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Old 07-18-2014, 03:08 PM   #1
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Tow Bar Failures - looking for better system

I have been pulling a Chevy Avalanche behind my 2006 Country Coach Allure for the past 2 years, but have had 2 inexplicable failures that I was able to catch soon enough and avert without major damage. These experiences has caused me to want to look for a new and better designed tow system with more failsafes.

Here is the info and specs behind each failure:

Equipment:

2006 Country Coach Allure 430 with tag axle
Towing Chevy Avalanche - 4 down (avalanche is the same as a 1500 Silverado pickup)
Avalanche Curb Weight - 5950 lbs
Tow Bar: Blue Ox Aventa LX - purchased used (10,000 lb capacity)
2” receiver
Baseplate: Blue Ox BX1676






Failure #1

The first failure occurred on the interstate in Indiana. What essentially happened was that one of the tow bar arms came loose at the baseplate on the vehicle side due to the hitch pin coming out. The hitch pin is a standard 1/2” hitch pin with a hairpin clevis pin that connects the yoke on the Aventa tow bar to the baseplate. The road had been somewhat rough, but not any more than most of our Interstate system. I had heard/felt a slight bump and looked at the rear view camera and noticed that the Avalanche wasn’t in the right place, was further away from the coach and not centered. I was going about 60mph and was able to slow down very slowly and pull over without the Avalanche impacting the motorhome. What I found was the tow bar was dragging on the ground and there wasn’t any hitch pin nor clevis hook anyplace. It had somehow inexplicably come loose. The safety cables were both in place. The other tow bar arm was still in place.

We had driven about 400 miles that day and the toad had not been disconnected for 2 days. I always check all the connections before starting the day and also when we stop, so I am 99% sure they clevis pins were in the hitch pins. We had been going for several hours since we had stopped when the problem occurred. We disconnected the toad and drove to a hardware store where I got new hitch pins. I got this type:



Being pretty leery at that point and having no logical explanation as to why the hitch pin came loose, I also wired the handle on the hitch pin such that it would stay in place even without the clevis pin to secure it. I have no idea how it actually came lose, I have never had a clevis pin come lose! I know that the clevis pins can get stretched out and not snap on as tight as you would like, but I don’t think mine were in that condition.

Failure #2

The Aventa tow bar I was using was purchased used and was starting to show some signs of wear, so I figured I would replace it, especially after the failure. Since I already had Blue Ox baseplates, I purchased a new Blue Ox Allure tow bar and started using it.

I probably got lax at some point and quit using the secondary tie wire as a safety for the hitch pins, and had no issues until a trip this year to Havasupai AZ. We were coming back from a wonderful trip to the Havasupai Falls. Indian Road 18 is 65 miles of mostly paved country road, with many many rolling ups and downs in the road. You can only drive about 45-50mph, especially in a MH with a toad. We were about halfway back on a slight descent when the exact same thing occurred on the same side (the same side as the previous failure), a hitch pin came lose and the one tow bar fell to the ground. I was able to catch it in time and pull over and stop. I had a spare hitch pin and we were able to hook it back up, although the one tow bar was slightly bent. I inspected EVERYTHING and didn’t find anything to explain how the hitch pin came lose. I had inspected it about 30 minutes prior and am 100% certain that everything was in place.

I suppose there may be some scenario where up and down movement causes enough flex that something catches the clevis just right and it releases. Very strange though since I cannot explain why or reproduce this, but it has happened twice. I come from a mechanical / engineering background and this one really has me scratching my head!
So needless to say, I am ready to replace my towing system with something other than Blue Ox.

Has anyone had any similar failures? The frustrating part is I can't explain why, so I am unable to know how to exactly prevent it again. My instinct tells me to go to some type of locking pin.


Potential Replacements

1) Roadmaster Blackhawk 2 All Terrain
Roadmaster Inc. - Tow Bars, Braking Systems & RV Accessories
This tow bar seems more heavy duty and has a heavier duty attachment to the baseplate. It also uses a cross bard between the baseplates. They use a ” hitch pin with a larger hole for the clevis. They actually use a spring loaded lynch pin. The hole is large enough to accommodate a padlock in both sets of hitch pins.
I like their channel for the safety cables and the power cable. Based on my research, this is my #1 candidate.

2) ReadyBrute™ RV Tow Bar
RV Tow bars with Integrated ReadyBrake Surge Brake, Standard TowBars - NSA RV Products
This is an aluminum tow bar, 8,000 lb capacity. The attachment method is very similar to the Blue ox, a single ” hitch pin. I can’t really see many differences or advances that make this tow bar compelling. The weight savings with aluminum is nice, but not mandatory for me. All in all I would prefer a heavier tow bar made of steel.

3) Demco ExcaliBar II
Excali-Bar II | Demco Products
This uses a similar ” hitch pin attachment as well. It does include some vertical adjustment to keep the tow bars level. Seems well built.

I am leaning towards the Roadmaster Blackhawk 2 because of the heavier duty attachment at the baseplate. But most importantly, I am looking for a tow bar that will not have a similar failure! Yes the safety cables provide a failsafe, but they don’t prevent the toad from ramming the motorhome if the failure occurs on a descent.

