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Old 01-28-2003, 06:42 AM   #1
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Join Date: Oct 2002
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Lightbulb Education on Sway & Weight Distribution

Hi Gang,

From the recent Poll: How long have you owned your A/S- I noticed that out of 56 forum members who have voted:

19 or 34% have owned their A/S 0-6months

12 or 21% have owned their A/S 7months to 1year.

So that's about 55% who have owned their A/S a year or less.

Note: I don't know out of this 55% who have owned other travel trailers prior to their current Airstream.

So I thought it would be great if we could share the different types of Sway & Weight Distribution systems available, so the newer A/S owners would have some idea/education on ALL of these types of systems.

My A/S came with a weight distribution and one friction sway control arm. The PO said that it worked fine for him. The hitch-ball assemblies was way too heavy for me handle(little hand strenght) and connecting the weight distribution arms was goofy for me, so I started looking at other sway & weight distribution manufactures.

When I saw that you only had to handle the "hitch bar" when hooking or unhooking from the Hensley Arrow, that caught my eye. Then after reviewing the hook-up instructions, I knew that this was the hitch for me. And of course the no-sway and weight distribution were very important factors too, but as I am disabled and have limited hand strenght, the H/A offered a solution for me.

Hooking-up is very simple:
1. Insert hitch-bar into tow vehicles receiver.
2. Adjust angle of H/A via weigh distribution controls to match angle of hitch-bar.(I'm simplifing this process)
3. Then you back your tow vehicle so the hitch-bar goes into the receiver on the H/A.
4. Latch the "Over Center Latch", then insert safety pin.
5. Then with a cordless drill, I raise the weigh distribution arms.
Then you hook-up the chains & 7-way plug.

The H/A has a swing of 165 degrees, so your trailer really follows nicely around corners. It is very smooth, no binding, in both turns and in backing. On my 7000 mile round trip to BC, I didn't experience ANY sway and my 1/2 ton Chevy sits nice and level with the weight distribution.

H/A comes with a Lifetime Limited warranty. This warranty covers repair or replacement to any H/A part (not manufactured by others) that is defective in material or workmanship under normal use.

The Con: It is expensive, $2300-$2600, and it may not be for all travel trailer owners. (This is why I started this thread, to understand what lenghts/weights work well with what systems)

But since I tow a 28' A/S that has a GVWR of 8400# and that I have limited hand strenght, the H/A suited my needs. I'm not saying that this is the best hitch system, only that it works extremely well.

I'm looking forward to learning about all of the other types that are available and their pro's and con's too. Again this thread is to help/educate and to understand what's available in today's market.

Many thanks for all of your inputs-John

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Old 01-28-2003, 07:06 AM   #2
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1964 26' Overlander
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre
Anna , Illinois
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Education on Sway & Weight Distribution

Greetings John!

My Airstream has been with me for a nearly eight years. It is my second trailer, but my first Airstream. My introduction to travel trailers was with a brand new 1980 Nomad with a Reese weight distributing hitch and friction sway control. I have continued utilizing Reese weight ditributing hitch products, but would only consider friction sway control for a trailer under 4,000 pounds Gross Vehicle Weight - - this is based upon my Nomad dealer's advice as well as Reese's recommendation at the time that the Dual Cam Sway Control was not effective with trailers under 4,000 pounds.

Today, my Overlander is towed with a Reese weight distributing hitch having 750 pound spring bars and a Dual Cam Sway Control system. The trailer typically weighs 6,000 pounds (a little more or less depending upon length of trip) and has a tongue weight of approximately 750 pounds. In the past nearly eight years and in excess of 40,000 miles of all kinds of travel, I am totally satisfied with this setup. I have rock steady towing with no sway whether it be towing in strong cross-winds or in heavy truck traffic. I do know, that the satisfaction factor is closely related to proper setup of the system - - initially, there was a problem with the installation but once a qualified Reese technician adjusted everything to specifications and taught me the ropes of maintaining the proper adjustment of the system it has performed flawlessly.

I keep hoping that Reese has dropped its recommendation against using the Daul Cam system with lighter trailers as I would really like to use it with my '78 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre. I have contacted their customer support office, but haven't received a reply. While I haven't had a chance to have it weighed when in travel-mode, I expect that it will likely have a Gross Weight of about 3,000 pounds with a hitch weight of approximately 450 pounds. It currently has a friction type sway control that I detest due to its constant need for attention - - tighten for gusty winds or heavy truck traffic - - loosen for wet or slippery surafaces.

I do agree about the weight of the ball mount being an issue. To avoid issues with back strain, I generally leave my ball mount in the receiver continuously throughout the season with proper covers over the hitch ball and sway control ball. Once the trailers are in place for the winter, I then remove the ball mount and store it in my garage. Adjusting the spring bars is the main reason that I switched to an electric tongue jack on the Overlander as it made hitching up a painless operation.


