Search This Blog

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rebuilding a Roadmaster Tow Bar - Toward the end

Back to the Motor Home world for a minute. Since we have had a Motor Home, we have towed a vehicle with it. Starting out we towed a Mazda Miata and we have been towing a Jeep Liberty since April of 2008. One of the things that we decided on when we purchased the Motor Home was that taking a vehicle with us was not only for the convenience, but also, in an emergency, to have in case something happened to the Motor Home and we needed to leave it some place.
So, being a novice to towing a vehicle with a Motor Home, I did a lot of research regarding tow bars. What kind (brand)? what style (Motor Home mounted or vehicle mounted)? what capacity?
The answer to the first question, after looking at everything on the market, turned out to be a Roadmaster brand. Since my wife and I were born and raised in the "greater" Portland/Vancouver area, it just seemed like we would deal with a product made there. Of course the reviews of their equipment were excellent as well.
The second answer was obvious. The Miata was a daily driver. I did not want a 40+ pound tow bar strapped to the front all the time - it would ruin the handling abilities of the car.
The third question, weight capacity, took a little planning. We knew that we would not tow a Miata forever. So, we decided on a weight capacity that would allow us to safely tow what the Motor Home was rated for, 5,000 pounds.
Then the search for the right model. A Blackhawk, a Falcon 2 and so on. This question was answered when I found the advertisement on Craig's List in Austin, TX for a Falcon 2 tow bar. After an exchange of emails, a used Falcon 2 tow bar arrived at our home. OK, now we had the tow bar - next we have to connect it to the Miata. Then when we sold the Miata, we had to connect it to the Liberty. So went the saga of the tow bar mounts for the vehicles and the installation process. Both of these installations involved taking several parts off the front of the vehicles, taking loose bolts, installing the mounts and putting it all back together again.
One of the most important things that might be overlooked is the condition of your tow bar. I have no idea how old our tow bar is. We have had it for seven years and it was used when we got it. My hope had been that I would go to a Motor Home/RV Rally someplace and Roadmaster would be there and I would have them rebuild the tow bar. I did not want to ship 40+ pounds to Washington State to the factory for work. Some friends of ours will be going to Oregon and Washington later this year and we toyed with the idea of sending the tow bar with them and have them drop it off for repair and then pick it up. But, we would be without a tow bar for the three months they plan on being gone. Don't get us wrong, there is nothing apparently wrong with the tow bar. It functions fine. But, it does have bolts holding it together, it does have arms that slide back and forth, there are areas that can wear.
I went to the Roadmaster site and found the parts kit that I needed to rebuild the Falcon 2 tow bar and the directions, which are in pdf format. I then found the parts on etrailer for about the same cost as Roadmaster.
Once I got the parts and reviewed the directions, I had a few questions which the Roadmaster folks were more than happy to answer.
There are several spots in the directions, which are well written compared to some I have seen, that you need to pay special attention to. For example, on the Falcon 2 tow bar, depending on when it was built, might have six or seven white "plastic/nylon" washers in the main "yoke" joint. These washers are thin, so when you take that bolt out, the washers go everywhere, so you have to take it slow. Also on the "older" tow bars, (ones that do not have a groove in the end) the bushing in the end of the bar arms do not get replaced.
This picture shows how the "yoke" joint looks.

You can see where at least a couple of the white washers go.
You will need a 5/8 allen wrench (hex key) for some models of the tow bar. I found one for $0.50 at ReTool, a little place that sells used tools. I also needed a 1 1/8 socket for the "stinger" and "yoke" nuts. I used a 1/2 drive socket and an 18 inch bar to remove and replace these nuts.
The "swivels" are held on to the end of the bar with a shoulder bolt. Here a 1/4 allen wrench is used and a 9/16 wrench. When you tighten these be careful not to "over torque" as the nuts tighten against a "shoulder" on the bolt, and it might be possible to twist the bolt if excessive force is used.
The last piece of caution is the white washer or bushing that goes onto the "head" of the round interior tow bar arm. These "may" need to be trimmed to get them into the "outer" bar when assembling. I used a double cut file to shape them. Not only did I have to take off the edges on both sides, I also had to plane off the thickness of one on them. Again, look at what you have removed to give you an idea on what needs to be trimmed.
All in all not a hard job. Probably took a couple hours, could do it faster now. We now have a rebuilt tow bar that should last for several more years.
I did not notice any excessive wear on any of the parts. This preventative maintenance was more for my peace of mind than from necessity.
As the saying goes - your mileage may very.   Happy trails

No comments:

Post a Comment