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Technical Flat towing

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by ROBERT JAM, Mar 28, 2018.

    Joined: Nov 13, 2002
    Posts: 1,201


    any body do this any more? What are the pitfalls in flat towing? Thinking of doing this with my roadster.thanks! Bob
    chryslerfan55 likes this.
  2. Chappy444
    Joined: Jan 27, 2012
    Posts: 1,128

    1. Maryland HAMBers

    Personally I wouldn't flat tow any great distance and I wouldn't exceed 50-55mph.
    I brought my 30 coupe home on a uhaul trailer. It tows really well and has surge brakes. One day local rental is about $46 and a 3 day one way rental from NJ to MD was $108.

    Edit: changed brake type from friction to surge for Ebbsspeed
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2018
    LOU WELLS and rjones35 like this.
  3. I still have the set up for my 56. Haven't needed to use it in a long while.
    camer2 likes this.
  4. klawockvet
    Joined: May 1, 2012
    Posts: 387


    Lots of people tow cars and trucks behind motorhomes today. I towed dozens of early Fords back in the 50's and 60's and never thought twice about it. I still occasionally tow an F350 behind another F350 without any problem. Even though I have towed thousands of cars in my life with only one problem, it still makes me a bit nervous.
    Car trailers are cheap, most have at least one axle with brakes and all have lights.
    Hooking up a safe tow bar without looking like a POS when disconnected can be a challenge.
    Cars with light front ends want to drag the front wheels in some conditions when making sharp turns.
    Very difficult to back when compared to a trailer.
    Many automatics and some manual transmissions require the driveshaft to be disconnected
    Have to wire in some sort of rear lights and turn indicators
    No brakes unless you spend a lot of money for a kit that will work the brakes on the towed car.
    The driveline, tires and wheels are all getting used and if you have to bring a disabled vehicle back home you may not be able to flat tow it.
    Bottom line: I feel better towing on a trailer but will flat tow if the need arises. Open car haulers are plentiful and relatively cheap.

  5. Hollywood-East
    Joined: Mar 13, 2008
    Posts: 1,221


    1783395-b39882dcf43aed4bf3fbf8e1b17c5bf7.jpg I towed this setup 400 mls. Round trip on the thruway, no issues... Just can't tow anything out of alignment/minus eng., Still have the vintage tow bar..
    blowby and ring gap like this.
  6. We have flat towed the Raven's roadster a couple of times, never more then 250-300 miles. It has a purpose built tow bar just in case it gets broken. It tows fine at highway speeds.

    If you are towing a car that is heavier than your town vehicle it has a tendency to push in the corners. No trailer brakes so to speak, so it also puts a little extra strain on you tow vehicle brakes.

    It is still wearing the drivetrain and the tires but you don't get to drive it.

    Backing one is like trying to back a 4 wheel hay trailer.

    I drop the drive shaft even on a stick vehicle if I am towing any distance.

    They used to make tow hubs believe it or not just for flat towing a vehicle. They bolted onto your stock brakes and free wheeled.

    The pro is that you don't have to own a trailer or find a place to park it when not in use.
    Atwater Mike and egads like this.
  7. Terrible80
    Joined: Oct 1, 2010
    Posts: 778


    You see guys from Mexico here all the time , get on the bus with your tow bar. Go to auctions in Colorado, buy 2 vehicles and bring them back down.
    Atwater Mike, Blues4U and Texas Webb like this.
  8. buffaloracer
    Joined: Aug 22, 2004
    Posts: 800

    from kansas

    Need to be real careful if you turn on to gravel roads. Towed our old race car without problems until we turned onto gravel. It would go to lock within 15 feet. Sure do like my trailer.
  9. I built a towbar for my '51 Hudson for when we moved from Rapid City to Great Falls back in 2006. Tested it a couple times and it worked great. Ended up not using it long distance until we moved back to Rapid City from Colorado Springs in 2016. This was a different '51 Hudson and it acted different on the towbar than the previous '51. When I would come out of a turn the steering wheel on the '51 kept turning L to R and wouldn't stop until coming to complete stop. Could have been the bias tires but not sure. Solved it by bungee cord from steering wheel to brake pedal. Caused front tires to scrub a little on turns. Scary part was that I was towing with a 26' budget moving truck and couldn't see or feel the car behind me. Wife kept me posted on the walkie talkie. Overall the tow bar works great and I'll continue to use it. I am also planning on building one for my Model A so I can tow it with the Hudson.

