I was called out today as a quick favour to assist in recovering a vehicle that was stranded with a blown turbo a few miles from the clients base. Being happy to be asked to ‘ride shotgun’ in the disabled vehicle on a rigid bar tow was something that I had done many times before so was unconcerned of what lay ahead.
We arrived at the carpark where the van had been standing overnight and coupled up the rigid bar to the towing eye to the front of the vehicle and to the pin and eye tow bar on the L200 tow vehicle. This is common practice for both the AA and RAC for short distance recovery. We had also purposely chosen a time when the roads would be at their quietest to carry out the recovery.
Adjusting the drivers seat in the Sprinter so I could see over the tow vehicle is essential, as it takes any surprise out of any manoeuvres the towing vehicle may make during the journey. So off we set – navigating about 5 miles of winding country lanes before we hit the dual carriage way back to base. Obviously the ignition was in the on position to unlock the steering and allow brake lights and indicator signalling without the engine running. The brakes and steering are very unresponsive due to overall weight of the van and the lack of power assistance in both cases.
We made it out onto the carriageway and maintained a steady 45 mph on the straight clearway. Then something happened that came straight from a TV comedy or big screen production… BANG! The towing eye gave way from the chassis and the towing vehicle ripped off completely the front of the Sprinter and proceeded to drag it some way up the road. We both coasted to a stop and surveyed the damage. After the initial wonderment of what had actually just happened, we both enjoyed probably one of the funniest moments of the last five years, before lashing the front crossmember with the elasticated tow rope and covering the remaining couple of miles back to base.
As we discovered at the roadside, what had actually happened is the towing eye had been completely ripped from the chassis due to corrosion of the weld points. As it parted company with the chassis, the eye that extends through a cutout slot in the plastic front bumper skin had dragged with it the complete front – totally detaching it from the vehicle.
I suppose in light of the fact that corrosion played a big part in this release, I for one will always double check the condition of this vital welded section before using it in any towing or lashing situation – It would have been a more interesting time if this had given way in any other place than on a straight clear road. I have always used this towing eye as a transportation hook, on Both commercial vehicles and cars ( aka – RAC and AA recovery) and I would like to make the point in this posting that: No matter what your vehicle, Mercedes or otherwise, if it is more than just a few years old it would be a good practice to go and have a look and satisfy yourself that everything is absolutely in order!
However this is probably one of those moments that I will keep remembering for a very, very long time… 😉