Reese Goosebox and Lippert Frame Failure Report
After hitting an unavoidable (single construction lane) very large pothole in lonely west TX on I-10 west of Van Horn TX, (about 31,400 towed miles) last month, my truck’s transmission was partially disabled (Throttle Control actuator) – went into a limp mode, CD Player shut down, and glad the seat belts restrained us (and much later discovered the front box beam the supports the Wings for the Hitch was cracked). Got to Tucson AZ ok but found DW’s KitchenAid mixer (quite heavy) had bounced out of the RV Kitchen Sink (which put a divot in the linoleum floor) and truck was easily/inexpensively repaired. That must have been on BIG jolt!
Then on to Mesa AZ for a week and on departure from there noticed the RV was just a little low/closer to the truck bed than usual. I thought maybe the Goosebox airbag was to blame and pressed on to El Paso. Noticed the Goosebox air label was scratched so I thought maybe it was shifting – but still towable. After leaving Abilene TX noticed the RV kept getting slowly closer to the truck bed while towing but hoped it would “stop” dropping at some point. Unfortunately RV eventually started bouncing off / hitting the truck bed rails so got off at the very next exit on I-20 just east of Dallas which conveniently had an RV Park (God is GOOD! – NO other services at that Exit). Goosebox and its Lower Jaw were so twisted the Jaw could no longer move (32,868 towed miles). Airbag was still full too, versus losing air like it always did. Got safely parked with Full Hookups.
Called several nearby RV Dealers who could not fix, but one did refer me to a Body Shop in nearby Garland TX that specialized in RV Repairs (Quality Collision). They sent out their mobile RV Repair Crew who removed the bottom panel under the front cap and eventually the front cap so their mobile Welder could assess. A small 1” crack with a little rust was on the left (as you face the front of the RV) side of the wingbox on the front Box Beam (prior damage from somewhere/sometime), and on the right side of the wingbox a shiny new crack was almost all the way through the box beam and it was twisted upwards several inches raising the front closet floor and twisting the wing set. Preparing their estimate and getting Insurance to approve took a week. Welder constructed a new front frame assembly with 2 parallel Box Beams out of ¼” (vs Lippert’s 3/16”) and two extra braces between them besides the supports for the hitch wings. He spent an entire afternoon welding it all back together much stronger and better than before. Side beams of the RV were intact. A new Lippert 21K Pinbox (stronger/heavier than original 15K Pinbox) was installed (Total Cost of repairs over $8K) and I had the Star Performance Kingpin Adapter installed ($825 plus S&H).
Reese would not provide a new Goosebox under warranty as it did not fail per their provisions. But it didn’t absorb enough shock to prevent breaking the Lippert frame (which they market as the only approved gooseneck adapter to tow Lippert frames with) – though perhaps no hitch or adapter could have handled the collision and prevented the subsequent frame damage.
Lippert Frame Evaluation: lasted 10 years - 7 with a Gooseneck adapter, but not built as robustly as they could be. Mobile Welder used thicker/stronger steel and much more thick welds. Let’s not forget almost all Lippert frame failures occur towing with regular Fiver Hitches.
HISTORY: When I purchased my 2005 (Build Date Oct 1 2004) Montana Big Sky RV in Dec 2007, it had about 5000 miles on it per the seller. At that time I installed the Star Performance Kingpin Adapter. In June of 2012 I encountered the worst washboard concrete in New Orleans just as you get off the new, smooth I-10 Bridge across Lake Pontchartrain. The porpoising motion was so bad I had to slow to 40 MPH. On our next campout (16,626 towed miles) I noticed the back of the horizontal Pinbox plate the Kingpin is attached to was slightly bent up. RV Service Center agreed it was not a big deal. However in June of 2014 I once again encountered nasty washboard cement on I-57 in IL and noticed the Kingpin plate was bent just a little more (27,542 towed miles) so I was convinced by Lippert/Reese marketing to try their new Double Shock with Airbag Goosebox approved for use on Lippert Frames as I was afraid the Kingpin plate might just keep bending and fail. As it turned out I only towed my RV for 9 more months and about 5000 miles before the frame broke and ended up twisting and preventing operation of the Goosebox.
Based on several CAT scale weigh-ins, I’m just under 14K lbs when fully loaded (which I was not on this home/AL to TX to AZ trip).
Reese Goosebox Evaluation: They said they’ve never had a failure reported. Rated to 16K. They never answered my technical query about range of motion or amount of “force attenuation” the Goosebox offers. My guess is the Goosebox Jaw normally moves up to 2 inches primarily attenuating up and down forces, or as translated from back and forth movement and is about 85-90% effective in reducing “chucking”.
PROS: No Safety Chains needed to hook up (no provision for them). Coupler attaches itself to the ball.
CONS: Must grease Coupler (via 1 zerk) EVERY time you tow and may also need to refill the airbag every time too. I found that if I started with 45 PSI in the bag (Reese recommendation is 35-40 PSI), I would be in the low 30’s (under 35 PSI) at the end of any tow. The 50 PSI Pressure Relief allows the compressed bag to “puff” out air during operation (as described by Reese Technical support when I complained to them thinking I had a leak…). Greasing every tow was not too bad, but getting out the air hose and refilling the bag was a hassle (I have an onboard Truck Air Compressor and 5 Gallon tank – what if you don’t?).
For these “every tow maintenance” reasons (and slightly worse performance than my prior adapter) I wasn’t interested in another Goosebox and wasn’t too disappointed they wouldn’t provide me a new one (Mine was slightly bent/twisted and lower jaw was badly scraped up where the air Fill Label used to be so was considered unusable by RV repair and myself).
STAR PERFORMANCE KINGPIN (Gooseneck) Adapter Evaluation: Rated to 30K lbs, offers about 4 inches of fore and aft movement and 2 inches of up and down movement to absorb/reduce forces/stress on the RV and about 90-95% effective in reducing “chucking”. Now that I have a much stronger front frame and Pinbox, hopefully the very strong STAR PERFORMANCE KINGPIN adapter won’t bend anything again. Available at SPHITCH.com
PROS: Costs about $200 less than the Goosebox. Much Stronger than Trailer. Only has to be greased every 2000 miles (usually several RV trips) via 6 Grease Zerks.
CONS: Must use Safety Chains and locking bar for coupler surety. Must grease every 2000 miles. Some agility required to do both of these activities.
Can report we successfully made it home to AL towing 665 miles via often rough I-20. Next trip will be a long one to northern WI, not too far south of Lake Superior next month.
Sorry for such long story, but I thought the details may interest some. Safe Towing and happy journeys!