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Old 04-25-2003, 12:40 AM   #1
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Thumbs up Now I just need a hitch...

Wow, good things come in waves. I've been going crazy trying to decide what to tow the Caravel with. I really wanted a full size van because we need one for our business anyway, so it could do double duty, but they're expensive and hard to find around here, and all the onles we found have over 100k on them. We could settle for a truck, but it's harder to load and unload for work. I wanted something with pleanty of power and wheelbase. So I'm breezing through the ads in the color car ad magazine they give away at the supermarket and saw a '95 Ford E150 with only 63k on it.

So we jump in the car and head out there. All I had to give them was $1500 and my precious Mustang convertible, and we drove out of there with it. It's so nice, it's like brand spanking new. 351, automatic, all the goodies you could want. Rides, steers and brakes real nice and responsive.

So, now I have my airstream, and I have my tow vehicle, all I have to do is connect them. So what kind of hitch should I get, is one kind better than the other? Are some of them simpler to set up than the others? The Hensley's out, since I'm already over budget for this whole project (maybe next year), so as I understand my choices are pretty much Reese and EZ Lift? Well, if anyone can enlighten me on hitches, I'd appreciate it. I've been reading so much stuff on the forum, my head's spinning...
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Old 04-25-2003, 08:07 AM   #2
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Re: Now I just need a hitch...

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Originally posted by Stefrobrts
Wow, good things come in waves. I've been going crazy trying to decide what to tow the Caravel with. I really wanted a full size van because we need one for our business anyway, so it could do double duty, but they're expensive and hard to find around here, and all the onles we found have over 100k on them
Too bad you aren't in STL. I'm selling my 99 Chevy Express Van that I tow the Safari with. Only 20,000 miles on it.

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Old 04-25-2003, 08:18 AM   #3
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Now I just need a hitch...

Greetings Stephanie!

While I would normally recommend a Reese Hitch with Dual Cam Sway Control for an Airstream or Argosy, your Caravel likely has less than the 400 pound tongue weight requirement for the Dual Cam system to be fully effective. If you find that the tongue weight is there, I would definitely consider the system (my 6.0 Metre Minuet <20'> just barely has enough weight for the system. You can learn more about the Reese products at:

Reese Trailer Hitches and Accessories

If your Caravel doesn't have the necessary tongue weight for the Reese Dual Cam system, I might suggest consider the Equal-I-Zer hitch system. While I haven't had personal experience with this hitch, it does have built-in sway control and is said to be available in a rating that would work with your Caravel. There are several members of the forum who seem to be well pleased with this particular hitch. You can learn more about the Equal-I-Zer hitch at:

Equal-I-Zer Hitch Products

I have towed a number of single-axle trailers with the friction sway control and would avoid that option if possible. The friction sway control is a nuisance to keep adjusted, at least in my experience. It needs to be loosened for wet/slippery driving conditions; tightened for windy/heavy truck traffic driving conditions; sometimes removed entirely for close maneuvers when backing.

With either hitch system, you will need a draw bar that permits a ball height of between 18" and 19.5" with a 2" hitch ball assuming that the coupler is the original Marvel 2" model that was utilized through the redesign in 1969. The precise hitch height needed should be in the owner's manual for the coach - - the information used to be available on the Airstream corporate site, but the last time I checked this information had not become available on the newly designed site.

Good luck with your hitch selection decision!

