Last April I invested in an addition to my Equalizer hitch, an addition I had never heard of before. Why this addition? Well, like most Airstreamers, I spent some time perusing various aspects of the trailering world. Jane and I were not new to the camping world, but we might as well have been, since our last adventures, featuring differing trailers over the years ended decades ago. Fast-forward to the fall of 2019, when we bought a 2020 25’ FBT Flying Cloud, after our daughter and son-in-law bought a 30’ rear bedroom Flying Cloud a year and a half before. Somehow, the camping bug hit us again. After a brief fling with the Airstream Nest, we settled on our present trailer.
In the process of learning and relearning as much as I could about the trailer world and its systems, I came across several somewhat concerning, if not disturbing articles. Reports came in concerning dimpling of the aluminum just over the front A frame, popping rivets, and even the cracking of the A frame on two particular models of Airstreams: the front bedroom 25’s, and the front bedroom 27’s. In an effort to research this phenomenon, it appears several factors contribute to this malady.
To begin with, the front bedroom (FB) configuration ends up being very tongue heavy, in relation to the back bedroom setup. The published TW (tongue weight) of our particular trailer is 837 lbs. But in reality, it comes in at around 1100 lbs. Other similar trailers I have measured had yielded the same results. With the FB floor plan, there is a lot of storage available in the front half of the trailer, and not so much in the back. In addition, the underbelly tanks all go forward of the dual axles. The water tank begins at the axles, preceded by the black and the grey water tanks both in front of the axles. This of course will increase the TW, especially in relation to back bedroom trailers, like our kids’ 30’ FC, which has tanks at and then extending behind the axles toward the back, as well as a large storage area in the very back, underneath the huge double bed, where Greg, our SIL stores various items, including tools. (Most of my tools are stored in the front, behind the propane tanks. I have put some in the very back, under the dinette seat.). Take note that, in measuring our FB TW, the black and grey tanks were NOT full…in fact empty and 20%…which is to say that the TW was at a minimum; full would have added even more TW.
So why does this play into possible trailer damage, and what can be done about it? To begin with, we all no doubt realize that the purpose of the WDH (weight distribution hitch) is to transfer some of the TW from the back axle of the TV (tow vehicle) to the front axle, resulting in a more balanced setup. Usually, the back axle ends up with 60% of the TW and the front 40%. In order to achieve this, the WD bars experience severe stress…this stress is transferred to the A frame of the trailer. The net effect of the WDH is to create a single platform; that is, when set up, the WDH plays out as a solid platform between the TV and the trailer frames. Incidentally, to exhibit this, years ago, one of the WDH companies ran an AD in a magazine showing an Oldsmobile Toronado (which was one of the first full sized vehicles to have front wheel drive only) hitched to a trailer via a WDH with the back wheels removed. Obviously, they over torqued the WDH bars, but the phenomenon was, and is real.
Well, the net effect of this setup, which we all use, is to transfer any bump experienced by the TV to the trailer, and vice versa. So, when you hit a bump, each component, the TV and the trailer, each receive not just one, but two jolts. (When you hit a bump, the truck transmits it to the trailer, and when the trailer hits the bump, it re-transmits it to the truck.) Again, this is because you have one solid platform.
While this obvious phenomenon is known to us all, in some cases, it appears that a certain combination exacerbates the situation. In thinking this through, I believe a combination of a TV with a stiff suspension, combined with a stiff WDH, combined with a heavy TW is the perfect storm. Which it is in my case. I have a ¾ ton pickup with a High Capacity Tow Package (I didn’t order it this way, I just took what was available as I simply wanted a white truck with LED lights and this combination was found in Harrison, AR, then sent to Harrisonville, MO). Be it as it may, I have in essence, a heavy duty (unforgiving) suspension, mated to a very stiff (Equalizer) WDH, with a front heavy trailer. While the Equalizer WDH works well, the bars are so solid as to not provide any cushioning when one hits a bump. Contrast that to the Blue Ox WDH my SIL has for his 30’ trailer, which bars noticeably bend upon hitching. It seems to me that bend also allows some cushioning. And he has a much better balanced trailer with the back bedroom setup. So, my unqualified opinion is that a ½ ton mated to a hitch like a Blue Ox may be a more forgiving combination.
But back to my inherent problem. I came across a solution for my unfortunate malady. BTW, I did not experience a problem with my setup, I just wanted to avert one. It turns out there is a type of intermediary to a hitch designed to specifically address this problem. This has to do
with an addition to a hitch that cushions the blow delivered by each bump with an air bag. I found two companies that address this issue: Shocker and Air Safe. Shocker appears to be cheaper, but I went with Air Safe (www.airsafehitches.com) , based on reviews, and interactions with other Airstreamers online via Airstream Addicts, who were navigating through this same issue.
The Air Safe hitch is mated to either a simple ball hitch or a WDH hitch (in my case). Now this combination is heavy together they weigh 100 lbs…add the bars, and it is a total of 127 lbs. In order to load it, I purchased lift table from Harbor Freight, for around $200. With this table, I can easily, and precisely slide this WDH combo into my truck’s receiver, and also unload it.
When you hit a bump, the Air Safe absorbs the blow (90% the manufacturer says) and does not pass it on to your trailer. Conversely, the trailer does not pass the bump back to your TV. The result is a smoother ride, a supposed savings in fuel, tire wear and a damage preventative to your trailer.
How effective is it? I’m not 100% sure. It seems to me that the trailer rides more smoothly…maybe it is psychological…I do know that it makes me feel better. Other people, who are no doubt more savvy than I am, have to a person claimed a marked improvement. One of these, Marvin Williams, who bought an Air Safe partly upon my recommendation, has noted improvement. His is mated to a Blue Ox WDH I believe. BTW, even though my SIL’s longer, better balanced 30’ FC sports a Blue Ox WDH, he has experienced popped rivets in front that I never have.
