* Tow Bar and Toad Shield *

We use a Blue Ox Aventa II tow bar to tow our Honda Odyssey. The Aventa II is a steel tow bar, is rated to tow 10,000 lb, and is very easy to hook up for towing. One important aspect of towbar use is to ensure the towbar is as close to level as possible when in use. Blue Ox recomends the motorhome end be no more than 2" higher than the car end of the towbar, and NEVER lower than the car end. If the car end is higher than the motorhome end, the car could "climb" the towbar in an emergency stop. With a 4" "drop" adapter in place, the motorhome end of our towbar is apx 1" higher than the car end. The first 4" drop we had was distributed by Roadmaster. With it in place, our 10,000 lb towing capacity was reduced to 5,000 lbs. We later bought a Blue Ox 4" drop. The Blue Ox drop is shorter, and maintains the 10,000 lb towing capacity of our hitch and tow bar. Since it is a couple of inches shorter than the Roadmaster "drop," it also is less likely to drag when entering/exiting roadways. (The drop in the pictures on this page is the longer, lower-rated Roadmaster drop).

Our motorhome came with a full-width "mud flap" in place. A little research helped us learn that the presumed protection a full length mud flap provides to a towed UA 40EUA 40Evehicle is highly debatable. In fact, evidence indicates that the closer the mud flap is to the surface of the road while underway, the more damage it will CAUSE as it "sweeps" up gravel & debris from the road surface. Consequently, it is recommended that these mud flaps be at least 4" above the road surface. (The full-length "mud flap" certainly is something we would not pay extra to have, and many owners remove them ...and even throw them away ...when driving the Alaska Highway.) Our's is at or above the recommended height, but we also decided to use a shield of some kind between the motorhome and the "towed." There are a variety of options for shields, from putting 3M film on the front of the towed, to full coverage "bra" on the front of the towed, to an "under-skirt" which attaches to both sides of the motorhome and the towed under the towbar, to shields that mount on top of the tow bar. Each choice has it's own unique pluses and minuses. We decided to go with the shield on top of the tow bar. As attachment of the shields seems to be unique to each brand towbar, since we have a Blue Ox towbar, we got the Blue Ox KarGard shield.

The Blue Ox KarGard comes with brackets which bolt onto the towbar. The KarGard then attaches to the brackets by quick-release pins. It is UA 40EUA 40Econstructed of two panels of very durable plastic-type material. Most setups require U-shaped cut-outs to be made in the panels so that the shield will drop a few inches below the towbar when in place. The KarGard is designed to fold in half when not in use so it can be more easily stored. After storing our KarGard in a basement compartment for the first year of use, I decided there was a better solution. The comparable shield from Roadmaster has an optional bracket that can be purchased to store the shied on top of the drawbar on the back of the motorhome when not in use. After seeing a couple of efforts to create similar storage racks for the Blue Ox KarGard, I created my own, using aluminum stock so it would not rust. Here is a picture of the rack as it looks when the KarGard is in use, and a couple of pictures of what it looks like when the KarGard is stored while we are parked in a campground. (Leaving it on the rack while driving the motorhome and not towing is not advisable, as the hot exhaust can warp the plastic panel right behind the exhaust pipe ...the voice of experience speaks!!)

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After using the KarGard for five years and over 40,000 miles, I concluded it could be improved by angling the shield. With the shield in a vertical position, I found that rocks kicked up by the motorhome can be deflected off the shield and into the rear of the motorhome. There simply is no other explanation for gravel dings on the rear!! I decided that angling the shield out at the top would result in more rocks being deflected toward the road rather than into the rear of the motorhome (from where that would likely also strike the car). Pictured here is the result of the first effort at an angled shield. The steel "towers" were replaced with 3/4" schedule 40 PVC. The PVC was heated just enough to make it pliable, then bent to a slight angle, estimated at 15-20 degrees. This alteration appears to work well, and we used the bent PVC towers for a little over 3 years and 15,000 miles until one cracked. Knowing the bend worked to improve the effectivness of the shield, I found a family member we were visiting had a pipe bender, and we bent the original steel towers to approximately the same angle to replace the well-traveled experimental PVC towers. With the towers having an angle toward the bottom end, using the storage rack is still possible by simply turning the shield upside down for storage.

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Our KarGard has worked pretty well for us after we were able to resolve some cracking of one of the two panels that appeared during the first year of use. After talking with Blue Ox representatives at an RV rally, and then talking to Blue Ox by telephone, they agreed we were the victims of a manufacturing defect. They shipped us a replacement panel, and we have had no further problems with the KarGard.

Installing a new baseplate ...

