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Old 09-07-2009, 09:24 PM   #1
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I have part of a tow apparatus...what else do I need?

When we bought our Nissan Frontier this setup came with it as most of the 45K miles on the truck were towed behind an RV but as the photos show it isn't complete. I can't find much to identify what brand it is or model. I would like to hook up the bus in the future but am o not sure what else I need to make this complete... Any ideas??







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Old 09-07-2009, 11:15 PM   #2
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Re: I have part of a tow apparatus...what else do I need?

There should probably be two articulating arms that come from the front horizontal pins to join at the hitch point. Try going to a Camping World store and have one of their mechanics identify the unit, then look up and order the missing parts online.

What are you doing for brakes and lights?

I've never had a kit in my hands, but apparently there are diode kits that go between the Nissan taillights and the vehicle harness. Either the trailer plug from the bus or the Nissan wiring can light the lights, but the one-way function of the diodes prevents backfeed from one to the other. Hopefully the previous owner left a set installed for you. Or some people just get the magnet lights tow truck drivers use, and stick them on the roof and leave the taillights dark.

I know the Nissan isn't going to push the bus around like a big trailer could do to a pickup, but there might be some states (like mine) you can't cross without trailer brakes over a certain weight. (Without checking, I think it's 400# empty, 1000# gross). Two major ways of braking the toad are Brake Buddy and air piston kit.

A Brake buddy is a no-install unit that sits between the driver's seat and the brake pedal, and uses inertia sensing to push on the pedal when it thinks the bus is slowing or going downhill. The air piston kit requires a mounting plate for a quick-removal installation between the pedal and the plate. I believe it requires plumbing to both the service brake and spring brake air supplies on the bus, but its actions should follow the actions requested of the bus brakes. I think there's also a small reservoir that applies air to the piston to stop the Nissan in the event of a break-away.

Inertia units (which include the majority of electric controllers) won't activate except manually if the tow vehicle is hydroplaning or sliding on ice.

DISCLAIMER: My relatives use a tow dolly, and pull their toad with the FWD tires off the road. The dolly has its own brakes, and the car brakes are not activated. I have no personal experience with any of this, and therefore, like Will Rogers, "only know what I read in the papers."
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Old 09-08-2009, 09:15 AM   #3
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Re: I have part of a tow apparatus...what else do I need?

Roadmaster and Blue Ox are the two big names in towbar accessories.

I *think* what you have is a roadmaster setup, as it looks a bit like my own setup.

There are two small receivers mounted to the frame, and that is called the base plate assembly. The parts that come out and attach to that horizontal bar may be part of that, or may be part of the actual tow bar assembly, I can't remember. Any of the range of tow bars from that manufacturer will attach, and they range in price from affordable to much less affordable. The primary differences tend to be ease of attachment and weight capacity.

I speak from experience when I say the fixed arm type is a real PITA to get lined up and hooked up, and is pretty much guaranteed to be a 2 person job. It is especially not fun when the ground isn't level, or the weather is bad. If you can afford it, get one of the ones with adjusting arms.

hope this helps,
jim
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Old 09-09-2009, 10:21 PM   #4
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Re: I have part of a tow apparatus...what else do I need?

What you have there is indeed a Roadmaster cross member. You'll need to get the base plates that attach to the frame, those will be vehicle specific, the cross member you have there should be adjustable to fit into any of the Roadmaster base plates. It also appears you have the safety cables too. You will also need the actual tow bar, and as indicated above, the fixed arm units are difficult to use as you must line them up perfectly, the ones with the telescoping arms you can release them which allows you to adjust side to side and a few inches forward & back, and they are self locking, once you are attached you just pull forward and the telescoped arms extend and lock into place.

There are two basic types of tow bars, the older ones (like mine) attach & store on the front of the towed vehicle (TOAD) and have a 2" ball coupler. The newer style ones have a 2" receiver and stores on the back of the tow vehicle. Both will have arms that telescope and attach to the front of the TOAD.

You can get the parts & pieces you need on Ebay... I bought my Blue Ox Rangefinder II on ebay for $50, and my base plate was $100.

