Tip # 66, Hitch Choices and How to Hook and Unhook EZ......

Submitted: Tuesday, Sep 13, 2005 at 13:16
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At Copeton, if some of you "Newbies" on the Production Schedule go, you will see that there is a trend afoot, to go to the VC Conical Coupling for ease of hooking up… Now we do not mind, and it is definitely a necessity for what it was intended for, on very large vans… But, on smaller or average sized vans from 20’ and down, there is a definite disadvantage to doing this… Yes it is easier to hook up, but it will handicap your “off-road” capabilities. That “D Rating” larger hitch that seizes up the pintle ring with two conical sections on a greased ball swivel, only articulates to 22 degrees. That is the same 22 degrees as a standard ball hitch!!! You could exceed that going up or down a river bank for instance, when one was going flat while the other half was still bottoming out or going up and over… It is not such a concern for the really large vans, as they are not as likely to be in that extreme of circumstances. But for vans say 20’ and down, you would have to be appraised that it is not recommended by ourselves or Vehicle Components for the more extreme off-road conditions….

Now, one could argue and say as some do: “I’m not really going to that extreme, just mild off-road”… BUT, the problem is that this articulation is not just reserved for going forward into rougher conditions. Sometimes, when you have gone down a wrong track, you might find the need to do a three point turn to get you out of trouble instead of trying to back out the whole way…. The departure angle allows the rear of the van to overhang a steep bank long enough for the wheels to start lifting the van, allowing you to back up a steep bank or hill or grading, so you can do that three point turn around to get you out of grief… THEN is when you need that extended articulation of the Off-road hitch…. FURTHERMORE… We would suggest that even for the larger vans, there is a larger Off-Road hitch in development that may become available in the next 6 months.. We will obviously keep you Posted on that.. No questions please, as we cannot divulge the answers until it passes the ADR testing.. OK?

Also keep in mind that many people “think” they are not going that far off road, only to find that with the passage of time they develop both the need to get out crowded areas to the more remote areas that are not on the maps, but also the desire to go to these more remote places as they develop the confidence and experience to know they can do it in luxury with their Bushtracker… The truth is that in the Test of Time, most end up going further than they thought, with luxury, and independence, and self sufficiency. They discover the “Unpublished Australia” that will never be on the maps as the Government cannot afford to improve the roads into them, and they also do not want to be having to rescue ill-equipped tourists broken down in there without the right equipment… OK? It is a natural progression to end up going further than you might be thinking..

Now, back to our Off-Road Hitch.... Many people are battling a bit, unnecessarily, to hook up and unhook when in a loaded angle position… So, here, let me help you understand how to live with the difficulties of hooking up and unhooking our proper Off-Road hitch… And the tricks to the technique, as I see some people trying to back the yoke on the tow vehicle just to exactly right over the pivot block on the van.... Near on impossible frustration that takes two people all the time.... Here is the "Art Form" to do it all by yourself....

To hook up: This is the technique we use all the time.... You bring the hitch up alongside the part on the ball mount part on the car. You bring it up to the level position alongside, never try and back the tow vehicle into the hitch, as that is too hard, just back up alongside. Then crank up the hitch to the perfect matching level and use the Power Jockey wheel to move it over the couple of inches to mate it up, and drop in the pin...

If the final alignment is wrong by a little bit front or back, once you are mated in so you can slip in the pin, then you can use the handle to swivel the JW to make any front and back alignment with a 45 degree cant on the JW to move it over and forward or reverse to fine tune the mate of the two so the pin slips in... Have a play with that...

On the hitch, if you are fighting it to disconnect, it is not in "Nuetral". There is a bit of a knack to feeling it out to get it into the nuetral position. You have to crank it up until your suspension on the vehicle is relieved of the load, and you can tell that by feeling the tiny bit of play in your ball mount (the piece that slides into the receiver on your vehicle...). If you have any play, and most do, you can feel it move as the car suspension is unloaded and you start to lift the ball mount from the downward loaded to the upward loaded position..... If you are straight on, and in a nuetral loaded position, the pin should just fall out.... When the hitch breaks in and there is a tiny bit of play on the Yoke of the hitch on your tow vehicle, you can feel that “Neutral Position” there, even see it, and then no problem the pin just slips right out. You will actually see the pivot block move in the yoke, up about a mm, as the hitch moves to the "nuetral" position, and then the pin is free...