    I did find out the hard way that you should never use a tow bar in the snow unless you're towing a small car with a Peterbilt. Was Towing the Hudson across town once on some snowy roads with a half ton Dodge pickup and the Hudson actually jackknifed me on a turn because front tires couldn't track on the snow. It pushed the back of the truck around and the towbar got wedged under the bumper of the truck. Not fun.
    winduptoy likes this.
  10. junkman8888
    Joined: Jan 28, 2009
    Posts: 501


    I avoid flat-towing and tow-dollys at all costs. Every time I tried either one I ended up with a great story to tell my grandchildren. Your results may vary.
    nochop likes this.
  11. Fat47
    Joined: Nov 10, 2007
    Posts: 1,241


    I flat towed a 60 T-Bird from Tacoma, WA to Springfield, Ill. with my chevy van without any problems using a 15 year old tow bar. And I ran 70-80 through Montana. But, I have been known to do stupid things.
    Racer29 and partsdawg like this.
    Joined: Nov 13, 2002
    Posts: 1,201


    Thanks. Thinking of doing this with a 49 ford as the tow car
  13. razoo lew
    Joined: Apr 11, 2017
    Posts: 416

    razoo lew
    from Calgary

    I have flat towed all over the continent, but mostly with a motorhome. It obvoiusly has the advantage of size and weight over the towed vehicle. Auxillary brake systems are available for towed vehicles (google “brake buddy” or “patriot braking systems” for a couple), I have used both. Lots of pros and cons, but with proper preparation,I would not be afraid of it.
  14. To be legal in some states these days the towed vehicle has to have brakes actuated by the towing vehicle, depending on their respective weights. I've done it when I had to, but unless the towing vehicle has a large weight advantage over the towed vehicle, it's really not safe....
    gimpyshotrods likes this.
  15. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 9,298

    Rusty O'Toole

    I have flat towed cars and consider it to be safer than a trailer or tow dolly in some ways. At least, more stable. The obvious disadvantage is no brakes. You can get battery powered tail lights and signal lights to stick on or just turn on the tail lights.

    Disconnect the drive shaft if it is an automatic, although some early automatics had a rear pump and are OK. This feature applys mostly to pre 1955 cars. Manual trans you don't need to worry.

    On later models you don't have a bumper to clamp onto. I made a long tow bar that went under the car and clamped on the front suspension. Worked great.

    Try to avoid heavy traffic.
  16. WZ JUNK
    Joined: Apr 20, 2001
    Posts: 1,669

    from Neosho, MO

    [QUOTE="Fat47, But, I have been known to do stupid things.[/QUOTE]

    But we have had some fun along the way.

  17. You need to worry with most manuals too.... Most are splash lubricated by the cluster gear rotating, which if you're flat-towing isn't happening, only the mainshaft is turning. This will take out the mainshaft bearings if you're going any distance. There's some manuals where this isn't true, but you need to know which you have.
    sunbeam, Atwater Mike and Hnstray like this.
  18. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 27,533


    I've still got and still use the old rental tow bar that I have used for over 30 years. Last rig I towed was the 92 Dodge Dakota suspension donor that will give up it's suspension and steering for the 48. That truck actually has brackets bolted to the bumper for a tow bar as it was towed all over the west by the original owners.
    My buddy taught me years ago to tie the steering down with a bungie cord. I usually use one with enough give to let the wheel turn some on turns but still pull the wheel back to center.

    Towing a T bucket frame with no engine or trans in it doesn't work worth a damn though. I tried that when I was building my T and needed to take it to my buddy's shop to do some welding on it.
    If you look at stories of the early 60's Super stock days you see will see photos of some of the now very famous super stock racers flat towing from one side of the country to the other when they were on tour.
  19. Joatha
    Joined: Jul 6, 2008
    Posts: 184


    Lots of good stuff here and I'll be repeating some items. FWIW, I have a motorhome (large 40' diesel pusher) and have towed with it.

