Tow bar and base plate installation
Installation of a Roadmaster Blackhawk heavy duty tow bar and base plate.by Tom Jones
This article describes my installation of a tow bar and base plate on a Suburban and illustrates the installation with some photos. This project is definitely within the capabilities of the average do-it-yourselfer. One caveat - since base plates and installation procedures vary between base plate manufacturers, vehicle makes and models, and even between model years, the reader should follow the manufacturer's installation instructions for their specific base plate and their towed vehicle.
We were getting ready to leave on an extended road trip, the maiden voyage for our coach, and had to decide which of the cars to bring along as a toad. I'd previously bought a Roadmaster Black Hawk 8,000 lbs tow bar, and figured that would work for any car we decided to tow.
My first choice of toad was our old Honda Accord which, for the last 4 or 5 years, has been relegated to being our "ariport car" i.e. the one we don't worry about someone stealing while we're away. But, knowing we were going to be attending the RV Forum Moab rally, and knowing the forumites would be making a number of off-road trips, we figured we'd need a 4WD.
We had just bought a new Suburban but hadn't yet sold our old one. So the choice seemed "obvious" - the old Suburban, until I tried to buy a baseplate for it, and found out it wasn't standard. So, at the last minute, I reluctantly decided to tow the new Suburban.
The "baseplate" for the Suburban is comprised of a couple of receivers into which go a couple of brackets. The brackets accept a cross-bar to which the A-frame tow bar attaches. It all sounds complicated but, once installed, is very easy to hook up and unhook.
The following steps and accompanying photos illustrate how the whole thing goes together for the do-it-yourselfer.
1. The receivers mount in place of the Burb's factory tow hooks, requiring the removal of three bolts securing each hook. Since the trim beneath the bumper is already cut out for the tow hooks, no additional cutting was required, and the receivers tuck nicely in place without protruding from the front of the Burb.
2. The back end of each receiver is attached to the cross member of the Burb's frame using a couple of bolts. Holes had to be drilled in the cross member to accept the bolts, and I had to take a deep breath before drilling holes in a new vehicle.
3. Next, the brackets slide into the receivers and are attached with regular hitch pins. There's also provision to attach locks to help prevent theft.
4. The cross bar drops onto the brackets, engaging with a couple of large pins at each end, and secured with a couple of clevis pins. In hindsight, the cross bar isn't really needed if your vehicle has a sturdy frame like the Suburban and other large SUVs. If the cross bar isn't used, Roadmaster sells shorter brackets that don't stick out as far in front of the toad. But, by the time I realized this, I was already well into the installation. If you plan to install on an SUV, check when you buy the tow bar kit which one is in the box.
5. The tow bar, one end of which is inserted into the receiver on the back of the coach, then drops into place on the cross bar, and is secured by a couple of hitch pins. These pins are attached and removed every time we hook up or unhook the road. Safety cables are attched between the tow bar and brackets, and between the brackets and receivers.
The only difficulty I had with installation was when the receivers didn't initially fit very well where the tow hooks were removed. After a couple of calls to Roadmaster, and finally not accepting their suggestion that Chevy drills holes in the wrong place in the frames of Suburbans, I ignored the pre-printed instructions and figured out how to install them easily. The key was to tighten down on the center bolt attaching each bracket, and they then virtually fell into place.
Roadmaster sells an All-Terrain version of the Black Hawk, just for the times when it's not easy to remove the hitch pins because everything is at the wrong angle. Our regular (not All-Terrain) tow bar came with a widget that will do the same thing on the rare occasions it's needed.
Last, but not least, buy yourself a couple of pairs of leather work gloves at your local hardware store. They're inexpensive and can save your hands when hooking and unhooking.