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Old 02-25-2006, 02:10 PM   #1
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Do I need a WD hitch, take II


Per advice from many on the Airstream Forums, I was dutifully making my appointment to get a WD hitch installed. The woman at the hitch company took down my 2006 Honda Ridgeline specs, took down my 16' CCD specs (both dry and loaded), started to recommend a Reese hitch, then paused and said, "You may not need a WD hitch at all. Why don't you try towing without it and see? And you can still install friction sway control even without the WD hitch."

We towed the combo for about 50 miles around town, on a short weekender, and 30 cautious miles on the freeway. Seemed to handle fine, so we loaded it up, added 168 pounds under the dinette to simulate our 21 gallons of water tank, and off to the CAT scale we went:

Combined weight on truck axles, loaded : 4820
Combined weight on truck axles, loaded & hitched: 5340
Trailer axle weight : 2900
Gross combined weight : 8040

Front truck axle weight, loaded & hitched : 2540
Rear truck axle weight, loaded & hitched : 2800

Front/Rear truck axle difference : 260
Difference as %age of truck loaded weight : 5.4
Difference as %age of truck loaded/hitched wt : 5.8

Trailer tongue weight : 540
Trailer tongue + axle weight : 3440
Tongue as percentage of total trailer weight : 15.6

From what I've been able to determine reading this forum, the weight difference, while not ideal, is well-within the 10% of total truck weight range, and therefore seems acceptable.(?)

The trailer tongue weight as a percentage of total trailer weight seems a little high, but I can't think of much to do about it, since it's mostly water and the stock AS components.

So, given these numbers, should I still be thinking WD hitch? If so, should I be looking at some sort of "light-duty" configuration?

BTW, the combo seems to have little tendency to sway. I was passed by a few semis and other large trucks with me going about 55 and them going about 60 with no problems. I'm still planning on at least adding friction sway control however.

Thanks in advance for all your expertise!

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Old 02-25-2006, 03:33 PM   #2
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Lightbulb Can you be TOO Safe?

I feel the spirit of "Inland Andy" coming over me.... channeling now

It's not just towing... it is about STOPPING. Sooner or later you'll have to do a panic stop, when some a****** comes across 3 lanes to get to the exit ramp directly in front of you. If your brake controller is adjusted perfectly the trailer brakes should grab a fraction of a second before your tow vehicle's brakes, and keep your straight, but if "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" starts, you and your Airstream are in the hands of the gods. You could end up with an adrenaline rush, or a fishtailing nightmare. I was on my first major outing when I had to smoke all eight wheels on the Baltimore beltway to avoid being clipped by a semi. Nearly had a "Depends moment" but my Reese kept everything straight.

Lord knows we've all seen pictures of rolled Airstreams (cheap) on e-bay. And what happens if you have a flat on your trailer or tow vehicle?

A weight distributing hitch isn't necessary UNTIL something bad happens. Under normal conditions you'll never miss it.

My 2 Cents, Tin Lizzie

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Old 02-25-2006, 03:49 PM   #3
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Here I guess is my problem/question:

Unless a WD hitch has some properties beyond distributing weight, OR that last 260 pounds of difference really _does_ make a big difference, I don't see the point.

Unless there's some property to a WD hitch _beyond_ distributing weight that will save my buns in a panic situation, it seems to me that if I don't _need_ weight disbribution, then the WD hitch should be of no help.

If keeping me safe requires the elimination of that last 260 pounds of difference, then the 10% rule of thumb I've read about (I think from Inland Andy himself) isn't enuff, or my calculations are wrong, 'cause by my lights I'm at around 5%.

Far's sway control goes, I'm definitely planning on doing a friction bar if I don't do WD, and possibly more elaborate if I _do_ do (do do do do? ) a WD.

More englightenment puleeeze,
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Old 02-25-2006, 05:09 PM   #4
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Toasty's Dad,
Look at an Equalizer Hitch they do both the WD and the sway control. You would want the lightest bars they make. There was an execellent thread a while back about the dynamics of a vehicle and tow combination when you make a panic stop, or sudden manuver. To me the ideal tongue weight is 12% obviously there is some wiggle room on this with the industry standard calling for between 10-15%. You are running just a bit on the heavy side. In 98% of your driving you are going to be fine, it is that 2% that will get you. Also friction sway control is useless in slick condtions when you need it most. If you read the directions on friction sway control they tell you to loosen the bars in adverse condtions....

