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Author Topic: When towing four wheels down, can I go in reverse 2 inches? 8 inches? 10 feet?  (Read 7328 times)

roamingrob

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Hi Gang,
I am towing a Mazda Miata four wheels down with a Roadmaster Falcon 2 Tow Bar behind my 31 foot Class C and it has been problem-free.  When my dealer installed it and the base plate for me, I was given a lesson in how to hook it up etc.  And, I was told that I could never back up under any circumstances.

I'm sure everyone else who's towing four wheels down knows how carefully you must plan your gas station and parking lot stops so that you never find yourself in the position where you have to reverse, since you cannot.  What you must do if you find yourself in such a situation, of course, is to unhook the toad, maneuver out of trouble, and rehook, which registers on the fun meter about the same as changing a flat on an inside rear tire. 

I have had some very close calls, but (knock on wood) have never had to unhook to get out of trouble.  HOWEVER . . . .

Is it really risky to back-up two inches?  A foot?  I imagine the problem is that it would be very easy to jackknife and significant damage could result.  BUT if the toad is aligned fairly parallel to the RV, and I watch in my rear-view camera, and back-up v-e-r-y slowly an inch at a time, watching that the rig does not come close to jackknifing, am I taking a risk?  There are situations where a few inches can make the difference.  The other day pulling out of a gas station I did back-up perhaps a foot, and no harm was done.

So, I am wondering, is a completely "zero tolerance " policy required?  Or, as long as the toad isn't at a sharp angle, may I reverse a small amount to extricate myself from a situation where the only alternative is to do the dreaded unhook- rehook?

AND BY THE WAY, the issue of whether you should tow a Miata four wheels down against the manufacturer's recommendation has been as issue on this board, so I want to let everyone know that after 5,000 miles, the Miata is fine and there have been no transmission problems.

topdownman

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Well from someone who has tried this with a Jeep Grand Cherokee, it just can't be done.  There's something in the way the caster or camber of the front wheels work against the motorhome when trying to backup.  Once, I started to make a right turn when I needed to go left in a campground.  I couldn't quite correct myself out of it, so I sent my son to sit in the Jeep and guide it straight back about 6 feet.  I was watching him in the rear view camera.  As soon as I started to go backward, the steering wheel was jerked out of his hand and went full lock to the right.  I stopped and he started the Jeep, straightened out the wheel (with the motor running so to have the advantage of the power steering) and we tried it again.  It violently wrenched the wheel out of his hand and went full lock again.  We had to unhook.

I'm not sure about the dynamics here, but I tried it again on my newer Jeep Commander with the same result.
______________________________________
Mark & Tina Anderson
Paisley, Cookie & Riley - The Beagle Babies
FMCA 351514 - Louisville, KY
2007 Sportscoach Pathfinder 377DS - Freightliner XC
2006 Jeep Commander

Clay L

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I have successfully backed up a couple of feet on a couple of occasions. A couple of times when I tried it the wheels snapped to one side almost as soon as I started due to the camber issues as mentioned above.

It may be related to the position of the car relative to the motor home. If it is very straight it may work. If you ever try it I would have someone with a radio watching so they can stop you fast if needed.
Clay (WA5NMR), Lee (Wife), Katie & Kelli (cats), Sali (toy poodle)
Settled down after full timing for eleven years and snowbirding for one year in a 2004 Winnebago 35N Sightseer, Workhorse W 20 Chassis. Honda toad

Ned

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We have backed up our motorhome and towed as much as 50' without problems.  You need a spotter and as soon as the front wheels on the towed start to caster, STOP.  Also, do NOT turn the steering wheel of the motorhome, you have to follow the same track backward as you did frontward.  Not all toweds will allow for this, like Mark's JGC, but it can be done, at least with some.  2" should not be a problem, if the towed wheels don't caster.  We've done this with both a Honda Accord and our GMC Canyon.

Don't bother trying to have someone in the towed to steer it, it won't work.
-- Ned -- Fulltimer 1997-2013
1997 Holiday Rambler Endeavor LE
2007 GMC Canyon

Gary RV_Wizard

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The risk is jacknifing plus excessive pressures on the tow bar and base plates, in a direction they don't handle well. The tow bar companies recommend against backing because of the unpredictable stresses, which can result is a failure hours or days later. They have no way to know how observant you are, how cautious you back, etc., so they just say "No".

