Weight distribution mod for hitch - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-24-2012, 10:15 PM   #1
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Name: Jon
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Weight distribution mod for hitch

I'm picking up my new-to-me 2010 Jetta TDI on friday. I'm planning on installing a Westfalia hitch (or towbar as the Europeans refer to it). It is the factory recommended hitch and is rated high enough for my needs and would have a nice clean install.

I'm not really interested in discussing the towing capabilities. I've done my research and I've decided that I'm towing a trailer with it. I haven't selected the trailer yet but it will be within the European specs VW advertises for tow weight and tongue weight. Before you jump down my throat about towing with a car watch this:

I will be using the factory OEM hitch (ordered from Europe) that VW used to get these numbers. The hitch is in 2 parts. It has a removable "swan neck".



My question is about the fact that I'd like to have
weight distribution on the hitch. Something like this setup:



No, I'm not planning on towing a 4000lb airstream, but I'd love to have a hitch like this.

Basically I'm thinking about cutting the swan neck of the Westfalia hitch and welding on the shank (or the slot for the shank to fit into) from the weight distribution hitch.



Something like this:



That way the whole thing would pop on and off easily. I'd have it welded by a professional welder.

Does this seem like it'll work well? I'd like some intelligent feedback from some more experienced towers out there. Thanks!
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Old 10-24-2012, 10:52 PM   #2
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Well, I'm an experienced tower and also an experienced wife. This is exactly the kind of thing My Husband The Engineer would propose to do, of course not consulting the manufacturer of the equipment/vehicle he intends to modify...

I'll tell you the same thing I usually tell him:

If, against the manufacturer's recommendations, you cut up/modify/"improve", or otherwise go against the limitations of the equipment/vehicle not to mention those of common sense, don't come crying to:
A) The manufacturer
or
b) "The gummint" that failed to protect you from your own folly
or
c) (the big one): ME.

Hope that answers your question...

Francesca
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Old 10-24-2012, 11:20 PM   #3
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Thaks for the advice

Quote:
Originally Posted by Francesca Knowles View Post
Well, I'm an experienced tower and also an experienced wife. This is exactly the kind of thing My Husband The Engineer would propose to do, of course not consulting the manufacturer of the equipment/vehicle he intends to modify...

I'll tell you the same thing I usually tell him:

If, against the manufacturer's recommendations, you cut up/modify/"improve", or otherwise go against the limitations of the equipment/vehicle not to mention those of common sense, don't come crying to:
A) The manufacturer
or
b) "The gummint" that failed to protect you from your own folly
or
c) (the big one): ME.

Hope that answers your question...

Francesca
Francesca, your comment is noted. I'm chuckling a bit because I'm a mechanical engineer I guess we're cut from the same cloth.

Of course you do have to realize that the manufacturer would always, regardless of the actual details, respond:
- I shouldn't do it
- every warranty that me or my family has ever had past present or future is void for even asking
- the world will implode

I just read on a TDI forum that someone brought home their brand new Toureg TDI (rated to something like 7500lb towing capacity in Europe), with the factory tow package and hitch, and then opened his owner's manual to read that his Toureg had no official tow rating and according to the manual "wasn't recommended for towing of any kind".

I also own a Ford Explorer that I can't rent a trailer from U-Haul with because of the infamous Firestone exploding tires. U-Haul will never authorize another trailer rental to an Explorer (even the newer completely redesigned ones) because of the no longer existent tires that caused all of their expensive claims.

VW on their UK site rates every vehicle's tow rating differently depending on the vehicle and engine. In the US, thanks to our way over-zealous legal system, every car VW makes, regardless of the size of the car or engine has a maximum tow rating of 1000lbs--less than their smallest car/engine combo in Europe.

I'm a mechanical engineer who designs automated equipment for a living, which has to pass UL safety standards to a level that is waaay past common sense. I've been on the other side of the manufacturing curtain.

And I most certainly wont come crying to you or my wife
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Old 10-25-2012, 01:02 AM   #4
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Just finished reading a magazine on that very issue it is common in the EU & UK to only have class 2 they don't even know what class 3 is.

Based on my reading changing to a class 3 is not hard but additional support further forward is required. Simply changing the shank won't be enough you still need some welding from the rest of the assembly going forward.
RV lifestyle just did a writeup on this very thing. rvlifemag.com

The objective was to do just what your doing be able to use a weight distribution hitch on small tow vehicles.

The other thing pointed out was hitches are controlled by the Society of Automotive engineers and most know nothing about hitches or RVs.
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Old 10-25-2012, 08:25 AM   #5
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Name: george
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Jon,
Regarding modifying the hitch to use weight distribution, I would ask a few questions first:

1. Does the trailer manufacturer allow/recommend use of a WD hitch ? Some don't, apparently due to the frame not being designed to carry the loads imposed by the WD hitch.