Now another look at in when parking in at an angle: There is a bit more to it, as lateral (sideways) force can be loaded on the pin as well.. Use your power jockey wheel in that situation to rock the van sideways against the loading, as you pull the pin with the other hand... Of course the handbrake has to be on, and if it is steep block the wheels.. First make sure you are in the nuetral unloaded position, and then rock the van in a lateral fashion to free up any sideways loading... Yes it will take a bit of practice to get good at it, as with anything, "Perseverance Furthers"...

The only problems come in disconnecting in the rough terrain when you have unknown loading or torque on the hitch and the pin is stuck... It is much the same as above… Yes, stop that bad language, and learn the tricks: Ha! The hitch is relieved of the lateral torque much the same way with the Power Jockey wheel... You can put your finger on the base of the ball mount where it slides into the receiver, or at the Yoke of the AT-35 hitch itself, and feel when the van is in a neutral position as it starts to just move with a mm or so play in the housing of the receiver or the Yoke on the tow vehicle... When it is in a neutral weighted position, it is just a matter of rocking the van sideways with the Power Wheel in the correct direction, to relieve the torque and the pin should come free to remove it...

And I should not have to say this, but be careful!! WARNING FOR HOOKING UP! I saw one well meaning poor Soul poke a finger down the hitch hole to see how well it was lined up!!! He was lucky and not hurt, but it made us both sick when I told him ..... That is a terrible way to lose a finger, not that there would be a good way.. Another person lost the tip of a finger, luckily just the skin, doing something equally as stupid… Be VERY careful with fingers and bits as you hook the van up… OK?

I hope this will help some of you that have had difficulty in learning the tricks to doing this hook up and unhook jazz at angles and such... It is not as difficult as some of you are making it, you just have to discover the secrets...

As with horses and most things, once you understand the language, it’s not so hard…

Kind Regards to all from the "Lone Ranger".... And have fun at Copeton on the Rally..!!!

"The Last Stand In Open Country"

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Reply By: Motherhen & Rooster - Thursday, Sep 15, 2005 at 04:35

Thursday, Sep 15, 2005 at 04:35
When we heard about the conical hitch - we thought it may be the way to go, but reading Steve's tips similar to above, choose the AT35. Our 18' van had a solid jack fitted by a previous owner, so we purchased a ratchet jockey wheel to move as Steve describes above, however we have not used it yet. My husband backs while i check the levels, and i am able to nudge the A frame with my knee enough to get the pin in. So easy. Should the position we are in have no room for straight backing, we have the jockey wheel.

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Reply By: Mobi Condo - Thursday, Sep 15, 2005 at 07:10

Thursday, Sep 15, 2005 at 07:10
Re the Pintle Rings - I had an experience with a work required towing course as follows. We use "NATO" hitches as they are called here but no conical hitch - just the cast steel hooks ala Military style. They of course rattle and shudder and clunk along with so much "slack" in the ring/hook connection. On this course we were doing a reversing manouvre when the towed van just dropped with a LOUD crack. The pintle ring had sheared through - yes all 1and a bit inches (or near 30mm!) of cast steel sheared through! Thankfully this happened in a private yard area and at less than walking speed. Our next stage was to go out on the roads and complete emergency braking exercises! We figured that 4 persons from work and the instructor would have been rather under pressure to say the least if it had broken on the hill we were to drive down at 80kph for our practical work!
Any way we think that the hitch had been through a van roll over on the Stuart Highway a few years prior and been repaired, but in cost "Saving" it was decided not to replace the Pintle ring as part of the repairs! So much for OH&S!!!!
The particular section which "owns" the vans have since got rid of all their "NATO" hitches and had appropriate couplings fitted!
Cheers Ian.
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Follow Up By: Bushtracker - Thursday, Sep 15, 2005 at 17:28

Thursday, Sep 15, 2005 at 17:28
Hello Ian,
That hammering on the corrugation, besides irritating, with any drawbar weight also wears extremely fast on the ring... In history, I have put grease on them, and that only combined with the bulldust to make a great grinding paste...! That hammering would also contribute to the "work hardening" process, and the combination of all of these has made the pintle ring concept very unpopular over the years...