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 01-28-2003, 08:16 AM   #3
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I tow a 27 foot Safari with an Expedition and use a Hensley hitch. I am exceptionally satisfied with this set up. It is easy to use but some things make it much easier. One is to take the instruction in the manual seriously and unload the equalizer bars when you pull the hitch bar out of the hitch and when you back it into the hitch. Other wise it it difficult, but if the bars are "sloppy loose" as the manual says it is very easy.

I noted that the first responder says hs is developing a way to make it easier to align the hitch bar and the hitch. I , too, made an alignment device which I used a few times , but since it involved sticking it into the hitch, it was always greasy. I soon learned that it was quite easy to eyeball the angles and that it what I do now. They do not have to be perfect--only somewhat close.

I was also taught by a fellow Hensley hitch owner a neat trick. If you get the hitch bar almost all the way in--save for an inch or so--you can use the over-the-hitch latches and the associated wrench to lever the trailer into place. In other words the action of locking the over-the-hitch latches will pull the trailer forward, and firmly seat the hitch bar.

When you back into the hitch you tend to unload the chocks on the forward sides of the tires(although you load up the chocks more on the backward sides of the tires). Consequently, you can easily pull the trailer forward an inch of two as you seat the over-the -hitch latches. Try this, it works.

John Prince
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Old 01-28-2003, 10:51 AM   #4
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2003 25' Safari
Eden Prairie , Minnesota
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I have the Equal-i-zer brand hitch, which I have mentioned in previous posts. It is reasonaly priced at around $500, seems to work fine at both weight distribution and sway control for my Explorer/25' Safari combination, and is easy to hitch/unhitch. It has a few minor flaws:

- ball needs a slightly longer than standard shank, thinner than standard lockwasher, or locknut wiothout washer to accomodate the thick mounting surface
- ball mounting surface does not appear to have been machined smooth, so pait, welding slag, and other roughness gets compressed during the first few hundred (thousand?) miles requiring retightening the ball
- weight distributing bar brackets mount all the way around the trailer a-frames, which can have a clearance problem with the battery tray on some Airstreams (I had to cut a notch)
- the hitch weighs 100 lbs
- it has various pins and clips that could get lost
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Old 01-28-2003, 01:45 PM   #5
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2005 28' Classic
Austin (Hays County) , Texas
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My hitch

I use a DrawTite that I have had for years with 550# bars left over from previous trailer. The 550# bars are a bit light for this trailer, but with a 5000# trailer on a Z71, there is little depression of the hitch even without the equalizer bars set.

I use a Reese friction sway bar. Probably any sway bar is overkill since the truck is 600# heavier than the trailer. I have forgotten to tighten the sway bar a few times and there is very little difference. I always (when I remember) tighten it to the same tension regardless of wet or dry.

I get virtually no effect from passing trucks and busses, even in a severe crosswind.
John W. Irwin
2005 Classic 28 "Sabre-Dog III"
2013 Silverado 2500HD Duramax/Allison LTZ
WBCCI #9632, TAC TX-10
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Old 01-28-2003, 02:15 PM   #6
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1966 26' Overlander
Phoenix , Arizona
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My trailer and tow vehicle are listed below. My first tow was from Indiana to Arizona. I do not use the weight distribution feature on this very old hitch set up. First, it's missing a few pieces. Second, my boat is towed with the same tow vehicle is 50% heavier than the trailer and it does not have a weight dist. hitch. I have towed 2 boats of this weight for 13 years and haven't had this type of hitch.

I might check out what I have been missing some day.

1966 Mercury Park Lane 4 DR Breezeway 410 4V, C-6, 2.80 - Streamless.
1966 Lincoln 4 door Convertible 462 4V 1971 Ford LTD Convertible 429 4V Phoenix ~ Yeah it's hot however it's a dry heat!
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Old 01-28-2003, 02:16 PM   #7
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 89
Hitch assembly

I have the one that came with the AS, as to what it is I have no idea, the head is a solid casting which our son calls a boat anchor. I have two torsion bars with a sway control that is cranked down and by the looks of the rewelding done on the handel it has been set to the max, we had to jockey the truck around to get it hooked up. I have been looking at other makes of hitchs, does anyone have any information on the Air ride hitchs.
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Old 01-28-2003, 02:48 PM   #8
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1973 23' Safari
St. Catharines , South Western Ontario
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Reese Twin Cam

Same as Kevin, I was lucky to get a Reese twin Cam ( 750 # bars)
with our 23 Safari. Old but works great. Simple in design and setup. Reese electric lift is also recomended. I did enough hand cranking with our Coleman pop up.

Airstreams..... The best towing trailers on the planet!
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