Kevin
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Old 04-25-2003, 08:29 AM   #4
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Steph, I was in the same position in Jan of this year when we bought our Bambi. I bought the Bambi on a saturday and arranged to pick it up on the following friday, so I needed to do some fast work. I found that the U-haul rental center also installed hitches, and electric brake controllers and they were open on sunday. I knew nothing except what I had read in the forum and I posted a request for help much like yours. I received a lot of good advice. I ended up getting the brake controller from U-Haul approx $140 installed, there are better ones on the market but the one that I got was the digital "Activator" made for U-Haul by Reese. They also sold a Prodigy by Tekonsha which probably would have been a better choice but they were out of stock. You will need to find out the hitch height of the trailer you are buying. If you get a weight equalizing hitch it needs to be set up so the hitch ball is at the same height as the trailer, and you need a 2 5/16 ball that is rated to above the weight of the trailer. I got my hitch from a company called Discount Hitch and it is manufactured by Curt the cost was about $400 installed. My truck already had a frame mounted 2" receiver hitch on it so with a 2 5/16 ball I was able to tow the trailer to Discount Hitch so that they could install the equalizer system on the trailer. With a light trailer it is possible to tow it with out the weight equalizing system ( I see lots of people doing it) but I know you have a lot more control with one. I hope that this helps.
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Old 04-25-2003, 04:56 PM   #5
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Great, I visited two shops that sell and install hitches today, and I left both after getting the advice that all I need is a ball the right height and a brake controller. No weight distribution, no sway control. They all just acted like I was nuts - "you don't need that stuff for a trailer that small". Well, thanks for the advice, I'm looking into the hitches online I guess.
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Old 04-25-2003, 10:02 PM   #6
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You may not need the weight distribution hitch, but I would go with at least one friction sway control.

Here is how to find out if you need a WD hitch:

1. Take the new van to the scales and weigh it.

2. Take the new van hooked up to the Caravel to the scales with a standard ball hitch, and weigh it.

If the weight on the front axle is reduced to the point that it is lighter than the rear axle, then go with a WD hitch. If the truck and trailer sit level, then you probably don't need a WD hitch, but should have sway control, no matter what type of hitch you chose.

Note: This is my opinion on your situation in a nutshell. It may require further analysis. This information is worth as much as you paid for it.
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Old 04-25-2003, 10:59 PM   #7
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Now I just need a hitch . . . .

A trailer the size of the Caravel may not technically require a weight distributing hitch (when towed by a 1/2 ton van), but based on my experience towing my '78 Minuet that is just a little larger it does create a more solid feeling link between the tow vehicle and trailer (this is towing with my '99 K2500 <3/4 ton 4 x 4> Suburban). For whatever reason, the trailer just does not seem to be as well controlled when towed with out the Reese weight distribution bars in place; and I am confident that it is even going to be better once I get my Dual Cam setup installed. It will be a tremendous relief to jetison the friction sway control - - no more stopping to adjust the tension every time it rains, when the wind or traffic picks up; or having to take time to remove the contraption prior to parking.

Kevin
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Old 04-25-2003, 11:40 PM   #8
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Well, it seems like it should have something other than just a ball. I guess either way the only thing connecting the trailer to the van will be the ball, but I would think sway control is a must have. There's no scales anywhere near here. Should I just get a ball for the receiver and hook it up and take it to the scales? Seems risky after all the towing horror stories I've read here.

I have discovered that I will need a four inch raised ball, as opposed to dropped, because the van receiver is low to the ground, just to get the ball to 18 inches before putting the trailer on it. Is the ball supposed to be at 18 inches with the weight of the trailer on it? Maybe I need one raised a little more to account for that? See how little I know :-) I appreciate all the advice.
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Old 04-26-2003, 03:16 AM   #9
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Stephanie, further to Pick's good advice, as you don't have a close weighbridge, you can just use a tape measure to help decide about a weight distribution hitch. You need to understand why they are sometimes needed. When you attach a trailer onto a ball hitch, the back of the tow vehicle can be seen to go down an inch or two, but less obvious is the fact that the front will RISE, as the rear axle acts like the pivot point in a seesaw. When we are towing a trailer, we would naturally desire extra steering control, but we will actually get less, because the front steering wheels are lifted off the ground by the leverage of the trailer weight. Whether this is significant in each combination of tow vehicle and trailer will depend on many factors. These include the relative weights and wheelbases of the two vehicles, the rear overhang between the ball hitch and the rear axle, and the the relative ratings of the front and rear springs on the tow vehicle. These are complex issues, and you need a practical guideline that will work today. I would suggest you get the tow vehicle on level pavement and measure the vertical distance from the ground to the highest point of a front wheel arch. Then lower the trailer coupling down onto the ball hitch, raise all the trailer jacks, and then re-measure the height from the ground to the wheel arch. If this height has increased, then your steering control has decreased, and I would add weight distribution bars. These bars can be adjusted so that the front of the vehicle goes back down, and the tow vehicle resumes its original attitude. Ultimately, you are the one with the responsibilty on the road, and you are doing the right thing by asking for information. You may not need load distribution bars, but I would not rely solely on the advice of a hitch fitter who may not have sufficient knowledge of your tow vehicle/trailer combination. Good luck. Nick
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Old 04-26-2003, 07:34 AM   #10
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Friction Sway Control

