Tuesday, December 7, 2021

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Ask Dave: Why did my Blue Ox tow bar snap?

Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club. Today he discusses a tow bar which broke.

Dear Dave,
We were leaving a VA rest stop and heard a bang. Pulled over (only doing 25 mph coming around corner to on-ramp). Toad’s Blue Ox was on the ground. Picture shows how the receiver bar broke. Any idea on why this happened? —Tom

Dear Tom,
I had a fairly good idea what happened here but called Blue Ox just to confirm. I talked with a Customer Service Rep, who reinforced my thoughts.

Looking closely at the broken metal, you can see the right side and upper left have rusted, which indicates these areas have been cracked for a period of time. It’s not possible to determine how long; however, the cleaner breaks indicate it had been stressed prior to the failure.

It also looks like the hitch connector shaft is twisted considerably, but that could just be the camera angle.

Several things can put stress on the hitch connector shaft. These include backing up, which could cause jack-knifing, and tight turns with wide baseplates. Another potential stress-producer is not using supplemental braking. That puts the entire weight and force of the towed vehicle on the shaft. It could also be an uneven hitch to baseplate height.

Blue Ox recommends having the tow bar serviced once a year by either a qualified technician or even an owner with the appropriate information. Here is what the service entails:

  • Tighten all joints by replacing nylon washers and nuts. Bolts typically do not need to be tightened if they are not sheared.
  • Inspect all metal components for signs of cracks or fatigue.
  • Remove the zip ties from the rubber accordion protectors, clean the old grease and regrease with lithium general purpose grease.
  • Lubricate the locking handles.

This service should be done every year up until the product is more than 8 years old, at which time Blue Ox recommends replacement. The model, serial number, and date of manufacture is stamped on the driver-side leg. During the inspection process, the first stage of fatigue should have been visible on the shaft. The hitch connector shaft can be replaced if there wasn’t additional damage to the remainder of your tow bar.

This is a photo of the setup my parents used to go to Alaska. The base plate is actually level with the hitch. However, the photo is deceiving as the motorhome is on an unlevel parking lot and has not been loaded for travel.

Read more from Dave here

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Lil John
1 month ago

Other than a really light trailer to go to the dump with, or maybe a log splitter, etc. I would NEVER tow with a hollow hitch. They look tough, and most are, but this is what happens when they get overstressed. That would never happen if it were a solid bar. Must be some specs out there somewhere Dave that show the difference. Thanks for showing folks what can happen. Love safety chains!