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Protective Custody

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

Preventing minor damage while towing is easy with these products

Life on the road isn’t always easy, especially for your dinghy vehicle. As you ride several yards ahead in the comfy cockpit of the motorhome, it’s holding up the rear, taking all kinds of abuse. If you’ve ever driven close to a large truck, you know what we’re talking about; random stones, gravel, tar and paint can be kicked up and thrown rearward, right onto the dinghy vehicle. Rock chips, scratches, even cracked windshields can be the result — the kind of annoying damage that is costly, but often not expensive enough to file a claim with your insurance company. Without some kind of protection, even a new vehicle can start looking shabby, losing its luster and resale value along the way.

The Sentry Tow Bar Deflector from Demco Products

The Sentry Tow Bar Deflector from Demco Products is made from high-density polyethylene and is unique in that it is positioned at a 30-degree angle to deflect debris down and away from the towed vehicle. Easy to install or remove, the Sentry attaches to the connecting ears of the Demco tow bar.

Fortunately, there are a number of products designed to protect your towed vehicle while it is in transit, and they can often be combined to form two or more layers of defense. The first step is the motorhome, which can be fitted with any number of rock guards. Designs vary depending on the manufacturer, but these generally attach to the rear bumper of the


motorhome and employ rubber strips that hang down a few inches from the road surface. The strips can be trimmed to achieve the correct fit, and still allow some airflow to get back to the dinghy vehicle, which can be important (more on that in a minute). Rock guards are generally pretty inexpensive, too, with most models costing less than $150.

The Tow Defender rock screen from Roadmaster

The Tow Defender from Roadmaster is an alternative for dinghy vehicles that can’t use rock shields. Offering 20 square feet of protection, the Tow Defender’s all-weather, heavy-duty screen is secured by shock-absorbing gas struts. When not in use, it can be rolled up and stowed against the motorhome. The Tow Defender works with both Roadmaster-branded and other tow bars.

In spite of its name, however, a rock guard won’t stop all rocks — only the small ones. To prevent larger rocks or other debris from causing damage, consider a rock shield of some kind. These are designed to cover the front of the vehicle and are made of polyethylene plastic, so they’re lightweight, yet tough. Blue Ox, Demco and Roadmaster all offer their own designs, but check with the manufacturer of your choice to make sure the guard will fit with the equipment you already have. Rock shields typically mount to the baseplate or tow bar, and may not be interchangeable with all equipment brands.

Now for that important part about airflow we eluded to earlier. Some vehicles that are approved for dinghy towing by their manufacturers have a special note in the owner’s manual that cautions against blocking airflow to the front of the vehicle. This is because these vehicles employ a transmission cooler that may not work effectively if it isn’t exposed to steady airflow. As a result, the transmission may overheat and become permanently damaged. Be sure to check the owner’s manual carefully for any cautionary notes about rock shields or other devices that may prevent adequate airflow.

The KarGard rock shield from Blue Ox

The KarGard from Blue Ox is a polyethylene protective shield that folds for easier storage. Aluminum mounting equipment and hardware are included.

If you find this to be the case with your dinghy, there are still options. Roadmaster offers its Tow Defender, a vinyl-coated mesh screen that sits atop the tow bar and helps stop road debris from reaching the vehicle. You might also consider 3M Scotchgard Paint Protection Film, which must be professionally installed. It isn’t cheap, but it can be used to cover all areas that may be subject to damage, including the hood and fenders. The company’s website allows you to find a certified installer near you by entering your city or postal code.


3M | Blue Ox, 800-228-9289 | Demco Products, 800-543-3626
Roadmaster Inc., 800-669-9690


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