Air Safe has been making models for 5th wheel, Goosencks, and Receiver setups for decades. Also, they are popular for people towing horse trailers. Regarding the models for trailers, there are currently eight.
Classes 1 and two are no longer featured…out of production? Anyway, few of us would use those anyway.
Class 3 features a 2” draw bar, 600 or 800lbs TW,6000 or 8000 lbs GTW (gross trailer weight).
It appears this model cannot be mated to WDH.
Class 4 2” draw bar (hollow shaft), 900lbs TW, 9000 lbs GTW
Class 5 2 or 2 ½” solid shaft draw bar, 1400lbs TW, 14,000lbs GTW. Also available with
8.5” extended shaft, 1050 TW, 14,000 lbs GTW
Class 6 2 or 2 ½” solid shaft draw bar, 2000lbs TW, 20,000 lbs GTW. Also available with
8.5” extended shaft, 1500 TW, 20,000 GTW
Class 7 2 ½” or 3” solid shaft draw bar, 2500 lbs TW, 25,000 lbs GTW. Also available with
8.5” extended shaft, 1875 lbs TW, 25,000 lbs GTW.
Class 8 Same, except 3000 lbs TW, 30,000 lbs GTW, 2250 lbs ext shaft.
The reason I have a Class 7 is because my truck, with it’s heavy duty tow package, comes with a 3” receiver. The sales distributor, Lloyd Stegemann (407-973-2980), out of Island Park, NY) recommended that so that there is no slop. I probably could have gotten by with a much smaller size, but I didn’t want the slop. Evidently, my extra built-in capacity (1875 lbs TW) still works well with a smaller sized trailer as mine, as one blows up the rubber airbag to where the silver side bars are level. 40lbs in my case (which I have never had to adjust). Obviously, this allows a softer bounce; a heavier TW would require more air pressure, up to 100 lbs. Lloyd said this would work, and it does.
Prices vary among the various models, depending on each model’s specifications. And of course, prices are in flux, given our inflationary economy. Current prices without extras and without shipping I obtained online are : Class 4 – $950, Class 5 – $1195, Class 6 – $1695, Class 7 – 3” shaft – $2095, Class 8 – $2295. For classes 4 and 5, extended shaft models add another $100. The size of the shaft will influence the price a bit, usually $45-$100. I suspect the extended shaft models allow one to drop the truck’s tailgate without hitting the trailers jack. In my case, the addition of the Air Safe hitch mated to my Equalizer hitch extended the setup far back enough to where my tailgate easily clears. (It must be noted, that when one extends a hitch, it also tends to add to trailer sway; however front heavy trailers naturally exhibit much less sway, and besides, not hitting your tailgate is a real bonus). I gave $2185 for my Class 7 hitch (including shipping for $85). Not cheap, but when one considers the alternative…ie., popped rivets, dimpled aluminum, and even cracked A frames, then add in the often frustrating warranty claims process, I felt the price was worth protecting our investment. I am a bit of a worry-wart, and I know I sleep better now.
BTW…. Lloyd reminded me that the capacities of each of the Classes’ hitches is decreased by 25% if you mate it to a WDH (which we all would). These capacities can be seen above in the extended shaft number…for example, with a WDH Class 5 has a TW capacity of 1050 lbs, Class 6, 1500 and Class 7, 1875lbs.
Most of you have towed your trailer for many more miles and for many more years than Jane and I have. And obviously, if you haven’t encountered any problems, you are good to go. Yet, physics being what it is, those of us owning trailers in the purported vulnerable realm may benefit from this unique device. Happy towing to all!
– Lee Orth
Hooked up the WD to equalizer hitch. Unbelievable! Best of all worlds. We love it. I’m going to write about it on Facebook too. Pulled 200 miles today over very rough roads. I’m an air safe believer. Thanks for your help.
Has never towed better!!! It would be easy to forget the trailer is hooked up.
THANK YOU !
GREAT PRODUCT !
I Purchased the air safe newly redesigned class 4 Hitch to initially to my 22 foot aluminum tilt bed car hauler trailer. Initially the trailer is so light I felt every bump in the road and no matter what I tried to soften the ride empty or loaded to no avail. After the initial setting of air pressure words cannot describe how amazing this product is I will never tell without it it is absolutely wonderful and worth every cent. Such a quality product very detailed construction and such a robust looking product!! In short this product is absolutely amazing thank you so much for the help in helping me choose the right hitch . Mitch Southern
Thanks for everything! I–and my wife–loved the hitch and how it changed the ride of our rig, and how it dampened the effects of roads on the trailer (we were constantly finding pillows tossed around inside, and shower doors broken and closet door broken. The Airsafe hitch stopped all of that. Yes; it was heavy. But a LOT of people admired it–it was a conversation starter in any campground we found ourselves in with other people!
“Lloyd, we completed our first trip with the new hitch. I have to say I was quite impressed. While it did not eliminate the bouncing effect caused by perfectly spaced saw cuts in the concrete, it did lessen the effect considerably. That is something that will probably never go away with the truck/trailer combination… the “perfect storm”. What I was most impressed with was when I would pull in or out of a driveway, or drive over any significant bumps, I would only feel the truck, not the trailer. Don’t get me wrong, I can surely notice 6000# behind me, but when the trailer axle hit the bump, it did not move the truck. Lastly, the effect of driver fatigue was a complete shock. I thought it was just a bunch of marketing hype. But, I was amazed at how much less stress there was with this hitch in place.
I suspect in about 30 years I’ll need a small crane to help mount the hitch on my truck. But for now, my back is strong and I won’t pull my trailer without it.
Thanks again for a great product. And, the sleeping kids in the back thank you as well.”