©Bert Gildart: This past year Janie and I talked to several people who have had bad experiences with tires and hitches. We’re included in that group and about a year ago I posted a blog on the difficulty we had with a cracked receiver. Before heading for Alaska, we want to make sure everything is loaded correctly.
Yet another Airstream user, Tom, related a story about the factory installed hitch on his Chevy, which had actually cracked and then fallen off. And now, just a few weeks ago, I took a tire into my local service man, and he said one of the tires was not wearing proper, and that perhaps we’ve over loaded the trailer. I don’t think so, but soon we’ll know for sure.
With those concerns in mind, I’ve talked to a number of service people to determine if we might have any potential problems. Bottom line, it doesn’t appear that way, and here’s how we know.
First, I made a visual examination of the factory hitch that came with our Dodge heavy duty ¾ ton pickup, and found nothing that should concern us. As well I called my Dodge dealer and the service people there said they had never “in their entire history” had a problem with a customer’s hitch. That makes me feel safe, but doesn’t mean I’ll stop making periodic inspections. After all, by inspection, we discovered the cracked stinger (link above), and that should never have happened.
Captions for above, which you should click on to enlarge and to see techniques: Left, shows easy set up; middle shows scale and downward force of tongue but NOT the hidden support (which is actually the fulcrum); right, shows scale and uncalculated weight, which is obtained by multiplying shown weight of 200 by length of 4×4, which is actually 4 in my case. Diagram shows 3 feet from trailer jack, but that’s OK as instructions say to multiply scale weight by length of board from fulcrum to other end support, which is the scale.
Since that time, we’ve vastly upgraded and now have a Hensley Arrow Hitch and the heaviest duty arrangement they offer. However, because of the problems Tom had, he upgraded the Chevy receiver hitch by replacing number 5 bolts with number 8 bolts and having a welder reinforce factory welds with reinforced welds. He says he’ll now drive with peace of mind.
After inspecting the factory hitch for weak areas, I, too, feel I can drive with peace of mind, but that’s because of my evaluation. I also wanted to know tongue weight, vehicle weight and the weight of the trailer, and I’ve just obtained one of those parameters. Using a technique outlined in the Airstream manual, I’ve determined tongue weight, and because I have yet to talk to anyone who has gone through this little exercise, thought I’d include photos, showing just how easy the procedure can be. You’ll need a 4-foot 4×4, two short pieces of heavy duty piping, scales and a piece of board about the thickness of your scales.
In the manual, Airstream says you can use a longer 4×4 then what they show in the above diagram, and that all one must do is multiply the board’s total length by the weight shown on your bathroom scales. They use a three-foot 4×4 while I used a four-foot-long 4×4; otherwise everything shown in the diagram remained the same, meaning tongue weight for my Safari LS with slideout was 800 pounds, almost exactly, as shown above.
Before we depart for Alaska, and once we’re fully loaded, I plan to drive pickup and trailer to a weight station, and then I’ll know whether or not we are overloaded.