Aluminum Camper Forum

Livin Lite Forum => Camplite and Bearcat Modifications => Topic started by: tbwrench on January 11, 2018, 01:37:29 AM

Title: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: tbwrench on January 11, 2018, 01:37:29 AM
Hello,

I have a 2015 21BHS. It currently has the 2" trailer hitch coupler and I'd like to replace it with a 2 5/16" coupler. Has anyone done so? If so which brand / model coupler did you end up choosing? Does anyone know what the one brand / model is that Livinlite used from the factory? Thanks.

Travis
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: charliem on January 11, 2018, 11:30:09 AM
Travis,

Before you attempt a coupler change you should read the bent coupler threads on this and the predecessor forum. http://archive.aluminiumcamperforum.com/index.php?topic=606.0 (http://archive.aluminiumcamperforum.com/index.php?topic=606.0)  When the problem was originally discovered in late 2104 several of us went through the research and work of replacing the factory coupler. The original coupler was smaller and improperly installed. Much later the factory began supplying a more robust coupler but still improperly installed. Recently they have been adding the side bolts which seem to have solved the problem. The complete coupler change requires the larger (2-5/16) coupler, precise alignment and drilling, and the additional side bolts. See this https://aluminumcamperforum.com/index.php?topic=210.msg1194#msg1194 (https://aluminumcamperforum.com/index.php?topic=210.msg1194#msg1194) , reposted by djsamuel. At the time I got the heavier coupler from the factory but that was before Thor.  It required careful drilling and has no model or manufacturer marking except "made in china".  I don't know what the factory is currently supplying or how it is installed but it's worth an inquiry. However Thor seems reluctant to deal with it's customers on a retail basis so they may refer you to a dealer. Good luck.
TinkeringTechie found a another heavy coupler from Bulldog that may be easier to install. Send him a PM if he doesn't jump in here.
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: DavidM on January 11, 2018, 11:44:32 AM
I took a look at all the couplers offered on etrailer.com, both Bulldog and others. I didn't see one I particularly liked. They all had a short frame mounting base, maybe 4" at most. That will work ok for a steel frame but I think you need more base, at least 6" for an aluminum frame.

The original 2" Chinese made coupler has adequate frame base if you install two bolts in the side as per Charlie's post. That 2" coupler is rated for 10,000 lbs, double what even the heaviest LL weighs and has been proven not to bend if attached with two forward bolts.

So why upgrade? Just bolt your existing coupler on the sides.

David
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: charliem on January 11, 2018, 11:56:48 AM
David,

The original 2" coupler supplied with the 21s was only rated at 5000#, which was less than the 7000# GVWR of the trailer at the time. Things have changed since then so I don't know what combination of coupler/axles/GVWR Travis may have with his 2015. If indeed he has the 10000# rated coupler I agree the addition of the side bolts would be the easy way out. That said, I still like my 2-5/16 setup better than the old 2". A better, beefier coupler and it seems to couple and lock better. Something more for Travis to cogitate on  ;) .
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: tinkeringtechie on January 11, 2018, 01:04:55 PM

TinkeringTechie found a another heavy coupler from Bulldog that may be easier to install. Send him a PM if he doesn't jump in here.


Did someone say my name?  ;) Here's a side-by-side of the stock 2" vs the bulldog. Everything is stronger and bigger...

(https://i.imgur.com/T7lgzEd.jpg)

Here's another pic with the completed install:

(https://i.imgur.com/0a6UbTG.jpg)

The hardest part of the install was drilling the top of the bulldog in the exact same spots as the stock coupler. It already had holes in the sides that served as guides for the side bolts. I would definitely recommend it.
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: DavidM on January 11, 2018, 03:24:40 PM
Yes, I didn't see that one on etrailer. It looks tough. Call them or email the picture to them and I am sure that they can find and price the Bulldog coupler for you. Looks like the way to go.

David
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: tbwrench on January 13, 2018, 12:25:56 AM
Thanks for the replies! :)
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: tbwrench on January 13, 2018, 12:44:35 AM
It looks like Bulldog PART NUMBER 44150WH301.

http://www.bulldogproducts.net/products/trailer-couplers/a-frame-couplers/a-frame-trailer-coupler/cWx03ACJNXO2JICR2SkHevxtUDcrndWM%7CbXj5ROuz%7CM=

NOw to see if I can find or order locally. :)

Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Merlin on January 13, 2018, 04:34:33 PM
eTrailer.com carries it if you want to do an Internet order. O'Reilly's Auto Parts can order it if you have one locally.
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Fatdog2 on April 10, 2018, 11:10:31 AM
Adding side bolts to the 2" Ball coupler, is it needed if your NOT using Weight distribution hitch while towing 2014 21BHS? I had forgot about this topic and I haven't done the modification. I don't know how much tongue weight I have when loaded up, maybe I should figure that out some how. Any thoughts are appreciated.
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: charliem on April 10, 2018, 03:20:36 PM
Adding side bolts to the 2" Ball coupler, is it needed if your NOT using Weight distribution hitch while towing 2014 21BHS? I had forgot about this topic and I haven't done the modification. I don't know how much tongue weight I have when loaded up, maybe I should figure that out some how. Any thoughts are appreciated.
IF you are not using WDH and IF you have the newer and heavier 2-5/16" coupler I think you will be alright without the side bolts. However, the 2014 models usually came with a lighter 2" coupler. if you have this 5000# coupler I recommend you add the side bolts even without WDH. This coupler really should be replaced.
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Fatdog2 on April 10, 2018, 04:16:45 PM
I have the 5000# coupler / 2" ball. So the newer campers came with heavier coupler? Do you have a recommendation on which one or is the one that's on this post what folks are using? Thank you for the advise on this topic.
Peter
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: charliem on April 10, 2018, 08:30:18 PM
The Bulldog 2-5/16" coupler found by @tinkeringtechie (https://aluminumcamperforum.com/index.php?action=profile;u=205) seems to be the easiest to install. I used one supplied by LL before Thor took over. No name or model; just "Made in China". Search this forum and the archives for bent coupler posts.
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Fatdog2 on April 10, 2018, 09:40:16 PM
Thanks for the info, I found the bent coupler post going to read through it again.
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Steve Sanders on April 11, 2018, 01:47:25 AM
For something like a trailer coupler, my opinion is that all of the mounting bolt holes should have a bolt in them unless some are blocked by other mounting bolts. If they aren't needed, then why did they put the holes there? Extra bolts won't hurt anything.

Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk

Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Fatdog2 on April 12, 2018, 12:14:41 PM
After looking at my 2" 5000# coupler I can put one bolt through the outer tube wall, as the Y frame is closed up with aluminum plates on the main frame rails.  The jack is bolted to the coupler before it's installed on trailer frame. Installing a bigger coupler would be the same situation. I looked at new 21 ft LL at local dealer and it has weld on CA-5400 14,000lbs 2-5/16" coupler in galvanized finish compared to painted one on e-trailer. LL put in side bolts but I couldn't tell how they installed the side bolts, all the way through the frame, or just outer wall as it looked like the bolts were behind the front top mounting bolts.
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: charliem on April 12, 2018, 01:12:46 PM
IMO you have two options. You can add side bolts to your existing 2" coupler or you can replace it with the Bulldog 2-5/16" coupler and add side bolts to it. The Bulldog item appears to be https://www.etrailer.com/A-Frame-Trailer-Coupler/Bulldog/BD44150WH301.html (https://www.etrailer.com/A-Frame-Trailer-Coupler/Bulldog/BD44150WH301.html). @tinkeringtechie (https://aluminumcamperforum.com/index.php?action=profile;u=205) had good results with this unit and apparently it was easy enough according to his posts. It is plated steel, not painted.

I replaced my 5000# coupler with a heavier unit supplied by the pre-Thor LL. I think it was in use on their larger toy haulers but I'm not certain. I installed side bolts that went only through the frame outer wall. This has proven totally adequate when using the E2 WDH with a Tacoma TV. I don't know if the OEM 5000# coupler would have allowed a similar bolt placement since I never considered it but I believe several forum members have successfully used the OEM coupler. I considered bolting completely through the frame but that has its own problems. If you could get a nut on the backside of the frame you would have to include a steel tube or stack of washers inside the tube to prevent collapsing the tube. See the below picture to see how I was able to install the bolts. Note that the washer stack is essential to prevent deformation of the frame and/or coupler. I don't recall any problems installing the power jack after the coupler was in place.


Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Fatdog2 on April 12, 2018, 02:52:21 PM
Thanks Charlie, I looked at my 5000# coupler and I can put two bolt in just like you did, and one side stack in some washers, while the other side might take one washer as it's a tighter fit. I wonder why LL didn't do a recall or they just figured the total weight loaded would be below 5000#? Thank you for the advise, it's appreciated. Peter
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: charliem on April 12, 2018, 03:58:50 PM
Early pre-Thor 21s were lighter and rated at 5000# GVWR although they always had two 3500# axles. This meant they were close but technically in spec with the 5000# coupler. LL would not have been obligated to recall as long as they stayed with the 5000# GVWR rating. That said the shipping document for my 2014 actually listed GVWR at 7000#. What LL did not initially grasp was the misapplication and mis-installation of the coupler. Steel couplers are designed to be welded along all edges to a steel frame. You cannot weld steel to AL so they drilled holes in the top and used 4 bolts. That was the real problem. It took a lot of talking and corresponding by me and other forum members to convince them but they finally started using a heavier coupler and, eventually, the side bolts. Of course when Thor came along the camper got heavier and they are forced to use a heavier coupler.

