Setting up Jeep JL as a TOAD lessons learned - long read
For anyone purchasing a Jeep Wrangler JL - 2018 or newer to set up as a TOAD, particularly if you're updating from an older series Jeep Wrangler -
I towed my 2015 Wrangler JK behind my motorhome. I had it set up with a Rockjock towplate and a Readybrute Elite II towbar. The JK was pretty easy to wire up for towing. I got a Hopkins plug and play wiring harness that went inline with the rear lights. In order to keep the Jeep lights from overriding the RV lights, for example having a turn signal on while braking, the Jeep could just illuminate the brake lights. I added a brake light disconnect kit which consisted of a relay that stopped the signal to the Jeep's lights by opening the circuit. It was installed on the cold side of the brake pedal switch.
I traded in the JK and bought a new 2020 JL. I kept the Readybrute Elite II towbar because it's got a built in surge brake system. Rockjock makes a towplate for the JL so I ordered one of them. Hopkins does not make a plug and play wiring harness for the JL, but Curt does so I ordered that. I needed a new brake cable kit for the towbar and ordered that. The brake cable attaches to the brake pedal arm and is threaded through a conduit to the front of the vehicle where a clevis or carabiner attaches to the surge brake line on the towbar. I also ordered the emergency break away kit that will apply the JL's brakes should the towbar fail or disconnect. This is another cable run in parallel with the operating brake cable. I got the two brake kits from NSA, they make the Readybrute tow bar. While I was at it I ordered the brake circuit disconnect kit with the relay. This is where things got interesting.
There are all the wiring diagrams for the JL's on the internet. I printed out the wiring diagram for the brake system and discovered that there's 3 wires in the brake system. Not as simple as the JK with it's single wire. I asked a question on the electronics section and learned that the brake switch on the JL is tied into the anti-lock brake system as it senses the amount of force applied to the pedal. Cutting one of those wires to install the relay would have been very bad - if you don't get anything else out of this post, don't cut the wires to the brake switch.
I did more research as I wanted to know how I could avoid having the JL's brake lights override the turn signal from the RV with the wiring harness I added. I learned (from etrailer.com and other members here) that the lights on the JL turn off after a few minutes and are not an issue. That was good to know, so that means no relay needed. The towbar surge brake activates the brakes on the JL by pulling on the cable which is attached to the brake pedal with the RV lights lighting up the JL's tail lights, brake lights and signal lights as needed. But I went one step farther on the JK which I wanted to do for the JL too. There is a small LED kit that I installed in the dashboard of my motorhome. When the brakes were applied on the JK the lead for the LED was attached to the cold side of the brake switch and would light up on the RV dash. That way I knew the brakes were on but more importantly that they were off while I was towing. If the brakes are on you're going to wear out the brakes on your TOAD really fast. I also added an LED flasher to the 3rd brake light on the JK, the center mounted light above the spare tire. I didn't want anyone rearending my while I was towing. When the brakes were applied the 3rd brake light would flash really quickly 3 times, then slower 3 times then stay on solid. You've probably seen these on motorcycles, they really get your attention. Some people hate them but I'd rather have them hate me than run into the rear of my Wrangler. To activate that light I cut the wire to the 3rd brake light and spliced in the flasher. To power it I ran a wire to the cold side of the brake switch before the relay so the 3rd brake light would still work when the JK's lights would not. It worked great, in fact it worked when I was just driving the JK around.
So I needed some way to activate the dash LED in the RV and the 3rd brake light on the JL. The good news is the JL 3rd brake light is wired identically to the JK, a single hot lead and a ground.
I found that Roadmaster makes a kit specifically for the JL that will let you light up your dash LED in the RV and in my case the 3rd brake light at the same time. The kit has a bracket that attaches under the dash with an existing bolt and nut in the dash framework. There is a simple brake switch that installs in the bracket then one wire to the JL's battery for power and the other wire through the wiring to the RV for the dash LED. I spliced the 3rd brake light line into the RV dash LED line it works perfectly. Even when the JL has been sitting long enough the for power to time out so the brake lights won't light up when the pedal is pressed the 3rd brake light does. No interference with the anti-lock brakes, simple system. I did have to run a wire from the flasher, which I mounted inside the tailgate, up to the engine compartment where I spliced it to the RV LED brake signal line. I could have added diodes and spliced into the plug and play RV harness in the rear of the JL but the wire works and it’s less expensive. I also didn’t want to start cutting into that wiring harness.
On the JK I had an extra wiring harness with 2 wires that plugged in the front of the JK for the RV dash LED. I got smarter with the JL setup. The RV has a standard 7 prong RV plug and I put a 6 prong round plug on the front of the JL. I attached the lead from the additional brake switch to the electric brake lug on the 6 round plug then on the RV I took the hot lead to the dash LED and attached that to the electric brake lug on the RV plug. Now when I plug in the single wiring harness it not only powers up the JL's brake, tail and signal lights but also the RV dash LED and the 3rd brake light on the JL.
Any questions, fire away.
Here's links to what I used:
Rockjock towbar: https://www.rockjock4x4.com/ce-9033jlp
Readybrute Elite II: https://www.readybrake.com/store/p28..._Elite_II.html
Curt tow harness:
Stop light switch/bracket: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07GNNNXDG/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o01_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
3rd brake light flasher: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
This is an awesome write-up. I personally love this kind of information, documented in such a way so as others can leverage the knowledge.
