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Old 01-02-2016, 08:46 PM   #1
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Towbar rebuild

Hello all...... I have a Roadmaster Sterling tow bar that I inherited from the previous owner. It is at least 6-7 yrs old, and quite possibly somewhat more. I could check the s/n with Roadmaster, but haven't gotten around to it.

In any event, it is time for a rebuild. Inner rod movement has become quite stiff, and connect/disconnect is becoming difficult. I can get a full replacement set of seals & bushings from Roadmaster quite reasonably, including new inner rods if desired or necessary.

Question: has anyone here had experience with a rebuild like this? Degree of difficulty? Special tools? Time required?

Thanks for the help!!


John & Diane, fulltiming since '12
'02 DS, FL, 3126, '04 Element
NHSO RVM103
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Old 01-02-2016, 09:41 PM   #2
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I have watched the Roadmaster guys rebuild bars and it usually takes them about 20 minutes at most. They have the bar mounted waist height and have all the tools at hand.

When you put it back together, don't lube it with WD40, that stuff sucks.
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Old 01-02-2016, 10:14 PM   #3
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Roadmaster generly has a crew at all FMCA events and check and repair free, FMCA is at Perry Ga this March.
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Old 01-03-2016, 01:49 AM   #4
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About once a year I clean mine with WD 40.

I put a sheet of painters plastic underneath it and spray it while moving the arms in and out which cleans out the crud.
I wipe it with paper towels and just keep doing it until it is fairly clean and the arms and locking lever work smoothly.

I'm at 11 years and 80,000 miles with it so far.
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Old 01-03-2016, 07:57 AM   #5
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Is your towbar a Sterling or a Sterling All Terrain? I believe Roadmaster stopped making the Sterling in 2006. We had one of the last models built in late 2005.


In 2013 I wanted to rebuild it so I called Roadmaster for parts. They wanted the serial number because they only stocked parts for the last generation. Even in 2013 I was told that parts for the Sterling model were limited. When the supply was exhausted the unit would be considered obsolete and no longer supported. Unless they've changed their mind as far as support is concerned I doubt you'll be able to get the proper parts.


As mentioned the first thing to do is clean it. WD40 is a good solvent to remove dried on road grime and dirt. It's best to have the arms in a vertical position. Then partially extend an arm and spray it liberally with the WD40. Work it in and out several times and you'll see all kinds of gunk flow out. Unless the bars are bent a good cleaning should make it operate as good as new.


Make sure you thoroughly wash off the WD40 and let it dry for a while. Then apply a liberal coating of silicone spray. The WD 40 needs to be removed because the lubricating oil will hold any dirt that gets thrown up on it. If not removed you will be in the same situation in short order. Silicone spray will act as a dry lubricant and will not attract and hold the dirt.


The procedure is outlined in the owners manual available on the Roadmaster website.
Roadmaster Inc. - Tow Bars, Braking Systems & RV Accessories


There are also several publications outlining the procedure for replacing parts. If you have the proper tools disassembling and repairing the unit is not difficult. As I mentioned earlier I did ours in 2013. At the time it had about 100,000 miles on it. We had another 20,000 miles on it but it was unfortunately destroyed when the Jeep we were pulling was rear ended by a kid texting while driving. We replaced it with a Sterling All Terrain which we still use today.
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Old 01-03-2016, 08:17 AM   #6
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For those with old tow bars that have never been inspected or rebuilt you are playing with fire. Metal does fatigue and break. The post with my broken tow bar is post #19, it does happen. Tow Bar Life Expectancy Manufactures discontinue tow bars for a reason....they had problems with them. If you can't get parts for them, replace it, it's cheap insurance. After my experience, I won't own another old tow bar.
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Old 01-03-2016, 08:59 AM   #7
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I have the Roadmaster Blackhawk towbar, which is similar to your Sterling bar, just a little heavier. I'm very familiar with this issue of the inner rods becoming stiff, sticking, to the point to seizing in the bushing bores.

There are no seals in these units. The release latches which are on the top of the tubes are not sealed, so dust and dirt can freely enter the bores and contaminate the bushings. At best, there are plastic plugs inserted at the back end of the square tubes in an effort to shield some of the road dust from the inner bore. However, these plugs actually make the situation worse, as the dust that enters the bores from the unsealed release latches gets trapped in the bores. Because of this, I have deliberately removed the plastic plugs.

This becomes a real issue particularly if you have any gravel roads to travel. Our tow bar bores would actually fill up with gravel dust, and of course the inner rods would totally seize up. Roadmaster tech was of no help to me other than to email me instructions on how to take the tow bar apart, clean it and reassemble it. It is really low tech work.

The bushings on these tow bars are a form of plastic, and gravel particles embed in the plastic, causing the bushings to swell and clamp on the inner rods. I had to enlarge my bushings, once with a hand grinder, once by boring them out in a machine shop. I have observed that the new Roadmaster bars are made with lot more bushing clearance than mine had when new.

