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Old 12-18-2021, 07:32 AM   #1
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Anything I need to know before buying a Tow Dolly?

I'm thinking of buying a used Tow Dolly. Is there anything I need to know or consider before buying?

I plan to get one with brakes. Surge brakes are preferred as I believe this is the easiest way to have brakes.

If I get a dolly with electric brakes, do I need some sort of "brake controller" or do I just connect directly to my Coach's brake light circuit (at the trailer light connector).

Any brands to steer away from?
Looks like the top brands are: Master Tow, Roadmaster, Demco

Thanks
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Old 12-18-2021, 07:57 AM   #2
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Electric brakes always need a controller.

Some can be mounted out on the dolly tongue and sent power thru the trailer plug.

There is one out there that uses the brake light power to pulse the dolly brakes, American Car Tow, maybe.
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Old 12-18-2021, 08:00 AM   #3
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I think most tow dollies have electric brakes. The most used method of controlling the dolly brakes is with a tow vehicle mounted brake controller. Many newer trucks have an electric brake controller built into the truck. You just have to use it.

If the tow vehicle doesn't already have a brake controller you have a couple choices. The most common is to use a brake controller like THIS ONE.

Another alternative for electric brake control is THIS ONE. It is essentially the same as the vehicle mounted brake control but is mounted on the trailer/tow dolly. This it sorta mimics a surge brake.

I've not seen a tow dolly with a hydraulic surge brake but it sounds like a good idea. I would like that.

I've done a lot of towing using a dolly with electric brakes and a vehicle mounted brake controller. It worked well but needed readjusted whenever the weight of the vehicle on the dolly changed.

Another tow dolly for your consideration is American Tow Dolly. They do not have a website but you can reach them at (970) 380-3305. You will find lots of positive comments on American Tow Dolly on this forum. I had one and thought it was the best bang for the buck. It worked great! The owner is Gary. I talked to him this morning on the phone. He is still in business.
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Old 12-18-2021, 08:21 AM   #4
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If the vehicle you plan to tow has a locking steering column be sure the dolly "swivels". Because if not then you have to have a key in the toad ignition to keep the steering unlocked.
We have a fixed dolly and a Toyota that locks the steering column. To deal with it I bought a spare key and had it cut to fit. But I didn't code it to the car. So we can leave the key in it all we want but it will never start the car. Having a swiveling dolly would be easier and we might upgrade to one at some point.
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Old 12-18-2021, 08:23 AM   #5
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Surge brakes

I use the Acme Eze Tow Dolly with built in surge brakes. Works well, I never feel it pushing me when stopping. About as maintenance free as can be.

Make sure whatever brand/model you purchase has clearances such that will allow your specific toad to load and tow without hitting sides, or scraping as you drive up the ramps.

Burt the most important point of all is develop a hook up and loading checklist that you follow religiously, and without letting anything or anyone interrupt you during the process. Then double check again! And Again! Make sure the secondary cables, break away, hitch, are all properly hooked up.
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Old 12-18-2021, 08:46 AM   #6
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For several years i used the demco. It has hydraulic surge disk brakes and self steering wheels. It is heavier than most ... but that means it rides very very well, and will handle almost anything you want to tow. It also has a folding tongue, so you can store it more easily.

You did not ask this question ... but with a dolly you DO have less flexibility in pulling into a campground, as you need to find a place to store the thing. Also, an "emergency" disconnect (like when you cant make a corner, or you have to reverse direction because of limitations on the road ahead) becomes a real nightmare...
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Old 12-18-2021, 08:58 AM   #7
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+1 on the Demco. Galvanized so no rust. Would still have one but flat tow now.
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Old 12-18-2021, 09:08 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarvinG View Post
I use the Acme Eze Tow Dolly with built in surge brakes. Works well, I never feel it pushing me when stopping. About as maintenance free as can be.
I haven't been able to use it yet due to COVID and other issues but I did a lot of research and ended up with the EZE-TOW as well. Key factors for me were its price, relatively light weight and positive reviews. Now that I have it, I can say that its build quality is excellent with a fully galvanized frame. Even though it's lighter than much of it's competition, the frame is robust and don't foresee any issues. I also like the idea that it will tilt up for storage. You'll find that it's often mentioned in other threads on this topic. Here's a link to the manufacturer's site:

