On the road for under $10k: Towbar time!

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Phil preps his tow-tug with the essential link between car and van: a towbar.

On the road for under $10k: Towbar time!
On the road for under $10k: Towbar time!

THERE ARE TIMES when new is best.

That's hardly the greatest admission on a budget caravanning blog (missed the setup? Read Phil's mission statement here), but the truth is that the time I had invested trying to buy a used towbar for my WH Caprice was getting out of hand. Sourcing the various towbar brace parts was getting
very difficult, and I was not prepared to risk fitting the towbar without them.

I was at the point where I needed to 'pay the man', and get a new towbar kit.


So, $429 poorer, I had purchased the new 2100kg towbar kit from Holden. A day later, it was fitted – an easy job when you have all the parts you need...

The only part not included in the kit was the plug-in loom, which was an extra $70 from Holden, but I was able to source one second-hand for $20. You can make up a loom but you won’t get much change out of $40 for the parts, and then there's the time spent doing it.

Not long after the towbar was sorted, I thought I’d better swap over the electric brake controller I had in my 1982 WB Statesman (which has been retired from road duties pending a restoration), and that was only a couple of years old. Add to the budget a Tekonsha Voyager controller, worth around $50, and another $50 spent on wiring, connectors and fuses (one resettable 25A fuse and an inline 15A fuse).

The brake controller fitment was a pretty easy process, but to do the job neatly – plus an extra visit to the shops to get parts I forgot the first time – spun the procedure out to the better part of a day. I know there are various pros and cons of using crimped 12V connectors versus soldering them, so I used the connectors with a dab of solder as insurance. Solder alone can crack if vibration or movement occurs, but some crimped connectors can also corrode or simply not grip the wire enough and cause intermittent connections, or drop off altogether. I strip the plastic insulator off the connector, bend the metal tangs so that they grip the wire and drop some solder onto the tangs/wire. Add some heatshrink to insulate the connection, and that’s the job done.


So far, the Caprice has cost me $6200, much more than I had hoped out of my $10,000 budget. At this rate, the money I will have left for a caravan will buy me a very nice box trailer…

Next, I’ll fit a transmission cooler (dropping the transmission oil and adding a new transmission filter while I’m at it) and then the tow tug should finally be ready for duty.

The Swan transmission cooler kit comes from Ross's Transmission Parts and looks like it’ll do the job well, as it is a dedicated kit especially suited for the Caprice (and VT/VX Commodore), with all brackets included. I’ll have the thing fitted done by the next instalment of this blog.

And by the time I write the next blog, I hope I’ll be able to tell you I have a van…

Time for the penultimate instalment in Phil Lord's quest, Part 6: Caravan purchased!

Written exclusively for Caravan World online

On the road for under $10K: Phil Lord's challenge
Part 1: Choosing a tow vehicle
Part 2: Tow vehicle purchased!
Part 3: Tow vehicle blowout!
Part 4: Tow vehicle, or NOT tow vehicle?