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Old 07-28-2003, 03:33 PM   #1
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Question Interesting Reese hitch experience...

Here's a new one for me... When I bought the 34' trailer, it came with a Reese Dual Cam hitch head with a longer-than normal standard drop bar and 1000lb bars. The head has provision for two friction sway bars.

I have adjusted and adjusted the hitch head, but the connection to the trailer always feels sloppy, and I noticed that if I adjusted the 1000lb bars too tightly that the hitch drop bar would bend up a half-inch or so. I definately needed both of the friction sway controls towing to keep sway under control. While it works ok, it was scary enough that I've been seriously contemplating buying the Hensley.

I had a "high-performance" drop bar and hitch head with a single friction sway control ball in the garage that I've had for a couple of years, but only used once. I hadn't used it for the 34' because it only had the single friction sway control mount, and I thought that because the other hitch head had two, I must need to have both!

I towed the trailer out about 11 miles to a campground last Thursday with the older setup with just the dual-cam bars setup but without the friction sway controls and it was vague and scary. Just to see what the difference would be, if any, I put the "high-performance" hitch head on (again without the friction sway control), adjusted it properly and towed the trailer home today. It was an entirely different experience with this other head. The entire truck and trailer moved as a unit, the way it's supposed to and there was no vagueness in the feel at all. It didn't porpoise over the road like it did on the way out. The difference was amazing.

Anyone have any ideas at all about why the two Reese hitch heads should respond so differently? I am baffled! I'm pleased about the performance of the new head, and because of it's stability compared to the older one I'll definately be using it in the future; but I'm still baffled!

Roger
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Old 07-28-2003, 04:20 PM   #2
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It sounds like...

...your "standard" head is dangerous and about to break, or something like that. It's really, really not supposed to bend half an inch. That's a heck of a lot, IMHO.

The flex is not letting the dual cams work like they should, thus leaving you with the friction bars only.

The "high performance" head is keeping the bars properly tensioned, and thus letting the dual cams work like they should.

I'm guessing here that you have a Major Heavy Duty tow vehicle, (1 ton dually, maybe?) and the lack of weight distribution effect with the standard drop bar setup isn't readily apparent....
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Old 07-28-2003, 04:30 PM   #3
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Re: It sounds like...

Quote:
Originally posted by drboyd
...your "standard" head is dangerous and about to break, or something like that. It's really, really not supposed to bend half an inch. That's a heck of a lot, IMHO.

The flex is not letting the dual cams work like they should, thus leaving you with the friction bars only.

The "high performance" head is keeping the bars properly tensioned, and thus letting the dual cams work like they should.

I'm guessing here that you have a Major Heavy Duty tow vehicle, (1 ton dually, maybe?) and the lack of weight distribution effect with the standard drop bar setup isn't readily apparent....
Well, it's heavier-duty... but not that heavy... it's an Excursion which is a 3/4 ton chassis. That makes sense, tho, about the flex. I wondered if the extra-long bar let it flex too much. The Excursion does sit down when the tongue is put on it, but not much. I don't notice much effect from the WD bars on the Excursion, unlike a passenger car where the effects are pretty dramatic.

Roger
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Old 07-28-2003, 04:34 PM   #4
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Does the Excursion have...

....an automatic rear levelling system?

I'd just use the standard duty head as an auxiliary anchor on your boat, or something.
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Old 07-28-2003, 05:09 PM   #5
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Re: Does the Excursion have...

Quote:
Originally posted by drboyd
....an automatic rear levelling system?

I'd just use the standard duty head as an auxiliary anchor on your boat, or something.
I think it's going to be a king-size paperweight!

No, the Excursion just has plain old shocks and coil springs (I think... I'd better look!)

Roger
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Old 07-28-2003, 05:17 PM   #6
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roger

hitch head angle adjusted different on the two?

i'd bet the "good" one has the proper 15 degree angle on it.

just a thought!

john
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Old 07-28-2003, 05:39 PM   #7
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Re: Re: Does the Excursion have...

Quote:
Originally posted by 85MH325

No, the Excursion just has plain old shocks and coil springs (I think... I'd better look!)