But yes, you can usually back a bit if you are careful. The distance you can back all depends on the car, the initial position of the toad and coach steering wheels, type of surface you are on, etc. etc.  2"? Sure. 2 feet? Almost certainly. 2 yards? Uhhhh, maybe. 20 yards? Lot of luck!   With our current toad I can usually manage 3-5 yards with care, but sometimes it jacknifes almost immediately. I can see it clearly in the rear camera, so I know when to stop and do so at the slightest sign of turning.

Pavement works the best, while soft sand or deep gravel tend to make the toad tires turn sideways as they "snowplow". If the toad wheels are already turned, even slightly, you aren't going far at all. Ditto for any attempt to steer with the coach.

Gary
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Gary Brinck
Summers: Black Mountain, NC
Home: Ocala National Forest, FL

34footer

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Well from someone who has tried this with a Jeep Grand Cherokee, it just can't be done.  There's something in the way the caster or camber of the front wheels work against the motorhome when trying to backup.  Once, I started to make a right turn when I needed to go left in a campground.  I couldn't quite correct myself out of it, so I sent my son to sit in the Jeep and guide it straight back about 6 feet.  I was watching him in the rear view camera.  As soon as I started to go backward, the steering wheel was jerked out of his hand and went full lock to the right.  I stopped and he started the Jeep, straightened out the wheel (with the motor running so to have the advantage of the power steering) and we tried it again.  It violently wrenched the wheel out of his hand and went full lock again.  We had to unhook.

I'm not sure about the dynamics here, but I tried it again on my newer Jeep Commander with the same result.
The only  way it will work; your son would have to pull the MH backwards.
J
1988 Pace Arrow, 34 feet, Chevy 454
                       So Cal

Ned

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As long as the towed doesn't jackknife, the tow bar isn't seeing any loads it doesn't see in normal braking.  They're designed for both compression and tension loads, as long as they're equal on both arms.
-- Ned -- Fulltimer 1997-2013
1997 Holiday Rambler Endeavor LE
2007 GMC Canyon

Gary RV_Wizard

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True enough, Ned.
Gary
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Gary Brinck
Summers: Black Mountain, NC
Home: Ocala National Forest, FL

Orick

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Also, do NOT turn the steering wheel of the motorhome, you have to follow the same track backward as you did frontward. 

Don't bother trying to have someone in the towed to steer it, it won't work.

But the problem here is that going back on the same path won't really help you get out of a tight situation. 
Rick, Nancy, Peanut, Lola (Westies) & Bailey the Sheltie Dog
2007 Itasca Ellipse 40FD
Ford Explorer Toad

Ned

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It will if the problem is not being able to go forward.  It may give you enough room to turn around an obstacle.  If you try to steer backwards with the motorhome, I guarantee it won't work.
-- Ned -- Fulltimer 1997-2013
1997 Holiday Rambler Endeavor LE
2007 GMC Canyon

Gary RV_Wizard

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I agree with Ned. Backing on the same path (it won't be exactly the same anyway) is usually enough to swing the coach around whatever the obstacle is.  Now if you are cutting a corner too close and don't have room to swing wider, you are out of luck anyway.

We have learned to get over the fear of unhooking. It's really a simple thing and the wife and I can unhook, move the coach (even U turns) and re-hook in 4-5 minutes.  We've gotten caught on dead end roads, construction-closed streets and tiny cul de sacs and it's simply not a big deal.  We avoid it, of course, but do not get upset if faced with a stalemate. Hop out, unhook, and get on with life.
Gary
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Gary Brinck
Summers: Black Mountain, NC
Home: Ocala National Forest, FL

roamingrob

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Thanks all, for an interesting and useful discussion.

Gary, I think you're right, it's not that big a deal in many circumstances to unhook-rehook.  I suppose the fear is a remnant of those early days of RVing (7 months ago) when the whole towing issue raised my blood pressure and I was compelled to triple and quadruple-check every step of a job that is pretty simple once you do it a couple dozen times.

My main concern would be if my misjudgment and need to unhook caused delays for others, like if I ended up trapping cars in a gas station until I could straighten things out.  It's a special problem for me since I am the only driver, and would have to do a bunch of shuffling to get the job done.

ArdraF

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Quote
My main concern would be if my misjudgment and need to unhook caused delays for others, like if I ended up trapping cars in a gas station until I could straighten things out.

Rob, it happens to all of us on occasion so don't lose sleep over it.  I'm sure others have watched us a couple of times wondering what on earth our problem was - but I've never heard a horn honk or any comments from other drivers.  You just get out and do what you have to do as quickly as you can.  It might help to mouth the words "thanks for waiting."  People are surprisingly patient when they realize you're in a jam and just trying to get out.

By the way, we recently backed up the MDX about eight feet - very slowly and very carefully and very straight - without a problem.  It saved one of the dreaded unhookings.

