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Old 12-26-2013, 08:21 PM   #1
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Another Hitch Disaster - Close Call

After pulling across the wicked Townes Pass into Death Valley and landing in the Stovepipe Wells RV park, I went went to unhitch and discovered the most heinous site I have ever seen with my trailer. The welds on the vertical shaft of the drawbar had failed on all sides and the hitch head was hanging literally by a thread. There was about 2 inches of gusset holding the vertical shaft to the horizontal. The who thing had rotated 90 degrees and the coupler 4 inches off center.

I never heard a noise, never felt anything, and I didn't do any unusual back manuevers or anything odd. The car didn't handle or feel different. Well, there we were in Death Valley on 12/23 with a busted hitch. No cell service, no internet, and dark in half an hour.

We unhitched and went to sleep. Got up early, put the failed part in the car and headed for Pahrump, NV about 85 miles out. We finally got cell outside of Pahrump and found a RV repair guy who said he "might" be able to repair it. He would have to find a heavier welder and so on. It's Christmas eve. I left the part with him and asked him to proceed trying to fix it. We found another RV parts place in Pahrump and he had a similar, almost the same, but shorter shank, I bought it as my backup. We headed for Las Vegas where I knew there would be more RV parts. I found in Las Vegas another part fairly close. It was a Drawtite part and my hitch is an Equalizer. It was a closer fit than the first one, and I bought it. We ran back to Pahrump and returned the first part we had bought, and cancelled the welding job on the broken one. We got back to Death Valley at 4PM and I tried it on the hitch. It fit, except the ball was now 2" more aft than with the original draw bar. After several more hitch adjustments, it seemed it would get us home.

We towed this morning out of DV and arrived here in Needles for a few days. I've talked to two guys who knew a lot about welding, and both said the part was not welded right. The welds were too small and so on. I noted the new Drawtite bar had massive welds were the two square shafts were joined. Mine had small 1/8" wide welds beads. I also noticed the Drawtite bar had a permanent lable with load ratings and it had a part number stamped in it. My part had no numbers, no labels, which I found odd for a brand like Equalizer.

I began thinking back to when my hitch was installed. Here's what may have happened. I bought a new Equalizer from the installer. He said my car would require a longer shaft, but no problem. I think he took the Equalizer brand shaft, and exchanged it for a "generic" longer shaft, not an Equalizer branded one. I can't be sure, but I find it hard to imagine that Equalizer wouldn't load rate the bar with some label like Drawtite, and that there was no part number stamped on it. I don't know, but that's my guess.
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Old 12-26-2013, 08:44 PM   #2
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I will be going outside in morning daylight to check mine. Thank goodness u r ok
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Old 12-26-2013, 09:14 PM   #3
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Thank you for sharing and probably saving a lot of us a potential disaster.

John
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Old 12-26-2013, 09:21 PM   #4
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Holy crap. Scary stuff.

So glad you're ok. Be safe.
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Old 12-26-2013, 09:37 PM   #5
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I just checked my Equalizer hitch head. It looks different than your photo. It looks as if the whole L shaped part is a single casting. There is a single triangular piece of metal to stiffen the L shape. It's welded with big fat welds.

I'm glad your safe and nothing bad happened while on the road. Did you get to go swimming in the pool at Furnace Creek?
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Old 12-26-2013, 10:05 PM   #6
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Thanks for the heads up. I hate to hear stories like this, but we all need to be aware. I'm glad that you did not suffer any injury or damage.

Brian
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Old 12-26-2013, 10:05 PM   #7
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Would experienced welders here could comment on the quality of these welds?

And if suspect, could this substitute drop bar could be reported or traced a manufacturer. Is there an agency who looks into this type of failure?
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Old 12-26-2013, 10:19 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by dkottum View Post
Would experienced welders here could comment on the quality of these welds?
. . . . .
?
Doug, I don't believe the photo has enough detail in it for anyone to comment definitively. You would have to see it up close and personal. With that said, the photo does appear to show that the welds at the 90 in the rectangular elements appear to be very shallow with very little filler material deposited and little penetration. Thank god at least part of the gusset was welded on well since it was carrying the day!
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Old 12-26-2013, 10:35 PM   #9
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Wow. Just glad you're ok!
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Old 12-26-2013, 11:14 PM   #10
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Glad you're okay. Checking mine over the weekend. Scary stuff!
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Old 12-26-2013, 11:35 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by mstephens View Post

.................................................. ..................

I began thinking back to when my hitch was installed. Here's what may have happened. I bought a new Equalizer from the installer. He said my car would require a longer shaft, but no problem. I think he took the Equalizer brand shaft, and exchanged it for a "generic" longer shaft, not an Equalizer branded one. I can't be sure, but I find it hard to imagine that Equalizer wouldn't load rate the bar with some label like Drawtite, and that there was no part number stamped on it. I don't know, but that's my guess.
I believe that you may have identified the cause. I have towed many miles with Equal-i-zer brand hitches and there many of them in use by Airforums members. I have never heard of a failure of this sort. I hope that this draw bar turns out to be a aftermarket part. I'm glad to hear you dodged this bullet.

Perhaps if you forwarded the photo you posted to Equal-i-zer tech support, they could verify whether or not the drawbar is theirs. The photo, if magnified to its max resolution here shows very good detail.

Ken
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Old 12-26-2013, 11:54 PM   #12
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A weld of this type is fine for joining thin hollow square tube, but completely inadequate for solid 2" bar pulling a trailer. There should have been massive amount of material ground off of the bar at 45 degrees coming out of the TV, and that should have been replaced with multiple passes of something like 7018 rod, and the part allowed to cool between sticks.

- Bart
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Old 12-27-2013, 12:12 AM   #13
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A weld of this type is fine for joining thin hollow square tube, but completely inadequate for solid 2" bar pulling a trailer. There should have been massive amount of material ground off of the bar at 45 degrees coming out of the TV, and that should have been replaced with multiple passes of something like 7018 rod, and the part allowed to cool between sticks.

- Bart
Bart,

Is there anyway you could post a sketch or a link of what you are describing. I am having difficulty picturing it.

Ken
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Old 12-27-2013, 01:30 AM   #14
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Wow...The kind of surprise one can do without..!

Your pic shows the shallow penetration of the welds - clearly a Mfg defect, IMHO...

I would hope you get a chance to return that 'boat anchor' to your installer with the hopes of being reimbursed for the shank you had to buy on the road...!

Any 'Hitch' Shop' valuing it's customers should bend over backwards to see that you are taken care of - I'm also sure that Equalizer wouldn't be too happy hearing about a retail shop selling their product with an inferior, replacement shank being installed - perhaps a mention of this fact might also help your hitch shop to make you well...

Happier Trails ahead..!
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