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Old 10-04-2014, 10:57 AM   #1
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Hitch Ball Too High, or Too Low

There's another thread about this subject on going right now, but since my attempt at a solution is totally different, I decided to start another thread.

Ever since we got our 34' trailer I've been having trouble getting the right hitch head height to achieve proper weight distribution AND have the trailer level when hooked up. The shank that came with the Reese SC hitch that I have when adjusted to the lowest position placed the ball about 3/4" too high. So, I purchased a longer shank with more drop, however the holes are 1 1/4" apart, and placed in the same relative position to the part of the shank that goes into the truck's receiver, and so when I dropped the ball one hole, the trailer was about 1" too low in the front.

I thought about a taller or shorter hitch ball, but after extensive research on the web could not find what I thought to be the perfect solution.

My solution was to cut the shank apart that was too high, and have it welded back together to give a 1/2 hole space greater drop.

The first picture is of the rig the way it was with the long shank, and WD adjusted for 1/8" drop at front fender, and 1 3/4" drop at the rear fender, but the trailer is 1" low at the front.

The second picture is of the original shank.

The third the longer drop shank.

The last the original shank re-welded to split the difference.

I was hoping for a ball rise from the position in the picture of the truck and trailer together of 3/4", but ended up with only 5/8" rise. We will see how it measures the next time I hook up.
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Old 10-04-2014, 11:15 AM   #2
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I just had to do something similar. I took our drawbar piece to a welding shop and they drilled another hole at the very top. The holes didn't go all the way to the top in the one we had. I also had them cut off all the bar that stuck down below the hitch head. It had gotten close to digging into the ground a few times in the boonies.
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Old 10-04-2014, 12:15 PM   #3
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I had a similar problem with my new trailer and hitch. I contacted the hitch maker and they were able to send me (for free) a drop bar with the proper spacing and length. It is not a standard catalog item. I suspect they either had it laying around or made it up for my application.
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Old 10-04-2014, 12:24 PM   #4
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Yes, this is the second one I've had to do something like this with, and if you remember correctly I had to do it with the Andersen bar as well, but for a slightly different reason. (couldn't get close to the right ball height)

I'm sure some will say they'd suspect the strength of the bar, and that's a legitimate concern, but the way I figure it, a welder put it together the first time, and I had a certified welder put it together this time.
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Old 10-04-2014, 12:25 PM   #5
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ours is configured differently. The top of the vertical bar is flush with the underside of the horizontal bar. The vertical bar had holes in it, same as yours, but they didn't continue up into the horizontal bar. We had a hole drilled in the end of the horizontal bar, so the top bolt of our hitch head is in the same piece of steel that's pinned to the truck. No welds between them. It's got to be really strong.

People sure give you a wide berth in parking lots with those WD hitch heads sticking out under the tailgate.
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Old 10-04-2014, 12:29 PM   #6
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People sure give you a wide berth in parking lots with those WD hitch heads sticking out under the tailgate.
Yea, if they know what's good for them. They'll do almost as much damage to a grill/front bumper as they will to a shin. Been there, done that, got the scar to prove it.
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Old 10-08-2014, 06:37 AM   #7
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We had a similar problem with our new Ram 2500 and the Airstream. Previous truck was a 2006 F-250 with 4 wheel drive, so I wasn't expecting major issues, but the Ram still sits quite a bit higher than the Ford did. That's probably due, at least in part, to the Ram having 20" wheels while the Ford had 18"; also the Ram has a 2.5" receiver while the Ford's was only a 2" receiver, so there's an insert that effectively raises the height of the receiver another .25".

The drop shank we got with the hitch, which was perfect for the F-250, was clearly too short for the Ram.

So, we ordered one drop shank, only to realize it was far too long - I didn't even try to hook up the trailer with it in; as soon as I put the hitch head on it, in the highest setting, I knew it would be tongue-down badly. We returned that one and ordered one that was longer than the original but shorter than the new one. This one has the tongue of the trailer just a touch high - I haven't measured it, but it's a very small amount. I really have to stare at it before I can see it. This probably means I'm splitting hairs.

We have another complication: The air suspension on the rear axle of the Ram. I can hear the air compressor working when I am hooking up, so I know it's sitting there, waiting to confuse me. I wouldn't be at all surprised to discover the rig is perfectly level on the road - i.e., the air suspension lowers a bit while underway - and then it raises again when we park.

The suspension also has an "alternate ride height" mode that lowers the rear of the truck about an inch. When I tried that mode with the current shank, the trailer was clearly tongue-low, so I don't use it. (Also, we wanted to set it up without that mode active, because we've been in a couple situations where it would have been nice to be able to lower the back of the truck to unhook.)

