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What Is A Non-Binding Tow Bar? Which Ones To Consider Buying?

What Is A Non-Binding Tow Bar? Which Ones To Consider Buying?

A non-binding tow bar is an essential part of our towing setup. We’ve experienced binding in the past, and trust us – you don’t want to deal with it. In this post, we’ll explain what binding is and how it happens, show you how non-binding tow bars are different, and share the ones we’ve had a great experience with.

What Is Tow Bar Binding?

Binding is an issue you may encounter when disconnecting your towed car (commonly known as a “toad”) from the rear of your motorhome. Binding occurs when the latches won’t release due to pressure on them. This occurs most often when your toad is at an angle from your rig or when you’re parked on a downgrade, where the weight of the toad presses forward toward the RV.

As an example, here’s a photo of our Newmar Mountain Aire parked with the toad at an angle, followed by a photo of our original tow bar which we often had to fight to release because it wasn’t equipped with non-binding latches.

Our Newmar Mountain Aire parked at an angle

Parking perfectly straight and level to disconnect isn’t always feasible. When parked at an angle like this, or on a downgrade, getting our original tow bar to release often involved considerable physical exertion… and frustration.

 

Our original tow bar with our RV and car parked at an angle

This is our original tow bar. It was frustrating having to fight with it in certain situations to get it to release. On an angle, the latch on the inside of the turn is the one most likely to bind.

Take it from us, you don’t want to deal with binding. It can be incredibly frustrating, sometimes requiring two people and considerable effort to resolve. The sharper the angle between the tow car and the RV, or the steeper the downhill, the more difficult the process.

Of course, parking perfectly straight on a level surface is the best and easiest way to disconnect the toad. But in tight campground situations, that isn’t always possible. Without a non-binding tow bar, getting it released can be a real pain.

When this happens, often the only way to get the tow bar latch(es) to release is by having one person put the car in reverse and pull back hard. That takes the forward pressure and weight of the car off the latches, allowing a second person to release them. It can sometimes require the person driving the car to rock the steering wheel back and forth to release the pressure on the latch(es).

When facing downhill, it’s common for neither arm to release.

Peter trying to release the tow bar latches during typical RV tow bar binding.

When facing downhill, typically neither latch on a non-binding tow bar will release no matter how much force is used. In this case, you’ll need a second person to put the tow car in reverse and pull back hard to get the tow bar to release. This can be extremely difficult, or impossible, to do alone without a non-binding tow bar.

Again, a helper is needed to pull back hard on the car. If you’re alone, you’ll be hard-pressed to get the car disconnected from the RV without assistance.

We dealt with binding issues for years when we first hit the road. We had to constantly worry about being as close to perfectly straight and level as possible to disconnect. When that wasn’t possible, we’d find ourselves forced to work as a team, pulling our toad back and forth to try to get our tow bar to release.

It wasn’t until we learned about a non-binding tow bar design that releases easily in virtually any situation (not just on the straight & level) that we were able to put the annoyance of tow bar binding behind us permanently. (As we often say: “We learned about RVing the hard way, so you don’t have to!”)

What Is a Non-Binding Tow Bar?

Non-binding tow bars have specially designed latches that let you release the tow bar at virtually any angle or slope. This means no more worrying about being perfectly straight or level to disconnect, and no more pulling your toad back and forth to try to get your tow bar to release.

Non-binding latches are one of the best features of any tow bar setup. As far as we’re concerned, no tow bar makes it into the “best tow bar for flat-towing” category without non-binding latches.

We dealt with the frustration of tow bar binding until we learned about Roadmaster tow bars, which are designed with clever patented latches that make binding a thing of the past. Roadmaster calls them “Freedom Latches” and they work by providing a 400-to-1 mechanical advantage between the latch handle and the release mechanism.

We had friends who used (and loved) their Roadmaster Sterling tow bar and never experienced a binding issue. When we asked them about binding, they actually didn’t even know what we were talking about! That was enough to compel us to visit Roadmaster to learn what kind of solutions they might have for our long-time binding issues.

We made the following video to illustrate the binding problem with our original tow bar, our switch to the Sterling, and share our tour of the Roadmaster facility and how their towing products are made:

We put our new Roadmaster Sterling to the test at various angles and slopes. No matter what we tried, we couldn’t make it bind. The arms released effortlessly every time.

We liked the way Roadmaster tow bars work so much that when they introduced a brand new top-of-the-line model, the (lighted!) Nighthawk, we upgraded and never experienced binding with that bar either.

