Along for the Ride
Or, A One-Month Review of Our Towing Set-Up
It took us a while to figure out exactly how we would be bringing our car along for the ride. Now that we’ve been traveling for five weeks, we’ve decided to check in and share what’s working and what’s not with our current setup.
What We’ve Got
We’re still using almost everything from the original post:
- double hitch extension
- two-bike holder for top hitch
- ball hitch for tow dolly on bottom hitch - 4″ drop (the old one was a 2″ drop)
- Acme hydraulic disc brakes tow dolly
The only change we’ve made was to get a different ball hitch with a larger drop (from 2″ to 4″). Christian talked with the people at Acme and they said that for a Prius-ish car like ours, we want the ball to be as low as possible (because the clearance of our car is so low). Too high, and the bottom of our car will get scraped up by the upper front lip of the dolly.
Having the dolly mounted lower means that it’s closer to parallel with the ground, and there’s more room to take the tow dolly on and off without having to take off the bikes/bike hitch (before it was a whole ordeal of taking the bikes and the hitch-mounted bike rack off when we needed to take off the tow dolly).
What We Love
The main thing we love is that we can bring our car and bikes with us without having to drive separately/take up internal storage space.
Also, our research paid off, because the tow dolly works really really well. If you’re looking for a lightweight checks-all-the-boxes dolly (especially for a lower profile car, like a Toyota Prius), we would recommend the Acme Eze-Tow Hydraulic Disc Brake Dolly. The platforms are removable so the unloaded dolly doesn’t take up as much space, and the bottom of your car isn’t getting scraped when you’re driving over bumps.
Shipping was easy - the delivery truck had a lift gate to lower the dolly in its crate, and the delivery driver helped scootch it off the sidewalk. Customer service is fantastic as well - we’ve called them several times before, during, and after ordering (sometimes with very silly questions), and they’ve always been super helpful (and I don’t think we’ve ever been put on hold!).
Even better - if you order the Hydraulic Disc Brake model from Acme (website, call (336) 996-4396, or email) and let them know you read it about here (just mention Christian Genco!) you’ll get a free LED light upgrade - normally an extra $90.
Here’s the steps we normally go through to get the car loaded up once our tow dolly is connected to the RV:
- Unscrew ramp wing nut and mount the ramps onto front of the dolly
- Drive car onto dolly, lining up carefully so wheels are centered on ratchet mounts (if ratchet mounts are wider or narrower than your wheels, you’ll have to adjust them)
- Park the car, engage parking break
- Unmount ramps and re-stack in storage position; rescrew wing nut
- Get tire straps/safety chains out of car (make sure they’re not twisted)
- (Christian and I each normally take one wheel and do the next several steps in parallel for each wheel) Lay straps over wheels, hooking the ends onto the tow dolly behind the wheels (make sure to attach the hooks wider than the wheels, else your hooks will get crunched by the tires as the car moves around while you’re driving, which will crimp the hooks and damage your tires. Three guesses as to how we know this.)
- Feed front end of strap through ratchet on tow dolly and pull it taut
- Tighten the wheel strap ratchets and tuck/tie up the slack (these become untied impossibly easily - we’ve frayed the ends of the straps several times)
- Attach the safety chains under the car and through the dolly. (Christian’s arms/hands are too big to attach these from under the front of the car, so he has to lay on the ground to maneuver the chains around.)
- Turn the car back on, take off e-brake, shift to neutral, roll up windows, lock doors, pop the hood, turn the key to accessory position
- Disconnect the battery
- Double-check that the doors are locked (our car tries to unlock the driver’s side door if it thinks you’re about to lock your keys in the car)
- Good to go!
We also normally stop and check the straps a few hundred miles into the trip.
What We Would Add/Change
We’ve already changed the ball hitch, as mentioned above, which was a small change but made a pretty big difference when it comes to attaching and detaching the dolly itself.
One of the many steps of loading the car is disconnecting the battery. Right now Christian gingerly lifts the connecting piece off of the terminal using rubber-handled pliers, but it would be really nice to have a remote switch like in the RV so we’re not worried about electrocuting ourselves.
As already mentioned, the dolly is really great, but we don’t actually like having to load/unload the car from the dolly every time. If you’ve already decided on a dolly (or your hand is forced by the type of car you have, like a Prius or anything else that can’t be towed four-down), by all means, go with Acme: it’s a dependable and solid setup that’s compatible with almost every car out there, and the dolly is light weight enough to disconnect and wheel around by hand if you’re trying to maneuver into a tight spot.
If we we could start from scratch, we would probably go with a different set up altogether. Trading in our car for one that would work with a tow bar would have been more work up front, but the process of connecting a car with a tow bar would be much simpler.
We still like the redundancy of having two vehicles in case one breaks down, so we probably wouldn’t switch to a trailer-style (non-self-propelled) motorhome. Christian would like to consider switching to a van (Class B) for greater maneuverability and ease of parking (with electric bikes or a moped for zooping around cities), but for me to be happy in that small of a space it would likely be more expensive than Harvey was.
Overall, not bad for two twenty-somethings who knew nothing about towing before starting!