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Old 08-27-2013, 10:57 AM   #1
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Lights on tow vehicle

What is done for lights, brake lights on dolly vehicle especially durning night driving?
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Old 08-27-2013, 11:42 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Geneb1737 View Post
What is done for lights, brake lights on dolly vehicle especially durning night driving?

Welcome to the forum. I hope that you find your experience here to be helpful.

I cannot answer all of the parts that I believe are necessary to your question but think that I can supply some basic information.

Standard towing lights include provisions for right and left turn signals and running lights. Those are normally delivered via a 4 wire connector (the 4th wire is ground). For night operation, the towing vehicle (in this case I'll assume that you have a motor home) activates the running lights wire in that 4 wire connector. Whatever running lights are mounted on the dolly/towed vehicle are turned on.

The fact that you are towing a car that sticks back beyond the dolly would lead me to want to turn on the rear lights on it, too, even if there is no legal requirement to do so. My experience is that many people drive way too close to my towed vehicle. I would mount aircraft landing lights on the back if it were legal to do so! I will always believe that more and brighter lighters are better. I suspect that at least some tow dollies have a provision to pass the towing lights back to the vehicle on it via a connector. Others with dollies can be more specific about that. I just don't know.

For brakes, there are generally two types - surge and electric. Surge brakes depend on motion in the actual hitch to activate them. Electric brakes require a brake controller mounted in the tow vehicle.

I would suggest that you decide on the specific dolly that you want and then determine the exact requirements that dolly has for use. If a brake controller is required and installing something like that is not in your DIY skills, you will need a professional to help you. There are many brands of brake controllers and they need to be matched to your tow vehicle and potentially to the dolly's electric brake system. Most RV dealerships can help you but there are a lot of independent trailer dealer and even truck companies like U-Haul that might be able to help you, too.

Generally, asking for specific information related to your situation will get your better help but sometimes it is necessary to ask general questions just to help guide you in the right path. I assumed that was the case and responded accordingly.

Good luck
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Old 08-27-2013, 06:46 PM   #3
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This was recentlly discussed, at that time I posted an "I do not know" post, so naturally someone felt the need to inform me (By the way, if the someone who did that reads this post,, Thanks, I do, in fact, enjoy learning things I do not know so though the tone of this post was a tad snide in the beginning,, I do seriously thank you)

The question was "Do you need tow lights if you have tail lights on the dolly?" The answer was YES!

A set of magnetic tow lights, The Add-a-lamp system or a diode kit on the towed, any of them work.

But the laws, it seems, require the lights to be on the REAR of the vehicle, the dolly is a long way from the rear.
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Old 08-27-2013, 06:51 PM   #4
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This was recentlly discussed, at that time I posted an "I do not know" post, so naturally someone felt the need to inform me (By the way, if the someone who did that reads this post,, Thanks, I do, in fact, enjoy learning things I do not know so though the tone of this post was a tad snide in the beginning,, I do seriously thank you)

The question was "Do you need tow lights if you have tail lights on the dolly?" The answer was YES!

A set of magnetic tow lights, The Add-a-lamp system or a diode kit on the towed, any of them work.

But the laws, it seems, require the lights to be on the REAR of the vehicle, the dolly is a long way from the rear.
I'm sure that the OP will benefit from the additional input. I don't always agree with the approach some of the laws use but making sure that the further est extension of anything that you are towing is lit up makes a lot of sense to me. The real question is: what is the best way to do that?

The more connections that you have, the greater the voltage drop. Hopefully, someone who actually has a dolly can chime in with some more specific information.
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Old 08-27-2013, 06:59 PM   #5
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What is done for lights, brake lights on dolly vehicle especially durning night driving?
Flat tow or dolly tow?

What state are you based from (RV's license is from ?)?

Saw your post about the Kar Kaddy to tow a Prius...that is a very good dolly!..But it is heavier than many dolly's and has a higher price point.

Again about lights, not all states are the same...like the post above about add'l lighting being required on a dolly towed car is just not true for many states...and U-Haul follows the state rules that doesn't require add'l lighting

And brakes are only required if your state does not use the "combined vehicle" brake standard...goes something like this: "Combined Vehicle (Vehicle and dolly carried towed vehicle) must stop withing XX feet at XX MPH"
But IMHO, brakes are a very good idea and may be required by the mfgt of your RV.

Safe travels
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Old 08-27-2013, 09:21 PM   #6
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I use the magnetic tow lights on either the trunk of the car or on the top of my 13 Escape. I route the wires on the inside of the car and out the passenger door corner to prevent the wires from rubbing on the paint. I thought of wiring each car to make set up a few min faster but rather just use the magnetic lights on the back of the vehicle.
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Old 08-28-2013, 07:54 AM   #7
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The more connections that you have, the greater the voltage drop. Hopefully, someone who actually has a dolly can chime in with some more specific information.

You make a good point.. And there is a solution if you wish to implement it.

If the tow dolly hooks to the Tow Vehicles (By the way O/P. the TOW vehicle is the one doing the towing, the TOWED vehicle is the one you are towing on the dolly). If the dolly hooks to the TOW vehicle with a flat-4 or round 4 connecter. Simply hook up the tow lights on the car and leave the dolly not-connected

If it is a 7 pin and also operates the dolly's brakes.

Put in a break-out flat four... This is the standard flat four like in the first paragraph... If it's two halves are connected the tow dolly lights work (For dead-heading) and if you seperate them and plug in the flat-4 from the car.. The car's lights work.

