Tow Dolly–the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

Here’s my personal opinion of our two-wheel tow dolly: AAACKKKKK! (Yes, that’s a scream.) Our two-wheel dolly has been a nightmare in several ways, but that’s not necessarily the dolly’s fault. I have to admit that a lot of our problems have been because of user error.

We started our search for a two-wheel tow dolly when we were parked at my mother-in-law’s house in Strawn, TX. Strawn is a very small town about 150 miles west of Fort Worth and in the middle of nowhere. Jim called every possible dealer around and searched the internet for someone selling a two-wheel tow dolly. He finally found one in Abilene (a 75 mile drive) and we snatched it up.

Tow dollies are a little more expensive than flat towing. We paid $1100 but I’ve seen them offered for $1300. After all the trouble we had finding a dolly for sale, about a week after we bought ours, we took a different route to a nearby restaurant. Half a block down the road was a used tow dolly sitting in a vacant lot with a sign that said $100. We laughed and cried a little bit. Oh, well….

Mileage on your car

Jim was concerned about putting extra mileage on our “toad” (RV-speak for a towed vehicle) as we pulled it down the road. Since our car is front wheel drive, the wheels connected to the drive shaft would be on the dolly and not on the road. The transmission would not be turning and the odometer would not change; a nice advantage of a two-wheel tow dolly.

Wear on the car

Again, because our toad is front wheel drive, the transmission is not connected to the back wheels. The back tires turn freely when the car is towed. That’s not the case when flat towing or when you have a rear wheel drive vehicle. Unless you disconnect the drive train of your car when you flat tow you can cause unnecessary wear and damage to your transmission. I’m no expert on flat towing so if you want to go that route, you’ll need to do a little more research.

Obviously, you’re back tires will wear our much faster than your front tires. That’s both good and bad. You only have to replace two tires when they wear out, but the uneven wear can make for a rough ride when you drive the car. Of course, rotating your tires regularly is always a good idea anyway.

Uneven wear can also be a problem if you forget to take off the emergency brake when you tow the vehicle. (I’m so ashamed!) We only drove about two miles down the road before we figured out what the awful screech we were hearing was, not to mention the smell and smoke. When we arrived at our destination and drove our toad for the first time, we heard and awful thump, thump, thump sound. You can see from the photo, what the problem was.

Flat tire

We had tires that were flat and thread bare from dragging on the roadway. We limped to the nearest tire shop and bought two new tires for our toad that had 3,000 miles on it. How embarrassing! We won’t make that mistake twice.

Loading our toad on dolly

Loading a car onto a two-wheel tow dolly takes a little practice and is a little more involved than flat towing a car. The actual trailer attaches to the RV’s hitch like any other trailer; no problem there. Then you have to remove a pin in the dolly to allow the ramps to touch the ground. One brave person has to stand in front of the dolly to guide the driver of the car onto the ramps. Every time I do this I know I’ll be killed. To get the car up the ramp you have to accelerate a little bit. If the weather’s damp, the front wheel drive causes the wheels to spin and the car to slide around.

Once the car is centered on the dolly you have to strap the front tires to the dolly itself using a tangle of webbed straps and ratchets. I’ve finally learned how to untangle the straps and wrap them around the tires, but I’ll never be strong enough to ratchet them tight. That’s Jim’s job. Even though he gets them tight the first time, you still have to adjust them after you’ve driven a little bit as they loosen with the movement.

Loading Tow Dolly

Because our toad doesn’t have a locking steering wheel, we have to wrap the seatbelt through it to hold the front tires securely. And, remember to release the parking brake!

The final part of loading your car on the dolly is to REPLACE the pin that holds the ramps in place. I put that in capital letters because we now buy “keeper” pins in bulk on Amazon.

We always keep spares on hand. I can’t tell you how much money we’ve spent because we don’t remember to replace that little pin. I guess that’s a problem I can’t blame on the two-wheel dolly. Even when we remember to replace the pin, if we drive on rough ground, we can sheer off the cotter pin that holds it in place and we lose the pin anyway. We just can’t win!

Unloading the toad

Unloading would be simple if it wasn’t for those darned ratchet straps. We keep a long screw driver to release the strap but it confuses me every time. Again, that’s probably not something I can blame on the dolly. The more I do it, the easier it becomes.

Towing and backing up

It isn’t hard to pull the dolly and car as long as you remember that you are now a little longer. Take that into account when making turns and parking. Check your mirror and watch for the tow dolly’s tires to pass the curb before turning.

However, a two-wheel tow dolly is impossible to back up. You might be able to back up about two feet but that’s it. That means when you drive you always have to be aware of tight turns. If you don’t pay attention you could be stuck on the side of the highway, unloading your car and removing the dolly in order to back up. So far, we haven’t made that mistake but there have been a few scares. (Cul-du-sacs are not very big!)

My screams are getting quieter.

After my initial scream, it’s probably fair to say that a two-wheel tow dolly is our best option for towing our car. Loading and unloading seems to be getting a little easier as we gain more experience. We haven’t had to buy any new tires since our first “oops” and we probably only have $100 or so invested in keeper pins. I guess that’s really not too bad.

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