Eliminating hitch clunk

26

By Dave Helgeson
Clunk! If you pull a travel trailer you are likely to hear this sound being emitted from your hitch after a few years of use. The culprit? Wear in and around the hitch pin, receiver and hitch shank. The resulting “slop” allows the hitch shank to shift back and forth in the receiver when you stop and start. When you stop, the trailer shifts forward against the hitch pin, and when you start moving again the weight shifts back.

I have experienced this problem on my last two tow vehicles. Both vehicles were still under warranty when the problem surfaced. On my previous vehicle, the dealer’s fix was to weld a heavy washer of the correct diameter to each side of the receiver tube and install a longer hitch pin to compensate for the now-wider receiver. This fix lasted long enough for the balance of the warranty period to expire. Obviously, a permanent fix would require eliminating any front-to-rear motion between the receiver and hitch shank.

Since the weight of the trailer being pulled should be carried by the hitch pin, my thought was to make certain the hitch shank is always being forced against the pin. This would require something to push against the 2-inch by 2-inch square butt end of the hitch shank. It would have to be strong enough* to resist the hitch shank wanting to move forward when stopping, and be adjustable, allowing for continued wear and regular removal.

My solution was to fabricate a plate with a 1/2-inch bolt threaded through it. The plate is then welded to the non-receiving end of the receiver tube. Once the hitch shank is inserted and pinned in the receiver, it is just a matter of tightening the 1/2-inch bolt to remove any play.

An added bonus: The pressure exerted by the bolt makes it impossible to remove the hitch pin, keeping would-be hitch criminals or pranksters at bay.

Design considerations

• You can use a tap to thread the plate or weld a 1/2-inch nut to the plate as I did. Note: If you weld the nut of the plate, install it on the inside of the receiver. This way the weight of the trailer is pushing the nut into the plate, requiring only tack welds to keep the nut from spinning, not carrying the force of the trailer.

• You can use a wrench to tighten the bolt or weld a “T” handle onto it so it can be tightened by hand. In my case, I used a length of rebar that I can slip my snap-up bracket pipe over to really snug it up.

• For heavier trailers, consider using a piece of angle steel or adding a spine to the plate to give it some depth and keep it from distorting.

* Theoretically, the tow vehicle should always be “pulling” the trailer, even when braking, as the trailer brakes should activate harder than the tow vehicle. The trailer “tugging” against the tow vehicle assures a safe stop and decreases the chance of jackknifing; therefore, the plate and bolt do not need to resist the total weight of the trailer.

Final note: While in no way does this enhancement violate the integrity of the hitch, be sure to check with your manufacturer to be certain this does not void your warranty on the vehicle or receiver. Also, never weld on the torsion tube portion of the receiver.

##RVDT1470

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26 Comments
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ROBERT PALESCH
18 days ago

I thought this was going to be a story about a product I recently found. The Shocker Air Equalizer. I recently purchased and installed one and it really smoothed out the tow with our travel trailer. The product has only been on the market for about a year.

Gordy
20 days ago

I towed three years professionally from dealer to dealer or dealer to customer in all 48 states. After the first year (approximately 90,0000 miles) the hitch began to ” clunk “. I cured it with one 3/8 bolt. I drilled a small hole on the pass vertical side between the pin and entry side of the receiver and threaded the hole for a 3/8 bolt. use the hardest bolt available and snug it up to the receiver. The only thing I had to do after that was occasionally snug it up. For me that was the end of the problem.

Gordy
20 days ago
Reply to  Gordy

I towed approximately 225,000 miles with the same hitch.

Sink Jaxon
20 days ago

Hmm… developing “slop” in a hitch is a problem I’ve never had in 15 years of serious towing. Maybe because I’ve always used a WDH?? I don’t know.

Steve
20 days ago

I used these for my TOAD hitch up and they work great.
https://www.etrailer.com/Hitch-Anti-Rattle/Roadmaster/RM-061-125.html
There are several different types on etrailer.com

Scooter
20 days ago
Reply to  Steve

We use something like that on our Ford Explorer when towing. Brand new and it is extremely noisy. This device stops the clunk and makes the drawbar harder to steal.

John Vignola
20 days ago

A couple of pics would be greatly appreciated…

Vic Whitmore
20 days ago

I think I understand Dave’s idea. The plate goes on the front of the receiver and the bolt pushes the shank of the hitch toward rear, until it is tight against the hitch pin. This assumes that the shank has a flat face that the bolt can push against. True?
My shank is a square tube with an open end. I would have to weld a flat face onto the end or build a sliding flat piece inside the front of the receiver tube that the bolt would push against the shank end.

DAVE TELENKO
20 days ago

From my experience most if not all “hitch shanks” are square tubing, so that 1/2″ bolt wont have anything to tighten up to!
Snoopy

Dave
20 days ago

Now why would they think including a picture would be helpful?

oliron
20 days ago

I bought a like item at I believe at Walmart and have no more clunk.

Snayte
20 days ago

I towed for almost 10 years with my 09 ram and the play in the receiver never increased. Maybe I was lucky maybe I had my brakes set up well so that there was always tension on the components.

Nick Spence
20 days ago

Would love a sketch. I am not seeing it.

Bob Wallace
20 days ago
Reply to  Nick Spence

Agree. Pix would be great!

Keith
20 days ago
Reply to  Nick Spence

Me neither Spence… pictures or sketches would have made this much easier to follow…

Ralph Williamson
20 days ago

Interesting idea, unfortunately my hitch shank is longer than the square receiver tube so this would require extending the tube as well as the plate with the bolt.

Bob M
20 days ago

I agree, with out a picture or diagram. I find it hard to understand what Dave is saying.

Tommy Molnar
20 days ago

I had considerable “hitch slop” on our old p/u with a 2″ hitch. When we upgraded to a new-to-us p/u I was shocked to find out our old hitch did not fit the new (and unknown to me) 2 1/2″ receiver. We quickly bought a sleeve so we could leave on our trip. But when we got back, I ordered a whole new hitch (from Equalizer) and swapped the parts over. The new hitch was SO tight I had to grind off the sharp edges just to be able to get the hitch into the receiver. Plus a squirt or two of WD-40 just to get it in. This hitch weighs a ton (you know what I mean . . .) and without that red hitch handle thingie, I’m not sure I could get the hitch IN. Now there is absolutely NO hitch slop. The hitch assembly is TIGHT! It’s as difficult to get out as it is to get in. I’ll take it.

Greg
20 days ago

A picture would be helpful. Great idea.

Gary H.
20 days ago

The “solution” paragraph is not clear to me. The “non-receiving end of the receiver tube”? I guess that I need a picture.

paul
20 days ago
Reply to  Gary H.

The front end (opposite the end you put your trailer hitch in)