Jetta towing issues.... caution - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-25-2011, 06:40 PM   #1
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Jetta towing issues.... caution

I write this with my tail firmly tucked between my legs... I bought my 13' Trillium last year and have towed it over 10,000 miles with my 2.0L gas 5 speed Jetta. The Jetta had lots of power and I never encountered a problem; in fact I sang it's praises. I recently read a post regarding the apparent inadequacy of the hitch connection. I had the hitch installed at a good garage and hadn't really given it any thought. Last week I removed the spare tire to check the condition of the interior fastenings. I found the metal around one of the bolt fasteners was torn. Had I continued towing with this arrangement I could have been faced with the complete tow hitch tearing off the car. Since the safety chains are attached to the hitch.... well, it wouldn't have been pretty.
The Jetta has been retired and has been replaced with a GMC Jimmy with tow package.
I have participated in a few forum discussions about small cars towing eggs. I have become enlightened (well.. about this issue anyway.LOL). The issue for me now isn't 'can a small car tow an egg' but rather... can it keep it attached.
Many vehicles these days don't have solid frames as they did in 'the old days' but rather pressed metal shells. While you can install tow hitches to just about any vehicle, vigilance is recommended to ensure the hitch remains secure.
Better that I eat a bit of humble pie than to suffer the pain of injuring an innocent fellow traveler. If this helps another member, it's well worth it.
Barrie
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Old 09-25-2011, 06:51 PM   #2
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Thanks for sharing this Barrie.
I believe you have said a mouthful here.

I had a trailer wheel pass me on the highway once(my trailer wheel!) before I learned that there are certain types of Lug nuts for different types of wheels.

Luckily no one was hurt and I learned from it.

I have always advocated having somewhat no vehicle than I may really need and learning how to get it set up safely,I want a margin of safety there which in itself does not guarantee no problems but it is a good place to start.

Ed
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Old 09-25-2011, 06:56 PM   #3
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Like I always say "get a truck".
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Old 09-25-2011, 06:58 PM   #4
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The 70% rule

Hi,
I read in Trailer Life (at least that's where I think I read it) that you should follow the 70% rule. If your TV is rate at 3,000 lbs don't tow more than 2,100 (loaded trailer and vehicle cargo weight). I'm a bit horrified at people who push beyond their TV ratings--especially with smaller cars. The tail wagging the dog, so to speak. Stay safe folks!
Phil
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Old 09-25-2011, 07:26 PM   #5
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Barry,
I think this was a wake up call for you and perhaps other members here towing with cars that do not have frames but unibody construction. There is always a weak link in that type of towing setup and fortunately no one was hurt.
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Old 09-25-2011, 07:26 PM   #6
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Barrie, you eat humble pie very graciously.

Thanks so much for posting your experience to help others who are struggling with "what can my vehicle tow?"
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Old 09-25-2011, 07:31 PM   #7
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Bolted

If it's bolted it needs to be looked at and checked on a regular schedule.

On the Labrador highway, a long bumpy dirt road, we lost a wheel nut on the tow vehicle, spotted by chance causing us to check all the wheel nuts. It turned out that one of the trailer wheel nuts was also loose.

Our hitch is of the bolt on variety. Two bolts in each rail and a third tie point with a U-bolt at the rear tow loop. The hitch to rear tow loop failed on the Labrador highway due to a poor hitch design at this point.

This tow loop tie point starts off as two cylinders in crossed line contact, a u-bolt against cylindrical tow loop. It doesn't take long for the cylinders to flatten just a little on that road, line contact results in high pressure and the road produces vibration and allows flex with flattening.

Once either cylinder flattens, the tow bar flexed at this third tie point. Eventually the metal fatigued at this tie point on the hitch. This is not critical to the hitch but was a hitch design flaw.

During our trip we made it a practice to check the tightness of the four rail bolts (we should have checked the tow loop connection and did not).

Any motion can do a number on a hole. Connections do need to be checked. A most common failure is not locking the ball, another is the ball loosening. Why ball bolts don't have carter pins is a mystery to me.

Safe travels
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Old 09-25-2011, 07:45 PM   #8
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I drill a hole thru mine and then wire it on tight similar to what race car and motorcycle racers have to do with their vehicles, every bolt has a hole and is wired on, so in case of accidents, there are fewer pieces flying around. here is a link describing the procedure
http://www.mcraracing.com/wire.htm
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Old 09-25-2011, 07:52 PM   #9
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Thamks Jim,
Sort of like jet engines.

My son had a hitch put on his Suburau and the mechanic drilled a hole thru the end of the threaded area for a pin.

Another project for me.
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Old 09-25-2011, 08:21 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpaharley2008 View Post
Barry,
I think this was a wake up call for you and perhaps other members here towing with cars that do not have frames but unibody construction. There is always a weak link in that type of towing setup and fortunately no one was hurt.
Older full sized 3/4T Chevy vans are unibody , Honda pilot and Ridgeline are unibody,Toyota Highlander is unibody, all recent minivans are unibody.... lots of other high tow capacity(3500#+) vehicles are unibody, in fact we have reached a point where there is almost nothing built "body on frame" anymore with the exception of actual trucks...Not every unibody vehicle is fit for a hitch, but it is simply not appropriate to say that unibody construction is a problem for towing within it's chassis' design capability.
No offense to anyone, but no manufacturer would overestimate their tow capacities by 30%. We coud type until our fingers bleed and never eliminate some of these persistent myths.
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Old 09-25-2011, 08:38 PM   #11
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Like I said, most cars were not made for towing and 3500# is low tow capacity for trailers other than 16-17' fiberglass. The older cars that towed big trailers had a body on frame construction that the hitch was secured to. Today, pickup trucks have the same set up and that is why they can tow 7500-12000 lbs. The unibody is not as strong and that is the reason for the low tow rating. Therefore attaching a hitch to a unibody is not as strong as to a vehicle with a frame. Again that would be the weak point over time and over rough roads compared to using a framed vehicle.
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Old 09-25-2011, 08:49 PM   #12
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I freely admit that this is only my personal prejudice, with very little - if any -scientific rationale - but I just do not like the idea of a front wheel drive for towing, and would not use a unibody for towing either. (and since "all" [????] front drivers are unibody......) There is a reason why trucks are selling so well in comparison to cars, and the ability to take your travel trailer or boat, or your "playtoys" on a trailer somewhere is, to my mini-mind, a large part of the reason.

Oh - and - I had my son read this thread as well - he has a 14 Surfside and has just acquired a '97 Jetta "disease-el"
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Old 09-25-2011, 10:10 PM   #13
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Ha ha,
I have this vision of us all sitting around a camp fire, beer in hand, having a lively debate
Phil
ps I should add that I'm grateful to Barrie for sharing his experience. I know I'll be keeping a close eye on my hitch from now on.
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Old 09-25-2011, 10:47 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpaharley2008 View Post
Like I said, most cars were not made for towing and 3500# is low tow capacity for trailers other than 16-17' fiberglass. The older cars that towed big trailers had a body on frame construction that the hitch was secured to. Today, pickup trucks have the same set up and that is why they can tow 7500-12000 lbs. The unibody is not as strong and that is the reason for the low tow rating. Therefore attaching a hitch to a unibody is not as strong as to a vehicle with a frame. Again that would be the weak point over time and over rough roads compared to using a framed vehicle.
Well my prints are starting to fade,and I can't stand the sight of blood!
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