2. How much tongue weight will you have, and givin that, what does the WD hitch mfr recco regarding that ? For instance, I use a Blue Ox WD hitch, and if I remember correct, they state you must have a minimum of 350 pound tongue weight to use their system.

3, Can the mounting points of the hitch-to-the-chassis of the VW handle the stresses of the loads you will be imposing ? Some of these hitches simply bolt to sheet metal in these unibody cars. You may need to re-engineer and beef up those attach points.

A good place to start might be a call to Andy at Can-Am RV in Ontario, Canada. He has extensive experience setting up various vehicles for pulling specifically, Airstreams, but one would think his principles would apply to many other trailers as well.

As you progress through this project, I, along with others here would sure love to see photos and hear your comments on how it's all going. With the price of fuel being what it is these days, lots of folks are sure interested in the idea of using a reasonable sized tug that can still do the job safely. Your experience as a mech eng is going to lend credibility that we sometimes don't see in these kinds of discussions. Good luck with it, and keep us posted !
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Old 10-25-2012, 09:26 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ostojo View Post
VW on their UK site rates every vehicle's tow rating differently depending on the vehicle and engine.
VW sure does. So I am assuming you are aware that the Jetta TDI being built and sold in North America is not at all the same car they are selling in Europe which is the bases for the difference in towing capacity. According to VW everything about them is different including the engines and the power, they say the only thing the two have in common is the chassis. I suspect its what those in the engineering field would call comparing "Apples to Oranges".

Don't believe me watch this video "Test it The New VW Jetta" and listen carefully.

Another big difference is in Europe they have one set max towing rate in most counties which is something we dont have here in North America. Even the German Autobahn has tow limit of 80km/h which is 50 mph.

Most car and trailer combos in Europe must also pass a TÜV (MOT) test. I personally wish we had such a requirement in North America - sure would cut down on some of the silliness.

Just some of the things they require in Germany for example to pass an TUV is the trailer must have brake and *hydraulic suspension*. The trailer must be loaded in such a way that it reaches the vehicle's nose (tongue) weight limit as much as possible without exceeding it. The trailer tires must not be older than 6 years and in good condition with a speed index of at least
Speed index must be at least L 120km/h or 75 mph (ST tires in NA are only rated at 65 mph). The trailer can not exceed the manufactures towing capacity. The percentage ratio between car and caravan must not exceed 80%. To name just a few things they look at.

You should also sit down and talk with your insurance adjuster about what happens if you are involved in an accident that seriously hurts or kills someone, and the accident investigation decides that the cause was in whole or in part due to knowingly towing a trailer over your cars towing specifications and you end up in a civil liability case against you. Ask your insurance company to be very clear with you as to just how much they will actually cover you for.....
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Old 10-25-2012, 10:12 AM   #7
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[QUOTE=gmw photos;341703]Jon,
Regarding modifying the hitch to use weight distribution, I would ask a few questions first:


A good place to start might be a call to Andy at Can-Am RV in Ontario, Canada. He has extensive experience setting up various vehicles for pulling specifically, Airstreams, but one would think his principles would apply to many other trailers as well.


He is the one that wrote the article in the magazine I spoke of.
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Old 10-25-2012, 11:04 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ostojo View Post
....Francesca, your comment is noted. I'm chuckling a bit because I'm a mechanical engineer I guess we're cut from the same cloth......
And I most certainly wont come crying to you or my wife
Could you put your wife on the line, please? Just tell her it's The Sisterhood of Women Married To Engineers calling...

Francesca
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Old 10-25-2012, 11:21 AM   #9
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Jon,

I believe it would be a lot simpler, a lot less expensive and a lot safer to u-bolt a longer tongue to your trailer. For instance if the tongue in the trailer you acquire is 3 1/2 feet long, lengthen it to 6 to 8 feet. That accomplishes the same redistribution of weight to the various axles, eliminates swaying and fishtailing, and produces a lot less strain on the receiver hitch. The longer the tongue length the more stability the trailer and tow vehicle combination will be on the highway.

Here are photos of a tongue I fabricated for my small aluminum flatbed trailer. It quickly bolts on under the existing tongue with two $7 u-bolts. There is absolutely no cutting drilling or modification of the trailer. This tongue was fabricated from a 10' piece of 3" x 3" aluminum square tubing. It lengthens the original tongue by about 6' but that length can be quickly shortened (or removed) by simply loosening the u-bolts and sliding the add on tongue rearward or removing it. I did have to lengthen the trailer wires to reach the "tow vehicle".

If I were fabricating one of these for a small fiberglass trailer I would use 3" x 3" steel square tubing. The aluminum works fine for a trailer weighing less than 1000 lbs.
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Old 10-25-2012, 12:53 PM   #10
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Name: Jon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carol H View Post
VW sure does. So I am assuming you are aware that the Jetta TDI being built and sold in North America is not at all the same car they are selling in Europe which is the bases for the difference in towing capacity. According to VW everything about them is different including the engines and the power, they say the only thing the two have in common is the chassis. I suspect its what those in the engineering field would call comparing "Apples to Oranges".