I appreciate any thoughts or comments. Sorry for the long post, but I figure giving everyone the whole story is better than to leave you guessing.
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Old 07-18-2014, 03:27 PM   #2
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My experience with tow bars is 40+ years ago, but I think you are on the right track with leaning towards the heavier duty Roadmaster. The reason I say that is I'm not sure the 1/2" pins are heavy enough for the almost 6000 lb weight you are carrying, even though the specs suggest they are. Furthermore, the spring clip may be getting dislodged when in a certain position so the pin is fee to come out, so something with the ability to put a lock through would be a plus.

Just wondering, do you have brakes installed on the towed? This might help with the smaller pins.

JMHO
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Old 07-18-2014, 03:37 PM   #3
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I have used an Excalibar I with good luck for many years. I drilled the holes for the pins a little larger and use padlocks. The DW double checks the hook up. We have never lost a pin.
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Old 07-18-2014, 03:38 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DieselTech39 View Post
My experience with tow bars is 40+ years ago, but I think you are on the right track with leaning towards the heavier duty Roadmaster. The reason I say that is I'm not sure the 1/2" pins are heavy enough for the almost 6000 lb weight you are carrying, even though the specs suggest they are. Furthermore, the spring clip may be getting dislodged when in a certain position so the pin is fee to come out, so something with the ability to put a lock through would be a plus.

Just wondering, do you have brakes installed on the towed? This might help with the smaller pins.

JMHO
I am using a Brake Buddy on the toad, set at a medium sensitivity. I have towed my Avalanche without it on a couple of occasions (short trips) and to be honest I don't notice literally any difference. The Allure is of ample size and weight along with the air brakes that it just doesn't phase it, with or without toad brakes.

But your point is a good one...a toad without brakes would put quite a bit of additional load/stress on the tow bar components. I think many think of supplemental brake systems being required because the towing vehicle cannot handle the additional load, but it is probably equally important to not stress all the tow components.

I share your thoughts on the 1/2" hitch pin with the simple clevis clip. I am not sure if they are even hardened or not. It does feel like a full size toad needs something more substantial.

Thanks!
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Old 07-18-2014, 03:41 PM   #5
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Have you considered the blue ox locking (with a key) pins ?
We have had 0 problems towing a 5k trailblazer through the sticks and around for the last 2 years with no problems.
We feel this is a better option in the Wallmart lots as we only store the safety cables, brake release cable, and wire harness at night.
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Old 07-18-2014, 03:55 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nowayout View Post
I share your thoughts on the 1/2" hitch pin with the simple clevis clip. I am not sure if they are even hardened or not. It does feel like a full size toad needs something more substantial.

Thanks!
I checked the Blue Ox site and found if you look on page 3 of 7 of this document http://blueox.com/Uploads/Docs/BX7445.pdf it shows a different type of locking pin than shown in your photos. I think that in itself would reduce the possibility that the spring pin could come out of the pin. More like the old style hood pins on cars. I do know many a racer/hot rodder that lost the spring clip style very few that lost that style pin.
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Old 07-18-2014, 04:36 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DieselTech39 View Post
I checked the Blue Ox site and found if you look on page 3 of 7 of this document http://blueox.com/Uploads/Docs/BX7445.pdf it shows a different type of locking pin than shown in your photos. I think that in itself would reduce the possibility that the spring pin could come out of the pin. More like the old style hood pins on cars. I do know many a racer/hot rodder that lost the spring clip style very few that lost that style pin.
The Quick Pins shown in the above Blue Ox document are standard farm clevis locking pins. They can be found in Tractor Supply, Southern States, and other farm supply stores. We use the Blue Ox key locking pins and have not had any problems with keeping them installed. I also keep two or three Blue Ox pins and Quick Pin locks. Never had to use them, but they don't take up any room and I'm a belt and suspenders guy.
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Old 07-18-2014, 04:43 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DieselTech39 View Post
I checked the Blue Ox site and found if you look on page 3 of 7 of this document http://blueox.com/Uploads/Docs/BX7445.pdf it shows a different type of locking pin than shown in your photos. I think that in itself would reduce the possibility that the spring pin could come out of the pin. More like the old style hood pins on cars. I do know many a racer/hot rodder that lost the spring clip style very few that lost that style pin.
Interesting! Yes that is a linch pin (I incorrectly called it a lynch pin above) That may have very well prevented an issue. Of course I never did read the manual... (does anyone??? ) Thanks for finding that!

My Blue Ox did not come with that kind of pin. It was "new/unused" from a 3rd party, did not include the box or manual and was not directly from Blue Ox, so they obviously got lost somehow.

I also like the idea of a locking pin that would give security in general.

The tow bar arm that came loose on my Blue Ox in the last failure has some damage in that the telescopic function is not working, (it won't retract and stays fully extended) so it is probably bent. I could probably get it repaired, but my inclination is to replace the whole tow bar assembly and start over given that it has some damage.

