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Old 01-21-2020, 11:09 AM
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Tow Behind

Good morning all. I have a friend at work that has a motor home and is looking for answers to general questions about a tow behind vehicle. As I know nothing about it and a good many of you probably do I decided to throw it out there.
Question 1 - What is involved in making a vehicle ready to tow?
Question 2 - What is the average cost to get said vehicle ready?
Question 3 - What are the pros and cons of a tow behind vehicle?

Of course, any other guidance or advice is much appreciated.

Thanks in advance,

Andy

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Old 01-21-2020, 11:24 AM   #2
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Those are good, basic questions to begin asking. There are a few websites that list what makes/models/years are towable. If your friend searches for something like “2018 dinghy guide” they will find a list. There will be a list for most every year.

I bought my JKU because it is easily setup for towing. There are lots of tow bars and braking options. I spent about $600 on a towable front bumper and another $1,500 on a NSA ReadyBrute tow bar system. Some people prefer a powered braking system.

Having a towed vehicle on a trip is an awesome improvement. We used to have to disconnect our MH to make sightseeing trips. Now we just take the Jeep places.

There are sites that will sometimes have a vehicle for sale that is tow-ready. IRV2.com comes to mind. There are likely others.

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Old 01-21-2020, 02:59 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by TexasCJTJK View Post
Question 1 - What is involved in making a vehicle ready to tow?
Question 2 - What is the average cost to get said vehicle ready?
Question 3 - What are the pros and cons of a tow behind vehicle?

Of course, any other guidance or advice is much appreciated.

Andy
1 & 2. Need a tow bar to attach the Jeep to the RV. I use a Blue Ox tow bar but there are other brands. This runs about $500 or so. You also need a way to attach the tow bar to the Jeep. You can get a "baseplate" from Blue Ox that is about $500 or do as I did and get a bumper that has tow points. My bumper setup is about $1,300 but I wanted it to fit offroad lights and a winch too. You will need a braking system. I use the Blue Ox Patriot brake controller but they are expensive, around $1,500. If I were doing it over, I would get the setup that uses a cable to pull the brake pedal for $200 or so. Finally you need a taillight wiring kit to engage the park lights when the RV lights are on. You can get a Hopkins kit that is plug-and-play from etrailer.com for about $60.

3. The pros is Jeeps are very easy to tow. Hook up tow bars, break away chains, break away brake cable and tail light wiring. Put Jeep trans in Park, transfer case in Neutral and away you go. No trailer to deal with, don't have to put the key in the ignition for most newer model years. Much easier to tow a Jeep behind and RV than tow a camper behind a truck. I love it and wouldn't go back to a camper.

Here is a video I did on towing a Wrangler.

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Old 01-21-2020, 05:27 PM
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I appreciate the information and the assist. Thank you much.
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Old 01-22-2020, 10:49 AM   #5
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I think these guys got you covered but I'll throw in my 2 cents.

Tow Bar - YES, get one with appropriate weight rating, etc. I searched Craigslist for a few months to get a good deal on a lightly used one, they are expensive. (I think I got it for 500, can't remember)

Baseplate - OR as noted proper bumper that connects the hooks to the frame. Tell your friend to look up baseplate to get a cost for their vehicle. This is the cheapest option, but I like the others chose a bumper, cause it was a good excuse to upgrade. (Mine was $1000)

Brake system - Similar to above, I got a BrakeBuddy from Craigslist to save a few bucks. It presses the brakes as needed, and a small hookup in case of break away. I think I paid 300, can't remember

Tail Lights - You need a way to activate your taillights or have a separate set. This is like 50 bucks in a jeep and basically wires that are tied up under that plug into the back. Easy.

PROS - As said nice to have the Jeep, easy disconnect and off we go, where ever we want without sucking 8 MPG taking the RV.

CONS - Tire/vehicle wear and tear. Could be avoided if you did a trailer and the RV could handle the weight.
Since you are towing reduced MPG
My RV has a backup camera so that gives a little piece of mind, but still don't like having little control over the vehicle I'm pulling.
For the Jeep,I have to be careful with upgrades to not add too much weight. My towing capacity is 5K lbs, which for a 4-door JK, I'm already close to the limit, add bumpers, tires and too much more and I'm in trouble.
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Old 01-23-2020, 08:57 AM   #6
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I tow mine with my RV about 4 times a year.