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Old 02-26-2006, 09:53 PM   #5
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A weight distributing hitch will not influence fishtail emergencies or sway type problems per se.

Sway control hitches of any sort will not save you if you engage in sudden significant maneauvers.

Weight distribution and sway control can enhance safety by improving handling if needed to compensate for various factors in a towed rig. They are not emergency situation solutions.

Parsing microseconds in trailer brake control is also irrelevant. In a panic stop, the trailer brakes are going to be full on and any delay is going to be small compared to the time it takes you to get your foot on the brake and that is small compared to the time it is going to take the trailer to start shoving the tow vehicle around.

I get very worried when I see assertions about how some sway control or load distribution mechanism is going to prevent disaster in extreme conditions or anomolous situations. Sorry, it ain't so. It is a false assurance to think some hitch or sway control mechanism is going to get you out of trouble in an emergency situation.
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Old 02-26-2006, 10:12 PM   #6
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T's Dad,
Just curious, what do yout TV's axels weigh without the trailer attached?


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Old 02-26-2006, 10:29 PM   #7
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When you load the trailer on the truck, how level is the trailer and the truck?

You may not get it perfect, but if one or the other is pitched, you need weight bars....both truck and trailer should be fairly level.
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Old 02-27-2006, 07:45 AM   #8
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When applying brakes on your trailer the 500# of tongue weight becomes MUCH MORE than 500 lbs!!!! The harder they are applied the more weight is transfered to the hitch and rear of the tow vehicle and off the front of it. In a hard brake application the "tendency to sway", which is an indication there's not enought weight on the front of the TV, can become a violent out of control situation. As to a friction control, while better than nothing, but not by much. While help keep both tow and trailer in line it also resist the return to center once this has occured. Having had a 16' CCD I can tell you from experience that you will be much more comfortable and safer with a WD hitch designed for that trailer weight. ------- pieman
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Old 02-27-2006, 09:23 AM   #9
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Also note that most receivers have two ratings. One is the weight capacity when a load distributing hitch is not used (dead weight), and the other is when a load distributing hitch is used.

For example a receiver may have a 1,000 hitch weight limitation when a load distributing hitch is used. When not, on a dead weight basis, the capacity drops to potentially half that amount. Be sure you have checked this factor out. If your receiver is rated like this, you may have exceeded its capacity.

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Old 02-27-2006, 09:49 AM   #10
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I too have a Honda Ridgeline. I've towed my 67 Caravel using the Equal-i-zer WD hitch, which by design provides sway control. My weights are almost identical to yours and without the WD hitch I did get a slight amount of sway at 60 mph. Of course, what felt slight in the vehicle was probably severe if experienced inside the trailer, therefore in my mind any sway at all is a recipe for disaster. After installing the WD hitch all sway was eliminated. I've towed at 70-75 in strong crosswind situations in West Texas and down I-40 being passed by semis doing 90+ and the rig was rock solid. The feel of being sucked toward one of those semis and then pushed away as they passed completely went away.
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Old 02-27-2006, 10:19 AM   #11
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Hello All,

Thanks for your input! Answering the accumulation of answers:

azflycaster, dunno. i foolishly weight the unhitched truck with both axles on the same pan. doh.

silvertwinkie, they do seem fairly level, though only to my eyes. i should probably measure and actually use a level to really find out.

mike lewis, what was your TV when you had the 16'?

jack, the hitch tongue rating is 600 lbs, presumably without WD, because my Ridgeline owner's manual specifically recommends _against_ a WD on the same page on which the rating is posted.

62 Overlander, thanks for the Honda datapoint! That inclines me toward your position.

Lots of different (and contradictory) advice.

So I'll look at it another way. Aside from the expense, is there anybody out there who takes the position that I could actually end up _worse_ off with WD and a more-elaborate-than-friction sway control? If it's just a matter of 1000 bucks vs 100, I'm fairly amenable to being convinced. But, could trying to correct this pretty small weight difference actually be worse than tolerating it?

Still mulling it over,
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Old 02-27-2006, 11:16 AM   #12
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When applying brakes on your trailer the 500# of tongue weight becomes MUCH MORE than 500 lbs!!!!
and this is why trailer brakes are your emergency solution and not a weight distribution system.

