Preparing the ‘Toad’

One of the first things we did after getting the motorhome was to acquire our ‘toad’ vehicle, a 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Like most operators of largish motorhomes, we wanted to tow it “four down”, which means all four wheels on the ground. That isn’t possible on many cars, but it turns out that Jeep caters to the RV crowd more than most manufacturers, and in particular, 4-wheel drive Jeep GC’s can be towed four down. In Florida, the Jeep dealers carry far more 2-wheel drive inventory than 4-wheel drive. While I realize that it doesn’t snow down here, that still surprised me – who would buy a Jeep that wasn’t 4wd? But even with the comparatively limited selection, we were able to find one we liked, a black “Summit” model.

The next thing was to install what is called a “base plate” that allows the toad to be attached to the tow bar (which in turn attaches to the motorhome’s hitch). Because I wanted to prove (to myself, I guess) that I can still work on a car (even though I haven’t even changed my oil in 25 years), I decided to buy the Demco base plate directly from them and install it myself. That involved disassembling quite a bit of the front of the Jeep, modifying some of the fascia to accomodate the base plate, and then reassembling it. That was a feat that I accomplished with considerable effort over the course of about three days, with frequent trips to the hardware and auto parts stores to purchase various tools that I ended up needing. Therese had to help hold the base plate up while I bolted it in place, the only time she has ever worked on a car in her entire life (she hadn’t even ever changed a tire). She learned a little mechanic’s language in the process. If I had it to do over, I’d definitely get a professional to do it.

Here it is at maximum disassembly:

 

Here is the completed installation:

The two round things in the lower part of the fascia are where the tow bar hooks up. The aluminum thing to the right of the left tow bar hookup is where you hook the breakaway cable that tells the brake box (an RViBrake RVi3 system) to put on the brakes of the toad if the whole setup fails somehow.

To avoid having to mess with the GC’s wiring, I decided to buy a magnetic light bar that has its own rechargeable battery and communicates wirelessly with a device that you plug into the tow vehicles wiring connector. You just stick it on the roof of the towed vehicle and turn it on. So far it has worked like a charm.

Glad that’s done!

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