ArdraF
« Last Edit: August 04, 2010, 12:51:44 AM by ArdraF »
ArdraF
:D :D

Lou Schneider

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The issue that causes the toad wheels to swing to lock as you back up is caster.   It's the same principle as the front wheels on a shopping cart.   When the cart is going forward, the center line of the wheels drags behind the pivot, so they want to stay in a straight line.

Cars are the same way - they're designed so the front wheels are slightly behind the pivot point.  This way the steering will return to a straight line when you let go of the steering wheel.

Try to pull a shopping cart backwards without the front wheels spinning around, and you'll immediately appreciate the problem.   When you reverse direction, the wheel center is now ahead of the pivot, so with any slight deviation the wheels spin 180 degrees so they are once again dragging behind the pivot.   In a car, this throws the wheel violently until it hits the steering limit.


FrontrangeRVer

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We've backed up alot of times for about 6-10 feet....the key thing here is to make sure your toad's wheels don't turn all the way in one way or the other.....we've never even had our toads wheels even remotely turn when we back up, so no problem here. 
2015 Winnebago Forza 34T
2 toads, depending on purpose:
2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
2005 Hyundai Elantra

Just Lou

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I agree with Ned, the Honda Accord is very forgiving when backing up (without unhooking) is required.  Stay as straight as possible, keep the distance as short as possible and do everything "slowly" so you can stop prior to any violent reaction from any caster effect.  I've had to do it many times (a foot or two almost every time I refuel).
'97 Bounder 34V (F53 w/tag), '99 Honda Accord EX

Bob Buchanan

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I backed up about 25 to 35 feet or so once. Was having rig serviced at a CW in Vallejo, CA. After the job was done, I got in the toad while the service guy backed up my rig. I just unlocked the steering column, started the engine, and steered enough to keep the wheels straight . . .

In an emergency, you can also let the toad become a rig pusher. I have seen this done several times to get the stalled RV off the road. The wife steered the rig while the husband drove the hooked up toad.

If your rig won't run, you can also pull it backwards as long as someone is steering the rig.

Why unhook if you have a partner??  :)
Bob (fulltimer - Rocklin, CA residency)
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Richard346

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Hi if you read this, I just bought a 2003 5 speed and would like to know what year and transmission you had and and how many total miles you logged and any troubles

Thanks Richard rdmares@gmail.com

Derby6

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The only  way it will work; your son would have to pull the MH backwards.
J

I was thinking this.  Has anyone done this?  Obviously wouldn't work of you are pulling a YUGO, bit a jeep, SUV, or truck?
Put MH in neutral.  (Have DW in drivers seat to apply brakes if needed in a hilly situation)
Start TOAD and back up pulling the MH. :o
2015 Ford Explorer (Wifes Ride)
2011 Ford F350 4x4 Lariat Crew Cab/Long Bed/SRW
2011 Honda Civic-- (Beater with a heater)
2007 28' Desert FOX Toy Hauler             
TOYS:
01 Yamaha Kodiak 400
09 Yamaha Grizzly 550
12 Yamaha Grizzly 450
13 Yamaha Rhino 700 (Wifes Ride)
13 & 14  144" & 155" SKI DOO

Lou Schneider

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I was thinking this.  Has anyone done this?  Obviously wouldn't work of you are pulling a YUGO, bit a jeep, SUV, or truck?
Put MH in neutral.  (Have DW in drivers seat to apply brakes if needed in a hilly situation)
Start TOAD and back up pulling the MH. :o

Nope, that won't work.  The problem is the caster setting in the towed car's front wheels.

Like the casters on a shopping cart, they track just fine going forward.   But try pulling a shopping cart backwards and the front wheels go anywhere but straight.

Same thing happens in the towed car, regardless of where the power is coming from.  The towbar locks the car in a pre-determined path and the wheels refuse to follow it when backing up.

And trying to hold the steering wheel in place while backing doesn't work.  I tried this and the forces pulling the wheels away from their straight ahead position just about ripped Cindy's arm off.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2016, 02:03:09 PM by Lou Schneider »

GA_Boy

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roaming rob, Do not listen to the folks that say you can't back up with 4 down.   I have backed a hundred feet or more at  times.
The secret is to have the intelligence to understand how things work.
First off the castor of the steering axle will reverse on you under normal towing circumstances but just the knowledge of this will tell you to LOCK the steering wheel in the straight ahead position and back the TOAD as you would a trailer you can succeed.
Now some that don't know better will tell you that this is a NO,NO as you are skidding the front tires.  The wear of tires while backing this way is so slight that you will never notice it during the life of the tire.
I have been towing one to two trailing vehicles since 1986 and have never had a problem with backing, so don't take the words of the negative Nancy's, but figure out a positive approach to problems.
Marvin
 


LarsMac

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  • Larry and Margo w/ Ami the tiny co-pilot
It "can" be done. But there are a 1000 ways to really screw it up, too.

