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Old 10-19-2020, 10:39 PM   #1
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My first experience towing

I am relatively new to motorhomes but I bought one after some successful rental trips.

Planning to tow a car was very intimidating given all the complexity:
- weight limits of the coach
- weight limits of the tow hitch
- weight rating of the tow bar
- towability of the car
- supplemental braking systems

I did a lot of research and felt like a lot of the company marketing was high-level and useless, and a lot of advice in forums was from people who were very DIY-oriented and made it sound like taking a coach to the shop would result in people doing stuff to the coach who don’t really know what they’re doing. So I was even more intimidated, argh!!! The only confidence I got was seeing so many motorhomes towing cars and therefore thinking “how hard can the really be???”

To make a long story short, if you are in the position I was in DON’T WORRY...you do need to work through some issues but once you do it’s easy, easy, easy.

In my case:
- GCWR is 33,000 lb and GVWR of the motorhome is 29,410 lb (on a sticker inside the motorcycle, by law) but I took it to the scales (don’t be intimidated about that either) and weighed it and turns out even will full gas and fresh water etc I was only a bit over 26,000. So I could tow something up to about 7,000 lb.
- I bought a Jeep Wrangler because everyone tows them and my kids wanted us to finally own one “not boring” car. The complexity of “can I tow this car” basically goes away with the Wrangler.
- I settled on the Air Force One braking system and took the car to a very professional outfit in Elkhart IN to have it all installed. Total cost ~$4k for all the work on the Jeep and coach plus the tow bar itself and the braking system

Once they taught me how to hook everything up and get the transfer case set to tow etc I went on a few short trips. I literally couldn’t feel the tow car whatsoever. I had to leave the rear camera on just to make sure the car hadn’t fallen off!!!

After a few times it literally took me 3 minutes to hook or unhook the car. I have a big Rubbermaid bin to throw all the tow stuff into (air line, electrical umbilical, breakaway cable, etc).

Based on this experience I weighed my Chevy Suburban and realized that as long as I didn’t have 100 gal of fresh water I could be below the GCWR and tow that car too. So another ~$3k for baseplate and AirForceOne system etc and that car is all set up (for that car, needed a battery cutoff set up in the car). The procedure to get the car into towing mode is the only difference, everything else identical.

Unlike the Jeep, towing the Suburban does materially negatively impact acceleration and on hills you sometimes can’t maintain speed (that said, I recently drove hwy 441 through the Smokies towing and it was fine).

Bottom line: I used to see motorhomes towing suburbans and thought to myself “that is just nuts”. Now I’m THAT person and honestly it’s super easy.

Lessons learned, perhaps helpful for a first-time tower who does not do any of their own mechanical work:
- don’t be intimidated by weighing, just get it done and do the math
- find a reputable service center that is super-experienced with towing setups, they will make the install painless...yes it will cost more than buying all the parts and doing stuff yourself, and yes it is more “gold plated” eg battery cutoff solenoid switch mounted professionally in the car, brake activation indicator mounted professionally in the coach, etc), but low hassle and worth it IMHO
- practice the hook and unhook process (including getting the car into tow mode) until you can get it done in 3-4 mins
- put a pair of work gloves into the bin where you keep the tow stuff...hooking and unhooking will get your hands really dirty
- if you have a diesel pusher / air brakes, the AF One is has been great for this newbie...lots of different views on braking systems but that is my experience with a professional install of that system

In case anyone is curious, the shop I used to set me up was Dan’s Service Center (aka Dan’s Hitch) in Elkhart IN, just a few mins from Elkhart Campground. Totally specialized in hitches and towing and Tom of experience with motorhomes. My experience there was outstanding FWIW. I’m sure I paid more than average since I have no personal technical skills, but it was well worth it to me to go with a more “high service” approach.

Matt
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Old 10-20-2020, 09:16 AM   #2
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Matt, congratulations on working thru this.

I also went the route of having a very qualified hitch, base plate installer get my Toad ready for me. They did the install, wiring and setup. When i came to pick up car they spent an hour showing me how the portable brake unit installed, how the base plate tabs went in, where the fuses for external battery charging where and the fuse for the extra power point they had to install. Money very well spent.