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It will be a tremendous relief to jetison the friction sway control - - no more stopping to adjust the tension every time it rains, when the wind or traffic picks up; or having to take time to remove the contraption prior to parking.
You are creating your own work. My Reese bar goes on when I hitch up, I set tension once per the Reese instructions, and the bar comes off when I unhitch. Rain oir shine, there is no difference. Forward or back, no difference.
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Old 04-26-2003, 07:50 AM   #11
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Now I just need a hitch...

RE: Friction Sway Device with Single Axle Trailer

I have a Reese Friction Sway (used a Draw-Tite and Eas-Z-Lift before that) as well, and have never used it with anything other than my two single axle trailers (1980 Nomad -18.5'; and 1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre). The directions that came with my friction unit specify a "normal travel" adjustment procedure then cautions: When rain or slippery road ccontions are encountered back off the adjustment by 1/2 to 1 turn of the lever. When traveling in high winds or heavy truck traffic increase tension by 1/2 to 1 turn of the lever. Always remove before backing into tight places. (The Draw-Tite and Reese instructions were very nearly identical in their setup instructions - - the Draw-Tite instructions were even more emphatic about the necessity of making the adjustments when adverse travel conditions were encountered.)

I have found that with the friction device on a single axle it is critical to follow the above instructions to have the trailer track properly behind the tow vehicle. I suspect that a tandem axle trailer may have a bearing on the opeartion of one of these devices. I also did learn my lesson about not removing the device when I was backing my 18' Nomad into a site at Cloud 9 Ranch in Caulfield, MO - - left the friction device attached and bent it to the extent that it had to be replaced - - a $90.00 mistake back in 1980.

Kevin
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Old 04-26-2003, 09:35 AM   #12
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How much, if at all, the friction sway control needs to be fiddled with is a big concern for us. I know from experience that a typical road trip in the NW involves ten miles of dry roads and sunny skies, ten miles of downpour, and ten more miles or dry roads and sunny skies again. If it really needs to be adjusted for different conditions, I imagine a trip across the state could literally involve stopping multiple times to tinker with it. Kevin says he can feel a difference if it's not adjusted, John says he never touches it. Can anyone else weigh in on how much friction sway control needs to be adjusted for different conditions, particularly with a lightweight single axel trailer?
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Old 04-26-2003, 09:50 AM   #13
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I use a Reese friction sway control, and my experience is much like Pahaska's. Really never readjust the hitch during a trip, and have not experienced any problems. Maybe just lucky?
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Old 04-28-2003, 08:26 AM   #14
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Sway Control & clip on mirrors

Steph;
I also use the Friction type sway control and like Pick and Rickk have never had a sway problem and have never needed to adjust it. I don't know how large your mirrors are on the van but you may also want to get a clip on mirror that would extend your veiw behind the trailer. I use Cipa clip on on both sides, the left side is the most useful while driving. It allows you to see back at least 10 car lengths behind the trailer. The right side is mostly useful when backing up or changing lanes. It is flat rather than convex which allows me to judge distances better.
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