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Old 09-15-2007, 07:53 PM   #1
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towing with tow dolly

I've had some mixed info about towing that I thought I could get cleared up. I would be towing a 1989 BMW 325i (automatic) and 1979 Fiat Spider (manual). Some would say that you should tow only upon disconnecting the drive shaft, with the front wheels up on the dolly. Others say you could back the car up with the drive wheels on the dolly ( others say they strap the steering wheel to the brake pedal). I read in the BMW owners manual that if one would like to avoid disconnecting the drive shaft, you can increase. the trans fluid level by a quart and then remove the excess upon removal from the dolly.

How would/does everyone else tow using a dolly? I am extremely confused! Is disconnecting the drive shaft a difficult job. I would just like to take my "classics" with me while camping for the weekend and do not want to invest in quick disconnects for the shaft

Any help would be appreciated!
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Old 09-15-2007, 08:15 PM   #2
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Disconnecting the driveshaft is not usually difficult. Put a small plastic bag over the end of the transmission, if it is open after removing the shaft. I have seen cars dollyed from the rear wheels, I would not want to do it. The steering will have an amount of play in it that will equate to sway while towing.
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Old 09-15-2007, 08:22 PM   #3
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How about the extra quart of trans fluid? Would this work without damage to the drivetrain?
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Old 09-15-2007, 09:19 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tandemfish
How about the extra quart of trans fluid? Would this work without damage to the drivetrain?
it might, but i wouldn't gamble the price of a BMW transmission!
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Old 09-15-2007, 09:23 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tandemfish
How would/does everyone else tow using a dolly? I am extremely confused! Is disconnecting the drive shaft a difficult job. I would just like to take my "classics" with me while camping for the weekend and do not want to invest in quick disconnects for the shaft

Any help would be appreciated!
Having to mess with the drive shaft or play games with the transmission is why we tow our Triumphs with a trailer. Lot less hassle and no wear and tear on the Triumph. Adds a little weight but with brakes on the trailer its not noticeable.

Just my $0.02

Brad
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Old 10-12-2007, 09:36 AM   #6
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I initially decided to buy and use a tow dolly to tow a VW Passat behind my '94 LY. It turned out to be a huge mistake and a nightmare beyond description. Firstly, if you get into a tight situation and need to back up, you have to remove the car from the dolly (I tried to back up and the whole kit and caboodle jacknifed). This means you also have to have room to back your car off the dolly. If it is wet outside, you will have a messy jub removing the tie downs from the wheels, sliding the ramps out, etc.. At one point, we were going through a campground that has large speed bumps made of 6x6 wood. I carefully and v-e-r-y slowly went over them; but that didn't stop one of them from catching the rear fender of the VW Passat (remember, by useing a tow dolly, the front is raised up and the rear is lowered) and breaking it off the frame mount - an expensive repair.

On our last trip with the tow dolly, my back spasmed out and I had to dose myself with Tylenol 3's in order to haul out the ramps and move the car off the dolly. I had originally chosen the dolly because I though it was a less costly alternative to the tow bars -- that was not the case.

So I took our old '92 Mazda 323, had a base plate installed and got a set of tow bars made by Night Shift Auto (see RV Tow Bars and RV Surge Braking Systems for Car Towing - Night Shift Auto ) that has a surge brake system built in. It's a 3-minute job to hookup and unhook the Mazda from the tow bars, and it is much easier to handle. Not only that, storage of the tow bars means just slipping them into a storage compartment of the motorhome.

True, the recommended tow vehicle should have a standard transmission, but there are some aftermarket pumps available to keep the transmission oil flowing for an automatic transmission so that you can tow in neutral without damaging the transmission.

My recommendation, based on experience with both a tow dolly and tow bars is forget the dolly and go with the tow bars.