If you are in a stopping situation like this and your trailer brakes aren't doing their job, you are going to have a much more severe control problem from the trailer trying to push forward than you are from overloading a weight distribution system. This is why braking for trailers is required in many states while WD isn't.

But my, all the exclamation points! Why there is such strong emotional attachment to such imprecise issues is a puzzle to me.

But then, these safety arguments are a bit of a hijack of the topic. So its time to sit back and watch the debate over minutia trying to rationalize ignoring owner's manual advice and the very interesting example of people trying to adjust to change in dealing with modern suspension systems.

Jon, yes there is someone who thinks you could end up worse off ignoring the owner's manual for your tow vehicle. Me. It would be possible to have multiple systems trying to do the same thing that could conflict with each other resulting in a net negative. (not an absolute, just a possibility)

Most weight ratings are soft limits; not hard ones as the 'weight police' sometimes seem to advocate. As you approach or even exceed weight limits you need to take into account the impact on wear and tear and adjust driving habits to accomodate the rig. Anyone with an RV must make adjustments like this to drive safe just because an RV is heavier and different from what they normally drive.

The situation with adaptive suspensions I first saw discussed with the VW Toureg. A lot of the fear mongering there, too, by old school static suspension paradigm owners. The Toureg owner finally decided to ignore it and just go with the owner's manual and, last I heard, were happy campers.

The biggest problem is that there is insufficient technical data to really answer questions effectively. I'd love to have the automotive engineers who designed the suspension show up to describe the standards used, the specific goals of the design, engineering constraints, calculations performed, models analyzed, the history of the design, testing paradigms and other such things. Then we'd have something to argue about!
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Old 02-27-2006, 11:49 AM   #13
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A WD hitch, properly rated and properly installed, using a "torsion" sway control instead of a friction sway control, should be considered "mandatory".


Several reasons.

If you lose control and hit someone, you will never "EVER" be at peace with yourself again. Depending on who you "MAY" injure, your liability insurance may leave you holding a huge bag, for the rest of your life.

Then there is the question of your family. They are innocent passengers, trusting your better judgement. Try flying commercially, with the thought in mind, that the plane your on sacrificed a possible safety issue, "BECAUSE" the pilot in command (YOU) didn't feel it was really necessary.

"OR" someone that thought they had complete knowledge of that aircraft, simply because they are in the business (like an RV dealer that "DOES NOT" know that handling characteristics of an Airstream trailer) but offers advice.

Bazaar at best.

Indeed, if that happened, you and I would "NEVER" fly commercially again.

The same is true when towing an Airstream trailer, which is "VERY" different than towing "any" other brand trailer, because of it's designed shape.

Towing an Airstream with ease and safely, is the name of the game.

The only question to ask yourself is, "have I done everything" that I could possibly do, to "MAXIMIZE" my safety and that of others, especially my passengers.

If the answer is anything but "yes", then you should put a sign on your tow vehicle, stating that "you compromized safety". Make sure it's in "big" letters for everyone to see. Then ask yourself, "am I doing justice to those that could be involved with that decision".

The answers to questions like this, are really "no brainers".

It's not the answers we may hear, or are told, that may keep us out of harms way, but the "QUESTIONS" that "must" be asked, which requires much more knowledge than "there it is, here I am, so lets go attitude".

Having to settle an insurance loss, with the estate of an Airstream owner and his wife, because he wanted to save a few bucks, as I had to do, is a memory that I truely wish I did not have. That, sadly, happened 35 years ago, and it still bothers me.

Jon, the only thing, in my opinion, that you need to mull over, is "how soon" can my rig be as safe as it can be, and certainly, before you take it on the road again.

Insurance is great, but it does not nor will it ever undo physical injury, or death.

For your sake and others, please be a safe and happy Airstreamerr, and not a statistic.

Some will disagree, in that safety is not a word in their vocabulary.

The "almighty dollar" is "never" the answer to a safety question or concern.

I am sure others would like to know your "mulling over" thoughts, now that another side, but a very important side of the story, has been explained to you.

Best wishes in your decision.

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Old 02-27-2006, 12:10 PM   #14
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Glad to hear from you Andy!

One question that I think your insurance background will help provide a good answer for: What are the liability and insurance consequenses of not following the advice of the vehicle manufacturer?

That is the question here. Not budget scrimping.

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