To be fair the bent couplers were not observed on non WDH installations. LL did not recommend WDH but they also did not prohibit it. Their main concern was drilling holes in the AL frame; a valid concern especially if done near the top or bottom edges of the load bearing sections of the frame. The bolts you will add are outside the load bearing section of the frame so no problem there. Be sure to use grade 8 bolts and torque them appropriately.
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Fatdog2 on April 12, 2018, 10:32:17 PM
My 2014 21BHS has the same GVWR @ 7000#. I'd be concerned about the load bearing area too, from the looks of coupler I'm pretty far from both, it should be fine. When we bought our camper the dealer really pushed against putting WDH on our rig when we towed it with Ford Explorer. With the Ram 1500 that we have now, which has a fiberglass truck cap and I added a set of 1000# air lift bags in the rear coil springs, the tv & trailer sits level and tows nice. No noticeable sway. This is all good information to know and thank you and other members for working this out with LL when you did. I read about grade 8 bolts on your initial post, lot stronger bolt.
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: tbwrench on July 15, 2018, 05:58:13 PM
I just wanted to update. I have installed the Bulldog coupler. Not terribly hard, once I figured out what to do, but took a lot of thought. I ended up making a template off of a piece of plastic (about 1/8" thick old sign I found). I centered the pattern off of the center hole where the jack goes. Then drilled a hole through my template, bolted that hole and so on for the next 4 holes. Please note, the bolt holes on the coupler are not perfectly symetrical. When I made my template i noticed that if I flipped the template upside down, the bolt holes no longer lined up perfectly.

The holes where the jack attaches are threaded on the original coupler, but but on the Bulldog. At first I bolted the jack to the coupler with nuts, but the nuts were interfering on the inner channel of the frame. I drilled holes in the bottom plate on the frame where the hole for the jack is and bolted the jack straight through to the bottom. I can't remember the bolt length, maybe 5 1/2" long. I feel this adds strength to the coupler, so not a bad solution. Now couples is bolted on with 8 bolts!

The steel plate the new coupler is made from is roughly twice as thick as the old coupler. I'm going to keep an eye on it, however I'm not putting side bolts on the coupler. The coupler flairs out from the frame rail, so bolting on would be dicey without distorting the rail. The flair comed out at an angle, so shimming the space is also not easy. I am also worried that bolting into the side of the frame rail channel may compromise the rail, as I feel upword force sufficient to bend the coupler would simply bend the coupler while also ripping the rail. Time will tell!

Anyways, the template seems super easy now, but thinking how to actually do it took several months thought.

Thanks to all who posted here to help me out!
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: tbwrench on July 15, 2018, 06:17:34 PM
Almost forgot.......

When I actually went to hook my trailer up a week ago, I was quite dismayed to realize that my safety chains no longer worked, as the new couples is quite a bit longer! Of course it was a Friday afternoon and the family was sitting in the vehicle ready to go. Called my local safety supply store and drove down as fast as I could before they closed, and got some bulk chain. Away I went!

Also not sure if the new longer angle affected it, but when I was pulling out of my alley my sway bar bottomed out! There is quite an angle between the street & alley. I used a Blue Ox sway bar system. NO good at all as I was planning on travelling a fair distance, about a 9 hr drive. Had planned to do 4hrs day 1 then 5hrs day two.

I have a 2012 Toyota Tundra and have just installed a larger (almost double capacity!) gas tank (If you have a Tundra I highly recommend this!). Also a tonneau cover recently. Long story short, 8:50 PM i was driving (my car) like a madman to Standen's (a local store that sell springs & such) to buy some air bags for my truck. 4:30 AM and the air bags were installed. I climbed into bed for a glorious 2 1/2 to 3 hr sleep and away we went the next morning.

And the moral of this story is, test stuff out before you're ready to go somewhere after modifications!
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Sylvain on May 10, 2019, 12:44:14 PM
I read this entire post and was wondering if this modification (adding the side bolts) should also be done on a 2013 13QBB or is this a problem only for larger trailers?