The Best Non-Binding Tow Bars

Based on our extremely satisfying personal experience, Roadmaster non-binding tow bars are our first choice, hands down. That said, here are several of the best non-binding tow bars on the market.

Roadmaster Nighthawk

This is the tow bar we used and loved for years. It has an 8,000-pound capacity and is unique because it includes two strings of LED lights. They serve as a safety feature by helping other vehicles on the road see that you’re towing.

Since other drivers aren’t likely to expect another vehicle to be following you as closely as a toad, this is an awesome safety feature when driving at night. The lights also help a lot when connecting or disconnecting in the dark.

The Nighthawk uses the same Roadmaster patented non-binding Freedom Latches as the Sterling, so we weren’t the least bit surprised that it wouldn’t bind either. Also like the Sterling, it uses Roadmaster’s patented one-step storage latch. But after dark, it’s a whole different animal, and surely the safest tow bar ever made.

The Nighthawk addresses a nagging issue we’ve always had about towing — that other drivers may move behind us suddenly without realizing we’re being “tailgated” by a car that has no lights lit anywhere except on the rear. A bonus is how clean the design is, with its cables neatly routed within channels along the bar.

This is the ultimate top-of-the-line tow bar, with every feature Roadmaster offers. We wouldn’t tow with any other bar, and Roadmaster makes it even better by offering a special deal — a free tow bar cover and free tow bar lock, both of which will help protect your beautiful new tow bar.

Call Roadmaster at (800) 669-9690 to order your Nighthawk tow bar factory direct and tell them you want “The RVgeeks Package”. You’ll receive a FREE Tow Bar Cover & Hitch Receiver Lock to keep your new Nighthawk secure and looking great. Free Shipping is also included!

SPECIAL!
Roadmaster, Inc Logo
Roadmaster Nighthawk RV Tow Bar RVgeeks Package

Call Roadmaster at (800) 669-9690 to order your Nighthawk tow bar factory direct and tell them you want “The RVgeeks Package”. You'll receive a FREE Tow Bar Cover & Hitch...Show More

Call Roadmaster at (800) 669-9690 to order your Nighthawk tow bar factory direct and tell them you want “The RVgeeks Package”. You'll receive a FREE Tow Bar Cover & Hitch Receiver Lock to keep your new Nighthawk secure and looking great. Free Shipping is also included!

The Roadmaster Nighthawk is our favorite RV tow bar. The non-binding latches ensure you'll have an easy time disconnecting, no matter how the RV and tow car are positioned. Longer arms make connecting and disconnecting easier. And the LED lights along the arms improve safety and visibility when towing!

Check out our latest Nighthawk video here

Show Less

Check out our video about our Roadmaster Nighthawk:

Roadmaster Falcon All-Terrain

The Falcon All-Terrain non-binding tow bar has a 6,000 lb. capacity and also includes Roadmaster’s patented Freedom Latches and one-step storage latch. It uses a self-aligning design and the longest tow bar arms available. Each inner arm telescopes to over 50″ in length and can be extended or retracted independently and rotated 45º horizontally.

The Falcon is durable with solid stainless steel inner arms and has built-in channel guides through which the safety cables and power cord can be routed for protection against damage or dragging.

Roadmaster 527 Falcon All-Terrain Non-Binding Tow Bar - Motorhome-Mounted, 6,000 lb. Weight Capacity
  • Patented one-step storage latch: Fold the tow bar toward the motorhome and it will “click,” automatically locking in place
  • Built-in channel guides: The safety cables and power cord can be routed through built-in channel guides for protection against damage or dragging and...

Roadmaster Sterling All-Terrain

We’ve used Roadmaster’s Sterling All-Terrain non-binding tow bar and it performed flawlessly for us. (We only upgraded to the Nighthawk when it was released to take advantage of the LED light feature.)

The Sterling has an 8,000-lb capacity and steel & stainless steel construction for high strength. It also has a powder-coated finish for maximum durability and to prevent corrosion. The telescoping solid stainless steel inner arms center and click automatically, locking as you pull away. Safety cables and power umbilical are included.

Sale
ROADMASTER 576 Sterling All-Terrain Tow Bar - 8,000 lbs.
  • Steel and stainless steel at every critical point ensure superior strength and structural integrity
  • Easy to connect, and its solid stainless steel inner arms telescope, center and automatically lock as you pull away

Roadmaster Blackhawk All-Terrain

Roadmaster’s Blackhawk is a non-binding all-terrain tow bar with a 10,000-lb capacity for use with Blue Ox baseplates. This tow bar is actually a beefed-up version of the Falcon All-Terrain, with an additional couple of tons of towing capacity.