Don't believe me watch this video "Test it The New VW Jetta" and listen carefully.
Some good points here. Though your points about the Jetta differences don't apply here. The US market 2010 Jetta Sportwagen (what I'm buying tomorrow) isn't actually a Jetta, it's a golf. The Sportwagen Jetta is an extended Golf, or a Golf "Saloon" in Europe: http://www.volkswagen.co.uk/new/golf-estate-a6/home
And I've checked and the 2.0L TDI is the same engine, the gas engines do differ.

Even if it was different, my 2.0 TDI has 140hp and 240ft-lb of torque, and a manual transmission wouldn't be my limiting factor for towing a fiberglass trailer. The really issue is towing stability and of course stopping. This is where proper weight limits, proper setup, and trailer brakes come into play.

Keep in mind that braking is simply dissipating kinetic energy. I won't tow over 60mph. The formula for kinetic energy is (1/2)mv^2. So if I was to drive twice as fast at 120mph, I'd have FOUR times the kinetic energy to dissipate. If I was to tow a trailer that was the same weight as the car (which it won't, it'll more like half), I'd have DOUBLE the kinetic energy to dissipate.

So braking from 60mph while towing a trailer that equals the weight of the car would require dissipating the same amount of energy as braking from about 85mph with just the car on it's own. Braking with a trailer that weighs half as much as the car from 60mph would require dissipating the same amount of energy as braking from about 74mph with the car on it's own. And none of these scenarios are taking into account the huge advantage of trailer brakes, which I wouldn't tow without. The car can handle it. I've read a TON of accounts from people towing with a TDI, and assuming they are properly set up, everyone rants about how much better it handles and in particular brakes as compared to their bigger tow vehicles while towing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carol H View Post
Another big difference is in Europe they have one set max towing rate in most counties which is something we dont have here in North America. Even the German Autobahn has tow limit of 80km/h which is 50 mph.

Most car and trailer combos in Europe must also pass a TÜV (MOT) test. I personally wish we had such a requirement in North America - sure would cut down on some of the silliness.

Just some of the things they require in Germany for example to pass an TUV is the trailer must have brake and *hydraulic suspension*. The trailer must be loaded in such a way that it reaches the vehicle's nose (tongue) weight limit as much as possible without exceeding it. The trailer tires must not be older than 6 years and in good condition with a speed index of at least
Speed index must be at least L 120km/h or 75 mph (ST tires in NA are only rated at 65 mph). The trailer can not exceed the manufactures towing capacity. The percentage ratio between car and caravan must not exceed 80%. To name just a few things they look at.
The rest of your comment in terms of proper weighting and loading, tires, and not exceeding a trailer weight that is 80% of the car (which in my case would be almost 3000lbs by the way), is appreciated. It's good advice that I already intended to follow. Thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carol H View Post
You should also sit down and talk with your insurance adjuster about what happens if you are involved in an accident that seriously hurts or kills someone, and the accident investigation decides that the cause was in whole or in part due to knowingly towing a trailer over your cars towing specifications and you end up in a civil liability case against you. Ask your insurance company to be very clear with you as to just how much they will actually cover you for.....
The first insurance adjuster that I talked to said that the only thing he could find related to towing was in regards to overloading the tongue weight. But I'm certainly looking into this more thoroughly.

I agree that I wish that you had to pass some sort of inspection or even have an additional endorsement on your license to tow anything. There are a lot of people out there who don't understand the issues, don't do the research, and don't know how to properly set up their rig. I'm trying to make sure I'm not in that category, which is why I'm asking for feedback on how to set up a weight distributing hitch.
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Old 10-25-2012, 03:29 PM   #11
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[QUOTE=ostojo;341745]Some good points here. Though your points about the Jetta differences don't apply here. The US market 2010 Jetta Sportwagen (what I'm buying tomorrow) isn't actually a Jetta,

My comments were in response to your first post "I'm picking up my new-to-me 2010 Jetta TDI on friday" no mention of a Sportwagon. Having said that though I would suggest a call to VW would be in order to confirm what you have read on the internet regarding the car being all ways the same as the European model is correct. I drive another very popular car that all sorts of people on the internet love to point to as being the same in NA as the one that is allowed to tow double its towing capacity in Europe so they think they should tow without problems well over its tow limit in NA without any problems. The truth is it is not in all ways the same car - the NA car has a a few different components in the rear suspension which is the reason for the lower towing capacity in NA. I have towed with my current car a trailer that is under its tow capacity for 5 years about 30,000 miles of towing total - through various terrain in 9 states and I can say without any hesitation there is no way I would tow a trailer behind that car that weighed even 250lbs more, let allow another 2500lbs that some folks on the internet claim it should be able to tow as they do it in Europe. I love the car and the economics of towing with it but I am well aware of its limitations and issues that can come up when towing close to its capacity. As a result I when asked tell people its a great solid tow providing they stay under its capacity but I suggest they would be even happier with the towing experience if they go for a smaller and lighter trailer than mine.