So. I do not clean my bar with any petroleum products. That simply makes the gravel stick into the bushings. I wash the tow bar with soap and water. In particular, I make sure to thoroughly wash the inner bores with a high pressure wash. I do not lubricate the bars, I wipe them with a clean damp rag.

From your description of the condition of your bar, I would recommend that you remove the plastic plugs from the back end of the square tubes and then thoroughly wash the bar, working the inner rods back and forth until all is clean. I think you'll then find that the rods are free and the tow bar is back to being satisfactorily usable.

Jim
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Old 01-03-2016, 09:37 AM   #8
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I bought a used Sterling. Every joint was stiff from NO lubrication. Swivel joint was frozen. Lubed everything up now works fine. I lub often. Added a HD safety chain from the hitch to the tow bar just in case. Plugged holes at latch releases.
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Old 01-03-2016, 11:17 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by walt2137 View Post
Roadmaster generly has a crew at all FMCA events and check and repair free, FMCA is at Perry Ga this March.
Roadmaster no longer supplies parts for free. They have two levels of repair and the amount of repair sets what is charged. The clean/lube and inspection are still no charge.

They also have a trade in program where they will take your old bar in trade, no matter what it is or its condition.
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Old 01-03-2016, 11:27 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JFXG View Post
Hello all...... I have a Roadmaster Sterling tow bar that I inherited from the previous owner. It is at least 6-7 yrs old, and quite possibly somewhat more. I could check the s/n with Roadmaster, but haven't gotten around to it.

In any event, it is time for a rebuild. Inner rod movement has become quite stiff, and connect/disconnect is becoming difficult. I can get a full replacement set of seals & bushings from Roadmaster quite reasonably, including new inner rods if desired or necessary.

Question: has anyone here had experience with a rebuild like this? Degree of difficulty? Special tools? Time required?

Thanks for the help!!


John & Diane, fulltiming since '12
'02 DS, FL, 3126, '04 Element
NHSO RVM103
Well John,
I can't help you directly with your intent on rebuilding your Roadmaster but, I've had two different Blue Ox tow bars completely apart, down to the last nut, bolt, pin, washer, shim, rod, spring and more. In all reality, they're a very simple mechanism. They have to be. All they do is lock in the fully extended position. How complicated is that?

All you need to do is simply start dissecting it. In the Blue Ox models, there's some roll pins that have to be driven out prior to some final disassembly but, that's about as tough as it gets. Depending on your model, and, just how the main pivot is held together, you may need a fairly large socket and, some long extensions to get inside some tubing.

But, again, that all depends on how yours is put together. Now, I'm not sure about Roadmaster but, I've been at RV shows and special events. And I've watched the Blue Ox techs do service on peoples tow bars. Yes, it's about 20 minutes or so, but, it's not a "REBUILD". It's merely a re-shim kit that's installed. They take the pivot points apart, clean them up and, install a new shim kit.

It's up to you to take this little endeavor on but, it's not very hard. Some shy away from it due to the critical sensitivity of the issue. Well, each has to deal with that in their own way. I've been goofing around with stuff like this for decades. Your choice. Good luck.
Scott



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Old 01-18-2016, 12:29 AM   #11
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My friend and I rebuilt an older Sterling last fall. The bars would barely move in and out. We replaced all the inner bushings and some blue plastic sleeves. The bar had been cleaned with petroleum based products and the bushings and sleeves tend to swell and break down. The blue sleeves were in pieces. After the rebuild, the bars and locks worked like new. I plan to use only Roadmaster bar cleaner and Roadmaster Silicon lubricant in the future. I'm sure that I would use WD-40 on it. We took our time and it took about an hour and a half. (Not counting the several day wait to re-order the blue plastic sleeves.) The blue sleeves, do not come with the standard rebuild it.

Regards, Jerry 2013 Newmar Bay Star - 2004 Toyota Tacoma
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Old 01-18-2016, 01:53 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dons2346 View Post
Roadmaster no longer supplies parts for free. They have two levels of repair and the amount of repair sets what is charged. The clean/lube and inspection are still no charge.

They also have a trade in program where they will take your old bar in trade, no matter what it is or its condition.
A couple years ago they charged me $75 to rebuild our Sterling that we bought in 2005.

I'll have to ask again then because some time ago I asked about exchanging it for a Sterling All Terrain and they said they didn't do that.

I live less than 10 miles from their factory.
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Old 01-18-2016, 01:10 PM   #13
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Don't know it this might help but you can run an internet search on rebuilding a tow bar and come up with things like this:
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Old 01-18-2016, 02:40 PM   #14
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I had my sterling all-terrain rebuilt about a year and a half ago. I have had it since 2008. I think I paid either $25 or $50 to have it rebuilt. Roadmaster sells a silicon spray they recommend to lube the system. Most of the rallies have someone selling tow products. Both Winabego and Tiffin are in Sarasota, FL in March for Rallies. The main thing that was replaced on my bars were all the nylon washers. Dave
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