I got a used brake buddy, a cheap 5000 lb rated tow bar from Quadratec, and I use the D-ring tabs on my front bumper to connect. I made a light bar out of spare parts that goes on the back and a wire that just runs under the jeep to connect.

Cons: The cheap tow bar means I have to align it perfectly to hook up. If I'm by myself during hookup, it often takes getting in and out two or three times to get it aligned, especially if on any kind of incline. The bumper isn't rated to tow, but I've looked at all of the welds and how it attaches to the frame and don't see any improvement over a base plate. Connecting the lights is a pain.

Pros: I'm only out $450 for the whole thing.

What am I going to change? I'm going to take the design of the tow bar and fab my own out of heavier stock. I don't like the way it attaches with 3/8" Pins, I'll be using 3/4" Tractor lift pins to connect.

I'll spring for an internal wiring kit and use the jeep tail lights rather than my external light bar.

So, the steel for the fab work and hardware will be about $100. A rattle can for paint, and $60 for a wiring harness from etrailer.

I've got about 3000 miles with this setup and it's serviceable.

All that said, a JK is by far the easiest thing to tow behind an RV.
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Old 01-23-2020, 08:27 PM
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Again, thank you all for your advice and input. Your knowledge base has frightened, no it has scared the crap out of him so he is going to put his tow on a trailer. He is a farm boy and used to pulling trailers and a flat tow was something he had no knowledge of. He also doesn't want the extra worry and wear and tear, especially if he is going to see his son play ball.
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Old 01-23-2020, 09:32 PM   #8
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I wouldn’t be scared of it. Using a trailer is good but it also adds a lot of weight. Either way, I hope it works out for him.
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Old 01-24-2020, 06:59 AM   #9
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Agree, nothing to be scared of. Actually pretty simple once you have what you need. I never pulled a trailer or a flat tow before I first towed the Jeep. First time out I towed it from PA to SC, no issues. Really easy to pull. If you have a backup camera it eases any concern, and other than tires the wear and tear is minimal with the Jeep.
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Old 01-24-2020, 05:01 PM   #10
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Personally, I'd flat tow rather than a trailer a car.. I tow my '08 JKS using the ready Brute Elite Towbar, Blue Ox Baseplate, and Ready Brute breakaway setup for emergency braking. If you are running a diesel pure RV, may make more sense using an air supplied /pressured se up for brakes. I use a 35' Class A V-10 to tow the JKS and t works great. Total cost to set up is anywhere from $2K - $3K depending on who does and what all you have done. This includes wiring for toad lights.
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Old 01-24-2020, 11:03 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by jp4me View Post
1 & 2. Need a tow bar to attach the Jeep to the RV. I use a Blue Ox tow bar but there are other brands. This runs about $500 or so. You also need a way to attach the tow bar to the Jeep. You can get a "baseplate" from Blue Ox that is about $500 or do as I did and get a bumper that has tow points. My bumper setup is about $1,300 but I wanted it to fit offroad lights and a winch too. You will need a braking system. I use the Blue Ox Patriot brake controller but they are expensive, around $1,500. If I were doing it over, I would get the setup that uses a cable to pull the brake pedal for $200 or so. Finally you need a taillight wiring kit to engage the park lights when the RV lights are on. You can get a Hopkins kit that is plug-and-play from etrailer.com for about $60.

3. The pros is Jeeps are very easy to tow. Hook up tow bars, break away chains, break away brake cable and tail light wiring. Put Jeep trans in Park, transfer case in Neutral and away you go. No trailer to deal with, don't have to put the key in the ignition for most newer model years. Much easier to tow a Jeep behind and RV than tow a camper behind a truck. I love it and wouldn't go back to a camper.

Here is a video I did on towing a Wrangler.

How to flat tow a Jeep Wrangler
Funny, that first image in the video is very familiar looking...

But seriously, most has been covered. It’s really quite easy, though, and if you have experience towing, it’s really no different other than you shouldn’t back up.

Our setup is a LoD bumper set up with the above blue ox bar. Braking is via an RVi brake and lights by a harness that was plug and play into the OEM harness. Stupid easy to set up and the bus doesn’t even know the Jeep is there.

We’ve dragged the Jeep around for about 10k miles with no apparent wear or tear.

