Without a Hitch

One unanticipated cost I discovered I’d have to factor into my Airstream renovation budget is for a sway-control hitch. For those of you who are newbies like myself, a sway control or anti-sway hitch is hardware that connects the ball hitch on your tow vehicle to the A-frame of the trailer, and helps to give you a more balanced, controlled connection between the two vehicles.

When I originally towed my trailers home, I simply connected the ball hitch on the back of my truck to the hitch coupler on the front of the trailer (see picture below), hooked on a pair of chains in case the connection failed, and away I went. I guessed that if people had been towing like this for decades without the sway control accessory, I’d probably be fine in the short-term. What ultimately sold me on whether I’d need an anti-sway hitch or not was the knowledge that I’m planning a long-distance trip over unknown terrain, and very likely passing large tractor trailers and driving over bridges, where wind resistance against the trailer could cause me to lose control if I didn’t have the extra hardware.

IMG_4185It’s important to note that this hardware not only needs to be appropriate to your vehicle, but it also needs to be installed properly to be effective. I turned to back issues of magazines and Airstream & Toyota Tacoma online forums to get started, just to gauge the criterion for buying a sway control hitch, understand some of the physics related to towing, and to hear some reviews from owners about their experience with different products.

I found a formula online to do an initial determination of my towing weight as baseline information to research the sway control hitch, and started plugging in numbers based on my vehicle manuals. In the meantime, 2 or 3 brands or models kept coming up in my search of the online forums. Based on this handful of information, I decided on the Hensley Arrow hitch, which I picked because it’s uniquely engineered for additional stability and because of the user experiences I found online. I plugged in a few numbers on their “Build My Hitch” questionnaire to confirm that I was choosing the right model. And with those bits of information, I took a “ready-fire-aim” approach, and started scouring Craigslist. I soon found one used for about half of the retail price, and picked it up on my way to visit family for Thanksgiving:

IMG_4114The hitch I found is in good, undamaged shape, needing only some superficial cleanup and touch-up painting that I don’t mind taking on. I also found out from the manufacturer that I will be able to acquire a lifetime guarantee for the product as a new owner for an additional fee (which I’ll be up for when my budget allows), and this includes replacement bars that may or may not be necessary to suit my specific tow vehicle.

It still remains to be seen if I’ve chosen the right product, because there are so many things to consider when it comes to towing, that I’ll only really know once I have a chance to consult with a trusted expert. Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to trying out the Hensley Arrow hitch and getting the other towing & weight distribution elements dialed in. It’s a little intimidating, but one of the main resources I’ll be using to develop my understanding is back issues Airstream Life magazine, which featured a series on the subject that started back in Summer 2010.

In the meantime, I’ll be cleaning, painting and lubricating the new hitch, and will share a picture or two once I do!

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