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rslifkin
rslifkin SuperDork
10/6/17 1:00 p.m.

In reply to JBasham :

Most manual transmissions are safe to flat tow without worrying about lubrication.  Autos typically need the engine running or the driveshaft pulled, however.  

Also interesting that you thought the dolly pulled better.  I've had 6300 lbs of 98 Grand Cherokee on a trailer behind my 98 Grand Cherokee (V8, rated to pull 6500) and it pulled pretty well.  I didn't take it over 60 mph, but it was (surprisingly) stable as a rock under anything I threw at it.  

APEowner
APEowner HalfDork
10/6/17 4:37 p.m.

Trailer stability is largly a function of weight distribution.  One mistake that folks often make, particularly with smaller tow vehicles is to not have enough tongue weight.

rslifkin
rslifkin SuperDork
10/6/17 5:02 p.m.

How the trailer is proportioned matters as well.  The more weight is behind the trailer axles, the less stable the rig will be, even if you've got plenty of tongue weight. 

Ideally, for a stable car trailer to pull with a small tow rig, you want a trailer with the axles pushed back a bit and a longer than normal tongue.  That lets you get more of the load weight over and in front of the trailer axles, while the longer tongue keeps the load weight proportionally closer to the trailer axles than the hitch (to avoid excessive tongue weight). 

iceracer
iceracer UltimaDork
10/6/17 5:22 p.m.

Figure out where the CG of your car is and locate it just ahead of the center of support on the trailer.

COS,  axle on a single,   equal distant between axles.

Works great.  I towed thousands of miles with my Liberty.  I would hardly know it was back there.  App. 3900 lbs.

iceracer
iceracer UltimaDork
10/6/17 5:27 p.m.

In reply to JBasham :

But you still have 2400lbs. back there with no brakes.  

Project86fox
Project86fox New Reader
10/6/17 7:59 p.m.
Vigo said:

Hard to say, but it's not much of a stretch to say that a Venza towing a 3500lb load will stop as short as an older 3/4 or 1ton pickup with the same load.  

I'm going to go ahead and disagree with you there. Empty vs empty, venza all the way. Once you add close to an extra two tons of weight I'm going to place my bet on the one ton coming to a safer, shorter stop.

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
10/7/17 9:45 a.m.

Once you go back far enough that the Venza has ABS and the truck doesn't, I disagree. 

As far as stability issues, yes there are plenty with a dolley. By far the most common comes from the straps not being tight enough or coming loose. I have learned to ALWAYS stop and retighten the straps after taking the first few tight turns after loading up and rolling out. Another issue which is common for me (because i move mostly crapboxes, i suppose) is that if a front tire loses air while towing, the strap of course becomes loose. If a dolley tire blows up it will also immediately go into dangerous sway but that is sometimes true with trailers as well. 

I leave towed vehicle steering unlocked on my dolley. If you lock the steering the vehicle pulls MUCH harder on the straps when taking tight turns and is more likely to cause issues. I don't have any stability issues towing this way, at any speed. 

RWDs with automatics are a pain to tow on a dolley. I have loaded one backwards on a dolley and locked its steering, but only once as i found it wasnt stable above 45mph and if the road is empty in Texas i prefer something closer to 80. If its an automatic but happens to have a transfer case (4wd) with a neutral position you can use that. 

My dolley has an articulated deck (rotates a bit) and if the towed vehicle is too wide it can actually contact the dolley fenders on tight turns. Or used to before i cut the fenders off. 

With a loaded dolley you basically cannot back up/reverse at all. It's like pushing a rope. It is sometimes possible to go straight back if your towed vehicle is already perfectly straight behind you.

Another issue with dolleys is that if your hitch ball height isn't right it can put the dolley ramps at too much of an up or down angle and cause them to drag the ground through dips or hit the bottom of your car (bad if you have rocker skirts). Easy to avoid this by just buying the right lift/drop adapter the first time around, though. I have towed my dolley with many many different vehicles, but you wouldn't. Buy one thing and be set forever. 

As far as towing trailers, my honest opinion is that yes you do get a decent bump in stability going to a trailer and a lot more utility as it will still tow a wrecked/non-rolling car (as long as you can drag it aboard..) but you don't really get any big upgrade in braking unless you go to a pretty big truck. The last thing i towed was a 9000-lb RV on a ~4-5000lb trailer. I winched the thing on with a 12000lb harbor freight winch and towed it with a ~'15 Ram 3500. That worked well but still felt way more dangerous than any dolley towing i have done!  I have towed with a lot of half-ton pickups and didn't find a half ton with a car+16-18ft tandem axle stopped better than a 3000-something lb car towing a loaded dolley. Going from dolley to car-sized trailer you are picking up ~1500 lbs of 'dead weight' so with some smaller trucks you may still be better off with a dolley than a trailer. I also did a lot of towing with a 3800 lb dakota and it never performed well with trailers (although we put as much as 10000lb behind it anyway and just went very slowly). It honestly was never better at any kind of towing than my 3000 lb car other than being able to carry more tongue weight, but a dolley doesn't put much tongue weight on a tow vehicle anyway. 

