Project: Installing a Baseplate on the New Car
Bushnell, FL - Events of Monday, January 7 to Wednesday, January 9, 2013
On Monday, we were just hangin' out around the motor home, so we decided to walk the trash up to the dumpster and stop in the clubhouse to check for mail. We also wanted to let Freeway play a while at the dog park on our way back.
Freeway had a great time at the dog park. He loves to chase balls, even inside the motor home; but he really likes to do it out in the open.
When we stopped in the clubhouse on the way to the dog park to check for mail, we found out the baseplate for the new car had come in. Paul ordered it on January 2, and we weren't expecting it to arrive for another day or two. It was much too big and heavy to carry, so Paul drove back to the clubhouse to pick it up in the car after we were done at the dog park.
The baseplate bolts to the car's frame to provide a place to attach the tow bar. In order to install the base plate, the entire front fascia of car generally has to be removed. This is a fairly scary proposition if the car is brand new. There is always an opportunity to scratch the paint, so it has to be done very carefully. We use a Blue Ox tow bar, and Blue Ox has posted on their website full instructions with photos of baseplate installations for each vehicle so you can see specifically what is involved ahead of time. Paul also found several websites that had video instructions. Of course, you can pay someone to install the base plate for you, but Paul has always been a DIYer. He installed the base plate on the Saturn when we first bought it, so he decided to tackle the one on the Equinox, too.
After reading and re-reading the instructions several times, Paul started to remove the fascia on Tuesday morning.
Removing the fascia isn't too difficult, but it is not for the faint-hearted. For one thing, you have to be very careful not to scratch the paint as we said. Margery helped lift the fascia off and sit it gently on the ground on a clean drop cloth. After you get the fascia off, you have to be ready for the sight of your brand new car sitting there naked.
In spite of getting a relatively early start, Paul didn't get finished installing the baseplate on Tuesday. The baseplate was more difficult to install than he remembered it being on the Saturn. Blue Ox uses nuts with long, stiff wires welded to them that you have to bend and maneuver up through a small opening to get the nuts to inside the boxed-in frame section. Once you get the nuts up in there, it is very difficult to get them lined up perfectly with the bolts coming in from the outside so the threads will grab. After many, many tries, Paul finally got all the bolts in.
The transmission oil cooler was located right where the baseplate goes, so the cooler had to be relocated to a higher position up on brackets that were supplied with the baseplate. The flexible lines didn't seem want to let the cooler move quite far enough, so Paul had to modify the brackets slightly so there wouldn't be too much stress on the lines.
There also seemed to be a little more trimming required to remove interferences between the baseplate and existing components than Paul remembered there being on the Saturn. It was almost dark when Paul tried to get the fascia back into place. The instructions referred to an interference point where something on the fascia had to be ground away, but Paul could not identify the spot in spite of studying the photos that came with the instructions over and over again. In their effort to get a close-up photo of the problem area, Blue Ox zoomed in on the spot so much it was impossible to get oriented as to where it was located.
Paul tried several times to get the fascia put back into place, but he couldn't quite get it lined up properly because something was definitely interfering. Margery brought a lamp outside, but Paul still couldn't see well enough to find out what the hangup was. Not only that, but after crawling around the car all day in the hot Florida sun, he was too tired and dehydrated to even think straight. Therefore, we left the car partially assembled, gathered up the tools, piled them in the back of the car and went inside to get cleaned up and finally have some dinner.
On Wednesday morning, Paul went outside fairly early and got back to work. It is surprising what a good night's rest and a little daylight can do. Paul ended up sticking his hand up behind the fascia to try to feel where the interference was and within minutes he found the spot. The thick seam where the lower black skirt joins the upper part of the fascia that is painted hit the ends of the base plate. Paul removed the fascia (for about the 8th time), ground away the part of the seam that was hitting the baseplate, and the fascia went right back into place just like that.
One of the things we like about the Blue Ox baseplates is most of them have removable, spring-loaded, quarter-turn tabs that the tow bar attaches to. The baseplate is almost invisible when you're not towing and the tabs are removed.
After all the difficulty he had, Paul made up his mind this is the last baseplate he will install. He is getting too old for all that bending and stooping. If we ever buy another new car that has to be set up for towing, he will definitely bite the bullet and take the car to a shop that installs baseplates and pay someone to do it.
The wiring of the car's tail lights, brake lights and turn signals to operate in concert with the lights on the motor home still needs to be done. That shouldn't be nearly as difficult as installing the baseplate.
Paul left the wiring for another day because we had been invited to the home of old friends in The Villages for lunch on Wednesday. Pat and Wink used to go the church where we worshipped and where Margery used to work back in Pittsburgh. In fact, Pat is the pastor's sister. Pat, Wink and Margery also went to the same high school. Wink and Margery were in the same class. We had a good time visiting and catching up.
After our visit with Pat and Wink, we headed back to the motor home. Paul still needed some time to rest up after all the work he did on the car, but we didn't sit still too long. We'll tell you all about what we found to do in our next post.