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Old 03-07-2021, 08:36 AM   #1
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2021 Chevy Spark Toad - BlueOx and BrakeBuddy

We have towed a variety of cars as a 'toad' with our Itasca/Winnebago with workhorse chassis - 8.1L gas V8, since 2005.

Our first toad was a 2008 Scion XB, then a 2007 Jeep Wrangler. Later we got a 2014 Subaru Crosstrek, then a 2015 Chevrolet Colorado 4x4, and now just got a new 2021 Chevrolet Spark.

We are still using the original BlueOx tow-bar I found used on CL some twelve years ago. It's the old round-tube heavy duty one with up to 10K lb rating. I have always liked the BlueOx baseplate - the lock-in towing tabs are really simple and work well. Overall the baseplate has a clean outward look when not towing. I actually wrote the install manual for BlueOx on the Subaru when it first came out - I had the first one, and they comp'd the baseplate for the extra work. Since they already had one for the Imprezza I knew there would be just simple variances for the Crosstrek - basically the same car but a beefed up AWD version as the Crosstrek.

We've now been towing the Colorado for the past six years and it's a really nice vehicle. It's been all over western states, probably some four or five thousand miles. My only caveat is weight. Even the extended cab four cylinder comes in about 4200lbs, so loaded with bikes and gear it is likely closer to 4500lbs. The motorhome has a 5K lb towing capacity. It's slow up the passes, but the worst is the 'tail-wagging the dog' syndrome - it's just a LOT of weight back there, and it pulls the back of the coach back and forth when it's windy, and when semi-trucks pass. Driver fatigue sets in at about 200 miles, you constantly have to steer. The last trip we had a 40mph side wind and I swore I was either getting a bigger motorhome - a DP - or a new toad.

The Chevy Spark makes for a really good toad because it's the lightest weight car and the cheapest car in the USA. It's 2200lbs, and costs about $12K. Only the 5-speed manual can be flat-towed, which is the LS model, and it's really basic - manual door locks and crank-up windows! But it has ice cold AC, and a really nice electronics console with Apple Car Play and Android Auto. It has four-doors and a hatchback, with rear seats that fold down flat.

Since this is the fifth car I have setup for towing, I ordered the BlueOx base plate and RoadMaster lighting kit with 1157 rear bulbs to add to the taillight housings. Took a day to install and run all the wiring.

The battery needs to be disconnected for towing, so a power lead was run back from the driver footwell to the battery direct, to power the BrakeBuddy unit. This is my second BrakeBuddy - just love them, simple and cheap, can easily move from one toad to the next. And there are the wire leads from the break-away switch at the grill, also into the drive footwell for the brake unit.

The tow-bar height for the Colorado was 24", the Spark is 15", so I dug around in the shop for the old towing parts and sure enough I had a 6" drop insert for the hitch, works perfectly. I utilize the Hitch-Vice anti-rattle clamp for the towbar, so sourced an additional one for the dropper - everything is solid for towing.

I have learned over the years that any play in the tow-bar setup causes the toad to 'hunt' - it will sway back and forth as you go down the highway. Keeping all pivots tight, and the hitch tight, makes it track perfectly behind the coach.

The Spark is a really neat little car. Like an overgrown golf cart or go-kart, or as I call it an adult roller-skate. It tows like a dream, you don't even know it's back there. I've added a class1 hitch for a bike rack, and got a Rocky Mounts Monorail 2 platform rack. This works really slick for my mountain bike or our ebikes.

It got down to getting a diesel motorhome or a lighter toad. Or rather, ten-grand verses a hundred grand for an upgrade. For a small investment we're towing much lighter, a TON lighter to be exact, and the old coach is still just like new so it's worked out great all around.

Feel free to post questions on toad setup and systems, choice of toads, I've pretty well covered the gamut on TOADS in our travels.

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Old 03-07-2021, 08:38 AM   #2
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BTW, there are two older threads on the Chevy Spark as toad - some mis-information and confusion on them, so I thought I would start a new thread as this car works exceedingly well as a TOAD. In fact, out of all the cars I've setup, this is by far the best.

https://www.irv2.com/forums/f85/chev...ad-338815.html
https://www.irv2.com/forums/f85/a-ch...ad-411174.html
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Old 03-07-2021, 09:10 AM   #3
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We flat tow a 2020 Spark, it's a very fun little car. We got an "Activ", which has a roof rack, heated seats, power windows, etc. We bought it in September during the model year sales event, it was in a dealers inventory about 1000 miles away, and we had it delivered to our local dealer.

So far, we have towed it about 3500 miles behind the Workhorse UFO, and about 2500 miles behind the Monaco. We've driven it about 4000 miles under it's own power. Average about 36 MPG. Neither coach has any problems towing it.

I have the same Blue Ox towbar, and I installed the LED lights. I have a lift and the install took me about 4 hours. Since it's so light, I didn't put a brake on it, but I might now that our current coach has air brakes and I can put an AF1 on it.

The roof rack is a really nice feature. We carry around paddleboards on it, and I have also used it for long things like trim when I was working on the real house.

I put a 10 MM wrench on the keyring for the battery. Hooking it up for towing takes me about 5 minutes.
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Old 03-07-2021, 07:41 PM   #4
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Our first trip with it coming up next week - an 800mi trip up the state to visit all the kids.

A keyring wrench is a great idea. I had a screw-post disconnect for awhile on the colorado, and it actually cracked and broke and ran the battery out, so I'm off of those things - just remove the cable, it's a sure thing. I have an aligator clip to connect the brakebuddy feed. The colorado got setup that way and it's way easy to use.

My brakebuddy got so old it started giving me troubles with the air lines, so I picked up another one in great shape from an old timer - it was a cheap date. Power it direct to the battery with an inline fuse.

