Hooking Up Your Toad To Your Motorhome

Once you have obtained the proper pieces to safely tow your vehicle behind your motorhome, the next step is to know the right way to hook up and attach all the pieces.

First, you need to attach the tow bar pieces to the baseplate of your vehicle. My Dodge Dakota has the “almost hidden style” of baseplate, so I need to plug the adapter bars into my base plate. They are held in place with pins and clasps, but I also add padlocks on each adapter. That way, I have better peace of mind that they will stay in place even if one of the pins should happen to come loose.

Next, the tow bar itself is positioned over the adapters and then attached to the adapters using padlocks (or pins). The tow bar is usually attached with simple pins, but, again, I prefer the security of using padlocks—especially so that my tow bar doesn’t “disappear” if I am inside a store shopping for a lengthy period of time.

Once the tow bar is securely attached to your toad, it is time to “hook up” with your motorhome. Obviously, you need enough room to get the toad behind the motorhome and relatively straight. The foldable tow bars have a “fudge factor” that allows them to be shortened or lengthened (within a few inches or so)—so you don’t have to have the car and motorhome in exact alignment. The V-bar style tow bar requires that you and your partner get the toad exactly lined up so that the cup on the front of the tow bar is aligned with the ball on the motorhome. Once the cup and ball are mated, be sure that the latch on top of the cup is fully seated and is latched. (It is possible to set the cup on the ball in such a way that the latch will not catch—and your toad can come loose.) After attaching the tow bar, and latching the cup and ball, always give the bar a good jerk upwards to be sure that it is not going to pop loose. I always put a long shanked padlock through the holes on the latch—if the padlock will go through the holes, the cup and ball are properly connected. Putting the padlock on the ball and cup also gives me assurance that there is no way that the latch can come undone and allow the toad to separate from the motorhome. Also give the tow bar a side-to-side pull—if there is any movement, check and retighten the nut holding the ball to the draw bar. (You should carry a large appropriate socket and breaker bar to get the nut securely tightened. In a pinch, a large pipe wrench will work, but the jaws tear up the nut faces.)

TIP: graphic of a light bulb Before putting the tow bar on your hitch ball, put a small dab of lithium grease on the top of the hitch ball and spread it around a wee bit. (This extra lubrication cuts down on the internal wear of the ball cup.)

Of course, you have already purchased some safety cables which are a required part of the towing stuff. I find it most convenient to use the type of safety cables that are pre-coiled steel cables inside a blue vinyl jacket.

It is important that the safety cables connect the frame of the toad (not the bumper ) and the frame of the motorhome. I use “repair links” (large chain links with a turn-buckle-style nut on one side allowing me to slip it through a hole and then screw the link closed) to connect my toad through holes already drilled in the baseplate (which is bolted to my truck frame). It would do me no good (from a safety or legal standpoint) to attach the safety cables only to the adapter bars (since they can come loose from the toad). (Some folks use very short safety cables from the adapter bars to the frame of their vehicle, but to me this is just extra garbage cluttering up the front of my toad.)

TIP: graphic of a light bulb The best way to run the safety cables from your toad to your motorhome is by wrapping the cables around the arms of your tow bar three or four times and then crossing them over before you attach the hook ends to your motorhome. In other words, the left safety cable is attached to the right side of the motorhome hitch plate, and the right safety cable is attached to the left side of the motorhome hitch plate. This arrangement acts as a sling to catch and support your tow bar if it ever comes loose from the motorhome.

OK, your toad is now safely attached to your motorhome, but you are not done yet. There are a few more things to do. The next task is to attach your toad lighting cable between the toad and the motorhome. Since some motorhomes are wired with a four-wire connector, some with six-wire connectors, and some with seven-wire connectors, know what type you have before you go out and buy a cable. Be sure that you leave some slack in the cable so that you can make a hard turn without pulling on the cable and causing it to break.

And, lastly, you need to attach the break-away cable from your motorhome chassis or hitch to the break-away plug on your toad. When doing this, leave enough slack so that you can turn a tight corner and not have the break-away cable pull loose.

Each manufacturer of toad braking systems has their own instructions for putting the braking system device in your toad, hooking it up, and getting it ready for travel—so I won’t go into the details here. Just be sure that you have done all the steps, including putting the toad’s ignition key in the steering column and turning it one position, as well as remembering to release the parking brake.

Once everything is hooked up, it is time to make one last walk-around and test before you hit the road. Lift up on the tow bar and make sure that is it securely fastening to the hitch ball. Check the safety cables and be sure that they are fastened to the welded part of the motorhome hitch and that the hooks are fully snapped closed. Visually check both ends of the toad light cable to be sure that each end is locked in place. Give them a gentle tug to be sure that they won’t come out by themselves. Then, be sure that the break-away cable is attached to the motorhome frame and that the plug is fully inserted in the toad.

Now, double check the auxiliary brake system to be sure that everything is working OK. Hit the test switch and see that the toad brakes do indeed come on. Look to see that your parking brake on the toad has been released, and then double check that the key in the ignition has been turned one position so that the wheels turn. Give the wheel a hard pull and see that they actually turn, and while you are at it make sure that the wheels are straight and not turned to one side.

Most auxiliary braking systems are designed to supply their own pedal power, without relying on the toad's power brake booster, so always bleed the vacuum off your toad brakes before driving off.

TIP: graphic of a light bulb Always hit the test switch several times—to bleed the power brake system in your toad. Otherwise, the first time that the auxiliary brake system activates, your toad will attempt to come to a very abrupt halt.

Lastly, test the motorhome and toad together to be sure that the toad lights are working along with the motorhome lights—tail lights, brake lights, left turn signal, and right turn signal. The first time that you do this, be sure that the turn signal wires have not been reversed— with the motorhome indicating that it is turning in one direction and the toad indicating the opposite direction. If everything checks out, give yourself a pat on the back—you are finally ready to hit the road.

It is a good idea to get in the habit of always checking that your toad lights are being activated from the motorhome—before you drive off on your next adventure. An accumulation of road grime and oxidation on the pins and sockets of your toad and/or motorhome connectors sometimes interfers with a good electrical connection.

Some folks simply squirt a little WD-40 in the socket, while others use extra-fine steel wool on a Q-Tip to get into the small sockets. Then, there are yet other RVers who choose to put a dab of dielectric grease on the pins before inserting the plug into the socket.

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