone by 10:00.

    Last time I was there when I was going through the hook-up procedures one of my turn signal lights was inoperative. The young technician who had brought back my towbar immediately went back into the factory and not only brought out a new bulb but also installed it, all free of charge.

    Roadmaster factory service has to be one of the best in the R.V. industry.

  2. This article brings back a bad memory. 7 or 8 years ago I visited my son in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. At that time I had a Royal Classic C motorhome with my Nissan Truck in tow. After a very pleasant visit I headed home. About 2 miles down the road I felt a little bump. I checked my rear view mirror and there was my truck trying to pass me. Fortunately, it was a nice bright Sunday afternoon with little traffic. I was able to pull in front of the truck, which was still held on by cables, hit the brakes and slow down both the camper and the truck. The truck somehow locked onto the hitch and I was able to glide to the road side and stop. No damage done except to my nerves and the hitch. My son picked up my truck and stored it for a few days until I could return for it. I have towed a car many miles since without incident (16,000 miles in past 12 months) but I check and recheck that hitch every time I hook up and lubricate it regularly to ensure moving parts do move as intended.

  3. Thanks for sharing. You had someone looking over your shoulder that day. I definitely will be sure to always check my toad hitch.

    Thanks again.


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