Type 2 as a Towed Vehicle

by the Type2 Mailing List

Steve Dolan wrote:

I have always insisted on flatbed towing. I suppose that a wheel-lift tow truck would be safe, but got in the habit of asking for the flatbed years ago when the alternative was to have the bumper pulled off, and have never changed. Anyone of strong opinion on this? Not specific companies, but classes of tow truck.

Bob Wallace responded:

Seems to me there are three types of towing and two types of vehicle.

Types of towing: rope/chain, wheel-lift, or flat bed

Types of vehicle: auto or manual

For a short (100 yards) a rope tow is OK for auto or manual above that manual only or remove the drive shafts in an auto. Also needs a driver in the towed vehicle. Should ever cause damage to bumper or tie-rods etc - use the eye: welded to the chassis instead (I've used that eye and a two rope to pull a car out of a ditch)

Like wise a wheel-lift tow truck is NOT SUITABLE for an auto without removing the drive shafts. If you have a steering lock make sure its on to hold your front wheels in the right place otherwise you will need to tie the wheel in place.

If you have an auto and you don't want to remove the drive shafts then make sure you tell the tow company you have an auto so must have a flat bed.

Mark Edwards wrote:

How to transport a bus?

...Building an engine. I could do that, but....it'd obviously have to be turnkey...bolt it up and go, which could get VERY expensive. Granted, I gotta build one ANYWAY for it, but....breaking it in on a 1000 mile trek...is that the best idea?

Tom Goody responded:

How long has the bus sat? What about brakes, lights, wheel bearings? Better bring lots of parts, registration, insurance, and tickets to the New Mexico State Police fundraising raffle. Would you buy the engine in Texas, get it shipped there, or bring it with you. Where would you do the work? Maybe some listers in Texas?

Renting a truck/trailer and towing it. Could be rather expensive....

I would like to take this oportunity to pass on my recent experience of getting Poni, my 23 window project from Mississippi.

1 - TRUCKS: If you can borrow a tow vehicle, you will save big bucks. Absolutely the only vehicle I was able to rent to tow with was a 15' U-Haul or Ryder truck. They won't let you tow with the 10' truck or any pickups they rent. I found no truck dealers or other truck rental places (ie Pensky, Thrifty) that would rent any truck for towing purposes. Can you spell "insurance liabilty"? The 15' truck from U-Haul are around 40 cents a mile (that's $800 for you) PLUS day rate for LOCAL rental, and you still need a trailer. On a trip of 1000 miles, a one way rental will be slightly less, which will pay for a bus or plane ticket to Texas.

2 - TRAILERS: Okay you still need a trailer. (I though about rolling a bus INTO a 15' box truck, but there is no way to secure it, and guess what, you will break the rental agreement if you try this.) U-Haul will rent you an auto transport alone. Ryder will only rent you a trailer if you rent a truck (15' or larger). Here is the trailer low down:

2A - U-Haul Auto Transport: 2-axles; about $250 one way for 1000 miles (less if you rent a truck too); 2100 pound trailer weight; requires a class 3 hitch; 3600 pound payload capacity (no problem for any bus I know). I decide to go: this route, to eliminate the potential pitfalls of the other trailer options below. WARNING: This trailer holds the towed vehicle in only ONE position front to back on the trailer, that is, all the way to the front of the trailer. This means the smaller the vehicle, the more weight is proportionally to the front of the trailer. There is no means to reposition the load, and hence adjust the resulting the tongue weight.

After I loaded my bus in Mississippi, I was worried about the tongue weight on the trailer. The rear suspension on the towing vehicle (a borrowed Jeep Grand Cherokee, 6cyl, 4WD) was almost bottomed out. I called U-haul to see if there was a different way to to hook the bus on the trailer. They were NO help at all. We (my buddy and I) tried to figure out the wieght by doing a structural beam analysis (we are both architects) on the loading. U-haul could not even tell me the unloaded tongue weight of the trailer empty. So we were traveling along, totally getting stressed out about this tongue weight thing and feeling every bump. We made it to a Citgo truck stop type of place on the highway out of Gulfport. After we were done we were pulling out and noticed the CAT scales. Heck, we might as well give it a try. So I explained our situation to the scale keeper. It was a slow night, so they said go for it.