So basically, a dolley can work. If you buy a trailer, get one with brakes. If you buy a new tow vehicle, get one with 4 wheel abs and actually TEST the brakes with full panic stops to verify that they work as they should. Bigger isn't always better and caution and skepticism will buy you more real safety than any amount of hardware.. right up to the point where your tow rig is so heavy that your mistakes are almost guaranteed to kill someone else. 

Knurled
Knurled MegaDork
10/7/17 11:08 a.m.
dcteague said:

Anyone have any experience using a tow dolly for track car purposes to avoid having to haul a trailer?  I have a v6 Venza that'll be fine up to 3500lbs, and a 2700lb track car that isn't registered. 

I'm no expert, I'm not even a never-was-pert, but I'm pretty sure the law in most states is that if the tires are touching the ground on public roads, it has to be registered.  So that would limit you to trailer-only.

Knurled
Knurled MegaDork
10/7/17 11:10 a.m.
rslifkin said:

Personally, due to lack of brakes with a tow dolly, I consider them unsafe to use unless we're talking a sub 2000 lb car behind an F-350 or something of that scale. 

Pulling a car with a Venza?  That's just not going to happen safely.  It just can't tow enough to do it. 

Meanwhile, a certain rallycrosser tows his NB (literally) all over the country with a dolly and a Mazda5.

His dolly has trailer brakes, too.

Knurled
Knurled MegaDork
10/7/17 11:17 a.m.
irish44j said:

Another option is to flat tow, which IMO may actually be preferable to a dolly.

 

After flat towing my GTI home with a 2.5RS, I said "never again".  It was downright spooky at times.  Like taking a 1/2 mile long curving interchange with opposite pressure on the steering because the towed car was trying to make me drift like Bunta, and I was already going way too fast but I didn't DARE lift off the throttle.   So in that respect I guess it was exhilirating, in a post-action gigglefit "I can't believe I got away with that!" kind of way.

And then I flat towed my RX-7 with teh Volvo with no issues.  'Course, I only drove it a few blocks and not a few hundred miles.

Dolly towing same RX-7 with Evan's Montero was a no-brainer.  Just get in and go, and don't pull into a spot you can't drive forward out of, which is a situation you get with flat-towing anyway.

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
10/7/17 7:18 p.m.

I flat towed my Caravan from Texas to Florida and back for last year's challenge, behind a 'midsize sedan' (albeit a 4100lb one). Went fine except a front blowout on the van sent me across a few lanes. Could easily have been a problem but it was 4am and the highway was empty. It was scarier than anything i have experienced with my dolley in all these years. Having said that, i think flat-towing is as good an option as dolleying given that you have a manual trans car that CAN be flat towed. I am planning to  flat tow again this year. 

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
10/8/17 9:30 a.m.

Look in to registration requirements. Tow Dolly’s are generally not plated and as such you must have the car registered when using a dolly. 

Another issue is if you bend up a corner of the car that has to be on the ground when towed you are stuck. If you race long enough you will bend something. I have used both and each have there place. With the dolly adding air shocks was a big help to help level things.  

Wall-e
Wall-e MegaDork
10/8/17 2:45 p.m.

What about a tow dolly and a set of dollies so you don't have to worry about the alignment or damaged parts?

 

racerfink
racerfink UltraDork
10/8/17 5:44 p.m.

A friend of mine had essentially a Spec Miata without a full cage in it, that he towed behind his 1st gen mid-size Dodge truck w/318. The trailing edge of the ramps would hit the underside of the car with very slight angles, and getting the car on and off the dolly with the 5" ride height was quite a pain.

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) Reader
12/6/20 7:52 a.m.

Towed a Miata on a dolly behind my Sienna van (3500 towing capacity) for a few years. Dolly didn't have brakes. Towed absolutely fine, never felt dangerous or had an issue. Dolly was easy to store and move. Was a real PITA to load and strap down the car though, and you can't go in reverse so gas stations and hotel parking lots were a bit stressful. On a positive note, the minivan was the ultimate paddock vehicle.

I've since gone to an F-150 and a flatbed with brakes on one axle and the whole experience is much better. Storing a flatbed with a racecar can be a challenge though, depending on your living situation. 

frenchyd
frenchyd PowerDork
12/6/20 8:10 a.m.
Vigo said:

What is the track car? Approach angle and clearance between tire and fender are big concerns. If you have a low car you're going to have a hell of a time getting it on a dolley without damaging it and if there is no tire-to-fender gap you're going to have a hell of a time getting the straps around the tires without jacking the car up WHILE on the dolley. 

