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Old 04-24-2003, 02:18 PM   #15
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Hitch Ball Alignment

As a Free Wheeler, this is familiar territory. I have never had assistance in hitching other than from the first dealer I worked with and it quite frankly is easier as a do-it-yourself activity for me. Some tricks that I have learned included:

1. When I towed with a pickup that had a topper, the center latching mechanism for the topper when unlatched provided an exact vertical line with the ball mount behind the bumper - - a piece of bright colored masking tape centered on the front window of the Airstream the two are aligned in the rear view mirror of the truck and backing very carefully until in close range - - get out to check. Usually took about two trips back to get it perfectly centered over the top of the ball.

2. When I towed with my '65 Dodge, it had a center mounted trunk ornament that was visible in the rear view mirror and when it was in alignment with the top of the jack post it was a simple matter of backing about six inches for a near perfectly aligned hitch-up.

3. With my current Suburban, the rear wiper motor is nearly centered so I can use it with the tape trick from #1 to align with ease.

4. By far the easiest method is the "Hitch Align" mirror. I have three different varieties dating back to 1980. One mounts magnetically to the top of the hitch post and is a large oval convex mirror that points down toward the ball mount and can be viewed through the rear view mirror of the tow vehicle. The second one is also magnetically mounted and attaches to the "A" frame behind the jack post - - it is adjustable for both height and angle, and has a large square flat mirror. The last is one that is designed to permanently mount to the jack post via a clamping device - - it is my least favorite as it can be disconcerting when traveling down the road and lights start reflecting through the mirror.

It seems like the hitch align mirrors fall into and out of popularity. All three of mine were purchased from Camping World using the mail order catalog - - the only one that is on the web site hooks over the tail gate of the pickup. Using a combination of landmark devices on the trailer and vehicle in combination with the hitch align mirror, I find that hitching is nearly trouble free. These mirrors can often be found at the WBCCI International Rally Flea Market for a very reasonable cost.


Kevin D. Allen
WBCCI (Lifetime Member)/VAC/Free Wheelers #6359
AIR #827
1964 Overlander International/1999 GMC K2500 Suburban (7400 VORTEC/4.11 Differentials)
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre/1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (8.2 Liter V8/2.70 Final Drive)
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Old 04-24-2003, 03:31 PM   #16
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I can also do it faster than with my wife guiding me. However it is nice to have her there to start lowering the tongue on the ball when it is aligned.

To help my alignment, I have have a small American flag sticker mounted on both the tow vehicle and the A/S dead center. I just have to look in my rearview mirror and make sure they are lined up. My Excursion has a backup sensor and eventually you learn how rapid a beep is close enough.


Roger & Roxie (rore62) Smith (Air#178 - WBCCI#1646)
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Old 04-24-2003, 03:33 PM   #17
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I just aim the center of the car to the center of the trailer and stop about a foot or so beforhand. Make adjustments and then finish the job. It takes me about 3-5 minutes to complete.

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Old 04-24-2003, 03:50 PM   #18
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I hook up my webcam to my laptop and set the camera on the rear of my Excursion with the dutch doors open. The laptop sits next to me on the center console. I watch the backing process on the computer. Works every time.
Vic Smith
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31' 78 Airstream Excella 500
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Old 04-24-2003, 04:08 PM   #19
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Eric said:

It takes me about 3-5 minutes to complete.
Man you are quick. Of course my 25 minutes is from the time I sign in at the storage place to the time I sign out, which includes full hitching, starting refrigerator, pull and store wheel chocks, check all lights and brakes in working order, etc. Now, since I am also installing battery, it no doubt will take me a few more minutes.


Must say, I kinda like the looks of the toungue twister. Do you leave it attached to the jack post as the foot at all times?
Rick Klein
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Old 04-24-2003, 05:14 PM   #20
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I just realize you guys have it really easy: are you talking about looking through the back window?????

That's a push over.

With our cargo van (18' long), no way to see the trailer hitch, Mike was able to hitch it up alone, by counting the number of rivets still showing by the front window. I too, could back up to it pretty close (but too lazy to get in & out to retry)

What in the world do you need a "tongue twister" if you have a back window???? and mirrors, and little flags on a pole,......

