TECH & TOWING: CARAVAN COUPLINGS
<I>Caravan World</I>’s guide to popular couplings for keeping your caravan safely in tow.
There is a plethora of hitching options on the market for caravan owners and their rigs. Some couplings are proven performers offroad while others are better left for the blacktop.
It is common for RV manufacturers to offer one style based on past experiences, but many will give you the option of choosing another.
So how do you know you are getting the best coupling for your van and the adventures you have planned for it? Factors to consider include warranty, maintenance instructions, rear door clearance, durability, load rating and overall presentation.
We spoke to some experts in the coupling business, including Mathew Claringbold of Vehicle Components and Aaron Mitchell of Mitchell Bros, to shed light on some of the most popular models used today.
50mm ON-ROAD BALL
The standard on-road 50mm ball coupling body, many of which are made by AL-KO, can be found on lots of dirt-road or blacktop caravans. They are convenient in many respects as they are easy to use, and the towballs are readily available and easy to replace. While suitable for on-road and some dirt-road applications, these couplings aren’t designed to withstand the rigour of offroad use.
AL-KO OFFROAD COUPLING
AL-KO’s Off Road Coupling is available in three models: 2t fixed, 3.5t fixed and 2t override. Featuring 360° head articulation and a positive towball latching system, the Off Road Coupling is easy to fit and requires no pin or hole alignment. It is made from non-corrosive materials with zinc or dacromet plated components, with self-lubricating head pivot bushes.
For more information, visit www.alko.com.au
The Hyland coupling body hitches to an offroad-style towball to provide 360o articulation, and is suitable for dirt-road and offroad adventures. The Hyland has many of the conveniences of a standard ball coupling but, as with the 50mm ball, the towballs become noisy with use so keep a spare in your kit. It can also be padlocked to prevent theft of your van.
The Hyland 2000 is rated at 2t and the Hyland 3500 is rated at 3.5t. The couplings come in a range of finishes including pressed steel, and start from $280 ex-Brisbane. Handbrake models are also available.
For more information, phone (07) 3200 6261 or visit www.hylandtrailercouplings.com.au
Caravans can be taken over rough terrain and the up-and-down movement can be harsh. Poly-style couplings employ a polyurethane block or bush to reduce noise and vibration between the van and the vehicle.
Poly-block couplings are rated from 2-3.5t. Treg and Trigg are the two most prominent brands, and are very similar in design, pivoting 60o vertically and rotating 360o.
The 2.5t-rated Orac hitch also uses polyurethane to dampen noise and vibration, but its cylinder-bush design offers full vertical movement, in addition to 360o sideways movement.
For information on Treg couplings, visit www.tregtrailers.com.au or phone (08) 8352 5177; for information on Trigg couplings visit www.triggbrs.com.au or phone (08) 8297 6288. Poly-block couplings suitable for camper trailers retail from about $330.
Orac couplings retail for $245. For more information, contact email@example.com
The Uniglide trailer coupling from McHitch comes in a variety of styles and load ratings, starting with a 2t version suitable for towing caravans.
The coupling uses a universal joint to handle all the vertical and horizontal movements. Twisting movements are handled in the rear body by shock-absorbing urethane bushes. Both body and joint are greaseable. Couplings start from $149 plus postage.
For more information, visit www.mchitch.com.au
The OzHitch coupling has a self-aligning guide which makes it easy to hitch. The OzHitch has a low profile design, for excellent rear door clearance. It can be welded or bolted, is fully bushed, and provides 85o and 75o angles of articulation.
The OzHitch also features a double-locking mechanism and is the only galvanised steel coupling currently on the market.
OzHitch comes in three versions and two load ratings: 2.5t and 3.5t.
A Hayman Reese level rider adaptor is available. Priced from $270.
For more information, visit www.ozhitch.com or phone 0457 040 050.
HITCHMASTER DO35 V2
The DO35 V2 belongs to the third generation of drop-on couplings from Vehicle Components. The coupling is plated in super alloy to minimise possible corrosion.
Rated to 3.5t, the DO35 V2 features a polyurethane bump stop, a low profile for excellent rear-door clearance and 360o rotation.
The coupling’s self-centering tow pin design simplifies attachment, and its stainless steel, double-locking mechanism reduces the risk of detachment in extreme terrain.
The new dust cover ensures the coupling locks securely and the front cushion minimises damage to the tow vehicle on impact.
Vehicle Components also makes the DO45, a 4.5t coupling for offroad caravans. The DO35 V2 has a recommended retail of $340.
For more information, visit www.vehiclecomponents.com.au or phone (07) 3624 3800.
The Hitch-Ezy self-aligning coupling has a 5t capacity suitable for towing large offroad caravans.
The recently developed hitch has a patented primary and secondary locking mechanism that won’t jam during attachment. The coupling offers 90o of vertical articulation and 360o rotation, and tows on a tow-pillar that bolts straight in the 7/8in towbar hole, its urethane bushes in the main shaft helping to avoid the noise sometimes associated with towball hitches. The self-centering Hitch-Ezy also uses O-ring seals to keep out dust and water, and comes with an aluminium dust cover and plug to protect the mechanism.
Other features include a special ‘key’ that allows the operator to use both hands to work the jockey wheel when uncoupling.
The Hitch-Ezy retails for $795. Visit www.hitch-ezy.com for more information.
MITCHELL BROS HI-RISE POST
The Mitchell Bros Hi-Rise is a towbar post specifically designed for the Land Rover Discovery 3 or Range Rover Sport.
The post sits at bumper bar height, allowing Land Rover owners to take advantage of their vehicles’ high departure angles and provide easy access to the Disco’s spare wheel underneath the chassis.
It took nine months for Land Rover enthusiast Aaron Mitchell to develop the 8kg post, which sits 200mm higher than Land Rover’s Disco 3 factory equivalent.
The Mitchell Bros Hi-Rise Post costs $695 plus fitting, which apparently takes about two hours.
For more information on this product, phone (02) 9905 4764 or visit www.mitchellbros.com.au
HOOK AND RING HITCH
A number of articulated hitches have been developed for the towing market. One of the oldest couplings is the so-called hook and ring hitch developed for military use.
The trailer pole or A-frame is fitted with a ring that is captured inside a vehicle-attached, rotatable, jaw-like hook assembly that offers a huge range of axial rotation and around 90° movement vertically and laterally. Although it is strong, it is not favoured for civilian use because it clunks and rattles during operation.
Originally published in Caravan World #506, September 2012