We pulled the trailer up to the scales with the axles just off the end on the pavement. We unhooked the trailer and ended up using the big chunk of pitch pine root to support the tongue on the scale so we could get an accurate tongue weight. Anyway the tongue weight turned out to be 620 pounds. The jeep and hitch were rated at 750, so we moved on very happy and relieved. Man, I hate stress. Once again, I was towing a 1963, sans-engine, deluxe which has a weight of about 2000 pounds (by the book, not actually weighed). Of course, a breadloaf will probably be more.

2B - U-Haul Tow Dolly: 1-axle, gets two of the towed vehicles wheels of the: ground, requires the rear wheels of the towed vehicle to roll along (good bearings, tires, etc..), 750 pound trailer weight, I don't know the capacity or cost which I assume would be less than the auto transport.

2C - U-Haul 6'x12' Open Top Trailer: 2-axles, 1500 pound trailer weight, a splitty with no bumpers is 13'-6" long which would seem to fit hanging out, BUT the tailgate is only 5'-6" wide, too narrow (barely) for a bus.

Having it 'professionally' shipped here by one of those companies that ship cars.....could be more expensive...

3 - AUTO TRANSPORT SERVICE: My guess at the cost is about $750 for your 1000 miles, although there does seem to be a lot of east-west transport traffic through the southwest, so it might be less. Every time I talk to these guys, I don't get good feelings. They like it much better when the vehicle is running so they can drive it on the truck. I get worried thinking about a bus I have never seen, being transpported by some dudes I have never meet, who knows what will happen. I wanted to see my bus before I made the deal (in cash), so this didn't work out for me as an option. The services that specialize in antique transport and will tow it on a tralier by itself directly door to door cost BIG BUCKS, more proportional in cost to a Porshe 356 Spyder or such.

4 - TOW BAR: Getting a tow bar for the bus might be a really cheap option, but bring or get some tires. I will leave this option to others with experience on which to comment.

Jim Thompson wrote:

Having towed a Bus and a Single Cab PU with a custom-made tow bar friend made one), I wouldn't recommend it for long distance towing. Across town to a repair or paint facility would be OK though. If yer gonna do it long distance, I really recommend a flat bed trailer IMHO.

Jason McDaniel wrote:

I've used a BUS-SIZED tow bar since 1991 and it has worked very well. Every bus Jeff or I have owned except the Barn-doors has been towed by this towbar. Longest tow = 1200 miles.

It is a home-shop made towbar made out of 4" L-chanel and two pieces of 4x2" box section that have slots that surround the lower tube of the front beam. It extends down to clear the bumper and front valence, and forward about 4 feet to an adjustable ball hitch (so it will fit ANY sized ball, including those wierd metric sizes on Westfalia hitches).

Drawbacks: there are a few. The towbar weighs a ton, between the size and weight, is a chore for one person to handle it, though I have manhandled it many times. The size? It takes up most of the room in a short bed, full size American pickup. You have to remove the steering dampener to attach it, and the heigth of the 4" channel restricts its use on lowered buses (it tends to pull up reflectors when used on a lowered bus). It also scratches the paint of the front beam.

If I were to make one now, I would use 3" L-chanel, and make it a foot longer.

When we tow, we use a removable set of lights similar to the type tow-truck drivers use.

Oh, and when towing a bus, you will glance into the rear view mirror and experience a moment of panic when you see someone following you that close! I have yet to get past it.

Jeff Carver wrote:

I bought a bus tow bar from Dr Joe at All Bug last week, just in time to retrieve the bus I bought...I got the tow bar and after scraping the usual pile of junk together, I headed off 75 mile away. I borrowed a Toy 4Runner for the task.

It took only a half hour to push the bus out, hook up the tow bar and run the lights, not bad for a first time use of this style of tow bar...

The tow bar hooks up like the bug style in that it has a "U" that hangs from the lower torsion tube. Actually it's two angles poking up from the bar, but it forms a U bracket with a bolt though the top to keep it hanging from the torsion tube.

It is sized to clear the anti-sway bar and such. It would be a close fit to the steering damper, which was disconnected on my bus. This may explain problems I had later.

The U hanger is a loose fit to the torsion tube, so it can slide around under there, sideways. At a stop to check things I found marks indicating that the U hanger had slid around a lot. A steering arm could be turned against the U hanger if the bus turned while the U hanger was at the wrong spot. I tied a short length of rope around the protruding piece of the steering box (the one that is at the center of the bus, I don't remember the correct name) to the arms of the tow bar to keep the bar centered on the torsion tube. This worked very well.

