Boomer is pretty awesome for the trips we currently take. Pretty comfortable, reasonably drivable, and fairly short. The problem is, its still a bit too big to take everywhere. We also have a really cool ’99 Jeep Wrangler TJ, which we’d really like to bring along.
Aside: We have ‘Boomer’ as the RV, what should the name of the Jeep be? Suggestions welcomed!
I’ve seen a lot of people towing Jeeps, so I knew it was possible, but what would I need? I did a bit of digging, and found there are a few necessities and considerations:
- Baseplate: (Part I) This is the heavy hunk of steel that is permanently bolted on to the frame of the toad to give the tow bar something to connect to. These are specific to a make/model of toad. And, there is compatibility required between the tow bar and base plate, though there are also adapters available.
- Tow Bar/Misc: (Part II) This is the thing that connects the RV to the towed vehicle. (a.k.a.: “Toad”, the Jeep in our case.) Connected to the RV via the existing tow hitch, and via the baseplate to the Toad.
- Supplemental Braking System: (Part III) The Toad is much lighter than the RV (for us: Jeep is about 3500ish lbs, and the RV is 16-17,000) but still would make a potentially dangerous difference in braking distance. Most states require supplemental braking for towed vehicles/trailers over a certain weight. Here in Virginia, its way less than the Jeep, at like 1500lbs. So we need this too.
- Installation: (getting ahead of myself a little) I decided to do the installation myself. Its totally do-able, but it took me several weekends to complete. (Between rain, my own limitations, and just needing to puzzle little things out) I am an engineer by trade, so I like to figure things out, but I am very far from a skilled mechanic. Others have commented that their installation took a few hours. Knowing what I know now, I would seriously consider paying to have the installation done professionally, or at least work with someone who knew what the hell they were doing. 🙂
What we chose:
Alright, so I know the things that I need. There are a bunch on the market, which to choose? I’ll skip right to the chase: I chose the Blue Ox Baseplate for the Jeep (there is a special version for ‘Tubular Bumpers,’ which we have) and the Blue Ox Alpha tow bar. These had received great reviews online, and had a capacity quite a bit above our requirements. (and above the rating of the tow hitch, so this thing wouldn’t be the weak point) I also added permanent wiring for the Brake lights/turn signals
For the Supplemental Braking, I went with the Roadmaster Invisibrake. There were two considerations for me here:
a) I didn’t like/trust the radio signaling some of the other braking systems used. I was particularly concerned with the ‘break away.’ I envisioned being passed by another RV, and our braking system getting confused, and locking up the brakes on the toad. I doubt this could really happen, but I didn’t like the idea. The InvisiBrake uses actual wires to talk between the RV and toad.
b) I wanted it to be hidden, and not require any set up when we start towing.
So, we opted for the ‘difficult install, easy thereafter’ solution.
On to the installation:
I started with the baseplate. This big chunk of metal plate bolts directly to the frame in the front of the Jeep. On the driver’s side, it re-uses the bolts to the steering box – which is easy enough. On the passenger side, it requires drilling into the Jeep frame itself, then finagling a ‘nut plate’ on the end of a wire into position *inside the frame*. This is the thing the new bolts screw in to. I have absolutely no experience with this type of installation, which was pretty finicky. Once I got the bolts started (and being super careful to not cross-thread, which is harder in this situation) it wasn’t that bad.
Issues Learning Opportunities
One issue I ran into (and is pretty common) is that the baseplate, once bolted on the driver’s side, didn’t line up evenly (on any axis, either) on the passenger side. I used a combination of ratchet straps, gigantic c-clamps, and a bottle jack to force it in place so I could use the baseplate as a drilling template. (See the pictures for the hilarity of this jury-rigging)
Also, this installation required a metal 13/32 drill bit, which is a little unusual. Others have commented elsewhere that a half-inch would work also (but would require enlarging the baseplate holes during the actual drilling) but I wanted to be safe, and ordered the right size and type online. If you’re thinking of doing this install, make sure you have this bit, and that its rated for the steel in the frame, not wood.
In any event, it took me a while to get the Bottle jack, c-clamps and ratchet straps to maneuver the passenger side in the best position. (And, I couldn’t loosen the bolts on the drivers side, for fear of misaligning the steering box, or snapping a bolt while attempting to pull the baseplate into position)
I used Loctite Red on the threads of the bolts, and a torque wrench on the bots. (and cheater bar as needed for leverage)
Once in place and bolted down (4 new holes in the frame, heavy bolts secured into nutplates, and snug/flat against the frame) it was pretty much done. I greatly dislike shiny/chrome stuff on the underside of the Jeep, so everything gets a coat of bedliner or undercoating as protection.
On to Part II!