Just practice a little bit, you'll learn. Of course we do that several times a week, over 4 months a year. But we too had to start somewhere.
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Old 04-24-2003, 06:04 PM   #21
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Tongue twister

The tongue twister comes off the jack post as you raise the jack for travel. The jack post is just sitting in the "cup" of the tongue twister.

As for why we need a tongue twister...ratcheting the tongue over a little bit for a perfect alignment is a LOT easier that moving the whole tow vehicle, but to each his/her own.

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Old 07-29-2005, 06:18 PM   #22
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Rivet Somewhat interesting ...

My '65 Safari has (had) this mounted. Note in one pix that you can actually see the reflection of the tongue!
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NORM #3305

"... there is nothing you can't fix yourself ...
... if you're handy ...
... with a check book! ..."
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Old 07-29-2005, 07:56 PM   #23
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Looking over my right shoulder I have learned to line up the bolts on my closed tailgate with the 2 40 lb. tanks. As I get closer I get out to make final adjustments until I am over the ball. With the Hensley on my newly purchased '86 Sovereign I am just playing it by ear.

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Old 07-29-2005, 10:15 PM   #24
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I always hook up by myself and prefer to do so.

I just threw away my convex mirror this week after not using it for a year or two. At the distance of the pickup bed, the image in the mirror was way to small for any accuracy. Add to that the fact that my truck cab is in bright sunlight and the hitch ball is in the shadow of the roof of the storage shed and what I could see in the mirror was usually so dark as to be useless.

I simply line up the knob on my bed cover with the little level in the center of the trailer.and back up until I am quite close. I get out once and check alignment and any needed angular correction. I then leave the door open and look down at the pavement to gage the distance I move back. I find that to be more accurate than looking back at the trailer.

I usually get out only once. Occasionally, I go a bit too far and gently bump the hitch. I then look down at the ground again to gage how much to pull forward.
John W. Irwin
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Old 07-30-2005, 10:46 AM   #25
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I'll pile on to the 'do it yourself' camp.

I've gotten pretty good... Only takes me 15 or so hops in-and-out of the truck to get it ready.
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Old 07-30-2005, 01:28 PM   #26
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My wife also hates helping guide me when hitching -- I picked one of these simple devices a few years ago. It works great!
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Old 07-30-2005, 01:40 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by grizzy
My wife also hates helping guide me when hitching -- I picked one of these simple devices a few years ago. It works great!
This is exactly the thing that I threw in the garbage this week as being totally useless. I bought it at Camping World expecting big things for it, used it a dozen or so times, and found that I could line up better without it than with it. The image at that distance was so small that I practically needed a telescope to see anything in it. The shadow of the storage yard roof completed the problem by putting the user in the sun and the ball in the shade.

I once had a convex mirror mounted permanantly on the hitch of my gooseneck Scamp trailer. That worked fine since the ball was only about 4' from the driver's seat and the image ws plenty large. The only problem there was learning which way to turn since mounting the ball on the hitch gives a totally different effect than having it on the TV.
John W. Irwin
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Old 07-30-2005, 02:57 PM   #28
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I purchased a NAPA convex mirror with bracket for about $7 and permanently mounted it on the propane tank cover's lid. When the lid is fully open, the mirror is in the correct position. When the lid is closed, the mirror is discreetly tucked away behind the cover. Like John, I found it very difficult to see the ball on the pickup, until I fitted a fluorescent orange ball cover, purchased at my local Airstream dealer. This ball cover transforms the operation. Now I can view the whole operation perfectly clearly, and I back up until the orange ball just disappears from view under the hitch. I have also painted a couple of "leading marks" on the tailgate and the front of the Airstream. I have slit the front of the ball cover, so I can remove it without having to lift it a long way when the truck ball is immediately below the hitch. With this set-up, I can always hitch up first time. I must confess to a little of the sin of pride in this operation! Nick.

Nick Crowhurst, Excella 25 1988, Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins Diesel. England in summer, USA in winter.
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