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Old 06-21-2006, 08:58 AM   #1
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1989 25' Excella
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Equalizer hitch rambling...

Just a word of caution/advice related to the Equalizer hitch. Having just experienced our first significant outing with our Excella, I wanted to tweak my hitch as I thought I may be able to dial in the performance (I’m an Engineer and more than a little anal about stuff like this). I was riding a little high at the front of the camper, but was out of adjustment holes on the hitch shank. The camper handled fine on the first leg of the journey, but I thought maybe it could be even better if it were more level. At our first stop, I took the hitch off, inverted the shank (to gain more downward adjustment) but then was not happy about the resulting loss of ground clearance to the bottom of the shank-only about 3” off the ground (I have the standard shank #4100). So I turned the shank back to its original position and decided I would either live with the camper riding a little high in the nose, or find another solution when I got back home. When I re-assembled everything I put the hitch head back so that it was almost level (all the way against the pin that holds the washers) not angled down 4-6 degrees as the instruction clearly state. I did this at the suggestion of a friend who was camping beside us, and to be honest I could not remember how I had it set initially. On the next leg of the journey (leg 2) the handling seemed a little worse, but not real bad. I checked everything at the next stop, and all looked OK (but my mind was still troubled-something was rotten in Denmark?!) On the last leg home (leg 3), with all my tanks empty, and I assume the camper much lighter over-all than either of the previous legs, the TV handling was even worse. The front end seemed to steer where ever it wanted, I felt like we had no power (like driving in mashed potatoes). I stopped and re-checked all again. I thought I had a brake locking up, broken suspension components, something was wrong. I crawled under, over, around everything, measured this, measured that, re-torqued bolts, etc. Moved weight around… Everything LOOKED ok?! As the return leg was not long, traffic was light, and we would be on secondary roads, I decided to proceed slowly home. We made it fine; handling was not terrible, just awkward.

After, I thought about what I had done, and what might have changed for that last leg home; I was lighter! Why would that make the TV handle worse? Doesn’t make sense? I called Equalizer Tech support (they are great, always having been very helpful).
What it comes down to is this; by making that small change in the hitch head angle (not putting it back at 4-6 degrees downward) I had shifted more of the weight to the rear axle of the TV. I had never before experienced what poor handling was like until now. Guess I was always luck in the past (or maybe I really had set up the hitch properly!) I have towed several different campers with this Equalizer and was always impressed how well it worked and how easy it is to use.
So the moral of the story is; minor adjustments can make a huge difference in your towing. If something does not feel right, review your setup and adjust. This experience just confirms to me how great and flexible the Equalizer really is and how important it is to “dial in” your hitch and TV setup, regardless of what hitch you use.
Stream on and be safe!

Bill
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Old 06-21-2006, 09:16 AM   #2
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Bill,

Reading your story I couldn't help remembering the old joke about doctors who try to heal themselves.

Interesting how small changes make so much difference. Perhaps you story should be mentioned to everyone who asks questions about hitches just to get them started off on the right foot. We were fortunate, it seems, to have an excellent service group at the dealer from whom we purchased our Airstream. The performance of our Equal-i-zer equiped rig has exceeded all our expectations. When viewed from the side the combination is absolutely horizontal so the weight distribution, angle, and height seem perfect. Everyone should be so fortunate and perhaps there would be fewer anguished questions about this topic. Find an experienced installer rather than doing it yourself might be the best advice for the majority of us.
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Old 06-21-2006, 10:04 AM   #3
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Likewise, we purchased our Airstream from a dealer who was also a dealer for Equal-i-zer. Aside from periodically checking for correct torque and other maintenance items, I've never once had to make an adjustment, and the towing characteristics have never been anything short of superb.
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Old 06-21-2006, 10:12 AM   #4
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Keep in mind your TV may change, your camper may change, and certainly your weight load WILL change. It behooves all of us to be familiar, and comfortable, with making changes and adjustments to your hitch setup should you be some where and need to do so due to any of the above changing. A dealer may not alway be available to do it for you. Had I been further from home, I have the tools, instructions, and ability to make the adjustments needed. Be self sufficient!

Bill
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Old 06-21-2006, 10:20 AM   #5
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Bill,

Are there a set of if-then rules that you could offer? For example, if the tongue weight increases by 50 pounds, then.....

