Airstream Forums

Airstream Forums (
-   Hitches, Couplers & Balls (
-   -   I need a new coupler and your advice (

idroba 06-27-2012 06:08 PM

I need a new coupler and your advice
1 Attachment(s)
I have just installed a new Andersen WD hitch on my beloved '74, 20' Argosy which has been extensively renovated and is a perfect trailer for me. This morning I was un hitching the new system and looking at the pressure points on the ball on the Andersen hitch. The ball is locked in place for the most part and is not the pivot point as it is with most WD hitches. As no grease is used I had previously de-greased the coupler but had not inspected it carefully.

What I found in the coupler were two hairline cracks, one you can see in the attached photo at the bottom of the picture. They are not new, and were not caused by my 50 miles of tow yesterday with the new hitch. They have been there and the coupler needs to be replaced.

I have done the search of the forum and see my options look to be:

1. An original type Atwood
2. A Bulldog type coupler
3. A Quickbite coupler
4. Some other conventional coupler, other than the Atwood

All will require the old coupler to be removed and a new one welded on. That will be the significant cost part of the job. The coupler cost differences are not real important to me. The rear pressure direction caused by the Andersen hitch loading (if you are following the Andersen user's thread) is of some concern.

Bart, I know, favors the Bulldog and I like what I see, and it has been made absolutely forever (since the 1930's). The original Atwood has been used by Airstream for many years and I believe is a good design. The Quickbite looks to be another nice design but I have no real problems in hooking up to a conventional ball by dropping on to it.

What do you say, users? Any more advice?

And to all, if you have a high milage well used Airstream or Argosy, learn from what I found and de-grease you coupler socket, take a strong light, look inside and see if you note any wear or cracks. I can catch my fingernail on the one seen in the photo at the bottom. The one that does not show is visible, but very hard to feel. BTW, the big grove in the center is part of the coupler design, it is not the crack. The crack is the y shaped thin line at the bottom of the photo.

rogerdodger 06-27-2012 10:09 PM

Idroba, thanks for the info. Since just about everything on my Argosy needs replacing, I will check mine out. Keep us updated on your decision.

Ganglin 06-27-2012 10:41 PM

I have a new Quickbite still in the box and I think it's going to be just perfect for those of us that prefer to hook up without help. It seems well built and pretty much fool proof for being sure you are locked in.

With the way the jaws are designed however, I'm not sure a W/D system that puts a lot of rearward pressure on the coupler would be the right combination. The other option that I gave serious consideration to was the Atwood Yoke Style.

idroba 06-27-2012 11:56 PM

Ganglin: I was just researching the Quickbite and found a Youtube video on unhitching it which indicated that "backing into the ball with the wheels chocked" would allow some pin to release. Since the Andersen hitch puts rear pressure on the ball all the time, it does look like the Quickbite and the Andersen system are not the best match, as you note.

Thanks for you input.

Friday 06-27-2012 11:56 PM

I really liked the Atwood yoke on my Basecamp... my Intl' has the Atwood flip...

I've seen both on eBay for around $45... I'm sure a shop could do the swap in an hour or less, so it's a pretty cheap fix...

idroba 06-28-2012 12:02 AM

I have been doing more coupler research tonight and find the Bulldog coupler is about 4 to 5 inches longer than the original Atwood coupler. That becomes a problem with my new Andersen hitch as it makes the hook up brackets need to be farther forward and my propane tanks are in the way. My snap up brackets on the old Reese/Draw Tight would have the same issue, so I guess the Bulldog coupler is also out of the running.

The original Atwood is looking like the best choice so far.

idroba 06-28-2012 12:06 AM

Friday: the time to grind the original off seems to be the major cost in replacement. Indications are that it can be a difficult job as there is lots of weld to remove. I know nothing about welding, so it all seems like magic to me that welds can be removed at all. LOL.

ROBERTSUNRUS 06-28-2012 01:19 AM

Question about grease on the ball.
:) Hi, you say this hitch doesn't need grease on the ball because the ball turns with the coupler. Is this also stated by the hitch manufacturer? Even though the ball doesn't turn in the coupler, it does twist from side to side when for example you are going up a driveway or any un-level area. If your tow vehicle goes over a rise in the road, only on one side, then the tow vehicle would lift and fall and the trailer would also lift and fall. So what I'm saying is there still is going to be some metal to metal movement between the ball and the coupler.