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Old 01-27-2020, 02:33 PM   #12
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As I understand it, backing up with a flat-towed vehicle doesn't work unless you're just going a few feet without turning. So, that would be an advantage to using a trailer.
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Old 01-27-2020, 05:12 PM   #13
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As I understand it, backing up with a flat-towed vehicle doesn't work unless you're just going a few feet without turning. So, that would be an advantage to using a trailer.
Correct. The tow bars aren't made for backing up and the Jeep manual tells you not to back up.
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Old 01-27-2020, 06:55 PM   #14
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I will add that I totally respect the "farm boy" mentality. If you have a trailer (or can get one for cheap) and the tow vehicle is sufficient, I respect that choice. I've towed my TJ and there are several things you must remember (release the e-brake, put it in gear, set up the lights, brake buddy or equivalent setup, emergency brake release, etc). If you forget one of these things, you can do serious damage to your Jeep (or maybe someone else's vehicle). Checklists are your friend. But, if you are used to putting on a trailer and the checklist is a natural in your head...I get why you would go with known.
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Old 01-28-2020, 11:37 PM   #15
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Thanks for asking about flat towing.

My apology for hijacking this thread but it seems easier that starting a fresh one.

This week I'm looking at an '09 2DR Sport and a 14 2DR Sport. My understanding is that the '09 will require key in ignition for steering lock. The 14 will not. I will soon find out if this is true. I'll probably spring for the '09 since it will be approx $10k cheaper. I will be using that vehicle solely as a towed vehicle, not as a 'fun' or everyday vehicle.

I have a diesel pusher. What is not answered in this thread is "power" to or from the jeep. If I buy the '09 I have to leave the key in the ignition. What about battery drain? I believe I have read (but yet to actually see it for real) that there is an 'intermediate' ignition position between 'off' and 'accessory'. Will this position (if it exists):
a) unlock the steering? If not, then accessory. What about battery?
b) disable the odometer turnover of miles
c) consume jeep battery power in this intermediate position?

My plan is the purchase a Blue Ox system and an M&G air brake system. With all the extras for break-away, brake lts, etc. & installation by vendor it may run as high as $5K. Unfortunately I am at a point in life that I can no longer do this sort of work myself so will be paying for the install.
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Old 01-29-2020, 07:00 AM   #16
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What is not answered in this thread is "power" to or from the jeep. If I buy the '09 I have to leave the key in the ignition. What about battery drain?
I attempted to wire up a battery charger to the Jeep that would draw power from the 7 pin plug on the RV. I did something wrong and smoked the ground wire on the harness. So I have no power going from the RV to the Jeep and so far so good after 2 seasons. I tow as much as 6 to 7 hours in a day and I use the Blue Ox Patriot brake controller which plugs into the cig lighter in the Jeep for power.

I start the Jeep and let it idle for 20 minutes mid way through my day while I eat lunch. I have been using a multi-meter to check the battery and so far it has been maintained at a good level.

Now I also have a Dometic fridge in the Jeep but I have to leave it off while I tow as it would be too much draw I believe. So ultimately I want something to keep the battery charged but haven't figured out what. May resort to a solar panel and charger as I want to go overlanding as well.

Good luck.
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Old 01-29-2020, 11:14 AM   #17
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Thanks for asking about flat towing.

My apology for hijacking this thread but it seems easier that starting a fresh one.

This week I'm looking at an '09 2DR Sport and a 14 2DR Sport. My understanding is that the '09 will require key in ignition for steering lock. The 14 will not. I will soon find out if this is true. I'll probably spring for the '09 since it will be approx $10k cheaper. I will be using that vehicle solely as a towed vehicle, not as a 'fun' or everyday vehicle.

I have a diesel pusher. What is not answered in this thread is "power" to or from the jeep. If I buy the '09 I have to leave the key in the ignition. What about battery drain? I believe I have read (but yet to actually see it for real) that there is an 'intermediate' ignition position between 'off' and 'accessory'. Will this position (if it exists):
a) unlock the steering? If not, then accessory. What about battery?
b) disable the odometer turnover of miles
c) consume jeep battery power in this intermediate position?

