Why A Jeep?
While you will see a variety of vehicles being towed behind motorhomes, probably one of the most popular are Jeeps. Why?
While they aren’t necessarily the most comfortable, cheapest to buy, most reliable or economical to drive they are probably the easiest to “setup” to be flat towed. It is also due to the fact that, more and more of the newer vehicles on the road today can’t be flat towed. And if they can they often require extensive and/or expense modifications to do so. Here in lies the strength for Jeeps being so popular a choice.
In the case of a Wrangler (our being a JK*) which has a full-length frame front to rear, you simply bolt on the base plate which is more of a bar with six bolts affixing it to the frame below the bumper. Connect the tow bar to the motorhome and to the front of the towed and its towable from a mechanical aspect. One still has to decide on which route to take with lighting…either tap into the Jeep’s wiring harness or use separate portable auxiliary lights.
It is also important to have a braking system on any vehicle you are using as a towed. This serves two purposes, helps stop the towed as it is being towed, not relying on the motorhome to do all of the work and stop the towed should it become separated from the motorhome due to a (rarely occurring) mechanical failure of the tow bar system.
Most RVers who own Jeeps use them as cars…basic transportation to go places they want or need to visit where it is impractical to take the motorhome. Most never leave the pavement even though their Jeep is suited by design to do so. I’m not talking about rock crawling over huge rocks and boulders, but simply taking the lesser traveled roads that offer sights you can’t see from the main roads. This is something we really missed towing sedans for several years before getting our Jeep.
We have wanted a Jeep for a very long time. Started our RVing life towing a dolly with a Saturn Ion with its front wheels perched upon it. Then swapped the Ion for a newer Honda Accord. The tow dolly had its nuances and difficulties at first, but it soon became routine. The time came that the Honda was in need of some major repair work done to it, so it was a good time to trade it off. We looked and look for a Jeep for more than two years. We considered both the Cherokee but leaned towards the Wrangler for its utility and off road abilities. This past Spring we finally found the Wrangler we wanted at the price we were willing to pay. Cost is what caused us to pass on many Jeeps we liked, this one fit the price point, mileage and age we found acceptable. As for our tow dolly, we sold it for almost as much as we paid for it new seven years prior.
What does it take to setup a Jeep Wrangler for flat towing? As mentioned, you need a tow bar that has the capacity for the weight of the vehicle you are planning to tow. Match the tow bar rating with the gross vehicle weight of the vehicle being considered to tow. Add another 15% to the gross weight figure to account for all of the extra stuff you’ll likely pack into it to travel. If you’re not the pack rat type, you still need to account for any mechanical upgrades you may do to your vehicle…larger tires, lift kit and accessories all add weight. Most tow bars simply plug into the existing receiver hitch. You may have to use an adapter to either raise or lower your tow bar’s height in relation to the height of the vehicle being towed. You want the tow bar between the two vehicles as level as possible.
Select the base plate kit that the tow bar’s manufacture has designed for the vehicle you are going to tow. For our Wrangler, this base plate consisted of three pieces that were bolted together and to the frame on the front of the Wrangler. Six bolts and twenty minutes later I did it by myself. I did remove and opt not to reinstall the plastic “skid plate” below the bumper, although instructions are provided on how to modify it to reuse. Plastic such as this is more for style and décor rather than protection.
With the base plate installed on the Jeep and the tow bar hooked to the receiver on the motorhome, I test fitted the two together…again easy peasy to do. No more straps to sling over the front tires to hold it in place on the dolly!
I purchased the optional accessory kit that includes a cover for the tow bar when not in use. Pig tail harness to connect the motorhome’s lighting to the Jeep, safety cables, locks and a tote/storage bag for it all.
The next thing to do was to install a wiring kit so that the Jeeps tail lights worked in concert with the motorhome’s. Again, I ordered this as a kit offered by the tow bar’s manufacturer. Being as I have a Master Electrician in the family, I did the grunt work of running the wires thru the vehicle and my son helped by making the necessary electrical connections.
With the lights functional, I could now tow the Jeep but…a braking system is a must as it is required by many state statues to have. I chose the InvisiBrake system again from the same company that made the tow bar.
The installation seemed complicated and overwhelming at first, but after watching a video on YouTube presented by eTrailer, I quickly learned that if you follow the demo instructions it wasn’t that hard to do. I didn’t rush the process, just did it in stages over a couple of weeks as I had time. I ran into one glitch, but a phone call to Roadmaster’s customer service resolved that, which was a misperception on my part.
All components installed a quick test run through the industrial park near where we were staying confirmed everything worked as specified.
Here we are some 2500 miles later and the Jeep towed like a dream. Hooking up and unhooking only takes a few minutes without getting on my knees which I had to do with the dolly to remove or replace the pivot lock pin and often secure the tie down straps.
Here’s a list of what we installed:Roadmaster 8700 Invisibrake Hidden Power Braking System
Roadmaster 521448-5 Direct Connect Style Baseplate
Roadmaster 520 Falcon 2 Mounted Tow Bar – 6000 lb. Load Capacity
Roadmaster 9243-2 Tow Bar Combo Kit
Why a Jeep? Well, easy towing for one. Secondly, greater opportunities for exploration once you’ve parked your motorhome is another. Which I’ll share our experiences in the next segment.