It features Roadmaster’s patented Freedom Latch non-binding technology that offers a quick-connect and quick-disconnect system that makes it easy for one person to operate. If you already have a toad with a Blue Ox baseplate installed, this bar may be the one for you (although Roadmaster also makes adapters that will allow any Roadmaster bar to work with Blue Ox baseplate connections. (This is what we used when we upgraded our old binding tow bar.)

Roadmaster 427 Blackhawk 2 All-Terrain Non-Binding Tow Bar - Motorhome-Mounted, 10,000 lb. Weight Capacity
  • For use with Blue Ox Baseplates
  • The 10,000 Pound rated BlackHawk 2 All-Terrain is a beefed-up version of the popular Falcon All-Terrain, with an additional two tons of carrying...

Blue Ox Avail

Regardless of the manufacturer, towbar binding when trying to release a towed vehicle can happen unless they’ve engineered a latch to overcome the problem. As our own experience showed us, Blue Ox tow bar binding has been an issue, which is why they now offer models with non-binding latches. They also include a patented storage latch.

The Blue Ox Class IV Avail is a 10,000-lb-capacity non-binding tow bar constructed of steel covered by metallic paint. It uses a non-binding latch that’s designed to release in any condition. The design of this Blue Ox tow bar offers wider arms for smooth, trouble-free operation even over rough roads.

Blue Ox BX7420 Class IV Avail 10,000 lb. Capacity Tow Bar with Safety Cable, Brown
  • 10,000 lbs. capacity
  • Steel construction, premium metallic paint

Demco Excali-Bar 3

Demco’s Excali-Bar 3 is a 10,500-lb-capacity non-binding tow bar that uses modular steel construction. It’s self-aligning and adjustable, eliminating the need to line up a coupler to a ball and receiver.

The safety cables are vinyl-covered and are attached securely with safety cable mounting clips that keep them out of the way. The Excalibur 3 has the highest towing capacity of any steel tow bar on the market when used with the appropriate weight-rated receiver hitch.

DEMCO 9511013 Tow Bar - Excali-Bar 3
  • Exclusive design allows for true independent arm movement
  • Tows up to 10,500 pounds

If you’re in the market for a tow bar, we highly recommend going with a non-binding tow bar to save time, effort, and aggravation. We learned the hard way and now wouldn’t use anything other than a non-binding tow bar.

We hope the information in this post saves some fellow RVers from experiencing the frustration of owning anything other than a non-binding tow bar. If you want to see how easy it is for just one person to manage, check out our video about it:

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Terry

Sunday 25th of February 2024

On a slightly similar topic... What do you do to protect your dinghy from rock damage? Do you have anything like a sweep mounted on the rear of your motorhome?

TheRVgeeks

Monday 26th of February 2024

Hi Terry. Good question. We didn't do anything special to protect our towed/dinghy car from rock damage, but our Newmar came from the factory with a full-width mudflap hanging beneath the rear bumper. Combining that with the fact that our Honda CR-V had a black plastic front bumper and fascia that came up pretty high on the car, and we never had an issue.

If you're particularly concerned, one of the best ways to keep any rocks and/or road debris from affecting your towed/dinghy vehicle would be to install and use something like the Roadmaster Tow Defender. It adds a bit of additional complexity to hooking/unhooking your towed. But if you're really worried, it's the best defense. 😉

Richard Voyles

Saturday 18th of November 2017

Do you have experience with / or a video of 5th Wheel Landing Gear motor / gear box replacement with how to instructions and/or ideas ?

TheRVgeeks

Saturday 18th of November 2017

Hi Richard! Sorry we can't be of much help with 5th-wheel-specific tasks, as we have no experience with them. The only thing we've ever done with 5th wheels is replace awnings and slide toppers, which of course isn't specific to them. We'd suggest the user forums at iRV2.com. It's free to join and post questions, and there are tons of RVers experienced in every aspect of RVing who are eager to help.

