Sunday, May 26, 2013

Newbies to A-Frames...

We have tried a few setups that would give us some transport when we are parked in one place for a while.

Cycles, then a scooter and rack (which was great) but we then acquired our lovely dog and the scooter became rarely used. I wasn't keen to be towing a trailer around with us although I have no problem with towing having had quite a bit of previous experience with lots of different trailers but the storage of it would always be an issue for us whether based at home or visiting friends and family as we do in our motorhome. We also use Aires for most of our European travelling and parking space could sometimes be an issue for motorhome, car and trailer.

The most practical solution for our usage was to use an A-frame. It means that we have a car to use for exploring and other general use - the car can also provide extra useful storage space when travelling as a bonus!

We (I) came up with the bright idea of all this when we were in Spain before returning to the UK for the summer. We had already committed to a start date for our job as campsite wardens and the ferry was booked for a couple of days beforehand so time was a bit tight for actually getting a car and the A-frame.

Firstly, I sourced the car I wanted over the internet - sadly it was in Gateshead and we were going to be working in Cornwall! A deal was done over the phone to buy it (I know, I know, but you have to take the odd chance here and there!) and the dealer agreed to deliver it to a location that I would advise later.
Car bought, a 2003 Suzuki Jimny which I had read was a good car to tow (post 2004 models are not however). It is a perfect size for the two of us and Digger, plus as a very light 'proper' 4x4 its great for getting off the beaten track when required.

I then started to research a supplier for the A-frame itself. After much reading about possible regulation changes looming from 2014 I contacted several suppliers via email to enquire about costings and suitability etc. Surprisingly, not all of the companies even answered and others either said the car was too old for them to adapt or, another wanted to sell an A-frame + car package and wasn't interested otherwise!

The company that was the most helpful was They offered 2 options, a traditional overrun braked A-frame which apparently should still comply with the regs as long as bought and fitted prior to the changes, and a newer electrically operated setup that is the best on the market (their words). Just under £1000 for the overrun and around £1500 for the superior RVi2 package.

Towtal needed the car for a day to make all the fittings prior to it being towed away and they kindly agreed to take delivery of my Suzuki the day before I could get to collect the finished item. A call was then made to the car dealer in Gateshead and arrangements made to have the car delivered on a specific day to Towtals's premises in Stoke-on-Trent. A plan had come together!

The due day arrived and we pulled into Towtal's yard and there sat our new (to us) car with its A-frame brackets poking out through its front bumper - the work had been done! The car wasn't quite as tidy as I had hoped (not really unexpected though) but nothing that a little TLC won't put right. We were given a smooth demonstration of how the apparatus assembled and worked and how to alter the electronic setup as required and that was it, we were now A-framers!

There seemed to be quite a lot to remember but I was confident that it would all make sense with practice. Aprehensively we set off towards our destination for the summer - Cornwall. I think we pulled into services about 3 times to check all was well with the 'toad' - nothing to worry about as all was fine. We had a pre-arranged meeting in Somerset so overnighted at one of our pub stopovers which gave us the opportunity to uncouple and use our car for the first time.

Next morning I coupled up again checking, double checking and triple checking all the steps and I don't know how many more times I checked the steering lock was off, as was the handbrake and that the car was in neutral!

Everything worked exactly as it should and we carried on down to Cornwall. The car is now independant from the motorhome and won't need to go back on the A-frame until our return to Spain at the end of the season.

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