Mexray 06-28-2012 02:00 AM

For those that are looking at the Quickbite... Here's some pic's of my installation a while back... (11/2008)

It's been a trouble free coupler - easy to hook/unhook - no grease - BIG HEAVY SS 'jaws' that entirely encapsulate the hitch ball... By design, it's virtually impossible for the ball to come out of the QB coupler when hitched & pinned properly...

Having used the QB coupler, I disagree with the above opinion of it's compatibility with the Anderson WD hitch... The 'jaws' on the AB are massive, and are secured when hitched with a heavy steel 'strap' and held in place with two large steel pins...

There is a clearance 'gap' in the jaws at the rear when in the 'hitched' position... however there is still plenty of 'meat' that completely encloses the ball that would provide lots of support for the Anderson's WD application, IMHO...

One other note... You can see in my pic's that we removed the old coupler entirely, and started from scratch... The QB's 'V' shaped end of their couple is actually designed to fit OVER (clearance'd) the old coupler, after the old ball socket end has been cut and ground away...

I didn't realize this feature until we had removed the old coupler, and had to use some 1/4" steel spacers on each side at the rear of the QB to fill in the GAP... Had we known, it would have been a much easier/quicker installation... :rolleyes:

Happy Trails...

Ganglin 06-28-2012 05:13 AM

Idroba - I'm going to bow to Mexray's opinion on the Q/B. They have actually installed and used it where my observation is based on looking at the parts in a box. The rear gap in the jaws with the rearward pressure was my concern but Mexray does not seem to think that will be an issue. You can see that gap in photo 4 that Mexray posted. It is one massive coupler.

idroba 06-28-2012 10:04 AM

Mexray: Very helpful information in your post. Because of my drop stinger on the Andersen, there is not much clearance between the front of my existing Atwood coupler and the drop mount. It might be 3/4". I am wondering if the Quickbite is longer from the ball to the coupler front when closed than it would be with the Atwood. Is there any way for you to measure the ball center to front of coupler when closed dimension on your AS?

Thanks for the info on the grind off the front and weld on top of the old coupler idea. Do you think that would put the ball farther forward than on the original setup? If so, I again get back into the chain length and location of the chain mount brackets with the Andersen.

I am off to the big city (Missoula MT) to maybe see some couplers at a place I know there.

Again, all comments and ideas are very much appreciated.

Mexray 06-28-2012 12:03 PM

3 Attachment(s)
Here's some add'l pics I took this morning:

1. shows the o'head view with about 5" from the ball center line back to the beginning of the 'V' in the frame.

NOTE: the two heads of the jaw pins, shown on the top of the QB are essentially the center line of the hitch ball socket...the jaws rotate outward on these pins...

If you refer to some of my previous pics you can see that the QB moves the ball center line FORWARD about 2" when compared with the original coupler...

2. shows a side view of the 'lip' of the QB jaws that are 2-1/2" from the ball center line...

3. another top view, showing the center line of the ball, forward to the end of the jaws is 2-1/2" - the perspective isn't great in my pic, but it is 2-1/2 inches...

I don't know what the 'clearance' measurement of the Anderson's mounted ball center line to the shank is - but you'll need a bit over 2-1/2" for a QB to clear and work properly...Perhaps someone with an Anderson can post that measurement here for us to evaluate...

Hope this helps...

AWCHIEF 06-28-2012 12:14 PM


Originally Posted by ROBERTSUNRUS (Post 1166846)
:) Hi, you say this hitch doesn't need grease on the ball because the ball turns with the coupler. Is this also stated by the hitch manufacturer?

Yes, no grease required or recommended. I discussed this in depth with them before and during the purchase of mine. I have almost 3000 miles on mine so far and see no need to use any grease at all.
Lots of good information on the Andersen site, videos, etc. Andersen Manufacturing Inc.

AWCHIEF 06-28-2012 12:20 PM

Idroba, according to Dave Andersen links can be added or removed from the chain as necessary. You might have to contact them directly to find out how much for your situation. They added 3 links from the standard for mine before sending it to me to have the proper clearance for the tank mounts.

idroba 06-29-2012 12:26 AM

Thanks to everyone for their detailed help, especially Mexray for the great Quickbite information.

In the end, I decided to stay with the original Atwood coupler. My main reason is that the Bulldog and the Quickbite both extend the ball location forward compared with the original Atwood position. Although I know you can add links to the Andersen chain to compensate for the added length of the coupler, if I ever want to use any of my several Reese/ Draw Tight hitches the added length would put my snap up brackets too far forward and that cannot be compensated for on those hitches the way it can be on the Andersen. I would have to move my gas tanks forward, not only another change that has to be made, but I don't like the looks of the far forward gas tanks.

