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A bad hitch can leave you in the ditch—or worse

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? Sewer port cover in place? But how about that trailer hitch? We’ve pulled Larry Lang’s story from our archives as a still-timely reminder—a bad hitch can leave you in the ditch.

Add it to your safety checklist

Larry 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 back in 2016. It became a trip he’d never forget—and the memories had nothing to do with the Redwood forests. They all had to do with a bad hitch.

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. While those safety chains did prevent the trailer from getting loose and possibly clobbering some other rig, there were major control issues. Larry’s “combination” (if you can still call it that) started into severe sway that eventually led 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 was after crossing over a lane of oncoming traffic. It would seem miraculous that no one was hurt in this mess—a mess traced back to a bad hitch.

Hitch company offers “compensation”

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 contacted Camco Manufacturing. The company offered him $1,700 as “compensation.” A proviso said that Larry would sign off on a release. That release would get the company off the hook from any further claims. Larry was concerned his insurance company would be the loser on a deal like this one. Add to that, the so-called “compensation” wouldn’t even cover the insurance deductibles on his two rigs, and he turned the “offer” down.

Larry got to thinking his future RVing days would probably be done with a Class C motorhome. Who could blame him after an experience like this? Then he 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 be even worse. Yeah, a bad hitch could leave us all in the ditch.

How about you? Have you had a heart-stopping experience on the road? Would you like to share it with others? Just use the form below, and put “Bad hitch” in the subject line. 

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.

Photos courtesy Larry Lang

##RVT1126

Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.


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Wayne C (@guest_256843)
1 month ago

No mention of the weight rating of the broken hitch. All hitches look similar but weight ratings vary greatly. Be sure all hitch component ratings meet or exceed the weight being towed. Things still can break though.

Bob P (@guest_256832)
1 month ago

Where did he hook the safety chains if not on the hitch? I’ve never seen a tow vehicle that had safety chain attachment points located anywhere but in the hitch.

Bob (@guest_256806)
1 month ago

Seems since Camco offered a one time, low ball settlement, they were actually admitting to a known failure by not blaming the customer for improper installation, setup, hook up or overloading.
He should have contacted the NTHSA and filed a case.
It’s doubtful that Camco made the hitch, but they sold it with their name on it.

Will B. (@guest_256829)
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob

Likely the text of their offer was something akin to: “By making this offer, Camco, it’s parent company and subsidiaries make no admission of guilt, culpability, oversight, etc. By accepting this offer, you agree to hold Camco and related companies harmless for any blame and to not publicly or privately discuss the terms of this agreement.”

Tom (@guest_256919)
1 month ago
Reply to  Will B.

That’s how those pesky lawyers on TV make their living. Depending on how the resulting reimbursement from the insurance company was written will affect your ability to sue. Should be able to recover your deductible $$$.

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