    1. Auxiliary braking should NOT be optional IMO. This is a safety issue. In some states, its mandatory with as little as 1500 lbs. You really need something to stop that car if it comes loose. I do NOT need any supplemental braking to help stop my motorhome + tow vehicle (I can't even tell its there). But, I absolutely would feel horrible if my vehicle broke loose and killed someone. As mentioned above, look in to a Brake Buddy or some products like that. You basically hook it to the brake pedal, move the seat up to wedge it in, and then either use the brake light wiring or a wireless unit to activate braking. If it breaks loose, there is a circuit that when broken, it activates the brake and slows it down quickly.

    2. Most automatics and some 4 speeds don't handle being towed very well (covered above). Make sure that your tranny can handle it. Remco makes some driveshaft disconnect kits and you could possibly use one of those to allow the rear to free-wheel without turning over the tranny.

    3. Tow dollies are horrible, IMO. I have one that I no longer really use and I load up my vehicle on it, drive a couple miles and stop to check it. Its ALWAYS loose in some fashion at that first check. I then cinch it up, drive it another couple miles and check again. This time its usually tight but not always. Once it has stayed tight, I keep going. But, I STILL stop every hour to check it again. About 10-20% of the time, I can tighten it down just a little bit more (but at least its not loose). Also, you have the same issue with the tranny that you have with flat towing for RWD vehicles. Dollies really work better for FWD vehicles. They also don't hold a lot of weight very well (most of them are fairly limited in their capacity).

    4. Backing up when flat towing is usually a problem due to the caster angle. The wheels tend to turn hard quick and get in a bad spot unless you secure the steering wheel in some fashion.

    5. They do have systems that monitor air pressure - Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS). Its hardly required but would give some more peace of mind should a tire blow out on the roadster. The bigger the difference in the towing vehicle and the towed vehicle makes it harder and harder to tell when something happens.
  20. I had an adventure flat towing a Model A coupe (with my company car!!) from Jacksonville to Orlando during a move. Got in a monsoon and the coupe hydroplaned, spun out and jack knifed in to the right rear quarter of the 69 Plymouth! Bent the industrial strength tow bar to boot. Had to leave the coupe at a gas station; it was still there a week later when I got back with a borrowed trailer. Really had to lie my way out of that to keep my job!
    In a word: DON'T!!
  21. 56sedandelivery
    Joined: Nov 21, 2006
    Posts: 6,371


    I flat towed my Pro Bracket Car (what else, a 56 Chevrolet) for years in the mid 70 to late 70's and early 80's, and never had any problems. But, I always used towing hubs on the rear end. When I sold the car, less engine/trans, I flat towed it up I-5 to the Seattle/Ballard area, about 40 miles; that was a little dicey without any weight on the front end, but only with very low speed, tight turns, because the front tires did't want to return to center. The first Powerglide I built for it was a rear pump model, and after about 15 MPH flat towing it, you could feel the pump engage, and pull the speed down slightly (this was before I had towing hubs), but it was only for a short distance to the painters. I sold both sets of towing hubs in the last couple of years (more like gave them away); no one wanted the tow bar, so it went for scrap. Now I have a car trailer, if I ever finish rebuilding it!
    I am Butch/56sedandelivery.
  22. Hnstray
    Joined: Aug 23, 2009
    Posts: 11,585

    from Quincy, IL

    For those who don't, or don't want to, own a trailer, for short hauls, call a roll-back towing service. Otherwise, a rental trailer may be the best choice around. The major brands are well constructed, have surge brakes and suitable lighting. The rental cost is very reasonable for the service you get.

    Although I have owned my own tandem axle trailer, with brakes on both axles, for at least 20 years, I have on a couple of occasions rented a trailer when it suited my purposes. Check the lights, tires( condition and pressure) before heading out.

    If you DO tow your not run junky trailers, with junky tires, poor or no lighting, bad brakes, etc.
    Seems obvious, right. Well, then how come there are so many POS trailers on the road?

    Over the years, I have towed vehicles in all the manners discussed and experienced the pros and cons of each. Trailers are my first choice. Well maintained good equipment, properly loaded, pulled by an appropriate tow vehicle, in a manner consistent with roads and conditions, is almost always a stress free operation.