Does the fiberglass trailer you are planning on towing also have a hydraulic suspension system as the European trailers do & are required to tow with the cars they tow with? If so would love to hear what brand of moulded fiberglass trailer has that as I haven't heard of it previously. Would be interested in hearing more about it as I am sure others here would as well.

I totally agree with your comments that proper weight limits do indeed come into play in regards to stopping and stability and trailer weight does indeed have an impact on that. What trailer are you considering towing?

Glad to hear you agree with the comments in regards to tires and proper weighting and loading but really disappointed to hear you don't as the European's do think it necessary to abide by the towing specifications of the auto manufacturer. As a your a professional Mechanical Engineer I am more than a little surprised at that. All the ones I have worked with & supervised through my work tend to give a much higher level of respect to manufactures specifications especially when it comes to safety. None are willing to risk their professional designation or reputation by not following manufactures specs and have something go wrong.

You may wish to ask your insurance adjuster to talk with some of their actual accident investigators about the topic and read the find print carefully on your insurance policy.

I couldn't agree more that it would be nice if people and their trailer equipment had to pass a test and inspection as you say there are indeed people out there with very questionable set ups. Fortunately the vast majority here don't fall into that category. As on all forums on the internet we have a handful who for their own reasons encourage folks to tow over their cars tow capacities but you can be sure they will not be the ones helping to pay the legal fees if it all goes badly wrong and it turns out the professional engineers who helped set the towing specs of the vehicle actually know what they were talking about. Seems all rather foolish to take such risks when one looks at the number of smaller fuel-efficient cars that are available today that are rated to tow many of the small fiberglass trailers that people tow here.
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Old 10-25-2012, 03:45 PM   #12
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The thing that's unclear to me is:

Why add a W/D hitch to this car at all?

Regardless of type, a W/D system won't increase towing capacity of any vehicle... and as for stability/sway prevention, that's NOT what they're designed for. Controlling sway is much more a function of proper loading/operation than anything else, and anti-sway devices mask the symptoms that an alert driver should be "listening for" all the time.

I think mechanical sway control devices are a giver-of-false security since they don't eliminate the forces that cause the sway, which forces are instead transmitted to the hitch system/frame of the tow vehicle.

And in the case of a W/D system on a unibody vehicle, those forces can be great enough to do considerable damage to the vehicle's "frameless" frame.

Francesca
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Old 10-25-2012, 03:49 PM   #13
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The Jetta Sports wagon (golf wagon in Canada) on sale is made in Mexico for the NA market
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Old 10-25-2012, 04:35 PM   #14
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Another Engineer... with a trusting wife

I appreciate people who are willing to step out of the box because they can make a difference. Best in your pursuit.

The suggestion of talking with Can-AM RV is a good one. They tow up to 25 foot Airstreams with a Jetta TDI. The following is a cut from one of their articles.

"When I mention that we are towing with a Jetta Diesel the first assumption is that it is a very small car to be towing with. Most people don¡¯t realize that the Jetta grew up a couple of years ago, and it is now a far more substantial vehicle with independent rear suspension. As well, the Diesel engine grew to 1.9 litres with 100 HP and 177 lbs ft of torque at just 1600 RPM.

The Jetta¡¯s wheelbase is 101.5¡± and the rear overhang is 45¡±, or 44% of the wheelbase. This is more of an overhang that we would normally like, but combined with the independent suspension and the very tight tire and wheel combination it handles very well. It is not quite as stable and aggressive handling as the PT Cruiser, but if you did not do the direct comparison you would find it excellent. The ride is neither harsh nor soft, just a nice balance. The Jetta is a comfortable car to drive long distances. It is also very quiet, with the diesel only noticeable during cold starts.

Interestingly, in Europe, where they don't use equalizing hitches and unbelievably still use mechanical trailer brakes, the Jetta has a 3000 lb. towing recommendation. In North America it is rated at only 1000 lbs., likely because they don¡¯t see the towing capability as a marketing advantage. We were able to install a very solid hitch platform on the Jetta that reaches forward of the rear wheels - we use a 550lb. Eaz-Lift hitch with a welded ball mount."


The following is a link to the article that has this quote. I have numerous links to Can-AM if you like. Send me a PM and I'll send them to you.


RV Lifestyle - Hitch Hints

Definitely I'll be interested in your project. Like you, we tow with a vehicle that many feel unfit for the job, even after 30-40,000 miles.
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