The next step in getting our Jeep to tag along with us on our adventures is the Tow Bar. As described in Part 1, we are using the Blue Ox Alpha tow bar. ‘Installing’ that thing was easily the most simple part of this endeavor. Towing, here we come!
Installing the Tow Bar
The tow bar, in coarse terms, looks like a ‘Y.’ Two arms on one end, and a big bar on the other. The ‘big bar’ end slides into the receiver on the RV, and the ‘arms’ eventually slide into the baseplate on the RV. Each of these connections have heavy pins that hold them in place, with some sort of locking mechanism to make sure they don’t fall out. In order to make the bar harder to steal (you can see from the link, it ain’t cheap) I used a locking pin for the part that connects to the RV. (Like this)
I’ll go into the actual connections between the RV and Jeep later, but for the purposes of this article, suffice it to say, there are a few.
(or, since the tow bar install was so easy, here’s a bonus!)
When towing, you need to have your RV’s turn signals and braking relayed to the toad, such that when you indicate in the RV, it also indicates in the toad. One option is to use magnetic lights on the back of the toad connected to the wiring harness going back to the RV.
I opted for a permanent wiring job, using this kit. It connects to a wiring receiver on the bumper of the toad, runs down the length of it, and to new, dedicated bulbs in the brake-lights. This accomplishes two things:
1: No chance of forgetting to stick the magnetic lights on. (And i’m wont to forget things that I do a lot)
2: The Jeep battery isn’t part of the process, so it won’t be slowly discharged over time by using it, as minimal as it is.
To do the actual connecting, I needed to buy a receptacle for the Jeep bumper that had the right number of connections. I opted for the 6-blade connection, like this. That thing just bolts on to the baseplate we installed in Part I.
Here’s what I did, the gory details
The instructions include a good-enough wiring diagram to show you what do it, connection-wise. I needed to add the new bulbs and wiring to the brake-lights.
To make sure I had enough wire, I ran the wires from the baseplate (adding about a foot for safety), over the side of the engine compartment, down through the through-firewall grommet, then back along the driver’s side wall to the back of the Jeep. There is an existing grommet there for the stock brake light’s wiring. I made a small slit, then pulled the rest of the wire (probably 15-20′ left at this point) down in to the driver’s side rear space. There is a piece of plastic, easily movable that covers that area to keep dirt and stuff from being flung up near the gas filler tube. It’s a big open area.
Then, on the passenger side brake light, I opened it up. There is a small aluminum plate separating the reverse light from the brake/turn light. After marking an area where the new bulb wouldn’t hit an existing bulb, I drilled a hole just *barely* large enough to accommodate the new bulb, then slid the new one in, with the bulb on the bottom. There is a long sleeve covering the wiring leaving the housing and going back into the Jeep, so I cut a slit in that, and fished the new wires out, then crimped them to the wires leading up to the front of the RV, following the wiring diagram. I ran the wires from the passenger brake light to the driver’s brake light underneath, and above the gas tank, to keep it out of sight and safe. Then I did the same for the driver’s side.
After that, I connected the brake lights to the wire I ran from the front of the jeep, ultimately from from the baseplate.
*Before* installing the receptacle in the baseplate, do the wiring. Its a ton easier. I used this diagram to start.
I then tested by pulling the Jeep up to the RV and making sure everything worked. As it turns out (Ha! unintended pun!) some of the connections were reversed. I used an electrical tester to see which wires were hot when the RV brakes were on, turning signals, etc. I had gotten right and left mixed in with the brakes. (Essentially, I did the mirror image of the diagram, which is depicted as viewed looking into the socket, not in the back, where the wires actually attach.
Once I had everything wired up correctly, I went from front to back and used zip ties to tidy everything up, and make sure the wires were adequately protected (like, not rubbing on stuff, etc)
For me, this was pretty easy. The actual tow bar part isn’t really an installation. The wiring for the lights is slightly harder, but only barely. I’m pretty comfortable with electronic and electrical things, especially in vehicles. Admittedly, I’m no master, but Part II was *faaaar* easier than Part I. Now, Part III on the other hand …