https://cartowdolly.com/
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Old 12-18-2021, 10:03 AM   #9
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ACME TOW DOLLY is a good one if you don't mind laying under car to affix chains to front end,picking up and attaching the heavy ramps and then mounting the tire straps.Doing this In bad weather is not a joy. Straps will have to be adjusted after a short distance and make sure you have a spare tire included in purchase......I miss 4 down towing
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Old 12-18-2021, 10:05 AM   #10
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Thanks for all the advice.

There are two for sale in my area.

Both are the Tow Master model 80THDSB.

These both have the surge brakes, so I won't need to buy a controller (for the electric brake models). I'll just need some auxiliary lights and should be ready to tow.

I know about the downsides of using a Tow Dolly over Flat Towing. But I don't have a vehicle that can be flat towed - so I need to work with what I have. And a Tow Dolly is much cheaper than a flat-tow setup since I don't need a Tow bar, baseplate, in-car braking system, or need to do any wiring on my car.

Thanks
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Old 12-18-2021, 10:09 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daddude1218 View Post
ACME TOW DOLLY is a good one if you don't mind laying under car to affix chains to front end, picking up and attaching the heavy ramps and then mounting the tire straps. Doing this In bad weather is not a joy. Straps will have to be adjusted after a short distance and make sure you have a spare tire included in purchase......I miss 4 down towing
Yup. I know.
Maybe when it comes time to replace my vehicle (in two years) I can get something that can be flat towed.

Currently I carry a motorcycle - but that isn't so great when the weather is bad. I need a way to bring along my car.

Defiantly I will want to carry a spare tire for the Dolly.

Thanks
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Old 12-18-2021, 10:28 AM   #12
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Find a Kar Kaddy SS: has everything you need: no controller needed !!!
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Old 12-18-2021, 10:45 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CountryB View Post
Thanks for all the advice.

There are two for sale in my area.

Both are the Tow Master model 80THDSB.

These both have the surge brakes, so I won't need to buy a controller (for the electric brake models). I'll just need some auxiliary lights and should be ready to tow.

I know about the downsides of using a Tow Dolly over Flat Towing. But I don't have a vehicle that can be flat towed - so I need to work with what I have. And a Tow Dolly is much cheaper than a flat-tow setup since I don't need a Tow bar, baseplate, in-car braking system, or need to do any wiring on my car.

Thanks
I have the same unit with surge brakes, it tows our Soul just fine.

Check the date codes on the tires, the condition of the straps, and the brake fluid level. When I got home with ours I found the master cylinder empty.

Once home, inspect the brake shoes, inspect and repack wheel bearings along with new wheel seals, adjust the brakes(they are most likely manual adjust if drum), purge the brake fluid, lube the roller pins at the brake actuator, check for proper torque on the swivel pin, and make sure the breakaway system works. I don't think I missed much if anything.

With surge brakes do check for heat when descending a long grade.
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Old 12-18-2021, 10:53 AM   #14
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Mike,
The Master Tow dolly you are looking at is a very good one.
I have an older one without the surge brakes and have towed our 2002 Dodge Caravan from Colorado to Florida and back over 10 times without an incident. I did uprate the tires when they were replaced last year.
I like the moving plate, and the permanent ramps make loading a breeze.

Towing on a dolly makes you think ahead when getting gas, and you know that you CANNOT back up more than 3-4 feet without getting things in a "bind", and that is if your rig is perfectly straight...........

Mike in Colorado

PS; I bought mine used for $500.00 on Craig's list
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