 

I've owned a tow dolley for probably over 10 years now. I'll never let go of it but there are many things it's bad at, and loading lowered cars onto it is pretty close to the top of the list. 

Also, i've towed 3000+ lbs of car+dolley behind a 3000lb car and done full panic stops in Houston rush hour and been fine. I could explain why i think that is but it's easier to say that there are a lot of factors besides the rough size/weight of the tow vehicle.

As far as towing a very light car behind an F350, that brings up a point i've made to others when discussing towing. I would bet MONEY that I can hook a tow dolley up behind one of my 3000 lb cars and panic stop in a shorter distance than an UNLOADED F350. It was only fairly recently that the larger trucks got 'decent' 60-0 stopping distances. If you're talking about a 10+ year old 1-ton truck then they START with about a 30-50ft longer 60-0 stop than a typical 3000lb car even with no extra weight. Now, how much weight do you have to add to each vehicle before those lines cross? Hard to say, but it's not much of a stretch to say that a Venza towing a 3500lb load will stop as short as an older 3/4 or 1ton pickup with the same load.  Now, stopping distances arent everything, and repeatability comes into play if you're talking about coming down mountains etc, but the point is that heavier isn't automatically better and  if you're making decisions based on what you assume to be best without questioning it, you probably won't be in the right mental state to catch curveballs either.  Hell, i just drove a stock 04 Tundra that couldn't even get into ABS because the brakes were so weak. They felt normal under light braking. If i assumed it was safer than hooking up behind a properly functioning smaller vehicle just because it was a 'big truck', it wouldn't have done me any good. My point is to think and question rather than offer or accept dumbed-down generalities or assume that you are actually safer just because you threw a bigger tow vehicle at it. 

Well said. If you look at Semi's the Tow vehicle is a fraction of the weight of a loaded trailer. Yet they travel millions of accident free miles. 
My own experience with a 2.8 S10 Blazer pulling my enclosed tandem axle trailer all over the country verify's it can be done safely and comfortably. 
Putting unrealistic hurdles in the minds of newer racers is simply wrong.  

chandler
chandler UltimaDork
12/6/20 8:13 a.m.

Don't use semis as an anecdote, they have brakes on every axle and the contact patch of 18 tires all being braked is immense. Not close to a good comparison 

frenchyd
frenchyd PowerDork
12/6/20 8:30 a.m.
APEowner said:

Trailer stability is largly a function of weight distribution.  One mistake that folks often make, particularly with smaller tow vehicles is to not have enough tongue weight.

That isn't the only concern. Trailers and tow dollies have to be Straight.  The wheels pointed straight. Hook everything up and pull it straight. Use your driveway, the side of a non busy street an empty parking lot, whatever. 
 It takes a few minutes to check but doesn't cost anything except string. ( or fishing line, thin rope, whatever) 
Put the tight string on a pair of Jack stands, cement blocks, saw horses etc.  and run it almost touching the front and back of the tire(s) on each side  and past the trailer hitch and along side of the tow vehicle. 
Now measure the distance from one string to the string on the other side and if the tow hitch isn't exactly in the center the trailer will sway. Doesn't matter if it's single axle 2-3-or more axles. If one wheel is straight and the other wheel is turning ( or different distance ) the trailer will sway. Same rule about number of axles. 
My experience  has been one in three trailers  will be off. 
PS using string is a time honored method suitable for the Indy 500  Its what Roger Rager did and he was leading the Indy 500 in a 3 year old race car with a Stock block Chevy 

pirate
pirate HalfDork
12/6/20 2:39 p.m.

I have a Acme EZE Tow car dolly we use behind a motorhome. No turning mechanism, relies on front wheels of vehicle turning. Dolly has hydraulic surge disc brakes so there is virtually no maintenance required other hen checking fluid level. Have never replace pads but looks very simple to do. Pull a Ford Fiesta ST which is fairly low and you would never know it was there. My only concern as someone else mentioned is damage to rear of a track car that would prevent loading or moving it. Have seen vehicles loaded with rest of car on dolly but doesn't look very safe to me.

engiekev
engiekev HalfDork
12/8/20 1:30 p.m.

I'm totally new to a tow dolly, but will be giving it a try with an NA miata.  I've read conflicting reports, a lot claim that the rear wheels need to be on the dolly to avoid lack of lubrication on the trans, is this true?  I will only be towing it about 2hrs one way, then doing a rallycross, and then 2 hours back.  Seems like it would be more difficult to back onto the dolly for loading.

accordionfolder
accordionfolder SuperDork
12/8/20 1:59 p.m.

A lot of weird misinformation here. Tow dollys are much more stable than your average trailer. The weight is super low and the the wheel base SUPER long compared to where the tires on a trailer are. I've towed tow dollys all over the place. 

