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Old 11-16-2004, 10:15 AM   #1
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European Weight Distributing hitches

Ok, folks... not one to shy away from controversy, there have been in the past a number of posts to various threads in this forum regarding the lack of need for weight distributing hitch setups and sway control on tow vehicle/caravan combos in Europe. I found that to be interesting, and have sort of always wondered why they'd be so mainstream here, and almost unheard of in Europe.

Well, I also belong to FiberglassRV.com, a similar forum dedicated to molded fiberglass trailers (in addition to the Behemoth, I have an '87 Burro 17' fiberglass trailer).

There was a usual discussion on WDHs and sway control on a thread there, and a couple of our Canadian and European members said that sway control hitches AND WD hitches are, in fact, widely available in Europe. On interesting comment about the lack of need for widespread use was:

Quote:
Greetings,

wdh are not used in europe as most trailers are limited by law not to exceed 4400 lbs. gvw and 150 lbs tongue weight. If you go and look at just about any european trailer manufatures site you will see that the trailers max out around 30' with 2 axles using cable actuated brakes similar to the surge brakes here in north america. This system has been used for decades. The trailer axle is almost in the centre of the trailer, also,, it has grab handles on the corner which allow you to move the trailer by hand. As far as trailer sway control is concerned, the new hitches actually have to disks inside the hitch that squeeze the ball to increase friction. Also, the balls are not allowed to be on a shaft with a nut, but rather a solid shank attached to the vehicle in such a way that the ball cannot turn at all.

cheers,

Peter
I thought that was an interesting post, and then one the members from the Netherlands posted some links to WDH and sway-control hitches produced in Europe. The websites are in their native languages, but they're really interesting to see. I thought I'd share them. The comments were that the Alko is the most commonly used hitch in Germany.

Roger

http://www.lacaravane.com/documents/tunesi630330-1.htm

http://biod.info/stabifix

http://www.winterhoff.de/english/ws3000.html

http://www.alko.de/fahrzeugtechnik/c...ungen/aks.html
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Old 11-16-2004, 03:10 PM   #2
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The Roger Tunesi site was very interesting. It looks like the weight distributing bars are set to push up on the coupler.

Is that how they keep the tongue weight below 150#? Doesn't look practical to me.

The ball squeezers look a little chancy. Can you reduce sway by sqeezing the ball? It doesn't sound reliable and reproducible.
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Old 11-16-2004, 03:22 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markdoane
The Roger Tunesi site was very interesting. It looks like the weight distributing bars are set to push up on the coupler.

Is that how they keep the tongue weight below 150#? Doesn't look practical to me.

The ball squeezers look a little chancy. Can you reduce sway by sqeezing the ball? It doesn't sound reliable and reproducible.
Don, I'd conjecture that they keep the tongue weight low by axle placement. Obviously the closer the axle is to the tongue, the less weight would be on the tongue. And since the trailers apparently need to be below 4400 lbs max, I guess most of that weight would rest on the axle.

I thought the friction sway control in the ball was innovative. I suppose it's not much different than the friction sway control bars we use, and I'd think it'd be just as reproduceable as you can be with our friction bars. They must work, as apparently it's what's available there.

I just thought they were interesting solutions that are very different than our typical setups.

Roger
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Old 11-16-2004, 03:34 PM   #4
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Roger,

I wasn't being a grinch, I thought they were interesting, but don't think they are any better than a dual cam.

Appreciate your knowlege and research in posting these.
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Old 11-16-2004, 03:54 PM   #5
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Thanks, Don. And fear not, I didn't take your comment as criticism at all. Frankly, I don't think they're any better than anything we use; in fact they're more complex with more moving parts. I think it's just interesting that they've addressed similar issues in a different fashion. I'll stick with my dual-cam.

Roger
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Old 11-16-2004, 04:53 PM   #6
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here in the netherlands max trailor weight is 3500 kg
about 7700 lbs
mat tonque weight is 50 kg 110 lbs on a single axle trailor
the axles ale almost in the middle of the trailor
you can lift the trailor on the coupler with one hand
the friction couplers helps a lite to controle sway

Remco The netherlands
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Old 11-16-2004, 05:05 PM   #7
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In England, non-comercial towing has long been inefficient in comparison with U.S practice. We've been in a bit of a logical loop. For many decades, travel trailers were restricted to 40 mph. (yes, 40!) Because of this, trailer hitches were low-tech simple 2" balls, with no anti-sway or load distribution, as, at 40 mph, a simple ball was deemed sufficient. There were still plenty of trailer accidents because of insufficient tongue weight. Legislators therefore kept the speed limit at 40. You can see the loop! Eventually, trailers up to a certain max % of the tow vehicle's weight were permitted to do 50 (wow!), with certain other restrictions. Much later, travel trailers were permitted to travel at 60 mph. However, hitches are still elementary. On the long downgrade on the main highway near us (Haldon Hill, A38, Exeter,Devon), every year we see wrecked travel trailers, with family possessions scattered far away. Historically, English travel trailers have not had a premium grade luxury image in the same way as some do in the USA. Hence a reluctance to spend much cash on accessories such as a sophisticated hitch, when the trailer is seen as an economical way to have a vacation, rather than as an end in itself. Any change will take a long time! Nick.
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Old 11-16-2004, 05:21 PM   #8
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nick

thanks for the short history lesson on towing in england.

as anyone knows, light tongue weight on a trailer = sway!

the friction hitch seems like a unique way to solve an avoidable problem, kinda cart before the horse if ya ask me!

i can see why balls threaded to a reciever wouldn't work!

john
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Old 11-16-2004, 08:35 PM   #9
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Nick,

Are you familiar with the Award trailer manuf. in Ontario, Canada. I understand it is a European design, 4500# for a 27-30ft, very good engineering. I have thought it was probably from England.

Where are you going to winter when it gets colder? If you ever go to the Rio Grand valley, stop by El Valle Del Sol in Mission, Texas. Just a little park with 350 retirees there from late fall to early spring.
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Old 11-17-2004, 07:18 AM   #10
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Wingfoot1, according to this link www.hoobly.com/b/0-51-20/trailers.html , the Award trailer was manufactured in kit form in Germany, and assembled in Canada. I have no knowledge of them.
After Thanksgiving we will make our way to North Florida. We have sea kayaks, and will spend the winter in the rivers and coast of North Florida, and, in January, in the Everglades and Keys. We certainly aim to head West one year, as we rock climb, and I will certainly make a note of the Valle Del Sol. Many thanks, from Nick.
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Old 11-17-2004, 08:43 AM   #11
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I visited my exchange student's family in Germany in late September. They have a caravan (SOB trailer) and use it for inexpensive family travel all over Europe. I believe that electric brakes are not allowed. They use hydraulic surge brakes, like boat trailers use here. I suspect that some weight distributing hitches would interfere with these brakes. Their trailer has a single axle and is light at around 1200 kg. They tow it with a Mercedes Vito diesel van, which has relatively low power. The normal towing speed limit is 80 kph. A special drivers license allows speeds of 100 kph.

He was amazed that we have a trailer with a high gross weight of 3600 kg, or 7300 lbs.
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