Roger
With all that luxury around you Roger, your starting to slip!

Maybe a downgrade might be the solution. Then again, you were going to donate that rig I thought to get me out of the entry level arena!

You know the mind is the first thing to go!

Eric
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Old 07-28-2003, 05:58 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by john hd
roger

hitch head angle adjusted different on the two?

i'd bet the "good" one has the proper 15 degree angle on it.

just a thought!

john
Good thought, John... but I had them both at 15 degrees. That's why I'm so surprised at the difference in performance!

Roger
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Old 07-28-2003, 05:59 PM   #9
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Re: Re: Re: Does the Excursion have...

Quote:
Originally posted by Silvertwinkie


With all that luxury around you Roger, your starting to slip!

You know the mind is the first thing to go!

Eric
Yes, well... the life of idle wealthy will sometimes do that!

Roger
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Old 07-28-2003, 06:47 PM   #10
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Interesting Reese hitch experience...

Greetings Roger!

Quote:
Here's a new one for me... When I bought the 34' trailer, it came with a Reese Dual Cam hitch head with a longer-than normal standard drop bar and 1000lb bars. The head has provision for two friction sway bars.
I am not certain from your description, but it sounds like you may have one of the special Reese draw bars from the 1980s/1990s when conversion vans with rear mounted spare tires were so popular. I had one of these, and the special Reese draw bar increased the distance from the front edge of the receiver to the hitch ball by from 3" to 8" depending upon application (the theory was to allow for turning clearance between the rear mounted spare and the trailer). I suspect that they were likely discontinued sometime ago as they did, in my experience, just what you describe - - made for very "squirrelly" towing performance - - one of the reasons that I kept my conversion van for only two seasons. I was told that one of the problems was that this draw bar increased the distance from the centerline of the tow vehicle's axle to the hitch ball which resulted in a change in the geometry of the hitch setup increasing the trailer's influence over the tow vehicle. I am not certain, but seem to remember that these longer draw bars also had a diminished weight rating - - it wasn't something that I was concerned with as my trailer at the time that I had that setup only weighed 4,000 pounds.

Kevin
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Old 07-28-2003, 07:36 PM   #11
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Talking Re: Re: Re: Re: Does the Excursion have...

Quote:
Originally posted by 85MH325


Yes, well... the life of idle wealthy will sometimes do that!

Roger
You crack me up!
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Old 07-28-2003, 08:24 PM   #12
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Re: Interesting Reese hitch experience...

Quote:
Originally posted by overlander64
Greetings Roger!



I am not certain from your description, but it sounds like you may have one of the special Reese draw bars from the 1980s/1990s when conversion vans with rear mounted spare tires were so popular.
Kevin
BINGO, Kevin! You nailed it... mystery solved! The folks we bought it from towed it with a B-van with a swing-away spare!!! Thats exactly it! No wonder it acted so strangely on my Excursion!

My Safari trailed like it was welded to the truck and I expected the 34' to be the same, but it wasn't. I attributed the 'squirrelly' performance of the 34' to the trailer rather than the Reese setup. I'm glad I had the 'standard' length draw bar to try.

Thanks for figuring this out for me. It was a 'puzzlement'!

Roger
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Old 07-29-2003, 05:54 AM   #13
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Lightbulb Re: Does the Excursion have...

Quote:
Originally posted by drboyd
....an automatic rear levelling system?
For Inquiring Minds Who Want to Know...

I checked under my Excursion this morning. It's a standard old leaf-spring/shock suspension system. Nothing special or trick about it. I'd forgotten how physically large the axles are on a 3/4 ton truck tho!

Roger
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Old 07-29-2003, 06:12 AM   #14
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I tow with the ball only, & it handles 100% perfect in all circumstances, mountains, sharp bends, trucks etc...
& thats a FACT. Those who think otherwise should try & I bet you will love it.

Hart
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Old 07-29-2003, 06:42 AM   #15
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Quote:
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I tow with the ball only, & it handles 100% perfect in all circumstances, mountains, sharp bends, trucks etc...
& thats a FACT. Those who think otherwise should try & I bet you will love it.

