I’m actually venting a little bit here over the cost of setting up my new car for towing.
You see, most of the RV’s I have owned have been motorhomes and I would end up purchasing a used car already set up to be my TOAD.
Types of TOADS
Whoops, I almost forgot. For you RV Newbies out there, TOAD is RVer slang for “towed vehicle”, and it’s your main form of transportation when you eventually get your motorhome set up at your campsite. Your TOAD is how you get around in the area and explore the local sites and the many forms of entertainment.
If your RV is a trailer camper, or a fifth-wheel camper or even a Pop-Up camper, you will obviously tow these with a vehicle of your choosing.
But, with a motorhome, whether it’s a Class-A, Class-B, or a Class-C, there are really only three ways to properly tow a car.
- The most popular way is what people call “towing four down”. This means with all four wheels down on the ground.
- Probably the next most popular way to tow a car is with a Tow Dolly. These are short 2-wheel trailers that you can hitch to your motorhome and then pull a front-wheel-drive car onto it and then tow the car down the road using the tow-dolly.
- The third way to tow a car is to use a trailer where the car is loaded onto the trailer and then it is towed to your destination by the motorhome sitting safely on your relatively large trailer.
Each of these methods to tow a car has it’s advantages and disadvantages, but, I personally prefer towing “four-down”.
My new TOAD
Anyway, after a little research I purchased a new small car to be my new TOAD. It was a light-weight KIA SOUL, and it had several features that swayed me to select this specific vehicle.
- It weighed less than 2850 pounds so I found out on the web that I was not required, in almost all of the states, to have any supplemental braking system which would have cost me at least an additional $1200 or more.
- It was a roomy, comfortable and easy to drive vehicle.
- It was the basic model but it had AC, a Siruis receiver, and it synchronized with my Cell phone.
- And, it had a straight drive transmission, which allowed me to tow it without any of the restrictions that come with towing a vehicle that has an automatic transmission.
But, with my TOAD, being a new car, I did have to get it modified with a tow hitch and a tow car electrical harness and connector.
The tow harness would make all of the appropriate electrical connections to my motorhome, such as; brake lights, running lights and signal lights. The tow hitch would allow my motorhome to pull the car safely down the roads.
So, I made an appointment with the local Camping World store to see what could do for me to make my TOAD legal and safe.
Add a BASEPLATE
First of all, I found out that I needed to have a baseplate installed on my new car. The baseplate is necessary on most vehicles because the automobile bodies of today use a “uni-body” construction technique.
This means it has no real metal frame, like older cars once had, and the metal in the body cannot take the stresses of a tow hitch without bending, or even worse, having the tow adapters rip off of the car.
By adding a stronger, thicker baseplate to the front area of the TOAD body, the attachment of the tow connectors is then made safe.
Add a Wiring Harness
The next thing that is needed is a way to connect the lights of the TOAD to the motorhome so anyone following you can see them and know when you, your motorhome and your TOAD are turning or stopping.
This harness is pre-wired with one of the three standard connectors (4-wire, 5-wire, 6-wire) wired to the harness. But, the harness must be installed properly and then wired to the TOAD wiring harness to operate properly.
I almost choked on the price though when they told me that the parts and the installation was going to cost me a little over $1250. But, it had to be done, so I handed over my credit card.
They said they would get the parts and have the job done for me in a week.
With the parts deliveries and the scheduling for the installation, I ended up waiting almost two weeks for the installation to be performed but what can you do when you’re at the mercy of someone else.
If you have any experience with CW then you can understand. They are the biggest RV parts store chain, available across the US. But, they are a pain in the Butt when it comes to deliveries installations and managing schedules.
But, NUFF SAID, about them.
Towing Power Cables
Luckily, I already had my old tow bar, as well as tow chains, and my old towing power cable, etcetera, so I assumed there would be no new problems for me.
CW even called me and asked if I wanted a “flat” or “round” connector on my new tow car. By “flat” they meant the popular flat 4-pin standard connector used when people are towing simple trailers, etcetera.
Well, my previous tow car (a Jeep) had a round connector on it and I remembered it was a 5-pin connector. But CW told me, if it was round it had to be either a 6-pin or 7-blade connector.
I was a little distracted at the time of the call because they had called me on my Cell phone while I was on the road, so I finally agreed it had to be the 6-pin connector and, I assumed I had to be mistaken about it being a 5-pin connector.
Finally though, the task was done by CW and I got my TOAD home. The first thing I did, of course, was to pull out my old cable to check the fit, and guess what; It was, as I had said to CW, a round 5-pin connector.
Then I remembered, that over five years ago, I had written an article on my Blog, RV Towing Connections, that includes the wiring for all of the popular connectors used with RV Towing.
So,I looked back at my article and yep, there was no 5-pin connector wiring listed as being standard. But, good old Camping World, back then, had put a round 5-pin connector on my Jeep. Why? Well, to match the cable that came in my RV Towing Kit, that I had also purchased from them, of course.
So, my old towing power cable was useless to me.
I calmed myself down with a glass of wine and decided it wasn’t worth having a coronary over this and I moved on. You see, the cable in the kit had worked, and I never knew that I had a non-standard cable connection system over the years I used it.
But after all of this, I had to wait again for the delivery of a new cable which was a round, 7-blade (female) (to my motorhome) to round 6-pin (female) (to my TOAD) (at $40-plus extra, plus shipping).
Oh by the way, CW had one for $99, but I went onto Amazon and found a more reasonably priced cable.
Finally, I had all of the right parts, and was able to travel in our motorhome towing our new TOAD around the US with no problems.
I was a little upset with CW, but what the heck, right. I had traveled and camped across the US twice without knowing I had a potential problem if my cable ever went bad.
The point here is; if you aren’t prepared with all of this kind of data when you go to a RV parts store, you can end up with problems. Be prepared.
by Don Bobbitt, 2018
Copyright, Don Bobbitt, March 10 2018,
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