After several months of shopping for the perfect tow car to handle four wheels down we were lucky enough to find just what we needed. We opted for a 2006 Saturn VUE with a manual transmission, one owner, low miles, and a color that blended with our RV within driving distance. The salesman was surprised we were so excited about a manual tranny until we explained our intended use, then he understood, however, we had already agreed on the price before we showed too much enthusiasm.
Base Plate Installation
Blue-Ox quickly became our tow bar of choice as some of their video demonstrations on their website were of a Saturn VUE installation. We placed an order for the base plate and tow bar and within a couple days we were pouring over the instructions and decided we could do the installation ourselves.
Only a couple real bolts were found holding the front end together. The rest of the fasteners are little plastic snap in clippie things, so in a very short time the whole thing was removed
The base plate now had to be slid into place to mark for 3 holes per side into the frame of the car. It is fairly thin metal so a good drill bit bores them easily. The nuts for the bolts come with a long stiff wire welded on them to guide them up into the frame. I would suggest pre place the nuts by bending these wires according to where the bolts will catch them when inserted through the frame. It is frustrating and time consuming but I could see no other way to get the nuts up in there. It can be done, just be patient.
Once the bolts are secured with the proper torque specifications it is easy to see this base plate is going nowhere without the car attached to it.
Tow Bar-Braking-Lighting Installation
We scratched our heads with the next part as it took a while to sink in. Blue-Ox provided some skinny little cable to be fed underneath the engine and through the firewall inside a plastic tube. Our thoughts were, really? In this day and age of technology, we are pulling the brakes on with a thin piece of cable wrapped around the brake pedal? Then a bungee cord to make sure the pedal returns afterward? Yes, this is how it is done unless the budget allows a few thousand dollars for a more elaborate braking system. The cabling process here again was frustrating and time consuming with all the calibrating for the correct length of the cable but it is part of the process. The recoil mechanism in the Blue-Ox senses the pressure of the car and pulls the cable which in turn pulls on the brake. We have tested it and also seen it work in real time so we know it does the job.
Hang in there, just a few more steps to make before you can put the tools away!
Blue-Ox provided a long spool of yellow wire and red bulb with a mount to be placed in the dash area of the RV. This bulb is to come on whenever the brakes of the tow car are activated. Recently we hitched up and headed out the RV Park and noticed the red bulb was on and we weren’t braking. An inspection of the problem showed the brake cable had gotten tangled in the safety cables during the hitch and when the tow bar locked in place it was pulling the cars brakes on. Had we skipped the red light wiring step we would have been pulling our car down the road with its brakes on, not good. So first thing, string the yellow wire from the newly installed base plate area under the engine area and get it through the firewall into the brake pedal location. Mine is visible in the picture of the brake cable. You need to get under the car dash and find a wire which feeds the brake lights and connect the yellow wire to it. Once I found the wire I used a blue 3M scotch lock here as it was the easiest. Secure the wire with some tape or snap ties in the engine area to keep it in place and make sure it is away from exhaust or anything else which may damage it. To test the connection use a volt meter on the wire up front while someone steps on the brakes. You should get a solid 12Volt reading when brakes are applied if done correctly. Secure and cut the wire at the base plate. This wire needs a connector and the best thing I could dream up was a simple 2 wire light connector from the local auto store which worked great as later I found the light also needs a ground between the RV and the car which the instructions did not mention. So with the 2 wire connector at the front of the car connect one side to the yellow wire and the other side to a ground on the car or base plate.
It’s time now to get under the RV with the yellow wire and string it along finding safe locations to secure it at all points. I first put mine up through the rubber seal around the bottom of the steering wheel shaft and into the cab area where my red light was to be located and then preceded to the rear of the RV. The floor was too much to drill through. (The black and red wires coming through the rubber boot are feed lines from the front RV battery to a switch panel we added to power backup camera, tire monitor, GPS, and a small inverter so we could eliminate all the cigarette adaptors on those devices.) The red light was attached at the bottom of the switch box. Once the yellow wire has reached the rear of the RV it needs to be long enough to connect across the tow bar into the 2 wire connector at the cars base plate. I used the other end of the 2 wire connector purchased for the car. This 2 wire connector at the RV will need to be grounded to the RV to complete the circuit when the cars brakes come on.
The next phase of making our little car towable involved the ignition fuse. We found this panel right under the hood with easy access. The car manual stated we had to pull this fuse in order to put the key in the ACC position to unlock the steering wheel and keep the power off on the car while towing. This seemed all too cumbersome and awkward to our way of thinking. A quick trip to the auto parts store and we purchased an ignition fuse just like the one in the car. I cut the fuse in half breaking the circuit and soldered 2 wires to this fuse and placed it back into the fuse panel. The 2 wires were then run through the firewall and under the dash to a switch inside a plastic housing we had lying around which came from an old internet receiver we no longer used. This setup makes it so easy just flip the switch and put the key in ACC and we are ready to go.
The final step in completing this project is the issue of brake and turn signal lights on the car itself when being towed. There are kits available for this process and I have read others put separate bulbs in the taillights, etc. We wanted to move on to some of our other preparations so we opted for the quick and easy method. These lights came with a long 4 wire standard trailer connector which we already by the hitch on our RV. They come equipped with some powerful magnets at the base of the lights to hold them on the roof of the car. However, we found out the hard way, in a strong cross wind the magnets did not hold and one of the lights blew off and was bouncing against the rear of the car. We were lucky to notice in the rear camera one was missing. So we stopped immediately on a busy interstate and got out the Gorilla tape to hold them in place. This incident could have easily done major damage to the rear of our car so we left the tape on for the time being. Oh and make sure you have them set on the car with the proper left right positions. We accidently drove several hundred miles with them switched around! Now that they are “permanently” mounted we no longer have that problem.
There is the camera view of our Saturn snug and safe behind us flying down the road!
Okay, this about sums it up for making our car towable and hope some of these tips are helpful if you are doing this yourself. If you have any questions or details, feel free to contact us and we will do our best to help.