Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Adventures in Car Hauling

I have some time now, thought I'd tell the story of towing the 93 525i home from where I bought it.

Just to recap, the car ran when I bought it, but it had a bad water pump, so you couldn't run it too long before it would overheat. I figured that I could tow it home since AAA told me that the only way they would tow it is if it was an emergency roadside call. Being the honest guy that I am, I didn't want to lie about it, so my only other option was to pay for a tow or rent a car hauler on my own and do it myself.

Where I bought the car was about 100 miles one way from my house. Paying to have someone tow it home would have been very costly, I didn't even check into it. The do it yourself route was my only real option. I called around and found a place that would actually let me rent a car hauler. Many places wouldn't let me because I have a half ton chassis on my Expedition. Most wanted a 3/4 ton chassis to tow. I found this place in Hesperia that said if I brought my vehicle down, they would inspect it and let me know if I could rent from them. I went there and since I had a factory tow hitch installed rated way over what the trailer and car weighed in at, they agreed to let me rent the trailer. I made an appointment to pick up the trailer the next Tuesday which was three days away.

Tuesday arrives, I take care of the stuff I need to during the day and then about Two in the afternoon, I go down and pick up the trailer along with a spare (since I'm going over 75 miles one way) and the binder chains to tie the car down with. I had decided to do this in the evening/night time hours so I wouldn't hit so much traffic going through LA. The freeways I would be traveling were the 15, 210, 134 and 101.

I leave home about 5:30pm hoping I can get there before it gets too dark. The ride there goes alright, but the trailer bounces all over the place when there is no weight on it. Couldn't travel more than about 60 most of the way to keep it from bouncing all over the place. I get to the guys house a little before 7:30pm. I'm starting to lose light, so I get out the light I brought with me, man I'm glad I had that as you will see in a bit.

The trailer is pretty high, and the BMW is pretty low to the ground. As we are trying to drive the car up on the trailer, it gets high centered on the end of the trailer right about in the middle of the car. I'm thinking of what I can do to reduce the angle and figure if I crank up the wheel on the trailer tongue it might just give me enough room to clear the part I'm hitting. Luckily it works, the car is on the trailer. It's almost dark now. I still have to secure the car to the trailer for transport, only problem is the front of the car is so low I can't get under it to find a spot to hook the chain. I didn't know if the car had a tire jack with it or not, I hadn't checked. I asked the guy I bought if from if it had one and he said he thought it did, so we checked and it did. I used it to jack of the front right side of the car and was able to get the chain secured so I couldn't tighten the binders. The back wasn't hard to get to, there was more room so that went pretty well.

I finally take care of signing the rest of the paperwork and give the guy the rest of the money and start on my way home about 8:15. Knowing that you need to check the binders after a short period of time to make sure they are holding, I stop about a mile down the road, before I got back on the Freeway. Good thing I did, because both chains were almost completely loose. So another 15 minutes worth of tightening and sweating and I'm off again.

It's completely dark now. I have to make several freeway changes in the first 15 or so miles of the trip home. I get in the slow lane to make the transitions easier and to go slow. I'm dreading this drive since the binders came off so easy in a mile to start. I'm driving down the freeway not paying as much attention as I should be to my GPS when I realize I'm about to go a way I'm not supposed to go. I check real quick and make a very swift merge to the left, fearing that the car will just fall off the trailer, that it will run into numerous cars killing untold millions of people. Once I finished the merge, I peaked in my rear view mirror expecting to see the car gone, but it was still there.

I just keep plugging away, the entire time expecting the car to just roll off the trailer at any minute. I had planned to stop somewhere along the way again to check the chain binders, but was afraid of what I might find, not really, but I didn't want to stop somewhere I didn't know the area, so I kept going. I finally decided to stop at the park next to the Fire Station I work at. It's a little more than halfway home. There is a nice big parking lot there and the lights stay on until about 10pm most nights. I pull in to the parking lot a little before 10 and find, surprise, the binders were completely loose again. So bad in fact that the front one had fallen off completely. I don't know how the car was still on the trailer. It had moved over quite a bit to the right side of the trailer. So I spend another 20 minutes putting the binders back on and sweating again. I take off on the final leg of the journey and just before I hop on the 15, I stop one more time and find the binders loose again. I crank them down one more time, cross my fingers and start up the pass to home. I stayed in the slow lane all the way until I got off the freeway. I got off a bit earlier than I would normally, I just wanted off the freeway. I took side streets all the way home and finally pulled in around 11:30pm.

I am exhausted, mainly because of the stress of wondering if the car was going to do an escape act while on the trailer. I spent more time looking in the rear view mirror than I did looking out of the windshield. I locked everything up and left the car on the trailer until the next morning.

The next morning I get up and prepare to get the car off the trailer. Since I had trouble getting it on the trailer, I figured if I raised the bottom of the ramp with some wood blocks it would reduce the angle and the car wouldn't high center again. I did what I thought and it worked like a charm.

Put the car in the garage to store it. Got everything together and took the trailer back to the rental place. It only cost about $85 for the rental, but I think I used up about 10 years of my life on stress the night before.

One thing I learned is to not buy cars that don't run so far from home. Another thing is to make sure you know how to make things work. I thought I knew how to use those binders, but must not have known enough. If I did this again, I would use heavy duty tie down straps instead of chains.

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