The tow bar is fairly narrow, so any looseness between the U hanger and the torsion tube results in the bus weaving around when braking. I heavily suggest placing a wooden or plastic shim to tighten up the space, yet still allow the necessary rotation. A wider U spacing would be better, but the tow bar is sized to fit loafs also, so probably some compromises were made.

[Gary LaVere responded: "The tow bar needs to be narrow to fit early and late splitties. I made and have used this style tow bar (made out of 2" cold rolled steel) at my shop on a daily basis for many years. I have found that this wandering side-to-side is the result of tires not being filled to the proper pressure. Fill up your tires and try it again and the odds are that the problem will have disappeared. As far as I know from experience of hooking these tow bars up to early and late buses, there is no difference between the beams as far as fit is concerned."]

The bus seemed to bounce back and forth during the trip during braking above 40 mph. The lack of a steering damper could have been the main culprit here, just don't know. It coulda slowed down the wandering. I got up to 55, got a little weird, so I kept the max to 50, usually around 45.

Other than the above, things worked real well. I have a pair of rear lights from a '64 I have mounted to an aluminum bar, already wired up to serve as trailer lights, so in case any one cares, the lights were the same period as the bus!

The length of the tow bar made parking lot travel very easy, with no danger of pinching the bus and tow vehicle.

Good sturdy tow bar. If you want one for yourself: Call All Bug, Dr. Joe, $185 delivered, 602-997-7345 [July 2, 1998] No web site yet. Took less than a week for delivery.

Jeff Carver wrote:

Tow with the rear wheels on the dolly, ignore the manuals, ignore the morons at the rental place. You want the drive wheels off the ground so you don't rotate the transmission and internals. Cheaper to fix front bearings than transmissions. Unless you remove the CV's and axles, then it's ok. Open the driver's window, and securely lash the steering wheel the closest approximation to straight. This'll keep the front end from wandering around.

Joe Clark responded:

Makes sense, though I've also heard that towing front-ways does no damage. It shouldn't, since the parts that move will (normally) receive their normal loads and lubrication despite the engine being off. I've towed a Ghia 1000 miles with no noticeable damage (sorta hard to remove the CVs on swingaxles :-). But since I have no idea of the condition of the tranny/CVs/bearings on this one (it's pushable), your advice is worth considering. I can pretty quickly R&R the front bearings beforehand if indicated.

Nota bene: One should also make sure the poptop is secure when towing backwards, especially on 68-72 models. Inverse for later. Else potential sudden air scoop, albeit briefly. Make sure the towing vehicle weighs at least as much as the bus. The rental places WILL ask this question, be ready with an answer.

Excellent point.

Keep your butt peeled, as opposed to your eyes. If you feel the tow vehicle start to wander side to side, you are about to fishtail bigtime. DON'T hit the brakes, just slow down, and keep the speed below the fishtail speed.

Also good advice. I've always felt that the derriere is an excellent sense organ for extreme driving.

Most trailers use the ball as the ground wire for the electrical stuff. Truly pathetic, if you are to run at night, run a separate ground wire from dolly to the tow vehicle chassis.

Also a good point, but I plan to tow during the day.

Getting the vehicle ONTO the dolly is the toughest part.

Amen! I plan to use a come-along.

I'll add for those who down't know: you cannot back up (more than a very few straight feet) with a 2-wheel dolly.

Jeff Carver wrote:

The key is to tie the steering wheel really tight to prevent the steering from flopping around. The front end wandering around due to loose steering wheel is a large part of the problem.

Dave Easterwood responded:

I would imagine that another part of the problem is by towing the bus backward, you don't get the benefit of the toe-in of the front end alignment.

If you have ever driven a vehicle with the front end out of adjustment so that the distance between the forward edge of the rims is greater than the distance between the rear edge of the rims you know what I mean.

The toe-in keeps the vehicle from wandering all over the road. Many moons ago I had to have my '66 Westy towed & the driver insisted on towing it backward. Well, it went fishing on him & he nearly lost it. Now I only tow with a towbar and all 4 wheels on the ground or a trailer with all 4 wheels off the ground.

Dave (who has towed more buses than he cares to remember)

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