While we have owned and operated several motorized homes, we had never towed before.
Before we set out from Austin, TX, I knew we’d have to equip our new Honda CRV so it could be safely towed behind our motorhome. While we have owned and operated several motorized homes, we had never towed before. There was a steep learning curve here.
After a lot of research we settled on a supplemental braking system that allows the towed vehicle to use it’s own brakes during braking events so that the motorhome isn’t entirely responsible for the the braking. This is the safer and, in some states, the only lawful option. That’s right – some states have requirements that towed vehicles have their own braking systems.
Since the installation required us to totally remove the front end of our Honda, I initially assumed that I would be delegating this job to a local professional body shop.
There are many, many options for tow-bars and supplemental braking systems. We decided to go with NSA’s Ready-Brake system. This setup is comprised of a (seemingly) simple cable-actuated system that used the tow-vehicle’s weight to activate a cable that literally pulls the tow vehicle’s brake pedal during moments the motorhome is braking.
Regardless of the braking system, the tow vehicle will require modification to allow the installation of a tow-plate. A tow-plate is nothing more than a device that allows a solid connection between the motorhome and tow vehicle. The key features of a tow plate are it’s integration to the tow-vehicle’s frame-structure and it’s ability to rapidly connect and disconnect from the tow-bar.
We settled on a tow system designed by Blue-Ox, mainly because of its simplicity and the abundance of on-line information that might allow us to install the tow-plate ourselves.
Since the installation required us to totally remove the front end of our Honda, I initially assumed that I would be delegating this job to a local professional body shop. After consultations with several of the best-reviewed body-shops in town, we determined – based on the quoted prices, and the lack of apparent willingness to do the job – that we should do the work ourselves.
The second-hardest part was working up the nerve to actually remove the motherfucking front end of our brand-new (to us) Honda. Who does such a thing? Who takes the goddam front end off of a perfectly good 20-thousand dollar automobile? Me, for one.
That was a bad, bad, horrible day.
The hardest part of the job, by far, was finding the exact spot to drill an access hole for the braking cable. In the exact spot where you’d want to drill a hole for the brake-cable, Honda has thoughtfully located a horrid knot of stainless-steel brake lines.
My initial pilot-hole actually nicked the thick vinyl jacket on a main brake line. I had to use a few mirrors, LED lights and a magnifying glass to conclusively determine that I had merely nicked the the vinyl jacket and not the brake line itself.
That was a bad, bad, horrible day.
Once the front end of the Honda was removed, the actual installation of the tow-plate wasn’t that hard. Just remove the bumper and install the tow-plate in its place. There are other considerations, including the emergency run-away brake and emergency cables. Again, the manufactures have provided many useful resources to help with this.
Other installation issues are the tow-light harness and the final outfitting of the brake cable. I followed the Honda CRV brake-system installation per the NSA manufacture’s instructions but the cable was clearly stressing the plastic bumper and, worse, the cable was binding up, preventing a free return of the brake pedal.
I emailed NSA and included a video of the binding problem. Their response: “It shouldn’t do that. Make a bracket or something.” Further emails revealed that not only did they not have a bracket for a clearly common problem, they had no interest in providing a solution. Bear this in mind if you decide to use the NSA system.
Long story short: I managed to make a bracket from a bit of pre-drilled metal from Home Depot.
The last bit of business was to make an electrical harness that lets us switch off power to the Honda radio and accessories while the vehicle was in-tow.
The last bit of business was to make an electrical harness that lets us switch off power to the Honda radio and accessories while the vehicle was in-tow. Otherwise, there is a risk that we will needlessly bleed the battery down. The Honda CRV already has an under-sized battery – it doesn’t take much to run it down to nothing.
The Honda fuse-panel uses these infuriating micro-fuses which are nearly useless. There are cutoff switch kits available from on-line sources like eTrailer.com but they are total shit. I made mine from a Harbor Freight switch, a fuse adapter kit and a bit of wire.
At the end of the day, I can say I think this is a job well within the reach of a moderately competent mechanic, but the real difficulties arise with the poor engineering and instruction of some of the manufacturers involved. Basically, if I can do it, then just about anybody can do it. But I think I got lucky with solving my issues.
Anywhoozle, the setup works. Don’t attempt this yourself unless you have some hair.