After an accident that totaled our 2000 Odyssey, I decided to do the work of setting up the replacement toad myself, including installation of the baseplate, lights, and auxilliary braking system. After buying a 2005 Odyssey, I ordered the Blue Ox baseplate, bulb & socket lighting kit, Roadmaster Brakemaster 2nd vehicle kit, Brakemaster seat bracket from two interenet suppliers. And when visiting the local Honda dealer for a few other trim pieces, I bought some of the plastic pop-clips NewToadNewToadthat hold the front end of today's cars together. The bumper cover came off fairly easily, requiring removal of apx 16 plastic pop-clips and 4 screws, all detailed in the baseplate installation instruction. Then the bumper (a slightly curved square piece of doubled sheet metal), held by three bolts on each side, was removed, as were the headlights, each held by two bolts and a plastic pop-clip. At that point, my wife and neighbor thought I had wrecked the car and would never get it all back together!! In this case, the baseplate replaces the original sheet metal bumper, so I put the bumper in the storeroom. The baseplate bolts into two of the original a bumper holes on each side, and then requires drilling 4 more holes on each side, for a total of 12 bolts holding the baseplate onto the car. On one side of the baseplate, I also had to slightly enlarge the two holes that match the original bumper attachment holes in order to make it work. The instructions warn or this possibility. Drilling the required holes was the most difficult part of the installation as there is limited clearance to get a drill into the area. Once the holes were drilled, I got all the bolts into place using Loctite, and then used my old torque wrench to tighten them to the required specs. Just in case all those Loctited bolts decide to fall out, there is also a safety cable on each side around the base plate and the car frame ...talk about overkill!! Next came installing the light kit, which consisted mostly of NewToadNewToadrouting the 4-conductor wire from the front to the rear of the car. I went underneath, tucking the wire up by other wiring or fluid lines and securing it with wire ties. On the front, I connected it to the 6-prong connector I had removed from the totaled car. On the rear, I removed both taillights, drilled a 1-inch hole in the recommended location in the side of the light fixture on each side, installed the new sockets and bulbs, then fished the wiring out the bottom on each side and connected to the 4-conductor wire from the front, then tucked the wiring out of view inside the rear bumper cover. After getting help from my local car repair shop to get the brake monitor wire and air line through the firewall, I installed the air line and brake monitor wiring from the baseplate to the inside of the car. Under the dash, the wire connects to the cold side of the brake light switch in the car so that it powers the monitor light on the dash of the motorhome whenever the car brakes are activated. On the baseplate end, the airline connects via quick-connect to a line from the motorhome when towing, and under the dash of the car it connects via quick-connect to an air cylinder that mounts between the brake pedal and a bracket under the seat. The seat bracket was another item I had to order and install. It attaches to the seat mounts by using longer bolts than the originals. When all connected for towing, when the motorhome brakes are pressed firmly, the air cylinder in the car applies the car brakes. After some searching, I determined there was only one place I could mount the breakaway cannister. I tucked it in beside the battery as seen in the 2nd picture to the left, and connected the wiring and air lines. In the second picture on the right you see the connection points on the front of the car to, from left to right, the breakaway cable, lights, toad brake monitor light, and auxilliary brake air line. If the car comes loose from the motorhome, the break-away cable pulls NewToadNewToadthe pin that trips the break-away switch and the car brakes are applied to bring it to a swift stop. After covering the air line and wiring with wire loom and securing it all with wire ties, I connected the car to the motorhome to ensure everyting worked as designed ...lights, brakes, break-away module. Then the only challenge left was to re-install the bumper cover and get all those plastic pop-clips back in place! The last two pictures show the finished installation, on the left with removeable tow-tabs removed, and on the right with the tow tabs in place. When the tow-tabs are removed, nothing protrudes from the front of the car to catch a shin or roving eye!

Installing a Charge line to the toad battery ...

After towing the 2005 Odyssey from Texas into Canada we began to have problems with the car battery being dead after towing every third time. For awhile we simply put the charger on the car after every second tow ToadChargeand tried to ensure we had shut off everything that could be shut off, but with the key in the required position for towing some things apparently are still drawing current. In talking to other members of the caravan discovered a system called "Toad Charge". This system adds not only a charge line from the motorhome batteries to the car battery, but also a circuit breaker and a "smart charger brain" that charges the toad battery only as/when it needs it. After checking it out at the ISL Products website, we ordered the 40' version and had it delivered to us in Anchorage. It was relatively easy to install, and so far has cured the problem of the toad battery going dead while towing. I routed the wire from the battery on each end to the hitch, and then bundled it with the umbilical cord between the motorhome and car, enclosing them together in wire loom. If I were to order this product again, I would take the option to order w/o provided connectors as I felt what came with the kit were too flimsy and replaced them with standard two-wire flat towing connectors.

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