Hart
If I had a Volvo tractor, I could probably do that too. I can tell you from experience that pulling a 34' with what I know now to be an improper hitch setup is, at best, a white knuckle ride. At worst... Towing it WITH the proper hitch setup is a completely different and comfortable experience! As was pointed out int the "Tow vehicle for a 34 trailer" thread, my Excursion is probably marginal for my 34' trailer from the standpoint of wheelbase and GVWR according to accepted theory.

I towed the '61 Bambi with just a ball on an Astro AWD van to AZ as the Bambi was only 1800lbs dry (approx), and I'd never bothered with sway control towing it locally and had no problems. My trip to AZ got scary enough that I tried to get a Reese Dual-Cam while I was there, but no one had a properly sized one in stock, nor could they get the parts in time for our return trip. I ended up pulling it back with just a ball and it was white knuckle time again. Lesson learned.

When I bought the Argosy 20' Minuet in Milwaukee that I intended to restore, I bought and installed a properly sized Reese Dual-Cam, and it towed like it was welded to the Astro; a completely different and pleasureable towing experience than with the Bambi, and... WITH THE SAME VAN!

I presume that if I were pulling the Bambi with my Excursion, weight distribution and sway control wouldn't be the issues for me that they were with the Astro as the wheelbase and vehicle weight ratios would change dramatically from the Astro to the Excursion.

Tires, tire pressure, tow vehicle weight, wheelbase, towed vehicle weight, balance, and load distribution all contribute to how much effect trailer sway will exert on your tow vehicle. If they're all perfectly balanced, as yours must be, it's apparently no problem. If any of these factors are out of synch, it's a nightmare!

I've had enough experience now, towing enough trailers of varying sizes with various vehicles over enough miles over the years that I wouldn't recommend that anyone tow ANY Airstream without a properly sized and fitted hitch system with weight distribution and sway control. I had to learn the hard way, as back then, there wasn't any way, at any cost, to get the information that is available here for free!

Roger
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Old 07-29-2003, 07:10 AM   #16
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Roger,
As you said, when all the factors are perfectly balanced there is NO PROBLEM & thats a fact

Hart
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Old 07-29-2003, 07:16 AM   #17
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What's this about the hitch head angle being *correctly* set at 15 degrees? That's not what the Reese instructions say. They say that the head should be angled so that the cam end of the spring bars is a certain distance above ground. If it were always supposed to be 15 degrees, why do they make them adjustable?

discuss:
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Old 07-29-2003, 07:22 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally posted by chuck
What's this about the hitch head angle being *correctly* set at 15 degrees? That's not what the Reese instructions say. They say that the head should be angled so that the cam end of the spring bars is a certain distance above ground. If it were always supposed to be 15 degrees, why do they make them adjustable?

discuss:
Right. And right. All of the Airstream hitches are between 17 3/4" and 19 3/4" in height. A 15 degree hitch head angle puts the WD bar ends at approximately the correct height on Airstreams.

If you had a substantially different hitch height, either taller or shorter, the angle would be different.

Roger
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Old 07-29-2003, 07:34 AM   #19
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Chuck

Go for a spin without all those devices... we have the same combo truck/Safari
Its pefectly balanced and in synch, & the ball is quite enough.

Hart
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Old 07-29-2003, 07:49 AM   #20
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hart, I have a hard time believing that. (see other thread) You have a 1/2 ton dodge 4x4 as well?

I just checked the weights on A/S's site, and there is a significant difference between the 71 and 73 safari's. like 140 lbs!! maybe that's it.....
I wonder what shifted around so much between those couple of years to make such a difference in balance?...


Oh, and on the hitch: I must have mis-read the instructions. They give a table with bad line drawings of 3 different types of couplers. (type "a", "b", or "c", with different numbers for each). Mine doesn't look like any of them, so I guessed which set of numbers to use...and I guess I guessed wrong! Also, my spring bars are only 28" long, and I think those instructions are meant for 30" bars. tried to compensate for that, but the way it worked out, the head isn't angled very far back at all. I need to raise the whole thing up one more notch, then angle back to get to the right spot.
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