The Quickbite was very tempting though, as was the Bulldog. I very much appreciate everyones time on this.

The Atwood will be arriving late next week. The good folks I talked to in Missoula sent me to a shop who has lots of coupler replacement experience. They could not easily get the Atwood, but were completely willing to put one on if I provided it. They thought probably 2 hours at $70 per hour. I am budgeting for 3 hours... My favorite RV parts place located the Atwood in their normal supply warehouse in Utah, and they will have it shipped it up along with their weekly order. It is nice to deal with local businesses who care about their customers and don't rip you off.

Again, thanks to all for your time and great information. It helped me make the decision quickly today while I was in Missoula, which is a 125 mile one way trip for me.

M2HB 07-02-2012 03:32 PM

The welding shop will probably use a 4-1/2" grinder with a 1/16" thick grinding wheel to get the coupler off. They will probably go through a few of them, but the job should go really quick.
Let us know how it goes.

idroba 07-08-2012 04:08 PM

Ok, I got my new Atwood 88007 OEM coupler yesterday and have had a chance to carefully inspect it and how it is made. It is easy to look at off the trailer.

After looking at the new coupler, and the 38 year old one still on the Argosy, I have concluded that although the old one is worn and has stress cracks in one section, it is not in danger of failing in any way, and is completely safe to tow, I am sure for many, many thousands of miles. That is a relief to understand, but of course it is worn, and will be replaced. A ball in the new one moves up and down about 1/8 inch, and on the old one 3/8 inch, so you can see there is wear, but well within the ball holding tolerances built into the coupler design.

The construction of the Atwood 88007 hitch has an inner cup and an outer cup, welded together. The inner cup takes the wear, and is where the stress cracks have developed in my old one, but it is fully supported from total failure such as coming off the ball, by the outer cup, which in normal situations takes none of the load at all. The locking and unhitching parts in the rear of the coupler are also very robust and well supported. Although I am sure mine are worn, they cannot come apart. Loading of the ball from the rear is just as well handled in the coupler design as is the front loading. Atwood has been making the same coupler for more than 40 years, so the design has proven itself well. There is a slight change in how one lifts the release mechanism, for a more positive lock, an improvement over the earlier ones I have. I believe all Airstreams use this same coupler, even today.

So, good news and a confidence builder to look at how the coupler is built an how many fail safe parts there are incorporated into it. It is a simple, but very effective, design.

I will be using it with my new Andersen WD hitch which puts more pressure on the back of the hitch ball than with usual WD hitches. So, I am happy to report that I feel the design is fully up to the job.

After 38 years and countless thousands of towing miles I feel that the old coupler owes me nothing, and I will be glad to have a new one on Wed. morning. I will report more then.

I do repeat that if you have an older trailer, which has been towed a lot of miles, you might de grease the coupler and inspect it very carefully for any internal stress cracks or weld cracks. If you have an old hitch ball, and you insert it in the coupler and it moves up and down more than a quarter of an inch, you might consider a new coupler. The OEM Atwood costs about $75. Mine has not been installed yet but they estimate 2 hours at $70 an hour. I will know more when I get the bill on Wednesday.

idroba 07-11-2012 07:22 PM

Today was new coupler installation day. The shop cut the old one off, ground the rails flat, and welded the new Atwood original stile coupler in place in 2 hours, for $140. So, the total job was under $210. The shop in Missoula MT did an excellent job.

It looks like it always did, but this one does not have the stress cracks or the 3/8" slop in the vertical ball movement. I have the old one which I may try to get better photos of, showing the problems. Right now I am out camping! Yea!

julio0703 08-15-2012 01:31 PM

Hey guys. I don't mean to revive the ol' coupler beast, but I have the same problem on my 1972 Tradewind. There appear to be two stress cracks on the coupler that I need to replace. I was originally thinking of hiring a welder to fill in the cracks with metal and some how grind the surface smooth. After reading this post, I will need to buy a new coupler and go from there.

rumrunner 08-15-2012 06:48 PM

I'm glad somebody revived this thread today because I am considering changing out my original atwood for a new one too. Where if you dont mind my asking, Idroba< did you find the coupler in Utah? I have been unable to locate one locally.

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 06:16 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.