Thanks Captain Skip!
How do you like the elite II towbar?
There is a post about the lack of rotation in one plane. Attached is picture of the difference in the u-joints. Top image elite II, bottom elite.
You answered my post over JLwrangler forum. As a follow-up over here. Do you like the connection of the rock jock baseplate to the bottom of the frame horn? I am worried about the push/pull stress on the bottom of the frame horn. It appears to me that more stress will be transferred through the frame horn than the attachment at the bumper.
Also, what is the height of the baseplate pins from the ground?
I'm really happy with the Readybrute Elite II. I don't have any trouble hooking it up at all. I posted on that other thread just now. The sliding part of the towbar arms rotate so that makes hooking up very easy. I pull the arm out and rotate as needed to fit the towplate mount and it goes right in. I actually prefer this to the older RB Elite with that pivot point at the hitch. That's a weak point from my point of view. If that knuckle wears out then you loose the whole vehicle. With the rotation occurring in the arm it's dividing the rotational stress in half. Yes, if I was going off roading pulling the JL then it might be an issue but the only off roading I do with the RV is pulling into a campground from the highway exit. The biggest thing I like about the RB towbar is the surge brake. I don't have to fuss around with boxes on the floor of the JL, hooking up levers to the brake pedal or any of that. The cable system is out of sight/out of mind inside the JL. I hook up the towbar, clip on the cable for the brake, clip on the cable for the emergency break away system, plug in the umbilical/electric cord and away I go. I can unhook the whole thing in about 30 seconds. It takes me longer getting the transfer case back into 2high from neutral than it does unhooking the whole tow setup.
I'm not all that concerned about the attachment points on the JL's bumper horns. There's 8 bolts holding the front of the Rockjock straight into the frame of the JL. If you had an aftermarket bumper that you hooked the towbar up to then you would be pulling through those same 8 bolts. The 4 bolts on the lower part of the Rockjock that bolt into the frame horn on the bottom just add more rigidity to everything. There may be some rotational force applied to the lower horns but I believe that the primary force is coming straight through the frame through those 8 bolts. The Rockjock is probably twice as thick as the frame horns and bridges the entire area between the two sides. If anything I think it's helping to stiffen the entire front framework of the JL. (I'm not an engineer but I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night!)
The center of the towpoint on my Rockjock is 17" from the ground. Mine is a standard Sport S so I don't know what the difference is for a Willy's or Rubicon with the higher suspension/wheel-tire combination. The good news for me is that on my JK I had to use a 4" drop into my RV hitch to get the +- 2" height for the towbar. My RV hitch is 18" and the JL connection is 17" so I'm only a 1" difference in height. That let me remove the drop hitch attachment which I never really liked. To me that was an issue as it was adding to the moment arm of the hitch. Now it's a straight line (within 1") pull from the mounting point on the towplate to the hitch and frame of the RV.
The other thing to ponder - what about the JLs with a bumper mounted winch? Do the winches bolt into the framework of the JL or do they just mount to the bumper? I don't know...don't have a winch. But, if they're just mounted to the bumper then all the pulling force on the winch is through the 8 bumper bolts. If they're mounted to the frame, do they mount to the lower horns too? I would think that the forces on a winch are probably more than those on a the Rockjock towplate as the force can be coming at more extreme angles to the frame.
All in all I would buy the Rockjock again and I would buy the Readybrute Elite II again.
Thanks for the info.
I'm not sure I remember posting this to this board yet. If I did, I apologize..
For those Jeep owners, spending $ on a base plate is fine if you are going to keep your current front bumper. I was wanting to upgrade mine to a metal one and hated the idea of burning $500 on a base plate only to not be able to use it after the bumper upgrade.
Rock Solid 4x4 fabricates some pretty tough bumpers and has a tow-bar attachment. Here's mine with the modification, plus we mounted the electrical plug and break-away switch inside the bumper for a clean look. Also, in case your concerned about the sturdiness of this bumper, the mount-points of the adapters are directly on the bumper mounts which are part of the Jeep frame. I had a couple engineers take a look at the finished product and both gave a solid thumbs up re strength.
I'm totally happy with my set up and just wanted to get it out there for anyone who is looking to trick-up their jeep beyond putting on the base plate.
Just remember to get it in writing that the bumper can be used to tow behind an RV.
On some bumpers those tow points are actually "recovery points" that may not be strong enough or designed for the different stresses caused by being towed behind an RV.
In fact many bumpers specifically state "Do not use this bumper to tow behind an RV."
Just like we use this RV forum, there are plenty of Jeep ones with threads, lists, and pictures of damaged bumpers that are not recomended or that failed when towing.
I have only used Smittybilt bumpers because they told me on the phone, and put it in writing that ALL of their bumpers are reinforced, and strong enough to be used as tow points behind an RV. Im sure there are other brands just verify it before purchasing.
Here is another current thread (posts from today) that many people are saying the EXACT same thing I just said above.
We don't own it anymore but this white one is one of our previous jeeps we towed using the bumper and the blue one is our current one with the Blue Ox base plate under the bumper. And last is one of our Gladiators with a Smittybilt in case we decide one day to start towing it.
Hope this helps.... Good luck!
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