Originally Posted by tprochaz
Reviving an old thread as looking to purchase a car dolly. Trying to understand why the swivel function is so important? Seems that if you leave the steering unlocked in the car, then the front wheels would turn and function the same as a swivel. And if the dolly didn't swivel it would mean less chance of the dolly fender making contact with the car? Please explain so I fully understand before I purchase a dolly. This forum has been extremely helpful and appreciate the wisdom and experience from you folks that have been doing this a lot longer than me!
I have towed both small and medium sized vehicles (including a VW bus) back and forth across the US on the two tow dollies I have owned. Neither tow dolly had brakes, but when it snowed, I didn't travel until the roads were plowed. Never had a problem otherwise. (My motorhome was a 23 foot class C.)
Surge brakes do not require anything additional on the tow vehicle
, but have a slight lag time before braking. If you would want to back up, the brakes will apply themselves.
Electric brakes require the tow vehicle
has a brake controller installed, can adjust the sensitivity of applying the tow dolly brakes, and requires an additional wire in the harness for the brakes. Backing up is possible, if you needed to.
The only time a towed vehicle's steering is unlocked
is when using a tow bar.
Then all 4 wheels are on the ground and the towed vehicle steers itself. If it is an automatic, you need a pump installed in the towed vehicle to keep the transmission fluid pumping through the transmission to keep it cooled. Standard shift and 4wheel drive must be in neutral, steering unlocked, and 4wheel transfer case in neutral.
Tow dollies are normally used with front wheel drive vehicles. Rear wheel drive vehicles must have the drive shaft disconnected (a real pain). There is a driveshaft disconnect mechanism available, and usually requires a professional install. NEVER
tow a rear wheel drive vehicle backwards on a tow dolly!! The front suspension is set up to track forwards only. Trying towing it backwards on a tow dolly is unstable and dangerous even for a SHORT distance! (Been there, done that!)
Demco tow dollies have wheels that steer, allowing you to make tighter turns. The ramps are built in, and you pull a lever/pin to tilt them down to load/unload the towed vehicle. The towed vehicle is held tightly in place by straps over the front wheels that you ratchet tight. You must also remove a pin to allow the wheels to steer, but the pin MUST
be installed when there is no vehicle on the dolly, otherwise it doesn't 'track', it 'wanders'! They come with or without brakes. The standard size tows all but the large full size vans and trucks (and remember, these are rear wheel drive), for which you need the larger model.
The tow dollies with the movable plate (available in most rental centers) have fixed wheels and the towed vehicle's front wheels are held tightly by straps you ratchet down tight. When you turn your motorhome, the tow dolly follows in a wider track due to the fixed wheels. In extreme
cases, it is possible to turn tight enough to get the fender of the tow dolly into the side of the towed vehicle. (I did it trying to back up
advised!) It also transmits strain to the towed vehicle frame in extreme turns.
There is an old cheapo tow dolly that I used to see. This one lifts the front wheels of the towed vehicle off the ground and uses its own fixed wheels (which are narrow to fit under
the towed vehicle). They were rough on the towed vehicle in all
turns, twisting and straining the frame. They were ungainly and unstable for anything except an emergency breakdown, which is probably explains why I haven't seen them in years.
Hope this helps.
BTW, if your tow
vehicle is a motorhome over 30 ft
, you WANT the steerable wheels on the tow dolly! You can count on seeing a TOAD being dragged through a ditch at least once a season on a tight turn in/out of a RV park! This is due to the large overhang of the rear after the rear wheels. It makes for some interesting viewing.