Anyway, we're at the point where I think it's about as good as it's going to get with this hitch. I haven't confirmed the weight distribution settings yet - I'm essentially using what we had before, although I did tilt the head a tiny bit more. However, the truck appears to be completely level when I check visually...of course, that might be because of the air suspension again!
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Old 10-08-2014, 06:58 AM   #8
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We have another complication: The air suspension on the rear axle of the Ram.
I ordered a 2015 Ram 2500 with the air suspension, due in about 4 weeks. I am curious about this and how it hooks up... I just read the manual for the airstream online and it states to set the air suspension after loading the TV with gear and passengers but before hooking up the trailer. This didn't make a lot of sense and seemed to defeat the purpose of leveling the load. Are you setting the system to level after hooking up the airstream?
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Old 10-08-2014, 07:52 AM   #9
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I ordered a 2015 Ram 2500 with the air suspension, due in about 4 weeks. I am curious about this and how it hooks up... I just read the manual for the airstream online and it states to set the air suspension after loading the TV with gear and passengers but before hooking up the trailer. This didn't make a lot of sense and seemed to defeat the purpose of leveling the load. Are you setting the system to level after hooking up the airstream?
There's no way to set the air suspension in the Ram, aside from the one button to switch it to the "alternate trailer height" mode, and an emergency mode for jacking it up and/or towing the truck. As far as I can tell, it's otherwise fully automatic - but, we've only had it a couple weeks so I may have missed something.

It just sort of works with you as it needs to. For example, when I'm hitching the trailer, I often will lift the back of the truck with the tongue jack to reduce the weight on the lifter bars. When I do that, I can hear the air suspension system doing something, probably trying to lower itself to stay level.

What we did was leave the truck in 'normal' mode (i.e., not alternate trailer towing height or jack/tow height) and then set up the trailer. The air suspension system seems to handle doing that just fine. But I've seen it adjusting itself even after a drive of 90 miles, so I'm not quite sure what it's trying to do. (My wife was in the office registering at a campground, so I took a moment to step out and see how the rig looked, and I saw it adjusting the back of the truck up or down.)

As for your actual question: Just load the truck as you would for a trip, then let the air suspension finish any gyrations before trying to hook up the trailer (it'll probably happen as soon as you start it, if it hasn't already done it while it was off). In ours, the changes in the air suspension are so fast that I don't know that I'd be able to hook up the trailer that quickly anyway. It takes me more time just to back up to the trailer, for example.
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Old 10-20-2014, 09:23 AM   #10
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We've now got few miles on our modified weight distribution shank, and I still need to buy another one. We drove from Fort Collins to Albuquerque, with a lot of it at night through the mountains going into Taos. I've determined that the front of our trailer is still about an inch or so too high. I don't want to have a machine shop drill another hole, so I have been looking for another shank in Albuquerque, but it was the weekend yada yadaa.
However, driving at night brought up another issue. You guys who set your WDH hitches up so that the front of the TV body only deflects slightly while the rear of the TV sinks by an inch or more.
Do you re-adjust your headlights for the towing configuration, or leave them in the unloaded configuration you originally had?
My headlights were near useless while towing at night with the rear of the TV down a couple inches and the front unchanged. I couldn't see the pavement in front of me well, and had a hard time seeing lane markings. Oncoming drivers were flashing me.

What do you do about this? Dropping the rear of the truck brings the lights up out of correct adjustment.
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Old 10-20-2014, 09:28 AM   #11
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Find the headlight adjustment screw and aim them down while towing. Count the amount of revolution you use on the set screw and return it, if you want, after trip is done.
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Old 10-20-2014, 09:48 AM   #12
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well, that method is better than nothing but it's not right. You don't know how high you're setting them or whether they will blind someone coming the other way. I tried for two day to get them aligned by a pro, and I can tell you from first hand and very recent experience that neither the Firestone dealer, two body shops, or the major Ford dealer in Santa Fe know how to adjust headlights for alignment. NONE of them have ever done it, none of them have the machine to do it. The body shop guys line them up on a garage wall and eyeball it. Ford and Firestone are clueless.

I remember growing up in Texas, and when I took my cars to get inspected the shop always had some way of correctly aligning headlights in both azimuth and elevation. Has this all gone away?
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Old 10-20-2014, 10:33 AM   #13
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Ball height with the same trailer and tow vehicle, changes in time.

Why??

The trailer has torsion axle/axles. As the trailer ages, so do the rubber rods within the axle/axles.

That then lowers the trailer.

From new to old (rubber rods are history) can change the ball height by as much as 3 (three) inches.

A single axle trailer really doesn't matter nearly as much as a tandem. A single axle trailer's reefer may not work depending on the tilt.

A tandem or tri-axle trailer, could have the same reefer issue, but more importantly, the weight distribution on the axles can dramatically change, sometimes to a point of actually causing a sway.

A good or bad torsion axle equipped trailer, still requires a level towing so that the weight impressed on each axle remains within the trailers parameters.

Andy
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Old 10-20-2014, 10:34 AM   #14
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My local Jeep dealership and Ford dealers have the machines for headlight adjustment. Very high tech quizmos that use lasers. Very quick and simple with the right tools.
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