Locking the front wheels might work, but on a lot of vehicles the front wheels will not lock exactly straight, and that can create a significant adventure all its own.

2000 Itasca Sundancer 430V
2007 Saturn Vue

If you lose your sense of humor, it's just not funny anymore. - Wavy Gravy

GA_Boy

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Locking the front wheels might work, but on a lot of vehicles the front wheels will not lock exactly straight, and that can create a significant adventure all its own.
This is wrong, if the wheels will not lock straight then someone has not adjusted the linkage properly. Plus slightly off center will have zero affect on the ability to back as a trailer.
You can fool around with unhooking/hooking for 15 minutes or you can spend 2 minutes locking/unlocking steering.
The choice is yours.
Marvin

NY_Dutch

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I've successfully backed up with our toad hooked up several times over the years, but no more than 10-12 feet at the most. That's always been enough to let me steer a new path, usually around a car that parked in front of us, sometimes illegally such as in a fire zone. I just take it slow and watch the toad's front wheels for any signs of them turning. If they do start to turn, I pull up a few feet and try again. More often, I just wait them out...
Dutch
2001 GBM Landau 34' Class A
F53 Chassis, Triton V10, TST TPMS
2011 Toyota RAV4 4WD/Remco pump
ReadyBrute Elite tow bar/Blue Ox base plate

Derby6

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The issue that causes the toad wheels to swing to lock as you back up is caster.   It's the same principle as the front wheels on a shopping cart.   When the cart is going forward, the center line of the wheels drags behind the pivot, so they want to stay in a straight line.

Cars are the same way - they're designed so the front wheels are slightly behind the pivot point.  This way the steering will return to a straight line when you let go of the steering wheel.

Try to pull a shopping cart backwards without the front wheels spinning around, and you'll immediately appreciate the problem.   When you reverse direction, the wheel center is now ahead of the pivot, so with any slight deviation the wheels spin 180 degrees so they are once again dragging behind the pivot.   In a car, this throws the wheel violently until it hits the steering limit.



Like the casters on a shopping cart, they track just fine going forward.   But try pulling a shopping cart backwards and the front wheels go anywhere but straight.

Same thing happens in the towed car, regardless of where the power is coming from.  The towbar locks the car in a pre-determined path and the wheels refuse to follow it when backing up.

And trying to hold the steering wheel in place while backing doesn't work.  I tried this and the forces pulling the wheels away from their straight ahead position just about ripped Cindy's arm off.


I can't get my head around this and therefore disagree.  I think....lol :o

Vehicle tires are not 360 degree rotatable like a shopping cart.  As you describe it, I could never back up a car.
The tow bar does pivot on the ball.

I don't doubt that pushing back with the MH can and will turn tires like happened to you.  But I don't see it as always happening; especially if the vehicle is trying to pull the MH.
2015 Ford Explorer (Wifes Ride)
2011 Ford F350 4x4 Lariat Crew Cab/Long Bed/SRW
2011 Honda Civic-- (Beater with a heater)
2007 28' Desert FOX Toy Hauler             
TOYS:
01 Yamaha Kodiak 400
09 Yamaha Grizzly 550
12 Yamaha Grizzly 450
13 Yamaha Rhino 700 (Wifes Ride)
13 & 14  144" & 155" SKI DOO

Lou Schneider

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I can't get my head around this and therefore disagree.  I think....lol :o

Vehicle tires are not 360 degree rotatable like a shopping cart.  As you describe it, I could never back up a car.
The tow bar does pivot on the ball.

I don't doubt that pushing back with the MH can and will turn tires like happened to you.  But I don't see it as always happening; especially if the vehicle is trying to pull the MH.

The problem is when the toad is hitched to the motorhome, the pivot point moves several feet ahead of the car's front wheels to the front end of the towbar.   The toad's front wheels now track in between the towbar's pivot point and the car's rear axle and the slightest deviation in direction will pull the front end of the car to one side or the other.

Going forward, everything is fine.  The caster in the car's steering lets the front wheels steer normally and follow behind the tow bar pivot.  Like the caster wheels on a shopping cart, they stay centered and everything is fine.