My plan is the purchase a Blue Ox system and an M&G air brake system. With all the extras for break-away, brake lts, etc. & installation by vendor it may run as high as $5K. Unfortunately I am at a point in life that I can no longer do this sort of work myself so will be paying for the install.
Depending on who you talk to, the last year for the steering wheel lock on the JK was 2008 / 2009. I have a 2008 JKS and it has the steering wheel lock. What I found to be the simplest (other than tearing wheel apart and deactivating the lock) was to make up a "dumb" key that will turn the ignition on, but not start the vehicle. I leave this in the "on" position while towing behind my MH. As to the battery - I have a knife switch on the battery so I can disconnect the battery once hookup to tower is complete and not allowing battery to drain. Once at destination, you just reverse hookup process by closing the knife switch first, then go from there.

The odometer will not work when the transfer can is in neutral, so no worries there about adding miles.

Disconnecting battery resolves consumption issue.

Take a hard look at the Ready Brute Elite tower as it resolves the issue of air lines, etc running back to jeep. For a Blue Ox baseplate, Ready Brute towbar, and wiring for lights on Jeep - should not cost you more than about $3K, total. With this setup, all you are looking at is having installer put in baseplate, run cable from Jeep brake pedal to front of Jeep, and then wiring harness for jeep running and brake lights.
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Old 01-29-2020, 12:22 PM   #18
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I attempted to wire up a battery charger to the Jeep that would draw power from the 7 pin plug on the RV. I did something wrong and smoked the ground wire on the harness. So I have no power going from the RV to the Jeep and so far so good after 2 seasons. I tow as much as 6 to 7 hours in a day and I use the Blue Ox Patriot brake controller which plugs into the cig lighter in the Jeep for power.

I start the Jeep and let it idle for 20 minutes mid way through my day while I eat lunch. I have been using a multi-meter to check the battery and so far it has been maintained at a good level.

Now I also have a Dometic fridge in the Jeep but I have to leave it off while I tow as it would be too much draw I believe. So ultimately I want something to keep the battery charged but haven't figured out what. May resort to a solar panel and charger as I want to go overlanding as well.

Good luck.
I us the RVI Towed Battery Charger. I also have a fridge and it works fine with this device.

https://rvibrake.com/products/towed-...BoCOhoQAvD_BwE
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Old 01-29-2020, 06:20 PM   #19
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I have been looking into this as well. However, for the price of a solid, well made flat tow setup, you can easily get a car hauler trailer with brakes off of Craigslist. I see several under $2k with just a quick search. However, not everyone has a place to keep a trailer when not in use.

My parents lived the RV life for 15 years and used a car dolly and Brake Buddy for tens of thousands of miles with their Jeep. When they traded their Jeep for a different or newer one though the years, they didn't have to deal with setting up the new rig every time.
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Old 01-29-2020, 06:34 PM   #20
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My parents lived the RV life for 15 years and used a car dolly and Brake Buddy
Now that's an interesting combination. Was the dolly itself braked? If not, I would imagine the Jeep's rear wheels would tend to lock up during panic braking, since most of the Jeep's weight isn't on them...
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Old 01-29-2020, 10:50 PM   #21
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Depending on who you talk to, the last year for the steering wheel lock on the JK was 2008 / 2009.
First thing I checked today when looking at car. The steering wheel on this 2009 2dr Wrangler Sport X can be turned with no key in the ignition.

Quote:
As to the battery - I have a knife switch on the battery so I can disconnect the battery once hookup to tower is complete
So what powers the brake lights & turn signals? I guess it is whatever wiring kit you get and it comes from MH?

Quote:
The odometer will not work when the transfer can is in neutral, so no worries there about adding miles.
Ah-ha. Thanks.
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Old 01-30-2020, 06:45 AM   #22
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I us the RVI Towed Battery Charger. I also have a fridge and it works fine with this device.

https://rvibrake.com/products/towed-...BoCOhoQAvD_BwE
That is exactly what I tried to hook up. I plugged the Jeep into the RV and the ground wire on the Hopkins tail light wiring harness nearly cooked in half. Scared the crap out of me, so I pulled the RVI charger off and stuck it on the shelf in the garage. I don't know that I have the nerve to make a second attempt.
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Old 01-30-2020, 11:20 AM   #23
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First thing I checked today when looking at car. The steering wheel on this 2009 2dr Wrangler Sport X can be turned with no key in the ignition.



So what powers the brake lights & turn signals? I guess it is whatever wiring kit you get and it comes from MH?



