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Old 04-13-2015, 09:31 PM   #1
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Preparing Abarth to be Flat Towed w/Blue Ox Hardware

Having owned our AI for around seven months and having taken it on a number of camping trips, we decided that we wanted to flat tow a vehicle. While the AI is easy to drive, it is 25' long and nearly 10' high. These dimensions do have some limitations, especially when traveling in large cities, which we plan to do next month on a trip that includes Philadelphia and Boston.

To that end, we traded in my wife's 2009 Mini Cooper S on a 2013 Fiat Abarth with 6200 miles. My wife liked her Mini but the company does not approve it for flat towing, even though we have seen some being towed. Our Mini was an automatic which also can be a complicating factor for flat towing. The Abarth is a manual and the steering wheel does not lock which is a plus.





One we had the car, I ordered the Blue Ox base plate that attaches to the car, the wiring kit, and the tow bar.






To install the base plate, the front bumper cover must be removed. Despite having had an invisible bra installed I still taped the fender edge.



The instructions are pretty decent and they recommended removing only some of the inner fender liner fasteners so it could be pulled back to access the bolt that mounts the bumper cover to the front fender. Access to the bolt was tight with a tough angle. I found it easier to remove the entire fender liner.



There are four T30 bolts on top that are revealed with the hood up and three more on the bottom. I marked the top area so I could make sure everything lined up when I put it back together.







The side marker and turn signal wiring plugs must be detached on both sides as well as the fog light plug on the driver's side only.







The cover is very light and was easily removed.





That big black thing in the center of the picture above is to be removed and the base plate installed using the original mounting bolts. They do recommend using loctite and properly torquing the bolts.







Once the base plate was in place, I had to install the safety straps. If, for some reason, the base plate detached from the car, the safety straps would keep the car from careening away. They wrapped around the upright where the bar was mounted and were attached to loops built into the base plate. The tie straps you see were an effort on my part to prevent rattling of the piece that connected the two ends of the strap.





Now came the hard to do part...cutting into the lower grill. Basically you hold up the front cover to where it touches the protruding parts of the base plate. I also looked at their online photos and counted the grill shapes below the safety chain bar and then, using my air powered hack saw, I cut around the bar. Once I had those cut and sticking out a bit, it was then easy to see where the cuts had to be made around the tow bar mounts.





And that completed the mechanical part of the installation. The tow bar is supposed to arrive tomorrow. Soon I will be bringing the AI home to hook it up and try it out. My next post will show how to wire the tow car to the AI.
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Old 04-13-2015, 10:04 PM   #2
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To that end, we traded in my wife's 2009 Mini Cooper S on a 2013 Fiat Abarth with 6200 miles. My wife liked her Mini but the company does not approve it for flat towing, even though we have seen some being towed.
Some Mini Coopers are towable four-down. The "S" model is not one of them. This according to the edition of Motorhome Magazine's annual "Guide to Dinghy Towing" that I read while I was still shopping for a toad to pull behind my Interstate back in 2013.
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Old 04-13-2015, 10:14 PM   #3
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The wiring kit comes with two bulb holders and a three way bulb that will function as running lights, turn signals and brake lights. The installation begins with removing both rear tail light assemblies. Easily done on the Abarth once the two screws are removed.





To replace light bulbs, the sealed center sections is removed. This exposes the rear of the lens.







Next is another hard to do part of this job...drilling a one inch hole in the rear of the housing. This will allow the installation of the extra bulb to work with the AI's wiring. The biggest issue here was trying to clean out the drilling debris. I tried using a vacuum cleaner but it only worked so well. Finally I took the housing to the sink in my garage and filled it with water a number of time and then quickly poured it out. This worked well but was not a one hundred per cent solution as there are still some small pieces visible. Silicone is used to seal the bulb holder.









To get the bulb wires out of the housing, I drilled a small hole in the plate I had removed. A standard four way trailer plug was then soldered to these wires as per the wiring diagram that was supplied.







Next I made a pigtail that would drop down between the body of the car and the rear bumper to get the wiring to the bottom of the car. After plugging this pigtail into my bulb plug, I tucked the wiring and plugs into the recessed area on the rear of the housing.





Now wanting to take apart the interior, I decided to run the wiring on the bottom of the car from the rear to the base plate. I then wired the two pigtails to each other and to the main four wire line that would power the newly installed bulbs. Critical to any wiring is making sure you have a good ground. I found a bracket near the rear of the car that had a hole that would work. I scraped away some paint and mounted it securely.





Originally I was going to run the wire down the driver's side but the exhaust complicated that idea. So it was down the passenger side with the wiring harness. I ran it across the back, found some hoses and lines to attach the harness and eventually made it to the area just ahead of the right rear wheel. The lower exterior side trim provided the bolts to mount the harness all the way to the front right wheel well. I then ran it up into and over the wheel well to the front of the car and then down to the base plate. The inner fender liner hid all of the wiring in the wheel well.

























Beneath one of the hooks for the safety chain, I fastened the four prong plug. From here there will be a harness that will run from the car to the adapter for my wiring plug on the AI.