Hence came about the two cones and the swiveling ball to seize it up, and it is great for really large vans... (Following part partly copied from Tip# 7 for those newcomers, with a few more bits thrown in...)

POSITIVES: This unit has two tapered cones that seize the inner part of the pintle ring clamping it tight and the cone unit rotates about 22 degrees in all directions. I like that hitch and have been running it for three or four years now… The problem is that you only have about the same rotation as you would get out of a large 6 tonne ball hitch, or Bartlett Ball or any of the other big ball hitches. It is still the cheapest way out, as the larger ball hitches are about twice as expensive and up…

NEGATIVES: If you go that route, you have to be careful as you pull up and over a very high creek or riverbank, that you do not exceed its capabilities. I have not been able to yet, but it is possible. The ideal is the military version with a swivelling pintle hook and a fixed ring. Or the Telecom version with a swivelling ring and fixed hook, as those extreme angles are increased to nearly the maximum possible as the pintle hook slips through the ring.. The down side is the rattle of a pintle ring and pintle hook, and extreme wear on the corrugation. My hook and ring set up years ago, ended up having to be greased as it wore into the ring and hook. Messy dust collection and regreasing…

Two Bushtracker Owners, have put on a swivelling pintle ring on the D-3.5 cone hitch. There is an engineering reservation on that, as the rotating pintle ring walks over the D 3.5 hitch and it makes the hitch sit on the side of its flat rotating angle… I don’t want to try and explain the problems of unknown strains of counter rotating angle moments or some other engineering gibberish… However, the swivelling ring walks over to the maximum horizontal rotation of the D-3.5 hitch. Not a problem in straight line travel, but when you want to go up an over something or down through something, you are asking the D-3.5 hitch to rotate along the curved angle of its maximum travel to go up and down. This is ill advised and could have long term unknown stresses on the hitch, and is not recommended. Also, this is only going to give you side to side maximum rotation, and is not going to give you the front to back rotation of more than the 22 degrees.. You are not likely to exceed the 22 degrees side to side, only front to back…

HOWEVER: It does give you one really big bonus…. The beauty of the standard rotating off-road hitch is that it has saved the tow vehicle on a few occasions. First example, as the van avoided an accident and ran off the road on a steep bank, the van turned over on it’s side while the tow vehicle remained upright… On another occasion, as the van got out of control after running over a carcass and did a 180 and toppled over into a ditch on its side with almost no damage, the tow vehicle remained upright. A third example about five years ago was when two road trains doing about 120kph panicked a Lady driving along at 80 kph in the Northern Territory, she ran off the road, van sliding sideways hit a log, van toppled over and vehicle stayed upright… The rotating pintle ring would allow this.

Now, because of my engineering reservations on the rotating pintle ring, sitting on the curvature of the horizontal rotation of the D-3.5 cone hitch, I would get another opinion from Chris the Engineer at V.C. (Vehicle Components in Brisbane). But it would allow, in an accident or extreme situation, for the van to turn over on its side without flipping the tow vehicle… That is my problem with the bigger 6 tonne ball hitches, as I don think the hitch will fail, and in some conditions would probably flip over the tow vehicle… Check with V.C. for all Legal requirements or other implications on this issue, but this is my best guess to help. I am not the total “Authority” on these bigger hitches, only trying to help with my best guess on the matter and any engineering reservations, and my own personal experience. On my own truck I am travelling with the cone hitch, as it would fail if the van turned over. There is no way it could topple my Mack 4x4 Dual cab Horse truck… And to our knowledge, no one with a Ford has turned over a van, probably because of the added leverage on the van due to the longer wheelbase of the tow vehicle. But that is my reservation with the fixed ring vrs the rotating pintle ring in terms of advantages and disadvantages..

But I would definitely not get either, on the smaller vans say 20' and down, instead opting for your standard off-road hitch due to the travel limitations.. We look forward in the future, to the larger version possibly coming...

I hope this has been a help.
In the works of Roy Roger, “Happy Trails”…
"The Last Stand In Open Country"

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Reply By: Bushtracker - Monday, Sep 19, 2005 at 16:56

Monday, Sep 19, 2005 at 16:56
The latest news is.....
The new larger hitch should be coming early in the new year.... As soon as we have it, of course, everyone here in the BOG will be notified, as well as everyone on the Production Schedule... OK?

Regards from da Ranger....
"The Last Stand In Open Country"

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