How Self-aligning Car-mounted Tow Bars Work

Towing a car behind an SUV can be done easily with a self-aligning car-mounted tow bar.
Towing a car behind an SUV can be done easily with a self-aligning car-mounted tow bar.
Photo courtesy of Tim McCaig/istockphoto

Seeing the country in an RV has become a popular pastime, even in the face of rising gas prices. RVs are a convenient way to go cross-country, because they allow people to find lodging anywhere, cook their own meals and go at their own pace. The problem a lot of RV owners have is when they get off the open road and into a more populated area. RVs take up a lot of space, and while they're great for long hauls, they aren't so good for side trips to the store or navigating the sightseeing areas of many cities.

That's why many enthusiasts tow an extra car behind their RV. Having an extra vehicle allows them to park the RV in an area while still having transportation to the local sights and to the store for supplies, and it saves gas when they're only making a day trip.

But towing a car can be difficult. Trailers are expensive, unwieldy and take up space. That's why tow bars are a popular alternative. A tow bar hooks the vehicle being towed to the RV, but allows it to keep all four wheels on the ground. Self-aligning tow bars allow users to get the RV and the vehicle being towed close together, then the bars move into the proper position themselves. Car-mounted self-aligning tow bars are mounted on the car being towed and offer a number of advantages and disadvantages over other tow bar systems and towing equipment.

Purpose of Self-aligning Car-mounted Tow Bars

Car-mounted self-aligning tow bars can make seeing the country easier.
Car-mounted self-aligning tow bars can make seeing the country easier.
Photo courtesy of Rob vanNostrand/istockphoto

The main advantage of self-aligning car-mounted tow bars is the ease of use. When towing a vehicle, you have to line up the RV and the vehicle being towed perfectly. Being off by a matter of inches can make it impossible to hook the two vehicles together. With self-aligning car-mounted tow bars, however, you need only get close to the correct alignment. The tow bars will adjust to keep the vehicles properly aligned. Because of that, car-mounted self-aligning tow bars are pieces of towing equipment that really make the job easier.

Car-mounted self-aligning tow bars are different from other self-aligning tow bars because they're mounted on the car, not the tow vehicle. Because they're mounted on the car, they tend to be lighter weight than other tow bars, which makes them easy for individuals to use. However, they can't just be slapped on any car. The car-mounted tow bars need to be compatible with the car being towed. The car may also need some accessories, like skid plates, to avoid being damaged by the tow bars.

Mounting the self-aligning tow bars on the car means that the bars can stay on the car. This makes them very convenient, but the extra weight of the tow bars can negatively impact the car's fuel economy. The extra weight also causes extra wear on the car's suspension, and if the car is involved in an accident, the tow bars can cause more damage.

Installing Self-aligning Car-mounted Tow Bars

Before you head out on your cross-country adventure, be sure to take all of the necessary safety precautions.
Before you head out on your cross-country adventure, be sure to take all of the necessary safety precautions.
Alan Levenson/Stone/Getty Images

Installing car-mounted self-aligning tow bars can be a simple process, but it's important to do it correctly so that all towing is done safely. You'll first need to find a car-mounted self-aligning tow bar that's appropriate for the car you want to tow. You can find this out by checking with your RV dealer or looking for shops that sell towing equipment and towing accessories. They should be able to find the best tow bar for your vehicle.

You'll need to install a base plate or bracket, safety cables and brake light wiring kit to make sure your tow bar works safely. The base plate or bracket attaches the bar to the car. The safety cables provide extra attachment from the car to the RV, and the brake light wiring kit wires the car's brake lights to the RV's, so when the RV brakes, the car's brake light will light up, alerting vehicles behind you that the car is slowing down.

The brackets or base plates should be installed on the front of the car being towed. The specific place depends on what kind of car you have; the tow bar seller should be able to help you with that. The safety wires run from the bracket or base plate up to the hitch of the RV, and the brake light wiring kit is installed through the car's fuse box. All in all, installation can be done by one person in an afternoon, but if you're not very handy, you may want to let professionals take care of it.

Once you've got your car-mounted self-aligning tow bars installed, you're ready to tow. Pull up close behind your RV's hitch and attach it. Once the RV is under way, the self-aligning bars will lock into place, keeping the car the proper distance from the RV.

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More Great Links

Sources

  • Tow Bar FAQ's. http://www.towbar.com/faqs.htm
  • Towing a Vehicle. http://www.rvtechlibrary.com/towing/towing_overview.htm
  • Tow Cars. http://www.rversonline.org/00ConfTowbars.html