It's a really cute little car. I've had nearly fifty cars in my driving career, and this is the smallest and lightest. It drives surprisingly well. It feels a little light on the freeway, but sure has plenty of zip.

My first new car in 1977 was a Subaru DL coupe - they're kind of similar in size. We found out Subarus were good offroad before they did. LOL
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Old 03-07-2021, 07:49 PM   #5
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My son bought a Spark new in 2019, it's his first car, wanted new but not all the gadget stuff. Manual trans and manual everything, great little car to go back and forth to work gets around 40mpg.

I'll have to let him know if he ever want to sell it, I'll buy it.

Thanks OP, never thought about the Spark for a toad.
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Old 03-13-2021, 08:56 PM   #6
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Great post to read for a guy who's in the market for a Spark to tow! Thanks!! Now, A couple questions for you all, please.

We hadn't been able to find the word on towability for the 2021. Knew 2020 was good. Was hoping for 2021 same. I guess you answered that for us.

We see the ultra light Spark as ideal for our Sprinter based Winnie Porto. Saw one comment about "going without a brake" because Spark is so light. I'd love that kind of $ savings, but I am not convinced, especially with our smaller rig. Any comments on this would be appreciated.

Also, we are hoping to add some.ground clearance by going with a size larger tire on the Spark. Its already about 5 or 6 inches, I believe, but every bit more would be a huge plus for us, as we want to be able to do the most "dirt road" travel we can with the little guy. We know its no Jeep, and just FWD, but we want to be at least better than the lowest sedans out there. We think the Spark will be pretty good in this role, but would also like to hear any ideas people might have on ways to maximize the gravel road performance of this toad.

Again, thanks so much for this detailed, and timely, post!!
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Old 03-15-2021, 10:01 PM   #7
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The first brakebuddy I got was from a batch of leftover refurbs the inventor was selling on ebay for $500, after he sold the company. That was about twelve years ago. I used it in four previous toads, thousands of miles. I started having trouble with the water separator and the internal air lines.
The second one I just picked up was from a retired RV'r out in the next county - excellent shape, low time, $300.

So easy, just set it in the footwell, hook up to power and to the brake pedal, attach the break-away switch wiring, disco the car bat, put in neutral, release the parking break. It doesn't even have a steering lock - I thought all cars did, but not the SPARK.

Just got back from 750 miles - it is an absolute dream to tow. And when we got there, we hauled four adults around town for a couple of outings.

If you have to panic stop, or if the toad breaks away somehow, your brake unit takes care of either situation. It's cheap insurance.

Larger tires will not fit on the spark - it is what it is, and it's not a 4x4, so forget that. Yes, a graded dirt road is fine, anything more and it's a non-starter.

Oh, and we get 10% better fuel economy, and able to maintain 10% higher speed, so it's a win-win all around. The coach drives SO much better with a toad a ton lighter. Goes up the hills a lot better too. OD is now actually usable.
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Old 03-15-2021, 10:21 PM   #8
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As a comparison, here's our Colorado 4x4 toad...about 4500lbs with the bikes in it. It tows fine, but wags the back of the coach back and forth, making steering down the hiway a giant chore. The Spark, well you don't even know it's back there, 'cept it's in the rear-view camera.
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Old 03-15-2021, 10:27 PM   #9
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The scion XB was a very good toad.
The Crosstrek was as well. Should have kept either one, but always looking for the next best rig.
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Old 03-17-2021, 07:47 PM   #10
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The requirement for trailer brakes is state-by-state. In New Mexico the requirement is 3500 pounds. The Spark is under this on both unloaded and GVWR.

My only concern is if somehow it becomes disconnected from the coach. I’ve read some unsettling accounts about Blue Ox equipment failures.

Having said that, the tow bar and plate are extremely overbuilt relative to everything else in this little beer can of a car
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Old 03-17-2021, 09:00 PM   #11
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Its true the weight requirement varies by state, but having said that there are plenty of states where is is way under 3,500 pounds. With at least 7 states requiring brakes at under 3,000 pounds, some as low as 1,500 pounds.



p.s. all the references I find online say NM requires braking systems for vehicles weighing over 3,000 pounds not 3,500
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Old 03-18-2021, 02:34 AM   #12
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If you check your coach owners manual, I think you'll find nearly all recommend brakes on anything towed over 1500lbs. At least for any gas units. Some of the big diesels with 10k lb towing may be higher.
Emergency stopping distance is greatly enhanced with trailer brakes.

On Our last 350mile return leg the brake unit never engaged once. Sensitivity is set for hard braking only. You know...peace of mind and cheap insurance and all that good stuff.
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Old 03-18-2021, 06:17 AM   #13
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Our good friends have a Spark for a toad and really like it.

As far as Brake buddy, the 2 friends I know have both had their brakes cooked when using brake buddy.
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Old 03-18-2021, 08:36 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CJBROWN View Post
If you check your coach owners manual, I think you'll find nearly all recommend brakes on anything towed over 1500lbs. At least for any gas units. Some of the big diesels with 10k lb towing may be higher.
Emergency stopping distance is greatly enhanced with trailer brakes.

On Our last 350mile return leg the brake unit never engaged once. Sensitivity is set for hard braking only. You know...peace of mind and cheap insurance and all that good stuff.
With our UFO, that little car wasn't noticeable at all, maybe climbing a pass it may have slowed us a little, but we got it about the same time I replaced the plugs, wires, and the Ultrapower ECU so maybe I didn't notice.

With the heavier tag axle Monaco I really don't know it's there. I would like a braking system that locks up the wheels if it brakes away, one that doesn't stop working if the air hose is ripped off. It seems that if the breakaway is pulled or the air is off, the tires on the should be locked up. Thats how the DOT checks our (work) trailers at the scales.
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