Ah-ha. Thanks.
Correct - with the battery disconnected, and the wiring harness for lights installed on the toad, all power for lights come from the motorhome.
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Old 01-30-2020, 11:27 AM   #24
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Now that's an interesting combination. Was the dolly itself braked? If not, I would imagine the Jeep's rear wheels would tend to lock up during panic braking, since most of the Jeep's weight isn't on them...
Here are the downsides of a tow dolly - nothing wrong with them, just things to be aware of:

1) you have to register and plate the dolly, so you have an annual expense for tags

2) Depending on how many miles you tow, you will get uneven wear on the tires (maybe not a big deal?)

3) It can be fairly cumbersome to move around and you need a space to store it

4) When you arrive at your location, depending on size of space, you may not have enough room for RV, Toad, AND Dolly.

Agin, some people love the dolly and swear by them, others look for a smaller solution, such as towers. Personal choice - you just need to understand the pros and cons.
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Old 01-30-2020, 12:03 PM   #25
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The tow dolly is intended for a front wheel drive car (or a rear wheel drive backed onto it). I don’t think a Wrangler can be towed with a dolly. I could be wrong, though. It happened once when I married my first wife 🙂
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Old 01-30-2020, 12:08 PM   #26
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Also, there are two types of dollies. One has a king pin that allows the vehicle to “turn” slightly when moving. The other is fixed in place. I don’t either can be backed up; I know the king pin model can’t for sure.
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Old 01-30-2020, 05:17 PM   #27
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I have taken the power from the 7-pin connection and it runs through a diode (so the energy flows only in one direction) AND through a 20A fuse (so your wire doesn’t start a fire). That setup works very well to keep the Jeep battery charged. With the Brake Buddy, you will deplete the TOAD battery so you need something to keep it charged. There are kits I have seen that do this on Amazon. I looked at one of them and it was, basically, a diode and a breaker. I was concerned, at first, that I would wind up popping fuses in this connection but that has not been the case. I’ve never blown a fuse. I will add a caveat (from personal experience and from the note above about someone running their live to ground) that if you diy then be aware of the colors on the harness. The kit I got from Amazon to bring the power over had the same color wires as a normal diagram BUT the wires did not perform the functions that I expected them to perform from a color perspective. Also, I used my cheap voltmeter at first and had trouble finding current for the blinking signals. So...don’t trust the wire colors and use a good voltmeter to verify them. Once you are sure you know which colors do what, THEN hook them up.
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Old 01-30-2020, 05:54 PM   #28
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I attempted to wire up a battery charger to the Jeep that would draw power from the 7 pin plug on the RV. I did something wrong and smoked the ground wire on the harness.
I have a theory. When two electrical systems are connected in parallel (as with hooking up a Jeep to an RV), they will attempt to equalize their voltages, with current flowing from the vehicle with a higher voltage to the one with the lower voltage (don't forget a running alternator significantly raises the voltage too). The amount of current will be low if the two systems have a similar voltage. However if the voltages are wildly different, a LOT of current can flow, enough to cook connections or melt things. The ground tends to be the first to burn, because it's not fused and it's handling all the current combined from all the other connections (Aux +, L & R brake/turn lamp, tail/marker, brake controller, etc).


Do you know how many amps your battery charger tried to draw? Combined with other loads, the current trying to flow may have been a lot higher than the ground wire or trailer connector is rated for.
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Old 01-30-2020, 07:16 PM   #29
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I purchased a Hopkins wiring kit to connect my Jeep to the RV - cost me over $50 for the harness that has diodes built-in to protect both vehicles, and is a plug-and-play installation on the Jeep. Installation went well, but I could not get all the lights to work properly so I simply reverted back to my old, reliable magnetic tail lights that have been sitting in my garage for decades. It takes a few seconds to mount them to the rear quarter panels on the Jeep and run the wire up to the motorhome, but there's absolutely no electrical connection to the Jeep. I'm using the Ready Brute tow bar system that incorporates a mechanical brake activation so it doesn't need to draw any power either...
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Old 01-30-2020, 09:29 PM   #30
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Farm boys can flat tow.

I have a used Stowmaster 5000 towbar. Modified my bumper to work with it. Using a blue ox diode block for the lights. I don't have a battery charger or brakes. Mostly drag behind tractors/grain trucks. I will occasionally drag it behind my flatbed pickup (8300lbs curb)

it pulls like a 4 wheel wagon, no tongue weight and lots of momentum.

I spent around $400 for everything and it works great.
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