Steven L. Cekutis

Sunday 12th of November 2017

Call Me Crazy... I'm looking to buy my 1st Tow bar and Base Plate ever !! But I kinda want to Buy the Blue Ox Base Plate and the Road Master Tow Bar.( like you have) I like the look of the removable Pegs of Blue Ox, rather than then removable peg with Flange look of Road master.....??? Wooooo is Meeee..... But, If I buy the Blue Ox base plate; In the Future I can use either of the Tow bar Systems..... If I buy the RoadMaster Base Plate .... I can Only buy RoadMaster in the Future ... Call Me Crazy; Please ;-)

TheRVgeeks

Monday 13th of November 2017

Hi Steven! You're not crazy... there's just so many options out there it can get quite confusing. And while we love how hidden our Blue Ox base plate is when we remove the connecting pins from it, we would prefer to have a complete Roadmaster system, instead of a "hybrid". At the time we bought our system, Roadmaster ONLY had the type of baseplate that had the flange and even a crossbar, and we didn't want that amount of clutter on the front of our towed. Since those days, however, Roadmaster has come out with their new "Direct Connect" baseplates which have the same kind of clean look to them that the Blue Ox does. You can check to be sure they have a match for your towed car by looking at their FitMaster tool here: https://fitmaster.roadmasterinc.com

And keep one other thing in mind: pretty much all towbar companies offer adapters to convert other-brand towbars to their baseplates, and vice versa. So if you have a Blue Ox baseplate, but a Roadmaster towbar... there are adapters for that. And vice versa. You'd never be "stuck" with one brand. But our experience with Roadmaster has been so much better than Blue Ox that we would never go back, as long as they offer equivalent equipment to meet our needs!

Hope this helps!

alan goss

Monday 2nd of October 2017

We are getting ready to purchase a new tow bar for our new to us 2012 CR-V. The tow bar we will be getting is the Roadmaster A/T. I noticed on your video that after connecting the tow bar to your vehicle you backed the vehicle up to lock in the arm releases. With our other tow bar we pulled forward in the MH to lock the releases. With the Roadmaster A/T can the releases be set either way (backing the tow car or pulling forward in the MH)?

TheRVgeeks

Monday 2nd of October 2017

Hi Alan! Congratulations on your new-to-you Honda (we love our CR-V!) and your upcoming tow bar purchase. Not sure what brand or model tow bar you had, but in all the years we've had both Blue Ox and now Roadmaster tow bars, we've never heard of using the RV to lock BOTH arms. Locking the SECOND arm, yes, but only if both don't lock when hooking up, and backing up, the car.

We're confused about how well leaving both arms unlocked until pulling the RV forward would work in a downhill situation, since the car, when connected and fully ready to tow, is, by definition, in neutral, and rolling freely. If you were facing even the slightest bit downhill, without at least one of the two arms locked (by backing the car up), the car would roll forward toward the motorhome, fully or mostly compressing the arms. Then, when you begin driving the RV, still facing downhill, the car will just sit against the back of the rig until you reach an uphill, or at least more level, spot.

The correct way to attach the car is to back it up until at least one of the arms lock (or both, if you get it nice and straight.... which we make it a bit of a game to attempt each time! LOL). If they both lock, you're 100% good to go. If only one locks, you simply need to stay aware (in the back-up camera) of the unlocked arm until it does lock. If, for example, we gently back up the car and get the driver's side arm locked, and the curb-side doesn't, we'll take it very easy until we get a chance to make a gentle curve to the left (typically still at parking lot speeds) until we see the curb-side arm extend and lock in. Then we're good to roll.

It's important to be aware of that unlocked arm, as a sudden acceleration or turn to the left could rapidly extend the arm from fully collapsed to fully extended, with a BANG at the end as the arm slams extends rapidly all the way out. This would put a lot of unnecessary stress on all of the components, especially the arm that slammed out, and the baseplate on that side.

CAN you pull the motorhome forward to lock both arms? We suppose so. But it's not the right way to do it, and not sure why you'd want to. When you're hooking up, you're standing right there with the car anyway, and backing it up on the bar is just part of hooking up.

Jerry Smith

Thursday 13th of July 2017

I noticed you indicate that the 645 safety cables come with the Sterling all terrain tow bar. I ordered that item but the cables have a hook at one end and a soldered ball at the other end and not a loop. Can you explain.

TheRVgeeks

Thursday 13th of July 2017

Hi Jerry! This Roadmaster towbar comes standard with safety cables designed to connect to Roadmaster base plates using their special “EZ Hook" system with a steel ball end. If you have another make or model base plate (like our Blue Ox), you can order the optional safety cables with regular hooks on both ends, like we did, that can be connected to any type of baseplate, even those without the special EX Hook connections. These are the cables we ordered to allow us to use our old Blue Ox base plate: http://amzn.to/2ED1k5H

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