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Old 11-20-2019, 02:14 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Tow bar angle

Hello everyone, I am wondering if the angle of my tow bar could affect stability. Sorry for the dumb question, but I have never flat towed anything before and I can’t seem to find an answer to my question.

Long story short, my 04 Honda Civic has been sitting in a buddy’s yard in North Carolina for a few years because the engine blew up and I moved out of the state since then. I decided to go to North Carolina to flat tow it back home with my 05 Civic.

Once I got it hooked up and took off, everything felt fine. Until I reached 35 MPH, at which point the car I was towing started pushing my car all over the road. I was constantly having to make corrections to stay in my lane. It felt stable while climbing hills, even small ones, but on flat ground or going down hills, not good. Also, when I tried to stop, the brakes had good power thanks to my upgrades, but my front tires locked up and skidded as if they lost traction.

I suspected that something may be loose or falling apart, so I immediately pulled over and checked my tow bar and hitch to ensure that everything was still tight and not falling apart, everything was good.

My next thought was that my hitch is quite low, causing the tow bar to point down significantly. My car is lowered by about 1-1.5 inches, and I attached the tow bar to the front bumper of my white Civic, so as you can see, the tow bar was far from level.

So my next step was to (very carefully) drive to a hardware store and buy a drop down hitch, which I flipped around so it raised my ball up by about 1 to 2 inches to help level my tow bar a little bit. The stability seemed a little better, I could then drive 38-40 MPH on flat ground before it started acting up, but it was still not fit to drive 600 miles on the highway to get home.

So I am wondering if the tow bar pointing down could be making stability and/or braking performance worse. I am thinking that’s probably the problem because I am thinking if I am pulling that car down rather than straight forwards that couldn’t be good. Also, I am thinking that the car I am towing is likely pushing down on the back of my car causing the front end to lift up when I brake rather than pushing my car straight forwards, causing a loss of traction. Does that sound reasonable?

Also, those of you who are about to say “You can’t tow with a Civic!”, you can. I pulled a U Haul trailer 600 miles home when I moved. I stopped at a weigh station to weigh my setup, and the trailer and my Civic weighed 5400 pounds. So the trailer was probably 2500+ pounds and my little Civic pulled it no problem with the performance upgrades I did to it. It had enough power, it was stable, and it stopped okay. Not great, but good enough that I felt safe.

Thank you very much in advance to those who provide any useful info on this topic. Like I said, I am not an expert on towing, so any information will be greatly appreciated

EDIT: Here’s some other information that I forgot to include.

I removed the CV axles from the car before I pulled it and installed ends from junk axles in the wheel hubs so I didn’t damage the transmission

The key was in the ignition and the steering wheel turned freely, I didn’t tie it up.

Yes I have safety chains, they just weren’t on in the pictures

Yes, I had functional lighting

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Last edited by EcoCivic; 11-20-2019 at 02:34 PM.. Reason: Added more info
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Old 11-20-2019, 04:34 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I had no stability issues at speed with this setup, but the bar was pretty level and the Insight weighs a lot less than a Jetta. Got both of my Insights home the same way. I did have issues with oversteer on icy roads. And some issues making tight turns at low speed. Flat towing a car sucks. I'd do it again if I had to, but I don't want to!
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Old 11-20-2019, 08:22 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gasoline Fumes View Post
I had no stability issues at speed with this setup, but the bar was pretty level and the Insight weighs a lot less than a Jetta. Got both of my Insights home the same way. I did have issues with oversteer on icy roads. And some issues making tight turns at low speed. Flat towing a car sucks. I'd do it again if I had to, but I don't want to!
Thanks. Do you think my hitch is low enough to cause a stability problem? Maybe getting a taller mount for my ball so the tow bar is more level would help?
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Old 11-20-2019, 11:11 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by EcoCivic View Post
Thanks. Do you think my hitch is low enough to cause a stability problem? Maybe getting a taller mount for my ball so the tow bar is more level would help?
I'd try it. But that's mostly because I don't know what else to suggest.
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Old 11-21-2019, 12:26 AM   #5 (permalink)
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You want the tow bar as level as you can get. You are double loading your brakes towing a similar sized car. I flat tow my Saturn L with my F53 chassis motorhome and it tows fine but I have a Roadmaster tow bar designed for the car.
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Old 11-21-2019, 03:35 AM   #6 (permalink)
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You guys seriously do this without someone sitting in the towed vehicle? Have to say that's not a risk worth taking.

I have never seen someone do this, so does the towed vehicle actually "follow your turns"? Or is there somekind of link to the steering parts?
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Old 11-21-2019, 08:16 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by iikhod View Post
You guys seriously do this without someone sitting in the towed vehicle? Have to say that's not a risk worth taking.

I have never seen someone do this, so does the towed vehicle actually "follow your turns"? Or is there somekind of link to the steering parts?
Yup, we do this without someone sitting in the drivers seat. No link to the steering, it follows the tow vehicle just fine.

Where I live it's not too uncommon to see one medium size sedan pulling 2 vehicles the same size or larger on the highway! I think they are pulling them to a body shop or something since the vehicles being towed always look damaged.

I have no way to know if they have functional brakes in the vehicles they are towing, but I would sure hope so! I can't even imagine trying to stop 3 cars with 1 small car's brakes!

I bet they probably don't have functional brakes because if they cared enough about safety to set up brakes they probably wouldn't be attempting something like that, or they would at least tow 1 vehicle a a time.
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Old 11-21-2019, 08:18 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Gasoline Fumes View Post
I'd try it. But that's mostly because I don't know what else to suggest.
Thanks, that's pretty much what I was thinking lol. It did seem to help a little to raise it up a little, so maybe raising it up until its level would help a lot
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Old 11-21-2019, 10:01 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iikhod View Post
You guys seriously do this without someone sitting in the towed vehicle? Have to say that's not a risk worth taking.

I have never seen someone do this, so does the towed vehicle actually "follow your turns"? Or is there somekind of link to the steering parts?
It's pretty common here to tow a car like this with an RV. It still amazes me that the towed car does steer itself.
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Old 11-21-2019, 11:09 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Wow, you learn something new everyday.
One would think that the towed vehicle would be all over the place when not being pulled by the tow car.

Do you guys have these? Every now and then i see something towed with this kind of setup. In here that is called a dolly.

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