(Dead-heading... Driving without cargo, (empty trailer/dolly).)
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Old 09-02-2013, 12:41 AM   #8
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What is done for lights, brake lights on dolly vehicle especially durning night driving?
This is what I did, after years of trying flat towing my car and burning brake calipers (false braking activations) I decided to try a tow dolly, I bought a Kar Kaddy SS with surge brakes and I absolutely love it.
I don't care that it takes me a few minutes longer to hook up than flat towing a car.
It's reliable and bullet proof.
On the last trip I towed my car for over 3K miles with no issues, and as far as the lights, I made myself a light bar conected two LED lamps installed on an aluminum bar that I bought from the local hardware store. I made my own wiring that I plugged into the modified (by me) tow dolly light wiring, and now I can drive with my vehicle lights and dolly lights working together.
The bar fits within the cars back window shelf and I use this on severel different cars - it works flawlessly.
I plug the tow dolly to the RV, then I plug light bar to the car and I'm done.

In the past I've tried magnetic lights, but in the long trips they rub thru the paint, my current setup is absolutley preventing this from happening because the wiring to the tow light bar is going through the cars door and not touchng the paint.
In most states lights have to be whithin four feet from the rear of the vehicle which is being towed.
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Old 09-04-2013, 10:46 PM   #9
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This is what I did, after years of trying flat towing my car and burning brake calipers (false braking activations) I decided to try a tow dolly, I bought a Kar Kaddy SS with surge brakes and I absolutely love it.
I don't care that it takes me a few minutes longer to hook up than flat towing a car.
It's reliable and bullet proof.
On the last trip I towed my car for over 3K miles with no issues, and as far as the lights, I made myself a light bar conected two LED lamps installed on an aluminum bar that I bought from the local hardware store. I made my own wiring that I plugged into the modified (by me) tow dolly light wiring, and now I can drive with my vehicle lights and dolly lights working together.
The bar fits within the cars back window shelf and I use this on severel different cars - it works flawlessly.
I plug the tow dolly to the RV, then I plug light bar to the car and I'm done.

In the past I've tried magnetic lights, but in the long trips they rub thru the paint, my current setup is absolutley preventing this from happening because the wiring to the tow light bar is going through the cars door and not touchng the paint.
In most states lights have to be whithin four feet from the rear of the vehicle which is being towed.
That looks like a great setup. How about a couple of questions:

1. Does the dolly have a brake setup? If so, what kind?
2. Does the dolly have its on license plate? I think I see it in your picture. The reason that I ask is that some people are getting pulled over for no license plate light. I'm assuming that the dolly license is illuminated by the normal running lights being on. On flat towed cars, the arrangement often doesn't add the license plate light. I did it for years with magnetic lights (you are right, they scratch the paint) and was never stopped but there seems to be a new trend.
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Old 09-05-2013, 12:28 AM   #10
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The license requirement comes from your home state.

There is no requirement in my home state.

But, I have read that the DMV here will issue a permanent plate for $10 if desired...and they recommend it for Californians traveling to Canada.

I will surely take the DMV's advice when we finally take that trip...really want to visit all those beautiful places in the Great North.
Now that's something I never thought I would write..."will surely take the DMV's advice."

Safe travels
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Old 09-05-2013, 12:53 AM   #11
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Again about lights, not all states are the same...like the post above about add'l lighting being required on a dolly towed car is just not true for many states...and U-Haul follows the state rules that doesn't require add'l lighting

And brakes are only required if your state does not use the "combined vehicle" brake standard...goes something like this: "Combined Vehicle (Vehicle and dolly carried towed vehicle) must stop withing XX feet at XX MPH"
But IMHO, brakes are a very good idea and may be required by the mfg of your RV.

Safe travels
Safety laws for equipment like brakes and lights are set by the state you're in, not by your home state. So, if you pass through a state that requires lights and/or brakes then you must comply with that states laws. To be safe you want to do all that anyway.
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Old 09-05-2013, 01:21 AM   #12
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Safety laws for equipment like brakes and lights are set by the state you're in, not by your home state. So, if you pass through a state that requires lights and/or brakes then you must comply with that states laws. To be safe you want to do all that anyway.
Most states honor "reciprocity" for these things...therefore accepting the home state license and equipment rules.

Unfortunatly there is no one-stop list about this, so I always check in advance and have never had a problem.

Knowledge is power
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Old 09-05-2013, 11:13 AM   #13
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Another suggestion.. now I do not personally care to try this but...

They make "Wireless Tow Lights" these operate via radio from a small transmitter you plug into the flat 4 connector.

Where as teh lights may draw serious amprage the transmitter is very low draw (less than 1 amp generallly)

Also LED tow lights draw less power.. way less.
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Old 09-05-2013, 12:41 PM   #14
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Tow vehicle lights.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chasfm11 View Post
That looks like a great setup. How about a couple of questions:

1. Does the dolly have a brake setup? If so, what kind?
2. Does the dolly have its on license plate? I think I see it in your picture. The reason that I ask is that some people are getting pulled over for no license plate light. I'm assuming that the dolly license is illuminated by the normal running lights being on. On flat towed cars, the arrangement often doesn't add the license plate light. I did it for years with magnetic lights (you are right, they scratch the paint) and was never stopped but there seems to be a new trend.
Hi to everybody, my Kar Kaddy SS has a surge type self adjusting hydraulic drum brakes - which they work very well.
In WA state the tow dolly does not have to have license plate.
So far I have never been asked about license plate lights on the car in tow (tow trucks use just magnetic lights on towed vehicles - no license plate lights) besides that I rarely ever drive my RV at night, but if I would need a license plate light I could simply turn car's parking lights on.
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