My clean AI is in the storage building and it was threatening rain today so I hooked up some temporary wiring to the trailer plug on my car. The lights worked as they should so I was a very happy camper. I will make the harness to connect the car to the AI once I have the tow bar and have it hooked up to the AI. I also have to hook up the braking system for the car and plan on doing that tomorrow.
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Old 04-14-2015, 09:42 PM   #4
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The Blue Ox Tow bar arrived today. I mounted it to the base plate and put it into the stow position. My wife is already somewhat upset about the base plate protruding through the grill so she was really happy when she saw the tow bar. This Fiat Abarth is her daily driver.



However, I am planning on removing it unless we will only be driving the car for a short time. One reason is all the added weight on the nose of a car that has already been lowered. The other issue is restricted air flow to the cooling system. I have a cover for the tow bar so it will be placed in either the motor home or the car when not in use.

I also have a Brake Buddy Classic to use to actuate the brakes on the tow car when the brakes are applied by the motor home.



There is a break away switch that needs to be mounted. I am not finding good places for that switch and was waiting for the tow bar to arrive so I can see what I have to work with. I will spend some time on that tomorrow.

The Brake Buddy has a standard 12Volt plug to use to power it. Since the steering does not lock on the car, I do not want to turn on the ignition to power the standard 12v receptacle on the console. Rummaging through my drawer I found a 12V outlet that I had previously used on a motorcycle to power a GPS. I found that the #6 fuse in the fuse panel under the dash on the driver's side was constant 12V power. I used a fuse tap to power the 12V receptacle. I used zip ties to mount the receptacle and, once again, found a hole in the metal under the dash to use for the ground.







I had read online that some people powered the Brake Buddy from the motor home so you did not have to worry about running the battery dead on the tow car. I had also read that the clevis that mounts to the brake pedal did not work on Fiat 500's. So I called the factory.

I had a very helpful tech tell me that there is very little draw with the Brake Buddy so running down the battery should not be an issue. He also said that wiring from the motor home is a bad idea if the car became detached from the motor home. That 12V line would be severed and the Brake Buddy would not be powered to do its job of stopping the car.

As for the clevis, he brought it up before I did. He is sending me the correct one at no charge!! Can't beat that with a stick!!!
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Old 04-14-2015, 10:18 PM   #5
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Great detail. Thanks for all the photos that makes it look easy.

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Old 04-15-2015, 05:53 AM   #6
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Having a lift makes the job much easier. The lift doesn't care how many times you raise and lower the car to the optimum workspace height.
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Old 04-15-2015, 09:23 AM   #7
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One question comes up with your detail.

Why did you not go for the motorhome mounted Blue Ox? I agree the weight on the front a small car is a concern. Also, more susceptible to damage in the parking lots.

Just wondering if you had considered that?

Then you could mount a nice stainless bull bar on the grill mounts, for when your LOVE was cruising around town at other times.

Photo of my Blue Ox with cover on back of CLIPPER.


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Old 04-15-2015, 12:16 PM   #8
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I have a 2012 Mini Cooper convertible I flat tow behind my XC diesel but it's an automatic so very easy to set up (according to my dealer). Most of the time I use my Hummer H2 as my dinghy. It's an automatic, but because it's 4 wheel drive and (the crucial bit) you can push a button to place the transfer case in neutral if can be towed 4 down. I was at least three Road trips and with many hummer dead batteries. Before a fellow RV or informed me that I can leave the car's gear in park and leave the engine off (vs ACC) as long as the transfer case is in neutral.

I couldn't tell from your post if you had yet or not, but even with the tiny lightweight Fiat you should have an auxiliary braking system installed. The only downside, is those run off your car cigarette adapter, and you usually have to pull over every two hours to turn your car over to keep the battery from dying. Also, with any car you Flata auxiliary braking system installed. The only downside, is those run off your car cigarette adapter, and you usually have to pull over every two hours to turn your car over to keep the battery from dying. Also, with any car you tow four down, you need to pull over and crank the dinghy's engine to lubricate it's transmission. (I learned that one hard way...)

I'm impressed that the interstate has the towing power! Then again it is just a fancy Sprinter van. Don't think it could tow my H2, but hell even my 330hp Diesel engine needed some upgrades to give me more power uphill (I travel the Grapevine in CA monthly).

Wanna know a funny (sorta sad fact?) My 36' Airstream gets better MPG than my Hummer WHILE TOWING my Hummer!!

Anyways, happy trails and don't forget the braking system. It's required for all vehicles in my state.