Otherwise, it would seem wise to try and maintain the status quo in terms of weight distribution (to pick one factor that could be managed reasonably by paying attention to what we put where) and not mess with a good thing because of the possibility of getting it quite wrong.

Also, I wonder if you have any advice on how small or large changes in settings have to be to produce any material affect, positive or negative?
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Old 06-21-2006, 10:54 AM   #6
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It really seems to be that the proof is in the handling. My last SOB was very tolerant of the hitch setup. It seemed that I could load my camper and TV however I wanted and it always towed fine. However, that camper was much lighter than my Excella. I had much more TV than camper. Now I have a camper that is closer in weight to my TV, so I believe that the window for error is much smaller. I would say that if you are towing a 16’ Bambi with a crew cab dually, you may not have to be too precise with your setup “close enough” would probably do. If, like I am now, your camper and TV are closer in weight, you may have to spend some time adjusting until it is “just right.” After towing 3 different campers for a few years, these are some of my observations. It sure was an eye opener to get behind the wheel when things were not right-first time it has happened to me. I won’t mind if that never happens again.
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Old 06-21-2006, 11:34 AM   #7
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Bill, You are soooo right. I have an equalizer and was encountering a lot of sway and was almost ready to make the jump to a Hensley. I read the directions provided by the vendor very carefully, I adjusted the chains and it works great now ! This was a very important lesson learned.
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Old 06-21-2006, 11:59 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by myoung
Bill,

Are there a set of if-then rules that you could offer? For example, if the tongue weight increases by 50 pounds, then.....

Otherwise, it would seem wise to try and maintain the status quo in terms of weight distribution (to pick one factor that could be managed reasonably by paying attention to what we put where) and not mess with a good thing because of the possibility of getting it quite wrong.

Also, I wonder if you have any advice on how small or large changes in settings have to be to produce any material affect, positive or negative?
A few things to be aware of; what you are trying to accomplish with any WD hitch, is distributing the load equally to both axels of the TV. It is important to understand how adjusting your particular hitch accomplishes this. It is not likely you will have a scale to determine any tonque weight when you are on the road. Do your best at home before your trip, but be prepared to make adjustments if handling changes while out on the road.In my case, a minor change in hitch angle caused a significant change in TV handling. Also, be aware of the signs that you need an adjustment; porpoising, sway, mushy steering of the TV. I am sure others could add to this list. I knew right away something was fishy, and after measuring the difference in sag front bumper versus rear bumper, I knew what I had to do to correct for it. My call to Equalizer when I got home confirmed I was making the right adjustment.

Deo- just wanted to point out one common misconception you may have an "equalizing hitch" but the "Equalizer®" brand hitch does not use chains...
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Old 06-21-2006, 01:05 PM   #9
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Similar story. After changing from an EA-Z_Lift to a Reese so that I could adjust hitch height I noticed a huge difference in handling. Note, this could have been done with the EA-Z-Lift but with misc. parts I had and those that came with the trailer it was cheapest to just buy the hitch head for the trunion style bars. One other thing working agaist the EA-Z-Lift was the mounting for the chains on the trailer wasn't in exactly the right position as it was installed for the Reese.

When I first set-up the Reese I put in the default seven washers for adjusting downward tilt. When I measured the TV I found height at the front and rear wheel wells almost identical (1" compression vs. unhitched). I went ahead and towed it this way even thought the Reese instructions said to shoot for 1" more sag in the back than the front. Rig towed fantastic. But, being an engineer I figured I'd tweak it to "factory spec" and things would be even better.

Getting hitched up in our driveway is a bit of a challenge because of the change in slope. Hooking up with one less link was easy so I decided to give that a try and see where things were at on the TV. Voile! Exactly 1" more sag at the rear than the front. Off we headed. Not two minutes on the freeway and the wife in the passenger seat says "The trailer doesn't seem to be towing as well". NO KIDDING! It was worse that our mismatched set-up with the EA-Z-Lift. We had to stop for propane so I decided to gut it out rather than attempt adjusting along side the freeway. After we got propane, another learning experience, I put the extra link back in the bars. Measured height and we were back to even all around. Rig towed great again.