When you reverse, the car's front wheels are now several feed AHEAD of the tow bar pivot.  The slightest change in direction away from a straight line will pull the front of the tow car to one side.  The geometry of the car's front end will make the wheels turn away from the pull, spinning around until they once again drag behind their pivot.  Obviously the toad's front wheels won't go all the way around, they'll stop at the limits of the steering travel in the opposite direction of the tow bar's push.

It makes no difference if the motorhome is pushing the toad, or the toad is pulling the motorhome.   The problem is the towbar pushing or pulling the toad's front end off track.

Disconnect the towbar and use a chain to pull the motorhome backwards and everything is fine - both vehicles are free to follow their own tracks.

But lock them together with a towbar and you'll have problems backing up.

« Last Edit: December 20, 2016, 02:50:53 PM by Lou Schneider »

NY_Dutch

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...
It makes no difference if the motorhome is pushing the toad, or the toad is pulling the motorhome.   The problem is the towbar pushing or pulling the toad's front end off track.

Disconnect the towbar and use a chain to pull the motorhome backwards and everything is fine - both vehicles are free to follow their own tracks.

But lock them together with a towbar and you'll have problems backing up.

Although I have managed to slowly back up short straight distances without unhooking, early on my wife and I tested a back up procedure for longer distances that we found quite successful without completely unhooking. We just unhooked one arm of our all terrain tow bar, creating two pivot points that allows the car to be steered relatively independently of the coach. With just a little coordination regarding where we were backing up to, it really worked quite well over a 90-100 foot distance including a 90 deg. turn. We've never had to use the process in the real world yet, but at least we know it works if needed. The real savings would just be time, so the need for it would be situational of course.
Dutch
2001 GBM Landau 34' Class A
F53 Chassis, Triton V10, TST TPMS
2011 Toyota RAV4 4WD/Remco pump
ReadyBrute Elite tow bar/Blue Ox base plate

GA_Boy

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Dutch,why didn't you just lock the steering and back it like a trailer?
Only take a couple of minutes and you wouldn't need a helper if you used the mirrors properly. 
Marvin

NY_Dutch

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Dutch,why didn't you just lock the steering and back it like a trailer?
Only take a couple of minutes and you wouldn't need a helper if you used the mirrors properly. 
Marvin

That doesn't work very well for making the 90 degree turn we were able to do with the single arm connected. That can work for straight backing though. There's a big difference between backing with a trailer and backing with a tow bar connected car. On a reverse turn with the steering wheel locked, the front wheels would be trying to skid sideways, putting a lot of stress on the tow bar and attachment points, as well as the tires.
Dutch
2001 GBM Landau 34' Class A
F53 Chassis, Triton V10, TST TPMS
2011 Toyota RAV4 4WD/Remco pump
ReadyBrute Elite tow bar/Blue Ox base plate

spacenorman

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Rather than swimming against the tide and trying to do something that virtually everybody - including the folks that manufacturer the equipment used for towing - says shouldn't be done - I spent a few minutes getting good at unhooking fast! ... and then learning how to not get into situations where I need to invoke "Plan B" to begin with.  Yes ... sooner or later everybody finds themselves in a situation where you've got no choice but to unhook ... but, done right those situations should be rare indeed!
The Spacenorman
2012 Holiday Rambler Endeavor 43 DFT
2012 Jeep Liberty
http://www.penquinhead.com/

NY_Dutch

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I can unhook in less than 2 minutes if it ever becomes necessary, but in almost 10 years of towing 4-down it hasn't happened. There have been a few occasions where a straight backup of a few feet or so was needed to grab some extra turn clearance, but there's never even been a need to lock the steering wheel to manage that simple task. And with a 3,500 lb car attached to an 8,000 lb rated tow bar,  I'm quite sure no unusual stresses were placed on it.
Dutch
2001 GBM Landau 34' Class A
F53 Chassis, Triton V10, TST TPMS
2011 Toyota RAV4 4WD/Remco pump
ReadyBrute Elite tow bar/Blue Ox base plate

Dragginourbedaround

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I pulled into a gas station at a bad angle and too close to the pump island that I couldn't get my toad pass the pumps when we were leaving. So I backed up without unhooking. Eileen was at the back with a walkie-talkie. Took about ten minutes of frustration. Backup go forward, backup go forward and repeat and repeat. When I finally got past the pumps and drove forward to go around the back of the station to exit, it was a dead end!!  :-\ Had to UNHOOK turn around and HOOKUP and go back out the way we came! We had a good laugh over that. Seriously I can connect or disconnect the toad in about two minutes.
Gene

2013 Winnebago Adventurer 37F
2011 Honda Fit

 

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