-Lucas S
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Old 04-15-2015, 12:58 PM   #9
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I was at least three Road trips and with many hummer dead batteries. Before a fellow RV or informed me that I can leave the car's gear in park and leave the engine off (vs ACC) as long as the transfer case is in neutral.
So putting the engine in park and turning off the key doesn't lock your steering wheel? One reason for leaving the key in the ACC position on most toads is to ensure that the steering wheel is unlocked and can track properly, instead of the front wheels scrubbing sideways as you turn the tow vehicle.
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I couldn't tell from your post if you had yet or not, but even with the tiny lightweight Fiat you should have an auxiliary braking system installed.
Most states require brakes on trailers over 3000 pounds GTWR; when you tow a car four-down, legally it is a trailer, and so if the car's GVWR is over 3000 pounds, you need supplemental brakes. NB— for some states brakes are required over 1500 pounds GTWR. Check with your state's DMV to find out the requirements for your state of registry.
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The only downside, is those run off your car cigarette adapter, and you usually have to pull over every two hours to turn your car over to keep the battery from dying.
This is one reason I permanently installed a Roadmaster Invisibrake in my Honda Fit. It uses a six-pin connector on the front of the toad, not a four-pin, and the Sprinter's alternator provides charging voltage through one of the pins. Never had a dead toad battery no matter how far I've towed.
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Also, with any car you tow four down, you need to pull over and crank the dinghy's engine to lubricate it's transmission. (I learned that one hard way...)
On my Honda, I have to run the engine for a little over three minutes every 500 miles of towing— that distance is about typical for most automatic-transmission toads, I think. However, my Airstream Interstate can't go 500 miles between fill-ups unless I want to risk running out of fuel. So that works perfectly. Every time I stop for fuel, I run the toad's engine and cycle through the gearshift positions as per the Honda's owner's manual. It adds less than five minutes to every fuel stop, which is not an onerous requirement. But since I hardly ever tow even 500 miles in a single day anyway unless I have a family emergency, it's usually a non-issue.
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Old 04-15-2015, 03:06 PM   #10
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One question comes up with your detail.

Why did you not go for the motorhome mounted Blue Ox? I agree the weight on the front a small car is a concern. Also, more susceptible to damage in the parking lots.

Just wondering if you had considered that?

Then you could mount a nice stainless bull bar on the grill mounts, for when your LOVE was cruising around town at other times.

Photo of my Blue Ox with cover on back of CLIPPER.


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I didn't know they made a model like that.
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Old 04-15-2015, 03:42 PM   #11
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I am using a brake assist system. While the Fiat only weighs 2500 pounds, it I was pulling a 2500 pound trailer, I would surely want to have brakes. It only makes sense to have some type of brake assist.

The Brake Buddy Classic came with a break away switch. I understand a break away switch is required in most states. Beside that requirement, it makes sense to have someway to stop the tow vehicle if it ever parted ways with the motor home. There is a cable with two connectors on one end that has to be fed into the interior of the car so it can plug into the Brake Buddy. So my first step today was to find a way to get the wiring inside the car. After putting the car up on the lift, I discovered a row of rubber plugs on the bottom of the main frame rail. I pried off the one nearest the front of the car and felt something like padding. I stuck a probe into the material and it went through. I could feel it under the carpet.





The next step was to pull up the carpet on the driver's side. First I had to remove the door sill trim panel. It is held on by a Phillips screw at the front and a push in plastic fastener at the rear. By gently pushing up the center portion of the plastic fastener, I was able to remove it without damaging it. With the trim panel out, I could pull up the carpet which includes the dead pedal. And there was my probe.













Now that I knew I could feed the wire inside the car, it was time to run the wire from the nose of the car back to the hole I had discovered. To gain access to the back part of the grill, I removed the three T30 bolts that mount the bottom of the bumper cover to the car. By pulling down on the bumper cover I could reach forward to the bottom of the inside of the grill. After inserting the cable into a piece of convoluted tubing, I fed the breakaway cable through a hole under the left side tow hook and pulled it through. I removed the left front wheel well liner and ran the wire up and over the wheel well opening and then back to the hole and then inside the car.

















To seal the opening on the bottom of the car, I cut a notch on one side of the round rubber plug, re-inserted the plug, fed the wire through it and then caulked it.



On the inside of the car, I used a piece of left over Dynamat. This is a sound deadening material that has adhesive on one side. After cutting a hole in the middle, I fed the cable through it and then simply pressed the piece of Dynamat in place.



I then cut a mall hole in the carpet at the leading edge of the seat and pulled the cable through that hole. After coiling it up, I stored the cable under the seat.





To mount the break away switch on the front, I used zip ties. I ran two zip ties through the eye on the metal tab and then around the grill, one from beneath and the other from above. The other zip tie secured it to the tow hook. As the tech at Brake Buddy told me, as long as you can pull the tab out, it is secured well enough. It works.







I am now waiting for the brake clevis to arrive so I can complete the installation of the Brake Buddy.
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Old 04-15-2015, 03:52 PM   #12
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Great photos and descriptions, also great timing: I have been dollying, first a Honda Insight and currently a 1996 BMW 318ti but want to simplify, so started looking at used 500's, especially want to see if I can find an Abarth at a "reasonable" price.

If I do, I will give the photos and descriptions to my installer, heh, heh.
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Old 04-15-2015, 04:16 PM   #13
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My wife loves the car, although she hasn't driven it much lately because of my working on it.
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Old 04-15-2015, 04:35 PM   #14
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Check the exposed cable ties about once a year as they tend to deteriorate when exposed to sunlight. (as do most plastics w/o UV inhibitors)
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