Sometimes we would rather spend the money for the peace of mind we get from having an install done. Sounds like we both had great experiences and a shop with a solid track record is peace of mind.

Enjoy your towing

Terry & Pat
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Old 10-20-2020, 10:00 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MattyA View Post
I am relatively new to motorhomes but I bought one after some successful rental trips.

Planning to tow a car was very intimidating given all the complexity:
- weight limits of the coach
- weight limits of the tow hitch
- weight rating of the tow bar
- towability of the car
- supplemental braking systems

I did a lot of research and felt like a lot of the company marketing was high-level and useless, and a lot of advice in forums was from people who were very DIY-oriented and made it sound like taking a coach to the shop would result in people doing stuff to the coach who don’t really know what they’re doing. So I was even more intimidated, argh!!! The only confidence I got was seeing so many motorhomes towing cars and therefore thinking “how hard can the really be???”

To make a long story short, if you are in the position I was in DON’T WORRY...you do need to work through some issues but once you do it’s easy, easy, easy.

In my case:
- GCWR is 33,000 lb and GVWR of the motorhome is 29,410 lb (on a sticker inside the motorcycle, by law) but I took it to the scales (don’t be intimidated about that either) and weighed it and turns out even will full gas and fresh water etc I was only a bit over 26,000. So I could tow something up to about 7,000 lb.
- I bought a Jeep Wrangler because everyone tows them and my kids wanted us to finally own one “not boring” car. The complexity of “can I tow this car” basically goes away with the Wrangler.
- I settled on the Air Force One braking system and took the car to a very professional outfit in Elkhart IN to have it all installed. Total cost ~$4k for all the work on the Jeep and coach plus the tow bar itself and the braking system

Once they taught me how to hook everything up and get the transfer case set to tow etc I went on a few short trips. I literally couldn’t feel the tow car whatsoever. I had to leave the rear camera on just to make sure the car hadn’t fallen off!!!

After a few times it literally took me 3 minutes to hook or unhook the car. I have a big Rubbermaid bin to throw all the tow stuff into (air line, electrical umbilical, breakaway cable, etc).

Based on this experience I weighed my Chevy Suburban and realized that as long as I didn’t have 100 gal of fresh water I could be below the GCWR and tow that car too. So another ~$3k for baseplate and AirForceOne system etc and that car is all set up (for that car, needed a battery cutoff set up in the car). The procedure to get the car into towing mode is the only difference, everything else identical.

Unlike the Jeep, towing the Suburban does materially negatively impact acceleration and on hills you sometimes can’t maintain speed (that said, I recently drove hwy 441 through the Smokies towing and it was fine).

Bottom line: I used to see motorhomes towing suburbans and thought to myself “that is just nuts”. Now I’m THAT person and honestly it’s super easy.

Lessons learned, perhaps helpful for a first-time tower who does not do any of their own mechanical work:
- don’t be intimidated by weighing, just get it done and do the math
- find a reputable service center that is super-experienced with towing setups, they will make the install painless...yes it will cost more than buying all the parts and doing stuff yourself, and yes it is more “gold plated” eg battery cutoff solenoid switch mounted professionally in the car, brake activation indicator mounted professionally in the coach, etc), but low hassle and worth it IMHO
- practice the hook and unhook process (including getting the car into tow mode) until you can get it done in 3-4 mins
- put a pair of work gloves into the bin where you keep the tow stuff...hooking and unhooking will get your hands really dirty
- if you have a diesel pusher / air brakes, the AF One is has been great for this newbie...lots of different views on braking systems but that is my experience with a professional install of that system

In case anyone is curious, the shop I used to set me up was Dan’s Service Center (aka Dan’s Hitch) in Elkhart IN, just a few mins from Elkhart Campground. Totally specialized in hitches and towing and Tom of experience with motorhomes. My experience there was outstanding FWIW. I’m sure I paid more than average since I have no personal technical skills, but it was well worth it to me to go with a more “high service” approach.