So, you'd think I'd leave it well enough alone. Think back, I'm an engineer . So, before we leave for home I take the hitch apart. I was going to pull two washers but after the first attempt at adjustment I opted for just one. This time I measured about 1/2" difference between front and rear (more sag in rear). OK, that should be about perfect. Well, it wasn't horrid but certainly no better than even and I'd have to say even a little worse. Since I'm far more likely to add tongue weight or load to the back of the van I'm going to go back to my "default" hitch setting.

Perhaps the 1" recommendation comes from pick-up trucks which traditionally don't handle nearly as well empty as with a load? Anyway, The Safair van seems to like it best when the front and rear are loaded equally which makes sense for a passenger vehicle. I'd be interested in the experience of others with different types of TVs. How many set it up with even front/rear sag?

-Bernie
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Old 06-21-2006, 01:16 PM   #10
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bhayden-that is where I was with the SOB-same amount of sag front/rear. That is what I will be shooting for now. That is a great way of looking at it...thanx for the idea. (p.s. notice vehicle in my sig;passenger type SUV)
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Old 06-21-2006, 02:01 PM   #11
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Trucks tend to have hard front springs and soft rear springs, so returning the front wheel arches to their original height is often all that can be achieved, rather than lowering front and back equally when the load distribution is applied. For an elementary mathematical analysis of load distribution:
http://www.airforums.com/forum...sis-19236.html?
Nick.
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Old 06-21-2006, 03:17 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nickcrowhurst
Trucks tend to have hard front springs and soft rear springs,
That seems backward. Wouldn't a pick-up, designed to carry a load in the back need stiffer springs in the rear?


Quote:
For an elementary mathematical analysis of load distribution:
http://www.airforums.com/forum...sis-19236.html?
Nick.
I can only do this with a diagram. I had a problem with the initial calculation that shows load on the rear axle, chains not attach, being greater than the tongue weight. Thinking about it though, if a 500 pound gorilla (caravan through Africa ) steps on your rear bumper this unloads the front "axle". In the extreme case you could lift the front wheels off the ground with enough weight on the rear. Therefore the weight on the rear MUST be more than 500#, and in fact is equal to the decrease at the front.

Assuming fixed load points the moment (Load on rear axle * overhang to hitch or H*R) must be balanced by the moment produced by the load bars, right?

R * H = B * X

R, added weight w/o bars on rear axle = 800
H, hitch to rear axle (overhang) = 5'
B, length of load bars = 3'
X, force required from chains = ?

Back of the napkin numbers yield ~1,300 pounds for X. This seems high until you divide by two since there are two chains. So, 650# estimate means my 800# bars are perfect. Nice when calculations agree with reality

A spreadsheet would be very cool. A relationship between chain length and force would be the next step.

-Bernie
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Old 06-21-2006, 03:28 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DEO
Bill, You are soooo right. I have an equalizer and was encountering a lot of sway and was almost ready to make the jump to a Hensley. I read the directions provided by the vendor very carefully, I adjusted the chains and it works great now ! This was a very important lesson learned.
Equal-i-zer brand does not have chains. You must be using the term generically. The closest equivalent would be the L-brackets that attach to the A-frame. You can move them up a notch if you increase load on the tongue or if you increase load in the rear of the tow vehicle.

Sorry, I didn't read far enough to see that his had been addressed and I can't delete the message.
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Old 06-22-2006, 12:25 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bhayden
That seems backward. Wouldn't a pick-up, designed to carry a load in the back need stiffer springs in the rear?
Assuming fixed load points the moment (Load on rear axle * overhang to hitch or H*R) must be balanced by the moment produced by the load bars, right?

R * H = B * X
-Bernie
My best guess about the suspension is: The pick-up has a high front axle loading because of the engine, so the front suspension is relatively stiff. The rear suspension has to provide efficient handling when it is empty, rather than bouncing all over the road, and knocking the fillings out of the driver's teeth. It thus neds to be relatively soft, and this means there will be a considerable lowering of the rear of the pick-up when it is loaded. This must be a tricky compromise for the designers.

Your equation leaves out the effect of the length of the trailer between the hitch ball and the centre of the trailer's axle system. The Load Distribution Analysis thread shows the detailed argument that leads to equation 8, which defines the chain tension. You will see that it includes L, the length of the trailer from ball to axle. It would be interesting to input your trailer values into equation 8.
Nick.
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