Newbie: Hitch & wiring questions - Fiberglass RV


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Old 05-18-2006, 09:08 PM   #1
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HI guys,

Well, I just waved a tearful goodbye to my 20 yr old VW Westfalia Camper and am looking forward to finding a lightweight used towable (has to fit me and 2 rather largish hounds).

I'll be towing it with a 2005 Honda Pilot AWD - rated at 4500# towing.

Since I may be traveling to look at trailers, I want to be as set up as possible for bringing it home with me - hence the questions on hitches and wiring.

Does anyone have any thoughts on buying the hitch from U-Haul and having them install it? I thought that might help if I had problems somewhere along the way - but have to admit, I'm not too impressed with the U-Haul nearest me (they couldn't figure out how to fill my VW propane tank).

Welded vs Bolted on?? The only thing I've ever towed was a horse trailer and back then they recommeded welded (bad experiences with bolts getting sheared off) - but most of the places I've checked only do the bolted on kind.

I should get the kind with a 'receiver' right?? Then maybe wait until I have a trailer picked out to buy the hitch 'ball' and 'drop' so I have the right size and height??

And what about wiring??? On my horse trailer, the electrical ran the rear brake/signal lights and the trailer brakes - is that the same on these eggs? Does the electrical hookup also run the fridge while you're driving??

Is there a standard kind of wiring? (Ok, I've been lurking for awhile and I'm totally confused about '7-pins' and stuff like that) Are there converter plugs if I get the wrong thing??
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Old 05-19-2006, 07:15 AM   #2
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With your vehicle's tow rating, you'll want a Class III hitch, and probably 7-pin wiring. There are converters readily available for 4-pin wiring. Hitch ball size and height will depend on the trailer you buy, but can be added or changed at the last minute. I have been satisfied with U-Haul hitches on two TVs. Who knows more about trailers than U-Haul?
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Old 05-19-2006, 07:49 AM   #3
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That's the scary part about U-Haul, they should know but they don't.

This is our first long weekend of the summer and the news over the next 2 nights will highlight how many U-Haul rigs were pulled off the road because they were unsafe. Happens every single long weekend.

Here's a typical investigative report on U-Haul in Ontario, there is usually 1 or 2 of these every year

Find a good reputable RV or Trailer place. Get your class III or IV that fits your vehicle, the bolt on kind is most common due to the fact that the newer metal compounds can be sensitive to some types of welding. As stated before, get the 7 pin wiring and you are easily adaptable to everything for about $10.00. If you think you might be getting something with electric brakes, get them to wire in a brake controller while your at it, that may add $150 to $200 to the bill, but at least your tow rig is then ready to tackle just about anything. The stinger with the correct drop and ball can be picked up just about anywhere on very short notice (Wal-Mart, RV places, Auto parts stores. and I would trust u-haul with this much)

Happy Hunting!
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Old 05-19-2006, 08:01 AM   #4
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Anne H,

Sounds like you already know quite a bit. If you are thinking of a trailer large enough to require electric brakes, get the standard 7 pin connector. There is a convention for wiring them and you should be able to hook up to any trailer without modification. There is a pin for the charge wire to the trailer battery and one for back up lights as well.

You'll need to decide on a brake controller. Camping World has the Prodigy for about $120 at the moment. I just set up my Jeep for towing. I got a so-so job done at a hitch place and later found a Jeep dealer that specializes in trailer wiring.

I've gone to U-haul and had satisfactory service. Really depends on the guy who actually does the work. I'd make sure whoever does the work is familiar with the Pilot and and it's particular requirements. Check the owners manual and you may also be able to get specific instructions from the internet. Occasionally you may find new car dealers that do hitches well, so I'd check with the Honda dealer too. There are also places that specialize in trailer hitches. Just depends on what there is in your area. Good luck!
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Old 05-19-2006, 08:17 AM   #5
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Just thought of something else, the issue of welding the hitch to the frame of the tow vehicle, which is the "gold standard". Many of the small and medium SUVs don't have much of a frame--they are unit body construction. Add on hitches are often the bolt on type. Thing is, it must be done correctly or the hitch may fail. These after market hitches often have to be fairly specific to the make of the tow vehicle. Talk to a Pilot owner who has gone through this if you can.
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Old 05-19-2006, 12:20 PM   #6
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Thanks guys - I'll check around for some RV or Truck/Trailer guys. I did check with my Honda dealer - but they want $1200 to install the hitch!!
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Old 05-19-2006, 01:40 PM   #7
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Thanks guys - I'll check around for some RV or Truck/Trailer guys. I did check with my Honda dealer - but they want $1200 to install the hitch!!

Assuming you are going to tow a lightweight egg, welding is not necessary. I bought a hitch from a sporting goods store in Oregon and bolted it on my Ford Ranger with a torque wrench myself. I saved quite a bit of money. I have towed trailers with firewood and our camper with no problems. I occasionally inspect the hitch to make sure nothing is bent or loose. No problems thus far! With a Honda Pilot, I would assume there are hitches you could buy that would fit it. You or someone else could bolt it on and then wire it. I would use a 7-way attachment, but be prepared with adapters in case the camper has a 4 or 6-way plug. I probably haven't enlightened you, but I tried! Good luck!
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Old 05-19-2006, 05:51 PM   #8
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Almost all Honda, Nissan, Subaru, or Toyota models that might be used for towing have 4 bolted on loops under the corners of the vehicles. These are for tie-down when they are exported by ship. The hitch makers have found it easy to design a model that uses the same bolts. On my Toyota mounting the hitch was a simple do-it-yourself project that involved 6 bolts. Tom Trostel
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Old 05-20-2006, 05:17 AM   #9
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Anne H,

$1200 sounds like a lot. Just for the hitch? Keep asking until you know just what is involved. You didn't say what year Pilot. Still on warranty? If so, you may want to follow the recommendations from Honda more carefully. Your tow rating is for boats and low profile trailers. For a travel trailer the figure would be 3500# because of frontal area and wind drag. See footnote in TL Towing Guide. Not sure what trailer you intend to tow, but you may also need a weight distributing hitch for tongue weights above say 350#. Does your Pilot have a tranny cooler? You don't necessarily have to get everything, but you should be aware that trailer towing can destroy expensive parts. Spending more money on a tow vehicle may make this less likely, but there is no guaranty it won't happen.

You are right to do the research first. People often buy the the trailer first and then scramble to get the tug prepared for the job. As you probably know it is usually cheaper to buy a vehicle with a tow package rather than to add the components afterward. Many come with the wiring ready to go, just plug in the brake controller of your choice. Examples would be the Toyota 4 Runner, full sized pickups and some large SUVs.

You may want to read Trailer Life's Guide to Towing supplement, if you haven't already.
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