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Roadmaster RV Tow Bar Follow-Up

Roadmaster RV Tow Bar Follow-Up

After towing our Honda CR-V behind our RV for over 13 years, we’re big believers in the benefits of flat towing. This past summer we replaced our original towbar, and promised to keep you posted on how the new one is performing. This video not only provides an update, but includes some tips on how one person can disconnect the car in the most challenging situations.

When Roadmaster asked us to test out their Sterling All-Terrain, we hadn’t been actively in the market for a new towbar. We’d become so used to employing various tricks to overcome towbar binding that we didn’t realize what we were missing. As with many things, it took a conversation with friends who already owned the same Roadmaster towbar to make a light bulb go off. We’d been fighting with our old towbar for years without realizing that we didn’t have to.

So just how effective is Roadmaster’s patented “Freedom Latch” at releasing on hills and sharp angles? Check out the short video above for the deets!

If you want to see how this beautiful piece of equipment is made, be sure to check out our “How It’s Made” video below, where we took a tour of the Vancouver, WA factory that produces them.

On a related note… be sure to maintain and check your towing connections on a regular basis. We’ve never had a single problem, and have never known anyone else who has either… until our dear friends Nina & Paul of Wheeling It posted about their recent mishap. Like us, their experience with Roadmaster has been excellent. But we can all learn from each other’s experiences, and we’re now taking our toad a little less for granted. You can read all about it here.


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Philip clopez

Thursday 24th of December 2020

Roadmaster is a reliable towbar. We've been flat towing our Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (5050 pounds loaded on the scales) for close to 10,000 miles with this unit. This includes some bumpy dirt roads, not just highway.

Philip clopez

Sunday 13th of December 2020

Thanks for sharing, this is useful! I'll be following your new post!

TheRVgeeks

Sunday 13th of December 2020

Thanks Philip!

robert heisserer

Wednesday 8th of March 2017

On a related topic, which braking system for your towed vehicle are the RV Geeks using? I've been reading quite a bit about the air braking systems including one that is called 'Air Force One' and is manufactured by SMI Manufacturing. In general do you believe that are these more effective (and safer?) than the more traditional systems such as a Brake Buddy? I've read many complaints about the Brake Buddy system. Your thoughts?

TheRVgeeks

Wednesday 8th of March 2017

Hi Robert! We use an old Blue Ox system that has long since been discontinued. We are quite familiar with the Air Force One, and it is likely our top choice if we were in the market for a braking system today. As full-timers, Brake Buddy is not one we would consider, since we want something more integrated into the toad that requires no setup or takedown each time we tow. If not full-timing , or need the ability to tow more than one car and/or are planning to replace your toad in the not-too-distant future, a portable system like Brake Buddy or Roadmaster's Even Brake might be a good consideration for you. Hope this helps a bit.

Rodney Nelson

Friday 18th of November 2016

Always watch your videos as they are a wealth of information. I have the Blue Ox tow bar which came with our used Dutch Star when we purchased the MH. I must admit that I do not remember it binding that much but has on occasion. I like the idea of the ease which the Roadmaster will release the arms. After watching your videos, I understand that binding occurs no matter which tow bar is used. However, it appears that the only reason the Freedom Latch releases easily is the increased force produced by the release handle mechanism.

I have experienced the same binding in automobile transmissions when placing them in park and letting the car roll back on the parking pin. It takes additional force to put it back into gear but have heard some pins break.

With the Roadmaster increased force on the release mechanism do you believe it will increase the wear on the parts or cause it to fail sooner?

TheRVgeeks

Friday 18th of November 2016

Hi Rodney. Thanks for the nice comment and great questions. It's always nice to hear from a fellow Newmar owner, too! :)

Binding does not actually occur in all towbar, as "binding" is sometimes inadvertently used to refer to something that actually isn't: the "pinching" (for lack of a better word) of the pins that hold the towbar arms to the car. Towabar binding actually refers to the internal mechanism inside the bar itself, where the inner and outer arms meet. It's the inability to release the handles on some towbars that constitutes binding, and some bars have that problem and some don't.

Once a towbar's arms are released (either the easy way, as on our Roadmaster, or the hard way, as in rocking the car or applying greater force to the handles as on our old bar), the pins that connect the bar to the car can now easily be removed in almost all conditions EXCEPT on uphills. As mentioned, this is a function of physics and gravity, with the weight of the car pulling back downhill on the pins, and no towbar in the world can overcome that.

That said, the trick of snugging the car forward in uphill situations once again gives the advantage to Roadmaster's latch. When doing the same thing with our old bar, we could actually snug the car tightly forward enough that the handles would now resist releasing, because the force of the car toward the RV now simulates the situation of a downhill disconnect... with the lack of non-binding latches making it difficult to release them. It was kind of a balancing act on uphills... snug the car forward, but not TOO hard! LOL Now, it doesn't matter how hard we snug forward, since the handles will release every time.

