Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A New Tow Car -- Installing the Bracket and lights

We decided to give our Hyundai Sonata to our daughter as a wedding present and so needed to get a new car to tow behind the coach (a "toad" vehicle). We settled on the Chevy HHR, a smaller vehicle with lots of room and many neat features such as heated seats! However, we needed to install a new tow bracket, lights and related equipment to tow it successfully.
The first step is to install the Roadmaster tow bracket which mounts to the front of the car. As Rick shows, to attach this, we had to dismantle the front end of the car, which gives you pause on a car with 500 miles on it!

Here, Rick shows the torque wrench and socket wrench he used extensively. Orinda was also fully involved in this install and came up with a great idea to "fish" a bolt through a blind hole with fishing line! If you decide to install a braket on your HHR, I would suggest that you DO NOT torque the 21 mm frame bolts up snug (as directed to in the directions) UNTIL you fish the 1/2" bolt through the frame into the bracket. This little issue cost us about 90 minutes as we had to dismantle quite a bit of work already completed. Still, we got it done!

Hurray! After much work, the tow bracket is installed! It took us about 5 hours to install the bracket and re-assemble the car -- whew, we were glad to be done with that.I do think the bracket fit well and will do a great job.

Now, we needed to wire the car so that lights from the coach are displayed on the HHR. There are several ways to do this, but we chose to mount LED lights below the rear bumper and wire them like a trailer. This means that there is no interaction between the coach wiring and car wiring systems. I am delighted to report that these work great and are quite bright. A nice solution!

Finally, GM calls for the removal of one fuse before towing (controls the key removale switch and related items) to keep the battery from running down. The fuse is in a very difficult to reach spot (of course!), so Rick decided to solder up a switch that would allow us to bypass this fuse at will. Here are the components of the fuse switch.

The first step was to take an old fuse, cut the link and then solder wires to each leg after using a Dremel tool to remove the plastic housing, then soldering wires to each leg. I also used an in-line fuse holder to make sure the line is still protected.

Once this was finished, we mounted the switch into the fuse panel cover on the passenger side of the console. Here is a picture of the finished fuse switch.

The switch looks good and works great. Now we can set up to tow almost instantly.


George said...

Great idea...I want to install it for my '07 Malibu. I have a couple of questions:
What size wire did you use?
My ignition sw. fuse is 2 amp..what's yours?


Rick and Orinda said...

I think I used a 12 or 14 gauge wire and also had a 2 amp fuse. I have used the switch for quite a while now, and it has worked perfectly.

Anonymous said...

The only comment I'd make is that I would put the switch over on the driver's side. I wouldn't want a passenger inadvertently turning it off.

Rick and Orinda said...

The driver's side is a good idea. I installed it on the passenger's side since that was close to the fuse box, but in hindsight, I think the driver's side is a great idea.

LASH said...

Can you provide a better look at the fuse you cut and soldered the wires to? Maybe extend you explnation a littlr more.


Rick and Orinda said...

Sorry I do not have a better picture of the fuse, but it was easy to prepare. I simply took a regular fuse (any amperage) and cut the fusible link with my Dremel as shown in the pictures. Once this was done, I soldered wired to the upper ends of the fuse legs so that it could still plug into the fuse box on the bottom, as it did originally. This essentially means that the fuse is no longer a fuse, but is now just a easy way to tap into the fuse block. The wires then simply connect to the new fuse holder and switch.

Anonymous said...

I sold my old toad and picked up a 2011 HHR the day before yesterday.(red) I was researching tips for setting it up for tow and wound up here. Great ideas. Exactly what I want to do. I have the switch and am ordering the base plate and tail lights today. Too cold and snowy to install it for a few weeks yet

Aly said...

I know this is a few years old, but maybe I can get a reply! lol

what if you don't have a dremel tool? and also the wire you used, is that a wire with a built in fuse so there is still a fuse, just in a different location?


Rick and Orinda said...

No Problem. All you need to do is to cut the fuse wire so that it does not make contact. A small saw or razor knife would work fine.