    Last edited: Mar 29, 2018
  23. TRJ
    Joined: Oct 4, 2003
    Posts: 331

    Alliance Vendor

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  24. gene-koning
    Joined: Oct 28, 2016
    Posts: 2,027


    Back in the early 80s I built several custom made tow bars. Some of the hobby stock car boys towed their race cars to and from the local track. One time a couple of the guys towed their cars across the state line (about 30 miles from here). They found out the hard way that in that state (and several other states) flat towed cars have to be licensed, insured, and could be required to pass a vehicle inspection, with a fine for every failure.

    Within weeks of that event, no one was flat towing their race cars.

    Trailers or commercial towing companies are a much preferred methods of moving vehicles from one location to another. Trailers also some protection for the towed vehicle in this day of texting and distracted drivers. It also saves the wear and tear of the towed vehicle for actual driving time. Gene
    Hnstray likes this.
  25. southcross2631
    Joined: Jan 20, 2013
    Posts: 4,010


    I flat towed my o/t 69 Camaro probably as many miles as it got driven on the highway. I used towing hubs and a commerically made tow bar with a 70 C/10.Never an issue. Then I bought a Bock drag star trailer,never used that tow bar again.
  26. Ive flat towed for 50 years. still have and use my tow pilot tow bar. The towing vehicle needs to be larger & heavier than what is towed and you need a bit of extra weight in the back. vehicles with bias tires flat tow better than radials. The thing is you need to slow down and drive like you don't have any brakes. Not any more dangerious than when using a trailer. I have a light bar that I use. I rigged it up so I can use it on everything I pull all of my trailers ect. Now a bungie to return the steering to center is helpful. I for several years used a 64 chev 3/4 ton for a wrecker. and had so much steel welded on it that it weighed 6000 pounds. And if I had several vehicles and a long way to go. I would hook a vehicle to the tow sling and attach another to it with the tow bar. The 250 six pulled it fine and would hold it back on the steep grades . I rigged the throttle so I could completely close the carb butterfly and the engine wasn't getting any gas. worked like a compression brake. Flat towing is like anything else yes bad things can happen. bad things can possibly happen everyday. So to be 100%safe don't do nuthin stay home.
    razoo lew likes this.
  27. Hnstray
    Joined: Aug 23, 2009
    Posts: 11,585

    from Quincy, IL

    ^^^^^^^^^^using a "6000 # Chevy 3/4 ton pickup" , plus towing two vehicles behind it, with only the pickup brakes (oem single circuit m/c) to control the 12,000 to 14,000 # (estimated) combined load figure it out. :eek:

    Old wolf likes this.
  28. Well, then how come there are so many POS trailers on the road? I think its because most trailers are not used on a regular basis. I own 5 tandem axle trailers ,a tandem axle stock trailer and two goose neck trailers. And I wouldn't count on those electric trailer brakes. or the lights working. back before the mandatory insurance law. I used a 66 ford F600 to haul stuff. now insurance and license is so expensive no one uses two ton trucks any more. you will see 4 wheel drive pickups pulling a large gooseneck loaded to the gills around here. Hauling large tractors , Construction equiptment ,logs , thirty of those large round hay bales ect. No weight limit or CDL required on a 3/4 ton truck in Arkansas.
  29. Hnstray
    Joined: Aug 23, 2009
    Posts: 11,585

    from Quincy, IL

    There's an easy and obvious answer to that's most likely because too many people are too cheap and/or too lazy/careless to maintain them.

    lurker mick likes this.
  30. badvolvo
    Joined: Jul 25, 2011
    Posts: 469


    I flat tow my Rubicon about 3500 miles annually, it pulls well @ 80 mph no issues.
    Years ago, I flat towed my drag car and put the slicks on when I got to the strip because I didn't have a solid truck. Now I have a trailer, good tow vehicle, but the added weight, width, length of the trailer makes me flat tow when I can. Ecoboost does not know that jeep is back there and still knocks down good mpg's. Drops about 2 - 3 mpg's when I am using the trailer vs flat towing.
    I do use my trailer alot, but when the situation is right, I don't mind flat towing either.
    I have found the tow bar works best when it's a bit higher on the truck then the vehicle being towed.
    Old wolf likes this.

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