I've towed my exocet with a cx-5 and my mazdaspeed3.

I've towed my w/ an old suburban 1500 and my Excursion - they don't even notice the towdolly + escort zx2. 

I've towed a lot of miata and my exocet with my cx-9 (my favorite tow dolly puller)

I used to rent unbraked uhaul tow dollys for a long time and then I bought a used etrailer tow dolly with brakes. I'll read through the thread and see some specific questions, but YES you can do it. YES you can pull things with pretty tiny SUVs/cars. With the cx-9 and the braked tow dolly it's only ever noticeable when going up grades - I stick the trans in manual to keep it from hunting gears. Otherwise 70-80mph is the norm depending on traffic/conditions/etc. 





 

EvanB (Forum Supporter)
EvanB (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
12/8/20 2:40 p.m.
engiekev said:

I'm totally new to a tow dolly, but will be giving it a try with an NA miata.  I've read conflicting reports, a lot claim that the rear wheels need to be on the dolly to avoid lack of lubrication on the trans, is this true?  I will only be towing it about 2hrs one way, then doing a rallycross, and then 2 hours back.  Seems like it would be more difficult to back onto the dolly for loading.

You don't want to tow with the front wheels down. The slop in the steering can make it sway or possibly much worse. Someone I know towed a MR2 like that and ended up with the tow vehicle upside down.

I have probably a couple thousand miles of towing a Miata on a dolly in neutral without disconnecting the driveshaft without any issues. 

My main complaints about dollys are they suck to tow unloaded, you have to worry about disconnecting the driveshaft for some vehicles and you still need to change at least the two rear tires when you get to the event (assuming you are towing to a race and using dedicated tires).

accordionfolder
accordionfolder SuperDork
12/8/20 3:04 p.m.
EvanB (Forum Supporter) said:
engiekev said:

I'm totally new to a tow dolly, but will be giving it a try with an NA miata.  I've read conflicting reports, a lot claim that the rear wheels need to be on the dolly to avoid lack of lubrication on the trans, is this true?  I will only be towing it about 2hrs one way, then doing a rallycross, and then 2 hours back.  Seems like it would be more difficult to back onto the dolly for loading.

You don't want to tow with the front wheels down. The slop in the steering can make it sway or possibly much worse. Someone I know towed a MR2 like that and ended up with the tow vehicle upside down.

I have probably a couple thousand miles of towing a Miata on a dolly in neutral without disconnecting the driveshaft without any issues. 

My main complaints about dollys are they suck to tow unloaded, you have to worry about disconnecting the driveshaft for some vehicles and you still need to change at least the two rear tires when you get to the event (assuming you are towing to a race and using dedicated tires).

Add me as someone who has towed various miatas with rear wheels down, driveshaft connected, beat the hell out of them and then tow them home. 

chandler
chandler UltimaDork
12/8/20 4:40 p.m.


500 miles, nary a sway to be felt. My dolly does have a turn plate but it was super stable.

accordionfolder
accordionfolder SuperDork
12/8/20 4:57 p.m.

**TD == tow dolly

I use an etrailer TD

Pros:

1) TD's are very light - mine is 500lbs, has surge brakes, but no swivel plates. Without swivel plates you need the car being towed to have it's steering unlocked so it can move through turns
2) They're very stable with reasonably maintained equipment in good repair.
3) They take up no space and you can move them VERY easily by hand - mine has blocks so it can be stored vertically in a tiny space.
4) Used they can be VERY cheap compared to their trailer brothers.
5) You can pull home stray cars! Miatas, etc pull super easily. (see my build thread to see why this is a +/- https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/build-projects-and-project-cars/miata/170843/page1/

Cons:
1) Straps stretch A LOT when you're breaking them in. Mine needed re-tightened every bit. On a TD like mine, they're the only thing besides the safety chains holding it on. I've had mine stretch until it's leaning more or less on the safety chains, but it wasn't really a big deal - just noisy. (not a big deal on tow dollys with wheel holders/swivel plates)
2) You (well, **I) can't back them up, you've got to plan ahead or you can get into trouble. I've had some close calls getting gas/etc. My cars are all gas-burners so the pumps are much tighter than a lot of diesel pumps. 
3) 2 of the towed car's wheels are down. Depending on the distance I'm going I swap on "roller" tires on, minor annoyance.
4) They bounce like mad and make horrible noises when pulled behind you empty, even when you air the tires down. I drove 18-ish hours to go pick up a car once and it bounced bad enough to shatter the brake pad material from the backing plate. 

My next big purchase will most likely be a trailex al trailer (~700 lbs w/ surge brakes), but my tow-dolly'ing has served me well for over 5 years now and is a fine stop-gap for those who don't have the space/truck to pull a trailer. 

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