By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Many RVers have a safety checklist they go over when pulling out on the road. For some, it’s a paper checklist, others just keep it all upstairs. Tail lights working? Antenna down? Sewer port cover in place?
But how about that trailer hitch?
Larry Lang thinks all travel trailer owners ought to add another little item to that safety checklist – and Larry is a man who speaks from experience – scary experience. Larry had hitched up his Forest River travel trailer to his SUV for a trip to the northern California coast. It became a trip he’d never forget – and the memories had nothing to do with the Redwood forests.
Westbound on Highway 20, just outside Grass Valley, California, Larry’s trailer and SUV tried to part ways – the Camco-made trailer hitch broke on a weld. The only thing holding the two rigs together were the properly rigged safety chains. Still, having safety chains in place did prevent the trailer from getting loose and possibly clobbering some other rig, but it did create major control issues. Larry’s “combination” (if you can still call it that) started into severe sway that eventually lead to a complete loss of control.
If it weren’t for a J-rail barrier, Larry, his wife, and dog might not be around to recount the tale. The rigs slammed into the guardrail, which prevented them from continuing down a steep slope – this after crossing over a lane of oncoming traffic. It would seem miraculous that no one was hurt in this mess.
Results? Larry’s insurance company issued him a check for multiple thousands of dollars. Concerned that other hitch owners might have a similar issue lurking, he tells us he contacted Camco Manufacturing. The company offered him $1,700 as “compensation,” with the proviso that Larry would sign off on a release that would release the company from any further claims. Concerned his insurance company would be the loser on a deal like this one, and in light of the fact it wouldn’t even cover the insurance deductibles on his two rigs, he turned the “offer” down.
Aside from thinking his future RVing days would probably be done with a Class C motorhome – and who could blame him after an experience like this – Larry thought about the rest of us who pull travel trailers. He writes, “I’ve been thinking that if I had closely inspected the hitch during installation I might have seen a potential weakness in the welded joint. The weld failure might have been occurring over a period of time without my knowledge.”
Whether or not that’s true, in any event, it does give us a reason to take just a couple of moments longer and eyeball our hitches. It could spare us an experience like Larry Lang’s – or one that could even be worse.
Photos courtesy Larry Lang