The failure may not have anything to do with the Blue Ox (may have been the wrong pins were used) but I don't think I can buy a Blue Ox again...just bad muju. They all look like good tow bars, but the 3/4" pins on the Roadmaster along with the cable routing seems to be a considerable difference.
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Old 07-18-2014, 04:48 PM   #9
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The Quick Pins shown in the above Blue Ox document are standard farm clevis locking pins. They can be found in Tractor Supply, Southern States, and other farm supply stores. We use the Blue Ox key locking pins and have not had any problems with keeping them installed. I also keep two or three Blue Ox pins and Quick Pin locks. Never had to use them, but they don't take up any room and I'm a belt and suspenders guy.
Pigman, you have a similar setup to me (DP with a tag axle and towing a full sized pickup). Which Blue Ox are you using?
If you had to do it again, would you buy the same?

I want to make sure I am not romanticizing the merits of the Roadmaster Blackhawk 2 more that it deserves. Is there any reason to NOT go with the Roadmaster?
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Old 07-18-2014, 05:31 PM   #10
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I have been using a Roadmaster, for 7 years, with no issues, at all. I always thought the Blue Ox equipment was the best, because it was so much more expensive, but I guess it isn't, based on your experience.
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Old 07-18-2014, 05:31 PM   #11
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Call Blue Ox. Excellent customer service. They will walk you through everything. Are you sure you did not slip the linch pin through and flip it over backwards? That causes it to look closed but it can slide off. Don't ask me how I know.
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Old 07-18-2014, 05:38 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by DieselTech39 View Post
My experience with tow bars is 40+ years ago, but I think you are on the right track with leaning towards the heavier duty Roadmaster. The reason I say that is I'm not sure the 1/2" pins are heavy enough for the almost 6000 lb weight you are carrying, even though the specs suggest they are. Furthermore, the spring clip may be getting dislodged when in a certain position so the pin is fee to come out, so something with the ability to put a lock through would be a plus.

Just wondering, do you have brakes installed on the towed? This might help with the smaller pins.

JMHO
I am using a Brake Buddy on the toad, set at a medium sensitivity. I have towed my Avalanche without it on a couple of occasions (short trips) and to be honest I don't notice literally any difference. The Allure is of ample size and weight along with the air brakes that it just doesn't phase it, with or without toad brakes.

But your point is a good one...a toad without brakes would put quite a bit of additional load/stress on the tow bar components. I think many think of supplemental brake systems being required because the towing vehicle cannot handle the additional load, but it is probably equally important to not stress all the tow components.

I share your thoughts on the 1/2" hitch pin with the simple clevis clip. I am not sure if they are even hardened or not. It does feel like a full size toad needs something more substantial.

Thanks!
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In the Roadmaster Blackhawk 2 All Terrain Yoke.
Just wondering what you think about the (" bolt color-coded blue #350199-00) it is used in the yoke assembly? Because you do not think that two 1/2" hitch bolts are not heavy enough for the almost 6000 lb weight.
Curt
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Old 07-18-2014, 05:41 PM   #13
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Call Blue Ox. Excellent customer service. They will walk you through everything. Are you sure you did not slip the linch pin through and flip it over backwards? That causes it to look closed but it can slide off. Don't ask me how I know.
I wasn't using the linch pins, since they didn't come with my "new/never used" unit. I was using the kind shown in the pic below.



A new Roadmaster with adapter plates is going to set me back about $1500. I can buy a new telescoping arm for my Blue Ox for about $250. I could secure some pins with linch pins or some locking pins for about $50 and give the Blue Ox another chance... :-)

On the other hand, my 2007 Avalanche does have ~180,000 miles on it...maybe it is time to "lose" it!
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Old 07-18-2014, 06:19 PM   #14
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In the Roadmaster Blackhawk 2 All Terrain Yoke.
Just wondering what you think about the (" bolt color-coded blue #350199-00) it is used in the yoke assembly? Because you do not think that two 1/2" hitch bolts are not heavy enough for the almost 6000 lb weight.
Curt
I agree that 2 1/2" bolts are adequate for a 6,000 load as is the single 3/4 bolt that is used at the yoke. My point was that if I was given the choice of either a 1/2" or a 3/4" pin for the attachment, I would pick the 3/4" any day.

I was never a full engineer, so my understanding may be taken with a grain of salt (or a full engineer can chime in...). This is what I recall:
The way the 1/2" pin is used on the tow bar is a double shear configuration. I am not sure if the pins are a Grade 2, 5 or an 8. Assuming a Grade 2, the shaft of a 1/2" bolt in a double shear configuration is good for ~17,343 lbs and a 3/4" bolt is 39,230 lbs. These exceed the vehicle weight by a wide margin for sure. But they are for a static load (not moving). The tow bar scenario is a dynamic load with much greater forces than a static load (particularly with sudden moves at high speed), so I am sure there would be a significant reduction in the shear values above to compensate for this.

So yes I am sure the 1/2" bolt is quite adequate since everyone is using it. But I also know the 3/4" bolt is going to be more than twice as strong.

Please correct me if the above assumptions are wrong...I would love for an engineer to tell me if this is right or wrong.

Thanks again for all the ideas and discussion!
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