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Old 12-03-2006, 06:23 PM   #1
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InspectorDread's Avatar
1987 34' Excella
Mobile , Alabama
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 16
Need Help With Hitch

Okay folks, here's the story. A few years back, I bought a 1987 34' Excella 1000 from my wife's uncle. He was the origanal owner and lived in it full time while he had a new house built. After that, it sat under a shed for 14 years until I picked it up for $6000 dollars.
I am a contract refinery equipment inspector (hence my name). I have only used the unit once since I've had it. That was for a 6 month job in New Orleans. I didn't have a tow vechicle at the time , so I paid a friend to tow it to N.O. form Mobile while I followed in my car. Several times, the unit started to fishtail. How he recovered is still a mystery. After the job was over, he pulled it back for me. It's been sitting in my driveway since.
Next year I will be working 2 long term jobs in the Beaumont, TX area. I need to use the unit to avoid motels. I am scared to death to attempt to tow the unit.
Next week I will be buying a new Dodge 2500. What kind of hitch should I ask for as an option? I have heard all about the Hensley hitch, but there's no way I can see paying $3500 dollars for something I will only use twice a year.
Is there anyone out there who can give me any advice on what kind of hitch I need to to use to pull this monster with?
This will be my first time towing anything of this size.

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Old 12-03-2006, 06:35 PM   #2
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1988 25' Excella
Sunnyvale , California
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Search the threads here and talk to a couple good hitch shops...

By searching for words like "hitch" "recommend" and "34" all together, or maybe adding hensley or equal-i-zer or other hitch brands, you'll see hundreds of messages already written on the subject...

I'll try to summarize, but can't adequately capture feelings and passion...

1. Those who believe in Hensley believe sincerely...
2. If you can't/won't spend that much, there are less expensive options...
3. Equal-i-zer and other Weight Distributing Anti-Sway hitches can safely be used to tow your trailer, assiuming installed correctly and with good brake controller
4. Sway can be a function of trailer weight and center of gravity and hitch load.. Too much weight to the rear of the trailer makes it more prone to sway...

Good luck, and enjoy your reading...

John Mcg


In Theory, there's no difference between Theory and Practice, but in Practice, there is usually a difference...
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Old 12-03-2006, 06:43 PM   #3
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1964 26' Overlander
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre
Anna , Illinois
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Need Help With Hitch

Greetings InspectorDread!

Unless your Dodge dealer is also an RV dealer, you will likely only be able to purchase the receiver from him. The bare minimum would be a Class 4 2" receiver, but with the GVWR of a 34', it might be wise to consider the Class 5 Titan receiver hitch.

An RV dealer will likely be your best source for the balance of the towing setup:
  1. Brake Controller -- Tekonsha Prodigy receives frequent positive praise.
  2. 7-Pole Bargman Connector -- possibly both car and trailer ends as it is not uncommon to need to rewire the trailer end to match the current industry standard wiring pattern I am not certain whether Airstream had adopted the industustry standard by 1987 or if they still had one of their unique schematics.
  3. Hitch is a matter of preference, but in the more budget friendly price ranges there are two common choices both with fan clubs:
    1. Reese Strait-Line hitch with Dual Cam Sway Control that includes built-in sway control (I have used this hitch for more than a decade and am quite pleased with its performance).
    2. Eqaul-I-zer hitch with built-in sway control
So far as hitch and brake controllers are concerned, proper installation and setup is a critical part of the selection process. Not only does the hitch need to be matched to the weight of the coach and tow vehicle, it must be properly installed and setup to result in a good towing experience.

While I haven't towed a 34', I know several who do, and I haven't heard of problems with sway as long as the hitch is properly setup (height, angle of hitch head, spring bar weight rating appropriate for team).

Good luck with your tow vehicle setup!