Your questions about the Roadmaster latch wearing out sooner is a great one. Obviously we haven't had it nearly long enough to say what old age will be like. But here is what we've seen so far in comparison to our old bar. With the old one, we had to sometimes practically stand on the handles to release them (even while rocking the car in some cases). The amount of force we had to use could be excessive at times, necessitating a move of the whole rig to a different location to get the bar off. We can't imagine that that the amount of pressure we had to exert being good for the handles.

We've seen the internal workings of Roadmaster's latch (we showed that cutaway view in the video) and not only does it appear as robust as everything else on the entire towbar, but Roadmaster tells us that they do not have failure issues with the latches. There seem to be more elements of the latch design than the mechanical advantage the contribute to its ease of use. It seems to be a really well engineered piece.

Sorry this was so long, but hope this addresses some of your thoughts on the topic. Thanks again for chiming in!

mike

Monday 14th of November 2016

Interesting video and discussions. I sleep better at night using locks on everything. In watching the video I saw something new that I wanted to post about. I use the Roadmaster All-Terrain towbar and Roadmaster base-plate.

In the video, I noticed you ran the emergency breakaway pull cable in the safety cable passageway and that this cable was not a spring cable, but rather a straight cable. Do you see any issues with this arrangement with cable binding and either breaking or activating toad emergency brake system by accident?

I also would have placed my electrical cable in the towbar passage as you did, but I use a thicker gauge 7-wire connection that includes a charge line line to the toad and a toad brake activation line back to the RV drivers seat. The brake activation line lights up some LEDs so I know when ever the toad brakes are in use. This also provides an electrical test of my toad connection from the RV drivers seat - that is, before driving away, I press my brakes and check the toad brake status light, if it turns on, I know the toad and RV are connected electrically and my air brake connection to the toad's brake pedal is operating.

TheRVgeeks

Monday 14th of November 2016

Hi Mike! Thanks for the input. Good eye.

As you saw, we did not use the standard coil-cord breakaway pull cable from Roadmaster OR Blue Ox. We created and installed our own using plastic-coated steel cable. We adjusted the length very carefully, such that it could not be pulled (thereby accidentally activating the toad brakes), no matter how sharply we turn. We tested routing, connection points on each end, and maximum-angle turns in both directions to be sure that there was comfortable slack in the line under all conditions.

On the other side of that coin, we also made sure that the line wasn't too LONG. In the event of a towbar failure, the car would of course fall back against the safety cables, preventing it from getting very far back from the RV. We disconnected the bar, but left the safety cables in place, and backed the car up until the cables pulled tight, making sure that the actuator pin on the front of the car was pulled clear prior to the safety cables pulling tight, again with a little room to spare. So there's no way it can go off accidentally, and no way it can fail to go off in the event of a breakaway. We're pretty comfortable with it now having tested and routinely inspected the set-up over the past several months.

As far as locks, we feel the same, and have always kept our Blue Ox bar attached to the car with key-lockable pins, which can be seen in the video in the scenes that show the Blue Ox Bar. Of course Roadmaster has lockable pins too, but we're in the same situation that Nina & Paul are in.... B.O. baseplate with a Roadmaster bar. Since B.O. only uses 1/2" pins, and Roadmaster uses 3/4" pins, they're not interchangeable. We're looking at our options, and expect to have something lined up soon. If and when we do, we'll of course be sure to report back.

On the electrical cord side, we have only 6 wires in our electrical cable, so no trouble fitting it through the channel. Although we do have extra room in there, so we're guessing that your 7-wire cable must be quite a bit thicker if it won't fit.

We have on old Blue Ox braking system that was discontinued years ago. It has some of the same great functionality you've described, letting us know for certain that the toad is connected and that the brakes are indeed activating. We have one other really great feature on it, which is the ability to test actuate the toad brakes without even stepping on the RV's brakes, using a 3-way momentary toggle on the RV dash. Down is "toad brakes off" and middle is "toad brakes active, but not depressed" (the standard mode travel mode). Whenever we step on the coach brakes in this mode, the switch lights up to confirm that the toad brakes are applying as well. Since it's the actual depression of the toad brakes that sends the signal back to that light, it's an ironclad way to know not only that they're working, but the speed at which the light on the switch illuminates, and then goes off, tells us if calibration is required. If we step on the coach brakes and that light lags by a few seconds, we know the "pedal depress" setting needs to be increased. If we release the coach brakes, and that light stays on for a few seconds, we know we need to dial back the "pedal release" setting.

The momentary "Up" position on our 3-way dash switch is "depress toad brakes" mode. That way, we can not only test them at the press of a button, but even better.... if we're starting off for the day on a slight downhill right after connecting the toad, we can hold that button up as we begin to roll the coach. That holds back on the car, locking the unlocked towbar arm (if we didn't luck into lining up the car 100% perfectly when attaching it). I hate to drive away until BOTH arms are locked, and this allows me to "pull" the car back just until the second arm locks, even on a downhill, when the car would otherwise roll forward toward the RV on the unlocked arm side. I love this feature. Of course we make a game out of seeing if we can get both arms to lock when connecting, but nobody can be 100% every time when lining up the car. ;-)

Sounds like you have a great system, and really know how to use it. Thanks again for the input.

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