I'd just throw in one comment about ball hitches. I'd have to say
that Tom may have been more fortunate than he realizes last weekend.
Apparently he had pretty good tongue weight while he was hauling his boat
to the lake. Given the right kind of bump though, that hitch could have
raised right off the ball while traveling at highway speed. Now, I have
never had this happen in quite this way, but, I have had a hitch head
break. I'm here to tell you that it is a real sinking feeling watching
your trailer in the mirror, going down the freeway at 70 MPH and not
attached to your truck anymore. We were quite fortunate and were able to
slow down with the truck and let the trailer run back into us again and
get the whole works over to the side of the road with relatively little
damage. I have seen many though that weren't so lucky.
We all need to be sure that our hitches are properly secured before
we hit the road. It is very easy to get too far under your trailer when you
are hooking up and force the hitch retainer up on top of the ball when the
trailer is lowered. This is easy to see, but you must remember to
look. You can also feel with you fingers once you know what you are "feeling"
for. The retainer must be under the ball, not on top of it!!!
The easiest way to ensure that you don't force the retainer up with
the ball is; first, before starting to hook up, make sure you retainer
is all the way down. Turn the retainer nut (on top of the hitch) until
the retainer bolt is flush with the top of the retainer nut(no threads
showing), or, if you have a cam lock be sure the lever is straight up
and it is sitting down against the top of the hitch. Now, when you back
under your hitch, line up so the ball is not completely under the hitch,
but sticking out just a little in front, just enough so that the trailer
will be forced to move ahead a little as you lower the hitch on to the
ball (maybe 1/4-1/2 inch). If you do this and you have made sure your
hitch retainer is all the way down before you started, you will very
rarely get the retainer hung up on top of the ball.
Just some hints for those who may not be experienced at trailering.
20 Jun 2001
I could not agree more to the fortunes of trailer wars. I think I have
an answer to a lot of folks trailer problems. It is the Quick Step II
Adjustable Tow System. I have the Quickstep hitch and it is great. It
is rated for 7,599# and two inch receivers.
This gadget allows you to "just get close" when backing up to your
trailer. It extends out by around 6 to 8 inches and also swivels.
Take a look at West marine 2001 cataloge page 691. That will give you an idea
of what it can do. I can get within the 6" and to one side or other of
the trailer hitch, then depress the side pins that hold the unit in
the trailering position, pull the ball out and swivel the ball unit by
pulling the centering pin. That makes it easy to feel the ball to
hitch relationship and makes it a snap to get the ball under the hitch and
above the hitch retainer.
I mentioned this device a few years ago and got the negative responses
that accompany new devices not accepted by conservative thinking.
Well, I have trailered my N17 around 4,000 miles and Blew Daze around 3,000
on our Ky Lake trip last year. Needless to say, it has passed the test of
time and use.
I would also mention another goodie for those that have more than one
trailer, with different sized balls. The Fulton Interchangable hitch
ball system has also passed the test of time and use on my Jeep. I
have used the 1 7/8" ball with the N17 and some rental equipment and have
used the 2" ball with Blew Daze. I also trailered John and Nell's boat
down from Edenton this spring with this equipment. For those who have
the need, it is a great asset.
Best plan is to check and recheck all those attachment points. One
thing I have been guilty of is the failure to torque the hitch
retainer down after a succesful connection is made. I just plain forgot to do
that a couple of times and remembered a few blocks after we started
out. Now I stop and check that as a rule. The chains are also something we
must not forget.
20 Jun 2001
with links that screw closed. I plan to do the same for the winch
strap and the safety chain that attach to the bow eye on the boat. I also tie
the winch handle to the bow stop post on the trailer so that if the pawl
ever popped out the winch still wouldn't be able to unwind.
21 Jun 2001
You are correct. If the hitch is attached and functioning properly
(and your tongue jack is strong enough) you should be able to pick up the
rear of the tow vehicle with the hitch. It should never come loose,
regardless of weight distribution. The fact that someone's boat came free
from the hitch with light tongue weight is only a symptom. If this
happened to me, I'd park the trailer and not move it again until I
determined what failed in my hitch. There are three likely possibilities:
1) The hitch was not secured properly, as already discussed. Either
the hitch retainer was not secured under the ball as Rik mentioned, or it
was not tightened securely.
2) The coupler is broken and needs to be serviced or replaced.
3) The hitch ball is too small. The R22 trailer should use (at
least) a 2" ball. But regarless of the size, the size of the ball and the
coupler must match.
I don't usually like to repeat advice already offered by others, but
this is important.
If you have had this happen to you... figure out why the trailer hitch
connection failed before you move that trailer again. And always use
For those who may not know it, every hitch ball and every coupler has
it's size marked on it's top. sometimes it is not easy to see due to rust,
grease, paint, etc. but it is there. These two numbers must match!!!
A ball too large for the coupler will not get you into trouble, since the
coupler will not fit onto a ball that is too large, you just won't be able to
tow your boat. BUT, a 1 7/8 ball will fit inside a 2 inch coupler and not
really look "that wrong". This can bring on the types of problem that Tom has
described. So, if you can't see the sizing on your ball or coupler, take a
rag or a wire brush and clean them off until you can see the numbers.
I can not stress enough how important it is that these parts are sized to
If you ever hear any "clunking" sounds from your hitch as you drive
it is very possible that your ball and coupler do not match. The ball
should fit pretty snugly inside the coupler when every thing is properly
matched and tightened up.
Just as an aside, it is also a good thing to check the tightness of
the nut or bolt that secures the ball to the hitch head. This should be
pretty much as tight as you can make it with a pretty big wrench (I have been
known to use a 36" cresent wrench). It is not real uncommon for these to work
loose. Also don't forget a lock washer or self-locking nut (or both) when you
install your ball. This is another possible source of a "clunking"
sound when towing.
21 Jun 2001
The only thing I would say about the positioning of the safety chains
on the trailer is that they should be connected to the actual trailer frame
and not to the extendable tongue. This would minimize the possibility of
problems due to a failure or loss of the pins that secure the extendable
I like to use chain hooks (the round type, not the grab type) of the
same size as the chain with a clevis, pin and cotter pin to attach to the
chain link. This makes it possible to easily adjust the length for different
hitches, etc.. I always hook my hooks into the receiver from the
bottom, they are much less likely to bounce out when you do this.
Brians idea for the threaded replacement links would be a good one if
you could find these links with a good enough rating. I'm afraid that the
common hardware store variety is not rated high enough to be considered a
legal safety chain link (at least in Minnesota). From my own experience
these links are not as strong as they look.
I like the idea of the loop around the winch handle.
21 Jun 2001