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 12-03-2006, 06:53 PM   #4
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1977 31' Sovereign
1963 26' Overlander
1989 34' Excella
Johnsburg , Illinois
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 2,925
The majority of the club members have used Reese dual cams for years. The Pullrite hitch makes the trailer act like a 5th wheel. The Hensely tries to do the same thing by the use of clever engineering. If you are towing the unit alot the extra expense might be worth it. Only the Dual Cam has the self centering feature. Equalizer an other cheaper hitches try to dampen sway with a frictional damper of various sorts. I have used the Reese Dual cam for 11 years and like it. The wheelbase, weight and lateral stiffness of the TV as well as how far the pivot (ball) is behind the rear wheels are the contibuting factors on the truck that control sway. The 34 footer with 6 wheels is actually a very stable trailer. Proper tire inflation and putting your more weighy things ahead of the wheels will increase its stability.
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Old 12-03-2006, 07:31 PM   #5
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2012 25' FB Eddie Bauer
Vintage Kin Owner
Virginia Beach , Virginia
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Good Searching

On a 34' I don't think a Hensley is overkill. You may be able to find one on ebay or Craigslist, so I would look there. Used ones often go for about $1000. Anything is better than nothing, though, so get something. I use a Reese dual cam on my 25 footer, and I'm very satisfied. There are many good weight distributing and anti-sway devices out there, but it takes more than an anti-sway system to tow safely. Use the "Search" function here - there are many great threads about towing safety - search on any of the topics I'm listing below for LOTS of great data. Here are some things I've learned to look out for:
  1. proper tire inflation - on BOTH your tow vehicle and your trailer tires, check everything frequently. Don't forget your spares (ask me how I learned that! ). I now carry a 12 volt tire inflater and check my tires first thing in the morning EVERY day.
  2. Hitch ball height - the wrong height can create fishtailing faster than anything else. Hitched on level ground, your trailer should have it's weight equally distributed across all three axles and be level front to back. Knowing what your hitch ball height should be and using the right drop or rise in your hitch bar is critical.
  3. BTW - make sure your ball size is right too. If you use a ball that's too small the trailer can jump right off the ball if you break hard, or hit a bad bump.
  4. Weight distribution within your trailer - when carrying water, clothing, etc., put as much of the weight as close to your trailer's axles as possible. Think of your trailer as a seesaw balanced on it's wheels. Your "tongue weight" or weight that you put on the ball should not exceed 15% of your trailer's total weight. If you put too much weight on the tongue you can take weight off of your tow vehicle's front wheels, affecting steering badly! If you put too much on the rear of the trailer you can pull weight off of the rear wheels of your tow vehicle - not good for traction - and every time you hit a bump in the road, the trailer starts to seesaw. When the rear end of your trailer starts bouncing around, add a turn or swerve and you've got a recipe for disaster. Overloading your tow vehicle especially over or behind it's rear axle can be a problem too.
  5. Speed - you trailer tires are rated for a max safe speed of 65 mph. Don't exceed that speed for long periods.
  6. Balancing your running gear - Andy at Inland RV has all the information you'll need about that, and it's important. While you're at it, look at your axles - sitting for many years may have put a set on your torsion bars. At a minimum, replace your shocks to smooth out your ride.
  7. I presume you replaced the tires. Search for "dry rot" if you haven't.
  8. Suspension and wheelbase on your tow vehicle - The longer the wheelbase, the more stable your rig will be. For a 34' you want a heavier duty rear suspension than I need for a smaller trailer.
Your brake controller is an integral part of towing safety. If you ever have to panic stop (and squash that squirrel rather than making one!) having a good brake controller and having it adjusted so that the trailer brakes FIRST shortly followed by the tow vehicle is the best way to stay straight!

My new 2006 had a video on safe towing included. I watched it though the forum members had covered virtually everything for me already. I'd bet you could order one from Jackson Center or find something on the internet.

Last - Practice makes perfect. Nothing subs for taking it out on the road and getting a good feel for how it tows. Hitch up and go for a short trip - maybe just an hour or two on the road. When I got my first one two years ago I used to tow it from my campground to or from my business early in the morning (14 miles) just to get the feel of doing it. With a 34 footer - don't forget to swing wide in the turns.

I'll bet you'll get a response from a forum member near to you who'll help you check out your unit. Be safe and have a good time.

See you down the road,

Paula Ford
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Old 12-03-2006, 07:37 PM   #6
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2012 25' FB Eddie Bauer
Vintage Kin Owner
Virginia Beach , Virginia
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 5,678
Edit your profile!

Put in your city and state! People near you will be glad to assist you. Of course you should take them to dinner or make another suitable gift to thank them....

Paula Ford

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