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2008 Trailer Accessories & Towing Equipment - Towing In 2008

Posted in Product Reviews on July 1, 2008
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As with anything, the technology keeps improving, so there are several new and interesting towing products available that can help make your towing experience more pleasurable and safer. Plus, there are lots that have proven themselves by now. Maybe it's time to upgrade a few of yours?

Here is a small sampling of parts that could be of interest, plus a couple of photos that we might learn something from.

PhotosView Slideshow

Valley's TJ Receiver Hitch

Two original 12mm bolts (takes an 18mm socket, but a 3/4-inch will work) and four supplied 1/2-inch bolts hold the receiver securely to factory holes in the frame. If you still have a stock bumper, removing the silly plastic end caps for access helps a lot. The departure angle goes down noticeably with the receiver in place, but it does help protect both the tailpipe and the gas tank-plus, the Valley receiver is significantly stouter than the stock bumper.

It began when the instructions said to "Carefully remove the protective splash covers." Has anyone ever removed one of those barbed plastic thingies that hold much of modern vehicles' plastic shields on "carefully"? Of course not, and you're lucky if they come off without breaking, but we actually managed. "Locate the vehicle's taillight harness," it said next. This is where we failed, almost completely. There was one on the left side, but we just couldn't find a connector that the Valley harness could be plugged into on the right side, and without it the harness wouldn't work. We left the wiring off, and out of all the TJs out there, perhaps this was the only one without that right-side connector-we wouldn't doubt it.

Alright, so we didn't wire the flat-four plug, but would it even make sense to do so? Valley strongly recommends trailer brakes on any trailer weighing over 1,500 pounds, and we agree. Why then is the 3,500-pound-rated receiver equipped with a four-wire plug, which can't accommodate trailer brake wiring?

Proceeding with the seemingly simple six-bolt installation, not requiring any drilling, we failed again. This time to realize that enlarging four holes on the receiver just a hair would've made it a breeze to use Valley's ingenious coiled-wire installation tool, made to get the "square hole plates" and carriage bolts into position inside the framerails. Instead, we stubbornly spent some two hours-half of that with a friend helping- getting the bolts and washers situated.

It really would've been a very simple install had we just thought ahead a bit and tried the wire tool with a bolt in a hole first. And found the missing connector.

A great idea by Valley is to have the electrical connector for the trailer lights built into the receiver, making installation with the included plug-in harness a breeze. Well, normally it probably would be, but that's generally not how it works for us. By plugging in the connectors in series with the factory wiring, there's no need for cutting and splicing any wires, and the sealed connectors ensure troublefree service.

Andersen Manufacturing's Rapid Hitch
If you only have one tow vehicle which is always loaded the same, and only one trailer, also with a constant load, the Rapid Hitch is of limited value. You'd be just fine with one of Andersen's regular aluminum-ball mounts. For the rest of us, the adjustability and choice of trailer ball sizes can be worth the weight-of which there is very little in this aluminum setup. The unit has two hitch-pin holes, allowing adjustment fore and aft as needed in cramped applications.

Available in 3.5-, 5.5-, and 10-inch drops, the Rapid Hitch is rated for 10,000 pounds and a 1,500-pound tongue weight. Zinc-plated 2- and 25.16-inch balls are standard (pictured), stainless is available, and so are aluminum balls-the latter coated with a lube-free nylon composite and with an 8,000/800-pound rating in the 25.16-inch size. If you for some obscure reason want 17.8-inch balls, they're also available, as are single trailer balls of each size. We're still "over-lifting" when we go to pick this lightweight and versatile Rapid Hitch up.

The Hensley Arrow Miracle Hitch

There's no way you'll understand how the Hensley Arrow functions from looking at the manufacturersupplied photos here. We've seen a demonstration of this unique product and have a fundamental idea of what makes it work. It's all done with carefully calculated pivot points, resulting in that the tow vehicle can move relative to the trailer, but the trailer can't move the tow vehicle, because the Hensley effectively becomes a solid connection from the trailer's point of view. This would eliminate sway and other evils completely, and tongue weight supposedly becomes far less important.

In 1993 Colin Connell bought his first travel trailer, a 24-foot Starcraft. After his first trip and first experience with trailer sway, he was ready to sell his new trailer. That was until someone introduced him to a product called the Hensley Arrow. The Arrow was, and still is, an odd-looking device that attaches to the trailer tongue and operates on a converging linkage system, essentially locking out the trailer from pivoting on the ball. It does, however, leave the tow vehicle free to turn. It seems impossible at first. How do you keep the trailer from pivoting but still be able to turn the vehicle?

It's really very simple. That is, if you passed your college physics class with a C+ or better. The linkage system is shaped like a trapezoid. Picture four bars hooked together with pins, free to rotate. With me? OK, now start fixing points. In the case of the Arrow, fix the two points at the "wide end" of the trapezoid and the hitch ball. By doing this, the trailer is now locked out. It can't pivot on its own. Only the tow vehicle can turn at the pivot point.

So what? Well, anyone who's ever caught a cross-wind or had a semi-truck blow by while towing a trailer knows that the results can be disastrous. The trailer-sway, or fishtailing, induced by side forces can send a trailer out of control, taking the tow vehicle and passengers with it.

Other sway-control devices attempt to dampen sway through the use of friction bars. The problem here is that the tow vehicle has to overcome the same friction to regain control or make a turn. Only the Arrow uses a completely friction-free system, making it the safest, most reliable sway-elimination device on the market.

Until the Arrow came along, the best way to control sway was to upgrade to a more costly fifth-wheel trailer or buy a heavier tow vehicle, not an attractive option with today's fuel prices. The Arrow is easy to install and comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee and a lifetime warranty. With more than 10,000 customers and one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the industry, you've really got nothing to lose by giving the Arrow a try.

What happened to Colin? Well, it's the same old story: He loved the Arrow so much, he bought the company.

From a top view, it is possible to grasp a bit of the concept. Notice the bulges on either side of the coupler? That's where the movement between tow vehicle and trailer takes place, not at the trailer's coupler. Linkages and geometry take it from there. This setup certainly isn't cheap, but then neither is your tow vehicle and trailer, right? And don't get scared by the apparent complexity-it all stays connected to the trailer when uncoupled. If we ever get a chance to try the Hensley Arrow in real life we'll let you know if it can deal with the uneven terrain you're likely to come across at your favorite campsite.

Valley's Odyssey II

Did we miss something...was there something wrong with the original Odyssey brake control? No, nothing we ever noticed. However, the new Odyssey II is indeed better yet. All the super-easy setup and installation is the same but the electronics are now much improved, with a 50-percent quicker response and a special panic-stop curve which hits the trailer brakes much harder than would a regular control unit. It's also easier to read the LED display when mounted in a more vertical fashion. But, the pressure-sensitive manual activation button (upper left) may take some getting used to, compared to the regular sliding lever of the Odyssey and most other controls. With Valley's connection system, everything plugs right into most newer vehicles, and the bracket still allows easy removal of the Odyssey II if you'd rather not have it installed at all times.


Andersen Manufacturing
Hensley Mfg.

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