We've owned two Hensley Hitches, with a DP in between. They are great for making a TT behave behind the TV in most situations. Unlike the myriad of friction type sway controls, the Hensley prevents sway instead of merely dampening sway. The difference is dramatic. The Hensley also allows for a tighter turning angle before reaching the jackknife angle because the pivot point moves to a point about a foot behind the normal pivot point during very tight turns.
But, they aren't without their quirks.
The first issue is hitching up and unhitching. The Hensley requires that you position the TV precisely so that you back the drawbar into the hitch. Imagine that your TT had a 2" drawbar sticking out the front and you had to back the TV onto it. If the TV was slightly off to one side, it would bump the side of the receiver. If the TV was turned a bit, the drawbar would jam only part way in. Or if the TV was twisted with one side slightly higher than the other, it wouldn't fit. Devices like a back up camera and Hitch Helper facilitate connecting the hitch, but there are still times when it's anything but a slam dunk.
The second issue is that the Hensley projects the pivot point forward to a spot approximately at the rear axle ONLY when (a) the TV & TT are in a straight line and (b) the hitch is in tension. For reasons we don't understand, we've had much more of a problem with both of these issues with our 2nd Hensley than we did with the first.
(a) When the TV turns, the projected pivot point moves in an arc, first to the side and then towards the rear of the TV. The result is that there is a slight shifting of the pivot point in normal turning. Usually, this is so slight it can't be noticed, but in very sharp turns the shift is dramatic and will jerk the TV. Generally the TV must be traveling VERY slowly to turn that sharp, so the sudden bump is nothing more than a bump and has no effect on stability. However, there are reliable reports of some people experiencing what is known as a 'Hensley Bump' where they were making a moderate maneuver and the hitch shifted causing a dramatic bump and change in stability. I've never experienced that in over 20,000 miles of pulling large TT's with a Hensley.
(b) When the hitch changes from being in tension (pulled by the TV) to being in compression (TT pushing the TV) the pivot point shifts to a point roughly a foot sideways and to the rear. The brake controller on a Hensley-equipped rig must be set aggressively so that the TT brakes apply before the TV brakes apply. Otherwise, the linkage in the hitch comes under compression loads, and the pivot point shifts abruptly which results in the TV veering to one side. Our HR Presidential had disc brakes which have a 1/4 second delay which resulted in the TV veering about a foot or so to the right every time I applied the brakes. I quickly acclimated by steering slightly left whenever I stepped on the brakes. OTOH, DW didn't properly connect the electric cable to the TV earlier this year so the TT brakes didn't come on at all. The result was a sudden and significant veering to the right. Fortunately, we were only going about 15-20 MPH.
The third issue is weak links & wear points. There are strut bars on each side of the hitch that connect the big orange hitch main assembly to the TT A-frame so the orange gizmo can't turn. These strut bars are weak links in the assembly and will sometimes bend under panic stop conditions. A bend strut bar disables the hitch--you're parked until the strut is replaced. We've never done that either, but the clevis pins holding the strut bar to the big orange unit do egg the holes in the orange unit. I've seen one older Hensley that was very badly worn. Clevis pins are easily replaced when worn, but the main unit is not. Hensley gives a life time warranty to the original owner, but that doesn't do a subsequent owner any good if the main unit housing holes are badly worn.
The fourth issue for us is that our new Hensley came equipped with stickers "Not for off-road use". Since we live on a dirt road and intend on significant traveling on gravel and dirt roads, this is a problem for us as it implies that Hensley might not honor warranty issues because of our travel destinations.
The fifth issue is actually a positive point. Most folks don't pull their trailers in snow and ice, but we do. In 2005 we hit black ice and the Hensley kept the TV & TT in a straight line during the entire 1/2 mile slide on the ice. As a result, the spin was soooo slow and almost controllable.
The sixth issue is the unknown future of Hensley Manufacturing. For 14 years, Hensley Manufacturing enjoyed a near monopoly in the market. The only competition was the PullRite which never gained the popularity of the Hensley. In the fall of 2008 Jim Hensley, the inventor of the Hensley hitch started a new company making an updated version of the Hensley Hitch for $500 less than the Hensley from Hensley Manufacturing. Subsequently, Hensley Manufacturing has lowered its prices to be competitive. However, Hensley used to buy back current model hitches for $1500 but when I spoke with them recently, they are not buying back any hitches and when they resume the buy back price will be $1000. It's possible that between the sour economy and the competition, one of these companies will fail.
The bottom line for us was that we have not been nearly as pleased with our 2nd Hensley as we were with our first. My wife has decided she wants to drive more than she used to and the shifting/changing stability of the Hensley disturbs her. And we plan on over 1000 miles of gravel and dirt roads in the Northwest Territories next summer, so the off-road prohibition is a real concern. So, we sold the Hensley a few weeks ago.
I bolted the new PullRite to the truck on Sunday and we're working on the other installation details this week. The PullRite does have its issues too. Ground clearance and ball mount height are the two biggies. The PullRite is a tail dragger, so we're lifting the rear of the truck 4" to recover our ground clearance. The ball mount height is also an issue because the coupler height on our Arctic Fox is 28.5". I ordered a custom billet 2.5" thick draw bar with an 8" rise this afternoon. The good news about the PullRite is it is rugged to the bone--ours is the 20K# version--and that connecting/disconnecting is a no-brainer by comparison. Photos of the PullRite from pallet to truck can be seen here
. The page will be updated as we complete the installation of the hitch, it's setup adjustments as well as some thoughts on how it tows.