As an addendum, it is highly recommended that there be a braking system for the towed car (the dolly had surge brakes). I shied away from the Brake Buddy and similar electronic brakes as I was concerned that they might engage with greater braking that necessary, which would only damage the towed car's brakes. The surge system that I got aleviates that concern. Not only that, but since it is totally mechanical, the liklihood of electronic/electric malfunction is zilch. As for the cost factor - a new dolly costs more than new base plate, tow bars & installation.
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Old 10-12-2007, 10:08 AM   #7
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After doing a lot of homework, I decided to do the same thing.
We got the NiteShift tow bar with the serge brake built in. We will be towing a '76 Porsche 912E. We are presently in the process of making our own base plate assy. No one makes one for a Porsche. Go figure.
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Old 10-12-2007, 10:30 AM   #8
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Depending on the transmission design, even some manuals don't like to be flat towed in neutral. It's kinda tough to explain in a written format but if it's in neutral and you can spin the transmission output shaft and it does not rotate any of the gears that sit low and into the gear lube, you will have trouble. I had my Samurai lock it's self into 3rd gear while being towed through Houston at 5:30 PM rush hour. The 3rd gear welded to the output shaft .
It was not a 4 X 4 but by converting it over, the transfer case would self lube in neutral during towing, no problems since
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Old 10-12-2007, 10:51 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blkmagikca
So I took our old '92 Mazda 323, had a base plate installed and got a set of tow bars made by Night Shift Auto (see RV Tow Bars and RV Surge Braking Systems for Car Towing - Night Shift Auto ) that has a surge brake system built in. It's a 3-minute job to hookup and unhook the Mazda from the tow bars, and it is much easier to handle. Not only that, storage of the tow bars means just slipping them into a storage compartment of the motorhome.
Wow I really like the looks of the surge brakes by Night shift Auto. Susan and I are going to seriously look at installing one this winter on our Honda Civic.

Thanks for the great info!

Brad
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Old 10-12-2007, 03:28 PM   #10
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Hey thanks to everyone I too was looking at a dolly, but you have changed my mind.
Rob
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Old 10-12-2007, 03:39 PM   #11
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I believe in some states (if not all), the towed vehicle is required to have operating brakes.

Susan
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Old 10-13-2007, 09:59 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alumatube
I believe in some states (if not all), the towed vehicle is required to have operating brakes.

Susan
From what I gather, there are different laws in every state and province dealing with towed vehicles (trailers) as to at what weight of trailer/towed vehicle brakes are required. In addition, from what I hear, some states don't approve of certain types of brake activators (such as the Buddy Brake), perhaps for the same reason that I bypassed it - my fear that it would malfunction, activating the Mazda 323 brakes while being towed by an alomost 20,000 lb motorhome. Such a scenario could be a nightmare - tires ripped right off the car. So the purely mechanical surge brake system is a real winner. It can never excessively apply the towed car's brakes because the moment that the towed car is slower than the motorhome, the surge mechanism releases the car's brakes.

Backing up is NOT an option - it cannot be done, as it immediately invokes the car's brakes. That's fine with me, as backing up with a tow dolly cannot be done either, as the dolly, in most instances, also has a surge brake system.
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Old 10-13-2007, 10:11 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robfike
After doing a lot of homework, I decided to do the same thing.
We got the NiteShift tow bar with the serge brake built in. We will be towing a '76 Porsche 912E. We are presently in the process of making our own base plate assy. No one makes one for a Porsche. Go figure.
Rob
That's a bummer. Did you try contacting the Blue Ox people? As you know, having dealt with Night Shift, their tow bars can be ordered for use with either the Roadmaster or Blue Ox base plates. For the Mazda I found that the Blue Ox was a better built base plate. It also did not protrude as much in the front as did the Roadmaster.

If you are making your own, you might want to look into some sort of square tube arrangement in the front such that you could remove the parts of the base plate that would obviously protrude in the front when you are not in travel mode - e.g., at each side of the base plate have 1-inch square tubing welded just like a hitch receiver and have 1-inch square rod fit in, secured with a locking pin, and swing out front and up to a height of at least 13-inches from the ground to the fittings to secure to the tow bars.

Keep in mind, too, that you need to have some provision in the front for the "umbilical cord" for the running & signal lights, the loop for the brake cable and the loop for the runaway brake mechanism. Do install the Night Shift brake runaway system - it completes the legal requirements for some states & provinces and is a good safety measure. It's kind of neat how it works too, using a breakable link.
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Old 10-13-2007, 11:05 AM   #14
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For those still wondering how their vehicle should be towed (for any reason), AAA has a lot of info on that for obvious reasons. All of their tow drivers carry a manual that lists recommended procedures for each model.
But as stated earlier, not all can be towed with drive wheels on roadway, some have to be dollied or put on a flatbed.
Dave
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