Matt
Good review and well said. Safe travels.
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Old 10-20-2020, 10:38 AM   #4
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Quote:
GCWR is 33,000 lb and GVWR of the motorhome is 29,410 lb
One thing missing from your excellent write-up is any mention of the actual hitch rating. A motorhome with only a 3,600 pound difference between GVWR and GCWR usually has a 5,000 pound rated hitch installed, especially if it's a gasser.

Later on you mentioned the Air Force One supplemental braking system, which usually is only used with a diesel pusher (DP) but can be used on a gasoline motorhome with a supplemental air pump installed on the motorhome.

Those two are fairly subtle nuances that someone new to towing may not understand or even consider.

I'm guessing you have a DP. What was the original hitch rating and if you had to upgrade it, what rating hitch did the shop install?

Also, what safety margin did you select for the tow bar weight rating? Me, I try to use a tow bar rated for close to double the weight of the car. My car weighs 3,600 pounds so I went with a 7,500 rated tow bar.

That point is that someone new to towing and wanting to tow a 4,800 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (four-door) might believe that a 5,000 pound rated hitch and a 5,000 pound rated tow bar is perfectly acceptable.

In ideal circumstances and when the equipment is brand new that may be true. But as things age the parts will develop wear and slop, corrosion sets in, the roads get rougher, etc., I prefer more of a margin myself.

Good job and thanks for taking the time to share your experience.

Ray
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Old 10-21-2020, 08:44 AM   #5
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Couple of replies:

- The place where I did the install likewise had the tech spend an hour or so going through the hook-up and car-shifting procedure etc. Super-helpful and confidence-building.
- Yes, I have a DP
- Hitch rating is 10,000 lb
- In anticipation of possibly towing a heavier car in the future, I got a 10,000 lb tow bar
- I didn’t know that a gasser could use an air pump to be compatible with the AF One…that is cool to know about for future reference

Cheers!
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Old 10-21-2020, 03:03 PM   #6
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Air Force One is for air brake equipped motorhomes only.
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Old 10-21-2020, 03:40 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twinboat View Post
Air Force One is for air brake equipped motorhomes only.
My mistake. As twinboat obliquely noted, I inadvertently confused the M&G Engineerng air braking system with the Demco Air Force One.

The Demco gasser equivalent is their Stay-IN-Play DUO, which I actually have...

Sorry,

Ray
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Old 10-21-2020, 06:50 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MattyA View Post
I am relatively new to motorhomes but I bought one after some successful rental trips.



Planning to tow a car was very intimidating given all the complexity:

- weight limits of the coach

- weight limits of the tow hitch

- weight rating of the tow bar

- towability of the car

- supplemental braking systems



I did a lot of research and felt like a lot of the company marketing was high-level and useless, and a lot of advice in forums was from people who were very DIY-oriented and made it sound like taking a coach to the shop would result in people doing stuff to the coach who don’t really know what they’re doing. So I was even more intimidated, argh!!! The only confidence I got was seeing so many motorhomes towing cars and therefore thinking “how hard can the really be???”



To make a long story short, if you are in the position I was in DON’T WORRY...you do need to work through some issues but once you do it’s easy, easy, easy.



In my case:

- GCWR is 33,000 lb and GVWR of the motorhome is 29,410 lb (on a sticker inside the motorcycle, by law) but I took it to the scales (don’t be intimidated about that either) and weighed it and turns out even will full gas and fresh water etc I was only a bit over 26,000. So I could tow something up to about 7,000 lb.

- I bought a Jeep Wrangler because everyone tows them and my kids wanted us to finally own one “not boring” car. The complexity of “can I tow this car” basically goes away with the Wrangler.

- I settled on the Air Force One braking system and took the car to a very professional outfit in Elkhart IN to have it all installed. Total cost ~$4k for all the work on the Jeep and coach plus the tow bar itself and the braking system



Once they taught me how to hook everything up and get the transfer case set to tow etc I went on a few short trips. I literally couldn’t feel the tow car whatsoever. I had to leave the rear camera on just to make sure the car hadn’t fallen off!!!



