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Disclaimer: Please refer to the manuals of tow vehicle, trailer and hitch for recommended operating procedures and limitations before use and/or purchase.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE. In our continuing effort to provide accurate information to our readers, we contacted the folks at VALLEY INDUSTRIES, Installation and Technical Center (not to be confused with the horse trailer manufacturer). They were more than happy to spend time answering our numerous questions regarding hitches and their associated parts. In the hitch business since 1947, their insight and knowledge was and is invaluable. Please join us in saying THANK YOU to these fine folks.
CORRECTION TO LAST MONTH'S ARTICLE: In Item #3 under the general interest section we made the following statement: There is something called a "weight distribution unit" which transfers the weight from the bumper area to the axles of the vehicle and the result is a lightened tongue load. After talking with the Valley Industries technical folks, we learned that to say "the result is a lightened tongue load" is not totally accurate. For a more in depth discussion and understanding of this concept please read this month's article.
Part II: And Now the Hitch.
Since you read last Month's article "Part I: What
Can My Vehicle Tow?", you now know what your vehicle can do, and you
have chosen the appropriate trailer, it's now time to get the hitch. We are
going to be referring to your Trailer's Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)
several times in this article. If your unclear of its meaning please
refer to last months article. Almost every piece of the hitch is
dependent upon that very number.
Hitch, Bumper Hitch, or Bolt On Receiver. Some of the many names
given to this part which is located underneath the back bumper and either
bolted or welded to the vehicles chassis. Hitches are broken into
"Class" ratings. Each "Class" dictating a
different weight carrying capability. Weight and Class
ratings are stamped or stickered on the hitch and usually consist of the
following four numbers: Maximum Weight Carrying
- the recommended maximum trailer Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) if towing with
a standard receiver and ball assembly. Maximum
Weight Distributing - the recommended
maximum trailer GVW if using a weight distribution hitch (discussed in #4),
Maximum Tongue Load Weight Carrying, - maximum recommended amount of
weight that the trailer can place on the ball mount or bumper area, and
Maximum Tongue Load Weight Distributing - maximum amount of weight
that the trailer can place on the ball mount area if using a weight
distribution hitch. (we will try to shed some light on this later, if you
are unsure about tongue loads or GVW, please read last months article "Part
I: What Can My Vehicle Tow?")
3) RECOMMENDED TRAILER TOWING HEIGHT: This is a good time to address this issue, it seems to be a point that folks are not aware of and it is very important. All trailer manufacturers have a recommended towing height for their trailers. Usually the rule of thumb is level to slightly up in the nose, but NEVER NEVER down. An exaggerated nose up attitude or nose down can cause stability problems, and think about your poor horses. To find out weather your trailer is sitting properly, you can attach it to your vehicle, leave it empty and find a level piece of ground, then stand back and judge for yourself. The reason we bring this up now is because the drop height of your receiver is what can fix or create this problem. All vehicles set a varying heights off the ground, we have found that most pickup trucks will use either a 2"(straight) receiver to a 4" or even a 6" for some taller 4wds. One the other hand, we have found that most SUVs will use either a 2" (straight) or a 2" or 4" flipped over to be used as a rise instead of a drop. The point we want to stress here is that it is important for your trailer to be setting properly when being towed, if not stability can be adversely affected. We urge folks to check with their trailer manufacturer's for their recommended tow heights and follow their suggestions. And don't forget to ask how to take the measurement, i.e. with trailer empty and connected and setting level &/or measure to the base of the ball as opposed to the top etc...
HITCH BALLS. Again a couple of items to consider. Like
5) HITCH or RECEIVER PINS. These pins hold the receiver in place in the hitch. According to the folks at Valley Industries hitch pins generally come in two different sizes, either 5/8"or 1/2" diameter. As we mentioned before, if you take a moment to look at receivers most of them have their hitch pin and ball shank size requirements stamped on the face or drop portion of the receiver. Something we find ironic about hitch pins, is that when you look at them they do not appear to be very substantial. Yet when you put a hitch together it seems to be the only thing item holding the receiver in place, so why isn't it more substantial and weight rated like everything else? We put this very questions to our folks at Valley Industries. Their response went something like this: Even though the hitch pin appears to be the weakest link actually there is very little stress put on that portion of the hitch at all. If you think about it the trailer exerts more down force on a hitch (hence tongue weight) as opposed to just a straight back pulling force.
WHEN DO I HAVE TO USE ONE? The answer is
simple. If you are hauling a trailer that has a GVW
higher than your hitch's maximum weight carrying recommendation
and less than the
maximum weight distribution recommendation.
If your trailer's GVW is higher than the latter you need to get a new hitch.
Also, there may be instances where your trailer's GVW is equal to or less
than the weight carrying recommendation BUT, the trailer applies more
than 10% of its weight to the tongue. It's possible in that type of
situation to exceed the maximum weight carrying tongue load
also making necessary the use of a weight distribution hitch.
7) Sway Control Device. Many times
this name is mistakenly used to describe the weight distribution unit.
We apologize for not having a picture but basically it works like this.
A small hitch type ball is mounted to either the left or right of the main
trailer hitch ball, likewise a matching ball is mounted on the trailer tow
bars. The balls are then connected with a two part rod that has an inner and
outer sleeve, each sleeve being attached to a ball. As the trailer
goes around the corner, the outer sleeves slides over the inner sleeve
shortening the rod and allowing the trailer to turn. Under
driving conditions, it is friction that causes the rods not to slide in an
attempt to keep the trailer from swaying. It is our
understanding from the folks at Valley Industries that most of the units
have a "friction adjuster" on them, so if you have a trailer that has a
large tendency to sway you can set it higher and vice-versa.
FINAL THOUGHTS: We know there is
information in this article which will be of a rather controversial nature
to some. We have heard several different reasons to exceed the
maximum recommended weight carrying limitations of a hitch without going to
a weight distribution hitch. The folks at Valley Industries were very
cut and dry with their recommendations regarding towing requirements. If you
GVW is above the maximum weight carrying number or you will exceed the
weight carrying tongue limitation you use a weight distribution hitch, no
exceptions. If you are going to exceed the maximum limitations you
need a bigger hitch. Now we realize these folks are from VALLEY
INDUSTRIES and that is their views on their products. If you feel
because your hitch is made by a different manufacturer and their policies
and recommendations are separate from what is stamped on the hitch, we
advise PROCEED WITH CAUTION. Take no chances, call the manufacturer.
We'd be very surprised if their recommendations are any different from the
folks at VALLEY. If they are we'd like to know about them.
Next month we will cover gooseneck hitches just briefly, and proceed to electrical plugs and brake controllers which is really the last piece. We apologize for not getting to it all in this month.
Happy Trailering... See you Next Month. (Or whenever
we feel like something needs to be said.)
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