Bluebird gets Toad preparations
Blue…… so we are going to tow our 2015 F150 pickup truck (AKA Toad) behind our Class C. Yup, you read that right. We want to do this right and we want to be able to disconnect quickly. That led us to the Roadmaster Nighthawk for a non-binding tow bar. It is quick to connect and disconnect. Doesn’t bind, folds up on the tow vehicle, can be locked and is pretty (led lights at night). (oh, we didn’t take any pictures WHILE we were working as we were pre-occupied with just getting the work done).
We also needed a breaking system. For that we settled on RVI Brake 3 because it involved less installation on the truck, and could also be disconnected quickly. (And since we seem to change things up every so often – it would be easy to move to another Toad.) I put together orders for all the pieces parts (we needed a charge adapter to keep the truck charged and dedicated power connection for the Rvi Brake 3).
Since I’ve just had shoulder surgery, doing the installations would not be easy. We checked with the boys (our sons)– and their availability wasn’t the greatest. (Empty Nester’s means empty nests) We checked with a local truck customizing shop and they wanted $1000+ to do the installs. We didn’t like that either. So that left my wife, Deb, and I to do the work. Now normally – I’d spend a couple of days in the garage doing this work with maybe a little help here and there. But since I’m still recovering from two shoulder surgeries, us working together means 2 and ½ arms, total.
Deb and I started with the base brackets for the hitch. We spent about 6 hours one day and managed to get one side done. We learned a lot and figured the other side would be easier. Fortunately, t was. We got our son Rob to come over the next day and we, three, managed to get the other side done in just a couple of hours. Each bracket required three bolts. The nuts that went with them were basically steel rectangles with drilled and tapped holes with wire handles welded on. In other words, metal lolly pops with a
hole in them. We had to stick each one through a hole in the frame, 6 inches away and line them up with a hole, then put the bolt through and get it started. But it’s not even that simple. The bracket had to be held in place (weighs about 10 pounds). AND… all bolts were supposed to have thread-locking compound on them which dries in about 20
minutes so we couldn’t take our time. Lastly – they third bolt required a hole to be drilled high on the side of the frame. My part on all this was mostly limited to manipulating the steel lollypops. So total man-hours on this part was about 18 hours.
So, that was part 1 of 5 or so.
Rob stopped by on another day and helped me install the brackets for the tow connections and the bracket for the break-away switch. This required a trip to the hardware store as the supplied self-taping screws seemed like a lousy way to attach brackets especially since the holes were right near the edge of the bumper. We used real bolts, washers and lock nuts. Time not counting hardware store – 2 hours.
Part three was running wire from the rear tail-lights to the front of the truck. Sounds simple right? Well I ordered a wiring kit – and when it came, it didn’t say it worked for our truck – so silly me, I sent it back and ordered another one that the company web site claimed worked. It turned out to be for CHEVY’s, not Ford. I went back to the web site and dug around and found that they recommended two different models for our truck(one was clearly wrong). I called them – and the first one I had, was supposedly the right one.
So, I ordered it again. Upon arrival, we pulled the tail light and checked the connectors – and they were “almost right”. They were the right size, connectors and pin spacing, but Ford uses “guides” in the corners that point in different directions. Three of the four were right – the fourth was wrong. In the end, I “fixed” my connectors with a pocket knife.
So, now I divert a bit. I’ve been working on cars since the mid sixties when I started helping my father work on our car (Corvair bus). Most of the time, I’m working by myself. Even when I worked at the VW shops, I was working jobs myself. I’ve done a few major jobs with another person. For example, Tom (my son) and I pulled the head of the engine in his pickup – well 5 times or so – but that is another story. My wife knows how to use most tools, but hasn’t done a lot of work. She also has a lot of ideas. So do I – and of course, since I’ve done so much work, I’ve got fairly
strong opinions on how to do things. Deb worries about a lot of things that I often don’t think need to be worried about – but sometimes, it turns out for the best. Sometimes she has good ideas on how to do things that I haven’t considered. For example, the wiring harness was just your standard low voltage trailer type wiring. On the truck, all exposed wiring had a split cover over it, so of course we needed to provide the same for this tail-light wiring. We hopped in the truck, went to the other end of town and picked up 30 feet of pretty blue split cover and I covered and taped the entire taillight wiring harness. Idea two – I was planning on just tie-wrapping the wire along side the frame. Deb decided running it INSIDE the frame would be better. She had no idea how to actually accomplish that, but this is where we work it out together – I did. While we were picking up the split cover, we also picked up a snake for pulling electrical wire. We started at the front of the frame and pushed it back through the frame. At one point it stopped moving. I had her rattle it while I figured out how far it got. I found the point at which it stopped. It had hit a cross member and looped back. So, she pulled it back and I guided it under the cross member with my finger through a convenient hole in the side of the frame and it then proceeded all the way back. From there we taped the wire on – and pulled it all the way through to the front. I actually hadn’t expected it to really work – but it was one of those situations were it was easier to go along and see than fight it. In the end, she had a good idea as it only took a few minutes to run the cable vs sliding under the truck all the way while tie wrapping the cable. Man-hours – 2.
On yet another day, we installed the remaining components. The breakaway switch needed a wire run inside the cabin to the RVI Brake 3. Power needed to be run from the battery to the RVI Brake 3. Due to the connectors and components pre-wired – those wires needed to pass through the firewall in opposite directions. We used the wire snake again – moving one wire through first and puling the other back through. I ended cutting
part of the rubber grommet to make this easier. And of course we had to seal it back up. There is also a battery charger that takes power from the tow vehicle and keeps the battery in the truck charged – since in order to flat tow, the key has to be on while truck is set to a “tow mode”. The RVI Brake also uses power.
So, today we pulled all these wires, made connects to the battery and connected all the wires to the 6 pin plug that the two bar cables connects into. Man hours – 3.
Lastly – the RVI Brake 3 sits on the floor and has an arm that locks onto the brake pedal. It pushes on the brake which means it has to push up against something. On the F150 – there is no cross bar under the seat – so one is provided. BUT, between the floor mats and the rise of the floor as it goes back toward the seat – the RVIB3 doesn’t sit flat on the floor if slid all the way back. So I found a piece of PVC that would fit between the RVIB3 and the bracket. I added velcro so it would stick to the RVI B3.
We are ready to go! In theory, we can disconnect in maybe two minutes.
All this with one shoulder I can only partly use and another shoulder I can’t really use. Surgery on the first shoulder was 5 months to go. The second was 1 month ago. They tell me it can take a year to get full use back. My issues started almost a year ago – so its been a year and have maybe another year to go before my shoulders are back to normal – and that sucks.
That totals up to 25 people-hours. $1000/25 = $40 per hour – not too shabby. When I started work at the Volkswagon shop, I was earning $3.50/hour.