After a few times it literally took me 3 minutes to hook or unhook the car. I have a big Rubbermaid bin to throw all the tow stuff into (air line, electrical umbilical, breakaway cable, etc).



Based on this experience I weighed my Chevy Suburban and realized that as long as I didn’t have 100 gal of fresh water I could be below the GCWR and tow that car too. So another ~$3k for baseplate and AirForceOne system etc and that car is all set up (for that car, needed a battery cutoff set up in the car). The procedure to get the car into towing mode is the only difference, everything else identical.



Unlike the Jeep, towing the Suburban does materially negatively impact acceleration and on hills you sometimes can’t maintain speed (that said, I recently drove hwy 441 through the Smokies towing and it was fine).



Bottom line: I used to see motorhomes towing suburbans and thought to myself “that is just nuts”. Now I’m THAT person and honestly it’s super easy.



Lessons learned, perhaps helpful for a first-time tower who does not do any of their own mechanical work:

- don’t be intimidated by weighing, just get it done and do the math

- find a reputable service center that is super-experienced with towing setups, they will make the install painless...yes it will cost more than buying all the parts and doing stuff yourself, and yes it is more “gold plated” eg battery cutoff solenoid switch mounted professionally in the car, brake activation indicator mounted professionally in the coach, etc), but low hassle and worth it IMHO

- practice the hook and unhook process (including getting the car into tow mode) until you can get it done in 3-4 mins

- put a pair of work gloves into the bin where you keep the tow stuff...hooking and unhooking will get your hands really dirty

- if you have a diesel pusher / air brakes, the AF One is has been great for this newbie...lots of different views on braking systems but that is my experience with a professional install of that system



In case anyone is curious, the shop I used to set me up was Dan’s Service Center (aka Dan’s Hitch) in Elkhart IN, just a few mins from Elkhart Campground. Totally specialized in hitches and towing and Tom of experience with motorhomes. My experience there was outstanding FWIW. I’m sure I paid more than average since I have no personal technical skills, but it was well worth it to me to go with a more “high service” approach.



Matt


How far did you have to drive to Dan’s hitch? Did he need the coach there?
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Old 10-22-2020, 06:49 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Prairie Dog View Post
How far did you have to drive to Dan’s hitch? Did he need the coach there?
There is equipment needed on the coach side so yes, the installer would need the coach, with a few newer coaches as exceptions.
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Old 10-22-2020, 07:16 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Prairie Dog View Post
How far did you have to drive to Dan’s hitch? Did he need the coach there?
It was about an hour's drive for me. I left the car there and the work took a few days. On the day I picked up the car I drove the coach to the pickup and left it with them for ~4 hours while they did the coach-side work. Then towed the car home!
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Old 10-22-2020, 12:15 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by JMonroe View Post
There is equipment needed on the coach side so yes, the installer would need the coach, with a few newer coaches as exceptions.
That is interesting as I was under the impression my coach needed nothing. What do they need to do to it?
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Old 10-22-2020, 12:26 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JMonroe View Post
There is equipment needed on the coach side so yes, the installer would need the coach, with a few newer coaches as exceptions.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prairie Dog View Post
That is interesting as I was under the impression my coach needed nothing. What do they need to do to it?
Hi Matt,

Your '19 is newer than my '18. Yours is exceptional, mine is not.

In the '19 model year, Entegra started including the coach side equipment necessary for the Air Force One supplemental braking system. Look just above the receiver hitch and you should see a quick disconnect air connection.

Take care,
Stu
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Old 10-23-2020, 07:23 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by 777 Driver View Post
Hi Matt,

Your '19 is newer than my '18. Yours is exceptional, mine is not.

In the '19 model year, Entegra started including the coach side equipment necessary for the Air Force One supplemental braking system. Look just above the receiver hitch and you should see a quick disconnect air connection.

Take care,
Stu
My coach is a Winnebago Forza so no air hose connection standard and needed to be installed. Maybe someday I'll graduate into the Entegra or Newmar stratosphere where you get all the bells and whistles, lol!!

(truthfully every time I go into the Forza I'm impressed...it has a lot of bells and whistles already!!)
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