The Freightliner Chassis Owners Club had an article in their Winter 2017 publication of RV Soul on the importance of having a towing checklist. They credit the list to Blue Ox, a company that specializes in products for motorhome owners to flat tow their vehicles.
Here is the list:
- Inspect the tow bar, dolly or trailer for loose bolts and worn part – tighten or replace before hooking up. If you have bolts that are consistently coming loose, use Loctite® or put on a double nut to keep them tight.
- Hook up on a flat, smooth surface.
- If you have a coupler-style tow bar, check the fit of the coupler on the ball. Adjust if necessary.
- Hook up the tow bar.
- Set up the towed vehicle’s steering and transmission to tow.
- Check your parking brake to ensure it is off and disengaged.
- Latch the legs on a self-aligning tow bar.
- Attach the safety cables. Cross the cables between the vehicles and wrap the cables around the tow bar legs to keep from dragging.
- Attach the electrical cable and tow brake system connections.
- Check the function of all lights on both vehicles.
- Locate your spare key and lock the towed vehicle’s doors.
- Drive with care and remember your vehicle will be about 25 feet longer while towing.
- Each time you stop, make sure to check the tow bar, baseplate and safety cables to ensure they are still properly attached. Pay particular attention to the hitch clips and pins that secure your tow bar or drop hitch to the motorhome hitch. Many breakaways occur because a pin clip has been removed and the pin drops out, allowing the toad to be dragged on the safety cables. Check the tires of the towed vehicle to make sure they are not going flat. If you are using a dolly or trailer, check the wheels to make sure they are not hot to the touch. If the wheels are hot, it may indicate a brake or bearing problem.
- Before you start each day, check the lights to make sure they are working properly.
- Between trips, clean the tow bar and cables to keep them in good shape. Also, clean and lubricate the tow bar as recommended by the manufacturer’s instructions (usually by applying spray silicone lubricant).
- Have a checklist. It’s just too easy to get distracted and forget something (like ignition position, emergency brake, breakaway hook-up, transmission in wrong position, etc.).
- Make sure you have a second key to the tow vehicle. That way you can leave your rig parked and hooked up without having to worry about unlocked doors.
- Check all the connections every time you fuel up or make a rest stop.
- Never let yourself be interrupted when hooking up. Keep your mind on your work.
There were a few items that stood out for me. Making sure that we have a second key to the tow vehicle safely stowed. Checking hitch clips and pins. And having a thorough checklist.
I remember reading about Nina and Paul, the couple behind the popular Wheeling It blog, when they had their first RV accident in 2016: their tow car came loose while in transit. They avoided a potentially devastating accident although they did incur a fair amount of damage to their toad and some damage to the rear of their coach. One of the big lessons that they learned through the experience:
More Regular Checks On The Road: It’s possible we could have avoided all this by implementing more checks on the road. When we first hook-up we follow a pretty rigorous process where both of us double-check each others’ work (4x check), so we know without a doubt that the cotter pins were firmly on there when we started driving. But once we start driving we generally don’t check again. In this case we took a ferry (we were stopped for a while) and then had some bumpy driving thereafter and admittedly we did not double-check the tow connections after either of those events. I honestly have no idea if this would have helped (we really don’t know exactly when we lost the cotter pin), but I think that getting into the habit of walking around the rig and doing a double-check of tow connections whenever you are stopped (or things significantly change) is a good idea.
One thing I do think about when getting ready to travel is to treat every trip as a new trip and to be disciplined in running through our circle checks. Sometimes I just want to hop in and get started as quickly as possible. Easy to do in a car. Not safe to do in a large motorhome.