Another thing, the Blue Ox is a simpler system, they do not use or require a cross member, their cross member is built into the base plate and hidden behind the front valence. My older style unit also has a cross member built onto it, but the newer ones don't have that, just 2 arms to connect to the base plate...

My Blue Ox & the bus...
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Old 09-09-2009, 10:37 PM   #5
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Re: I have part of a tow apparatus...what else do I need?

After re-reading your post, if you intend to pull the Nissan I'm guessing the base plates are already on the vehicle, and that means all you need to buy is the actual tow bar. You have a Roadmaster set-up, so get a Roadmaster tow bar for easy hook-up...
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You just might be a Redneck if...
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...Your living room has a steering wheel!
...Your home has brake lights

1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee
1989 Thomas Diesel Pusher (Cat 3208/Freightliner)
Chesapeake, Virginia
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Old 09-10-2009, 10:03 AM   #6
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Re: I have part of a tow apparatus...what else do I need?

Thanks all for the great info!!

Cliff, the mounts are still on the front of the truck so yes, that is a bonus. I will check into the tow bar & have to figure out what I want to do for a hitch on the Thomas. As far as lights there is a box with a plug hidden behind the grill of the Nissan already that the previous owner plugged the lights into... I never tested it but it is supposed to control the rear lights of the Nissan from the tow vehicle.
I heard also from others how hard it is to hook up some of these telescoping arms...

Jonathan
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Old 09-10-2009, 11:18 PM   #7
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Re: I have part of a tow apparatus...what else do I need?

I think you got that backwards... The telescoping arms are the easy ones to hook-up, give you directional flexibility when trying to hook them up, you don't have to be dead-on center with them, and you can be a little too close, it's all adjustable as the arms allow it to move in all directions between 2 fixed objects, then when you pull away the arms automatically pull-out to full extension and self lock themselves.

The stiff arm bars you will HAVE TO be dead-on center every time...and a perfect distance behind, usually works better with 2 people using this type.

I'm not sure of the compatability from Road Master & Blue Ox, it might be possible to use a Blue OX bar on your Road Master base plate & cross member set-up. I know that Blue OX & Demco cross fit without problems. Just keep watching ebay on a tow bar search, it took me a couple months to find a suitable Blue Ox for only $50...and it was an older type but it was brand new never used...
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*Cliff*

You just might be a Redneck if...
...your motor home used to be a school bus!
...Your living room has a steering wheel!
...Your home has brake lights

1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee
1989 Thomas Diesel Pusher (Cat 3208/Freightliner)
Chesapeake, Virginia
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Old 09-10-2009, 11:31 PM   #8
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Re: I have part of a tow apparatus...what else do I need?

Oh, and as for the hitch, I'm using a step bumper 2" receiver adapter bolted to the bus cross member just inside of the rear bumper.



The picture above shows it with just 2 bolts going into that cross member, I also have 2 more bolts going up into the bumper itself. Both pieces (cross member & bumper) are very beefy steel, that cross member is heavy duty stuff. You absolutely want to use GRADE-8 Bolts & Nuts on this, use lock washers and lock nuts.



Since the bumper and the cross member are not on an even plane, I had to add in a spacer of sorts to fill in the space. The one shown here didn't stay, I replaced that spacer with 3 Grade-8 flat washers on the bumper bolts.

Drilling the holes in the cross member brings on a new way to get steel shavings in your eyes, not to mention very tired & sore arm muscles... I used a 2x4 with an inverted drill as the 2x4 gave me leverage & pressure to keep the drill pressing hard in an upward direction as I sat there on the ground... made it really easy to drill it like this...just watch your wrist when that drill makes it to the end, that thing will try and spin it's way right out of your hand!!

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*Cliff*

You just might be a Redneck if...
...your motor home used to be a school bus!
...Your living room has a steering wheel!
...Your home has brake lights

1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee
1989 Thomas Diesel Pusher (Cat 3208/Freightliner)
Chesapeake, Virginia
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Old 09-11-2009, 07:48 AM   #9
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Re: I have part of a tow apparatus...what else do I need?

OOPS...Your right I was thinking the correct thing, just not speaking it!

Thanks for posting the photos of your hitch setup Cliff. I have a low-low rear bumper & will have to take a better look at what the best setup will be. This will be done after we make the move...
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