Thanks
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Paul on May 10, 2019, 02:01:31 PM
Hi Sylvain, when I had my 2015 13QBB I didn't had side bolts and had no issue. I think you should be ok especially if you don't use a WDH
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Sylvain on May 10, 2019, 02:16:41 PM
Hello Paul, thanks for your reply.  I don't use a WDH.  We are towing with a Silverado.  I believe it's a little bit overkill to tow a 13QBB though.
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Paul on May 10, 2019, 03:16:40 PM
If there is no sign of the hitch has bent you should be ok
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Sylvain on May 10, 2019, 05:49:43 PM
No Paul, everything seems to be very straight!
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Merlin on May 10, 2019, 09:58:49 PM
Hello Paul, thanks for your reply.  I don't use a WDH.  We are towing with a Silverado.  I believe it's a little bit overkill to tow a 13QBB though.

One our esteemed forum members has a favorite acronym: TANSTATMTV.  There Ain't No Such Thing As Too Much Tow Vehicle. We all agree.
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Sylvain on May 11, 2019, 01:23:47 PM
Hello Paul, thanks for your reply.  I don't use a WDH.  We are towing with a Silverado.  I believe it's a little bit overkill to tow a 13QBB though.

One our esteemed forum members has a favorite acronym: TANSTATMTV.  There Ain't No Such Thing As Too Much Tow Vehicle. We all agree.

Yes, I agree too!
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Sylvain on April 29, 2020, 03:31:51 PM
Hello everyone,
Since we have decided to add a second propane tank to our 13QBB and maybe an extra battery I would like to do the side bolts modification to the coupler.  Can someone direct me to type of bolts should I use (stainless, size, grade, etc) please? 

Thanks
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Merlin on April 29, 2020, 09:09:19 PM
@charliem (https://aluminumcamperforum.com/index.php?action=profile;u=207) is the side bolt guru. We’ll see if he remembers  ;)
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: charliem on April 29, 2020, 10:09:11 PM
From my original posts: "I considered stainless bolts, but went with ½” dia. 13 TPI Grade 8 high strength bolts so I could torque them to 80 ft-lbs. Six ½” x 0.1’ thick washers were added to each side to make a tight stack when torqued. The side bolts were drilled 2.25” up from the bottom of the frame and 1” in from the front edge of the frame. I used 2” long bolts with flat and lock washers." Stainless is tempting but they are not as strong as HS steel bolts.
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Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: DavidM on April 30, 2020, 11:59:07 AM
It is sort of a compromise between availability, corrosion resistance and strength as to which bolts you use. I recently went looking for 1/2" Grade 8 bolts for a similar project, the ones Charlie used, and couldn't find them at an auto parts or a hardware store. So I used Grade 5 which is about 120,000 psi tensile strength vs 150,000 for Grade 8.

I think either would be fine for this application.

David

Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Merlin on April 30, 2020, 12:43:57 PM
I assume Charlie's frame is a 2X4 and the 13 is probably a 2X3. That likely means the hole will be less than 2.25" from the bottom on the frame on the 13. Be sure to look inside the frame under the coupler to make sure clearances are ok for the chosen hole location. I drilled hole for my bolts (2X3 frame) in the center of the frame about an inch from the end.
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Sylvain on April 30, 2020, 07:05:12 PM
Thanks a lot guys!  Once again lots of great information here.  I noticed on Charlie's photos that he had to add a few washers between the coupler and the frame to fill the space.  I may not have to do that since our coupler seems to sit perfectly againts the frame.
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: charliem on April 30, 2020, 11:59:45 PM
Fewer washers are better. Just be sure any gap is filled. As for grade 8 vs grade 5 I think you would be ok with the fives on a 13. I really didn't run calcs to decide on the grade 8s. My engineering brain just said more is better and the hitch had been a high stress problem for me in more ways than one. Grade 5 bolts will require a lower torque value.
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Sylvain on May 01, 2020, 10:31:56 AM
Ok, thanks again for the valuable information Charlie.
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: ADR on May 06, 2020, 09:00:10 PM
It is sort of a compromise between availability, corrosion resistance and strength as to which bolts you use. I recently went looking for 1/2" Grade 8 bolts for a similar project, the ones Charlie used, and couldn't find them at an auto parts or a hardware store. So I used Grade 5 which is about 120,000 psi tensile strength vs 150,000 for Grade 8.

I think either would be fine for this application.

David

Do you have the Tractor Supply stores- they have them- sold by the pound.    Grade 5 and 2 also.
Title: Re: I'd like to change me trailer hitch coupler.
Post by: Sylvain on May 07, 2020, 09:32:11 PM
Tractor supply store. Ok, that's another option.