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Old 05-13-2008, 07:11 AM   #1
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Tow bars

I have no experience with tow bars, but am soon getting ready to cross the threshold. I'm wanting to make my own since I'm cheap, but I may just purchase one. Any tips, suggestions, do's or don'ts, what to look for or bear in mind?
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Old 05-13-2008, 09:57 AM   #2
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Re: Tow bars

Originally Posted by reprobate
I have no experience with tow bars, but am soon getting ready to cross the threshold. I'm wanting to make my own since I'm cheap, but I may just purchase one. Any tips, suggestions, do's or don'ts, what to look for or bear in mind?
I'd generally be right there with you but in this case I think I'd definitely purchase a commercial tow bar. I think the possibility for problems (fitting, attachment, tracking, stability, strength, etc) and the liability issues involved are just too high to make building one a cheaper solution. I'd rather a company (with deeper pcokets than me if something goes wrong) have worked out the engineering and issues involved and tested it. I'd check on some of the RV sites since most motorhomes pull a toad and there's lots of info and experience there.

But that's just one take on it... Best wishes regardless!
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Old 05-13-2008, 10:04 AM   #3
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Re: Tow bars

I think Jason (lapeer) made a home-made tow bar once a few years ago, and it didn't work out so well for him. I'll let him tell that story.

Him and I used my tow bar (reese brand - got out of the newspaper for $25 bucks) to tow my car with his bus about 6 months ago. At one point the hitch pin fell out.. which the tow bar was still attached to, and my car rear ended his bus. luckily we had chains or it could have been a lot worse.

I'd use a purchased tow bar, and double check everything.
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Old 05-13-2008, 12:38 PM   #4
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Re: Tow bars

I have an aventa II and it is a very nice tow bar but it is just a little bit more expensive. What I do like about it is you only need to get the two vehicles close together to hook up as there are two slide bars that retract to make hooking up faster. Once hooked set the towed vehicle in to neutral or pull the drive shaft or in my case neutral on the transfer case on pull forward and you will hear the tow bar lock in. As for my safety chains I'm not 100% safe since I often just use one big chain between the two and other times when I don't go as far (15 miles) I tend to neglect the use of one at all.

What I need to get is a universal mount that I can use on cars after removing the bumper to tow them when they break down. Cause something about using a strap going down the road at 50 plus is somewhat of a pain.
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Old 05-13-2008, 06:21 PM   #5
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Re: Tow bars

A triangular bar to tow a car behind the bus? I see people doing it alot. But be aware that this relies on the steering geometry of the towee to work properly for this purpose. I once tried to tow a car with no engine, throwing the alignment off, and the steering kept going the wrong way. I have no experience with dollies, but what I observe on the road does not impress me. I'm a big fan of real trailers.
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Old 05-13-2008, 10:20 PM   #6
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Re: Tow bars

Make sure the tow vehicle's steering wheel doesn't lock! Keep the keys in it and make sure it won't lock. I found out something the hard way when we towed my gf's 1990 4runner across the county. We parked for a minute and locked the 4runner. When we came back she leaned across the car and locked the steering wheel, we knew this so I put the keys in and unlocked it, not sure about other vehicles but when the wheel locks on this car, unless you turn the key all the way to start it it will relock again. Safety chains......A MUST, first time I used them. Around the first good turn we took..... BANG! I knew what happened right away, no real damage just the bar on the 4runner had ripped off. So some knew holes drilled, wrong sized bolts, chewing gum, and some steel cable wrapped around the mounting bar to the 4runner frame and we made it the rest of the 1700 miles. I got my triangle and mounting bar for a case of beer. I went to an RV dealer and the mechanic said he just saw one in the back that a customer had left a year ago. On the 4runner it's easy to attach a universal bar.
1989 TC 2000; 235,000miles; 5.9 cummins with Alisson 545; Straight veggie burning with onboard filtration. Converting to a Toy Hauler for the summers racing motorcycles.
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Old 05-13-2008, 10:42 PM   #7
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Re: Tow bars

im sure everyone that has used a tow bar more than once has a horror story to tell i know i have a few what are you towing rep yer other bus? im with elliot on this one-more weight but much safer do you put the hitch in the slider? timbuk
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Old 05-13-2008, 11:49 PM   #8
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Re: Tow bars

Originally Posted by timbuk
im sure everyone that has used a tow bar more than once has a horror story to tell i know i have a few what are you towing rep yer other bus? im with elliot on this one-more weight but much safer do you put the hitch in the slider? timbuk

here's my advice....DON'T USE A TOW BAR!

i pulled a car to cali and back with a homemade tow-bar...that was a disaster! had 3 flat tires on the car due to the tires on the car steering the wrong way, ended up needing new tie rod ends when it was all done. also bent the attachment points on the front of the car among other things. had a flat tire for a lon gtime on the car....i noticed it while going downhill in the mountains at nite and could see sparks shooting out behind the bus. There was pretty much no rubber left, just rim.

then i bought a commercially built tow bar rated for 5 or 8k pounds. i pulled a chevy s-10 about 1,000 miles, and it was a fraction of an inch away from tearing off the bracket from the truck...fortunately we didn't loose that one, but he did need new tie rod ends.

then be pulled phil's car 700 miles, and had a little mishap where the car came detached from the bus. that cost me a pair of headlights for a crown vic

i also pulled a 4x4 truck with big tires a few times. it was only about 20 miles one way. As we were unhooking the truck, the tie rod end snapped right off causing each tire to "steer" in opposite the opposite direction of the other.

buy a trailer and tow that. trailers rock compared to tow bars.

another advantage of a trailer is that you can see the fenders in your mirrors. the car is invisible behind the bus, unless you have a camera or can see the shadow on the ground.
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Old 05-22-2008, 08:08 PM   #9
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Re: Tow bars

I towed from New England to Orlando & back a while ago, and have made many shorter trips with a tow bar, using my bus to pull my wife's Festiva or her big Blazer (now gone, she has a Wrangler). A properly set-up bar is perfectly safe.
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Old 05-22-2008, 09:35 PM   #10
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Re: Tow bars

A lot of towbar set up relies on the geometry of everything. Some of that you can control, some you can't. Ideally the bar will be perfectly flat. That's the first step. With a bus I don't think you need to worry about angularity causing jacking like you would on a pickup, but angularity will also effect the acting load on the suspension of the towed vehicle.

Another important factor to keep in mind is the front alignment. Obviously you need the steering unlocked, but there is more to it. You need positive caster as this is what makes the wheels of the towed vehicle want to track straight ahead. They will still turn, but this will make them auto-recenter. Alas, many auto manufacturers do not put a lot of positive caster in their vehicles. This is because it makes steering effort harder and any time you get away from true vertical, either positively or negatively, you add leverage which is harder on components like strut mounts or balljoints. For example, a 2wd S-10 (common enough towed rig) only calls for 1-3 degrees of positive caster with 2 being preferred. A 3rd Generation Toyota pickup calls for less than 1 degree. An International Scout has darn near 0 degrees. Alternatively you get something like a Jeep which is really commonly towed and it has in the neighborhood of 7 degrees of positive caster. It's not hard to see why they work so well.

Obviously other factors like your toe also needs to be correct. Constantly having the towed rig pulling against the hitch isn't going to do any good.

I've used dollies a few times. I can tell you that if you're going to get one you need to get one with turntables for the wheels. Most homemade dollies do not do this and it is downright scary. When you turn one wheel will try and climb forward off the dolly while the other will will roll backwards no matter how you strap it down. Not good...

If you're looking at only doing things once in a while a dolly or towbar (properly set up) will be fine. Otherwise you can't beat a trailer.
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